The Chinese navy put its first aircraft carrier out to sea in the Pacific to conduct combat drills, sending a message to rivals in the area as well as the United States: Beijing seeks to flex its muscles and influence events.
As reported by CNN:
China’s lone aircraft carrier is prowling the Pacific as the country seeks to assert its military might and build up its naval warfare capabilities.
The Liaoning carrier’s J-15 fighter jets practiced air confrontations and air refueling in the Yellow Sea late last week before the ship and its flotilla of escorting frigates and destroyers headed into the open Pacific beyond Taiwan and Okinawa.
On Monday it headed to the South China Sea — the site of regional tensions caused by China building fortifications on disputed islands.
Naturally the deployment has not gone unnoticed by China’s increasingly nervous neighbors, most notably Japan and Taiwan, neither of which have aircraft carriers.
“The threat of our enemy is growing day by day. We should always be maintaining our combat alertness,” said Taiwan Defense Minister Feng Shih-Kuan.
And of course, the Pentagon isn’t ignoring the deployment, either.
China says it wants to build more carriers, then set up a series of logistical bases in South America. The U.S., historically, has not permitted rival powers to operate that freely in its hemisphere, so if Beijing makes good on its claims, it will be incumbent upon the Trump administration to ensure China gets a message of its own–which should be that Washington isn’t about to relinquish control of its back yard to a foreign power.
That said, building and putting to sail one aircraft carrier does not give China unlimited power projection capability. Tactically operating a carrier takes decades to perfect, and there is no navy better at it than the U.S. Navy, which has more than eight decades’ worth of experience.
Still, China is rising and will continue attempting to make its presence felt in parts of the world traditionally dominated by the West.