China launches third aircraft carrier: official media

China is engaged in a major military modernization drive, including the development of aircraft carriers for its navy – Copyright AFP/File WANG ZHAO

Vivian Lin, with Laurie Chen in Beijing

China on Friday launched its third aircraft carrier, the first entirely designed and built in the country, marking a major military breakthrough for the Asian superpower.

The announcement comes as tensions between China and the United States have escalated dramatically in recent weeks over Beijing’s slashing of self-governing Taiwan, which it sees as a breakaway province to be seized by force if necessary. .

Launched in a Shanghai shipyard with great fanfare, the Fujian is technically more advanced than other Chinese aircraft carriers.

It is the “first entirely Chinese-designed and built catapult aircraft carrier”, state broadcaster CCTV said.

Fujian will take years to reach operational capability, as the Ministry of Defense has not announced a date for entry into service.

“Sailing and mooring tests will be carried out as planned after the ship’s launch,” CCTV reported.

China has two other aircraft carriers in service.

Liaoning was commissioned in 2012 and Shandong entered service in 2019.

Unlike Fujian, they use a ski-jump type platform to launch aircraft and do not have a catapult launch system.

The United States currently has by far the most aircraft carriers in service at 11 ships, followed by China and Britain with two each, according to defense magazine Janes.

Chinese warships have repeatedly crossed the strait that separates the island from the mainland and used fighter jets to fend off freedom of navigation patrols by the United States and its allies.

Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe last week warned his American counterpart that Beijing “would not hesitate to start a war, whatever the cost” if Taiwan declared independence.

– Military modernization –

Chinese President Xi Jinping has overseen a massive overhaul of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) since taking power in 2012, and has pledged to build a “fully modern” force to rival the US military here. 2027.

The growth of China’s military comes at a time of heightened geopolitical tensions as Washington seeks to cement military alliances in the Asia-Pacific region.

Last year, the United States struck a historic deal with Britain to share nuclear submarine technology with Australia and has since made several arms sales to Taiwan, prompting angry reactions from Beijing.

Meanwhile, China brokered an unprecedented security deal with the Solomon Islands earlier this year that blindsided Washington and its allies, stoking fears of another Chinese military base in the Pacific.

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