Tuesday 20 Oct 2020 | 17:22 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 20 Oct 2020 | 17:22 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: China aircraft carrier mystery

1 June 2011 13:21

Charles writes:

In reply to Raoul Heinrichs' three-part piece (1,2,3) on China's aircraft carrier, the assertion that China's acquiring of an aircraft carrier is for status, or navy nationalism, doesn't sit right with me.

By all projections, China is going to be massive by 2050: massive population, economy, infrastructure, manufacturing ability, and hunger for resources (as if it's not big enough already). They currently have trade routes through the South China Sea, are friendly enough with Pakistan to receive requests to build deep-water ports for them, have an enormous high-speed rail system which is apparently only going to become bigger and faster, and are trading more and more with places like Africa and the Middle East which don't have much of a Chinese presence and can prove pretty hostile at times. These trade routes need to be secured, and we are seeing that China is manufacturing warships and submarines, taking part in exercises, and even conducting anti-piracy operations in conjunction with international forces.

It has been pointed out that carrier-group manoeuvres are quite complex, and that China has been purchasing retired aircraft carriers from other countries (including our own, HMAS Melbourne) over the last 30 or more years, which doesn't count the international firms they have consulted on aircraft carrier designs. In my mind this points to a carefully planned process which has been in operation for some time, and that if they only wanted one for nationalist pride then they could have done so before now.

Personally, I would expect them to operate such advanced capabilities, rather than be surprised that they might choose to do so, seeing as we are all expecting China to become a world power very quickly, with an economy that could eclipse some of the largest economies combined. Why would they rely on the current superpower for maintaining trade route security when it appears this power is in decline and is really only interested in trade security for itself and its western friends?

And why would China want to stay at gunboat diplomacy level, when it is going to dwarf every other country? The US has a permanent force in the Persian Gulf, but is this in China's interests? While it may be costly for China to try and project power at this stage in their development, it would be best for them to plan and practice now rather than waiting, as their ability to afford this kind of projection will only improve in the coming years. But then, maybe I'm missing something important.