Beijing: Against the backdrop of reports that China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier will be unveiled soon, state media on Monday took a dig at India by saying its first home-grown carrier isn’t even operational and that New Delhi should keep its military ambitions in check.
Reports in the Chinese media said the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy was making “final preparations” to launch its first domestically built aircraft carrier to mark the 68th anniversary of the founding of the maritime force, which was on Sunday.
“The scaffolding around the ship, temporarily named the Type 001A, was removed and the deck was cleared,” Shanghai-based news portal thepaper.cn reported, indicating the unveiling is likely to be done soon though it could not happen on Sunday because of low tides.
Reports said it took China about five years to make its own aircraft carrier that it will be inducted into the navy by 2020.
State media took the opportunity to make a few points about the naval capabilities of China and India.
In a piece with the headline “India needs to learn that economic development comes before a naval buildup”, the nationalistic Global Times tabloid said: “Aircraft carriers are seen as symbols of a nation’s military might, but the construction of them consumes huge amounts of resources, thus requiring developing countries to learn how to keep their military ambitions in check.”
China had no aircraft carrier till 2012 while India’s first was purchased from Britain in the late 1950s. China’s pursuit of military development has been in “sync” with its overall economic development, the article said. It added China’s priority was developing its economy and then building “resource consuming” aircraft carriers.
“India itself could be taken as a negative example for a buildup of aircraft carriers…New Delhi is perhaps too impatient to develop an aircraft carrier. The country is still in its initial stages of industrialisation and there will be many obstacles that stand in the way of a buildup of aircraft carriers,” the article said.
China would have finished work on an indigenous carrier “several years ago if Beijing had simply wanted to engage in an arms race to have more influence in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions”, it added.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post said China’s new aircraft carrier has a displacement of 70,000 tonnes, is 315 metres long, 75 metres wide and has a cruising speed of 31 knots.
“It is slightly larger than the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, which was refurbished from the semi-completed Soviet carrier Varyag, which Beijing bought from a Ukrainian shipyard in 1998,” the report said.
The new carrier has a larger hangar to carry more J-15 fighters and more space on deck for helicopters and other aircraft.
State media has reported China plans to have six aircraft carriers, and the second one to be built domestically is being constructed in Shanghai.