China has not had much of a maritime history. In fact, there are hardly any accounts of Chinese naval prowess. China however always desired to be a naval power right from the time when the Mongol fleet sailed to conquer Japan and was annihilated by an act of Providence, a divine wind. During the two world wars, the Chinese had no navy worth the name as the Imperial navy blockaded the Chinese coast.

Need for aircraft carrier

After 1949 when Mao and the communists took over the mainland the Chinese wished to redress a historical aberration and resolved to develop a strong navy.

But inherent weaknesses remained and the Chinese could not even dream of crossing the Formosa strait to capture Taiwan in the face of the 7th fleet. One big lacuna was a lack of an aircraft carrier. China did not have even one and their primitive technology could not build one.

The Chinese scouted around to purchase one, but none was available. Finally, a deal was struck with the Ukrainian government which needed hard cash. This was an old Russian helicopter carrier which had been handed over to Ukraine after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The Chinese bought the old carrier which was moored off the port of Odessa in the Black Sea. The ship had to be transported to China through the straight of Bosphorus and Cape of Good Hope.Finally after almost 2 years of the purchase the ship reached the Chinese port of Shanghai. A massive refit program commenced as the ship was modernized and refurbished to operate jet aircraft. The deck was modified to operate 36 fighter jets.

The Liaoning

The refit took another 2 years as the Chinese tried to develop the expertise to operate jet fighters from its deck. Despite the best of efforts the Liaoning is really not fit for active operations and so it has been designated a training ship. It takes decades to perfect operations from an aircraft carrier and China is a long way from it.The Liaoning is not a potent force and is not venturing into the open sea.

The Chinese are avid learners and have planned at least 20 carriers to help China match US naval power and dominate the Pacific. All this is a long way off.

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