China has confirmed the building of its second aircraft carrier, but the first carrier in the indigenous category. Military observers say that the second aircraft would be completely different from the country’s first carrier Liaoning a Soviet designed carrier purchased in 2012. The new carrier will be built with a brand new propulsion system, and the IHS Jane first noted the new hull under construction. Further the carrier would be designed to accommodate the native developed J-15 fighters and an upgradation from the first aircraft carrier Liaoning.
The image shows an overview of the Dalian shipyard in Northern China where China is building its indigenous second aircraft carrier. White Paper entitled “China’s Military Strategy” is an endeavour to rejuvenate China’s capability. As the White Paper testifies it is important and relevant that China develops its maritime forces in way that it safeguards China’s national interest. The second aircraft carrier is a move toward this direction. Enhancing China’s blue water naval capability as a means to contain the US pivot in East Asia is an important directive towards this interest. China is currently working on the aircraft capability that would be on par with the USS Nimitz class super carriers. It is also speculated that the Chinese aircraft could be much smaller than the aircraft used by United States. There is also a good possibility that the new aircraft carrier might be stationed at a new facility on Hainan Island near the South China Sea. A showcase of China’s might over the South China Sea.
The most critical objective of the program is the visualization of a blue water navy that could be operable beyond the first and second island chains. Beijing is keen to bolster its naval capabilites as means to safeguard its maritime security. Further with China embroiled in conflict over East and South China Sea and the presence of United States in the region, convinces China to further enhance its deterrent capability. A raison d’être for China’s military expansion which is more global in nature rather than just looking at homeland defence.
Is China’s military expansion a tactics to counter US primacy in the region or stratagem of reaching the Oceans, a part of its maritime strategy. Further it could be a modicum to protect its Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC) vital to China’s modernisation drive. Despite several factors have been attributed to China’s expanded maritime interest, there is an interesting theory that unfolds China’s motivation. With China embroiled in maritime conflict in East Asia with Japan, the presence of United States a long time ally of Japan poses a major challenge to Chinese supremacy and rise. Further there is also a growing triple entente between Japan-United States-India which could be used to counter weight China. Though India unlike the United States is not a traditional partner in East Asia, but today it is making a concerted effort to drive its economic, military and foreign policies eastward. There is a strong possibility that a Quadripolar Structure could emerge thus reframing the geo-strategic order of East Asia.
Priya Suresh is a Research Scholar with the Takshashila Institute. She tweets @priyamanassa.