China has global ambitions. Despite not having much of a maritime tradition the Chinese would like to dominate the oceans. China has realized that the key to dominating the oceans is airpower. However, lack of aircraft carriers comparable to the US fleet has put the Chinese Navy at a handicap. They have purchased one aircraft carrier from Ukraine and refurbished it, but the Chinese navy is a long way from being a force in the Asia Pacific region. The carrier was built in 1888 and then handed to Ukraine after the Soviet Union broke up.

Aircraft carrier and China

In 2008 the Chinese navy purchased an old Kuznetsov class carrier from Ukraine. The warship in terms of tonnage and size does not compare with the carriers of the US fleet like the 100,000 ton Nimitz class ships. The warship when built was not strictly an aircraft carrier and the Russians had classified it as a cruiser-aircraft support ship for submarine operations. The Chinese towed it from the Black sea via the Cape of Good Hope to China where it was refit and became the first aircraft carrier of the fleet. The warship, renamed as the Liaoning can operate 36 planes. The ship was inducted into the navy in 2012, but till date the Chinese have not perfected operations from this ship. The ship remains a training ship and this severely limits Chinese naval capability.

The future

The Chinese bought the carrier with a view to intimidating the smaller powers like Vietnam and the Philippines. It is not fully operational and has not been used as an extension of Chinese power in the hot spots like the South China Sea. One reason is that the ship if facing the US fleet would be no match. Secondly the Chinese have also not perfected this operation.

One must remember that to master aircraft carrier operations takes decades. The US has been operating carriers for nearly 100 years. Even the Indian Navy has been operating carriers for over 5 decades. The Chinese navy is still some years away from perfecting operations of these sea platforms. In addition one aircraft carrier does not mean much. 

The Chinese are feverishly building at least 10-12 carriers to match the US fleet, but as things stand the Chinese Navy has little blue water capability. #World Politics