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What Does China’s New Aircraft Carrier Say About Its Technology and Strategy

China’s aircraft carriers are not designed for a Taiwan reunification campaign or to have a direct role in a conflict with big powers like the US or India. China is learning from the US’ use of carriers and is most likely to use them in coercing and punishing smaller powers.

With much pomp and pageantry, China launched its third aircraft carrier this month. The Type 003, now named Fujian, is China’s biggest, most modern and most powerful aircraft carrier. At 80,000 tons and 318 meters, the Fujian outstrips all but America’s supercarriers, the new USS Gerald R. Ford-class. The vessel is named Fujian, after the Chinese province that sits across from Taiwan. This is China’s third aircraft carrier and second indigenously produced carrier after Liaoning and Shandong. The prior was purchased from Ukraine and commissioned in 2012, while the latter was manufactured in Dalian Shipyard and commissioned with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in 2019. Besides power projections in the near seas (Yellow Sea, East China Sea and the South China Sea), both Liaoning and Shandong are essentially classified as training ships and are intended to allow the Chinese Navy to experiment, train and gain familiarity with aircraft carrier operations — a relatively new domain for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).


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