China

China’s one carrier and India’s three

One of the biggest China news lately, besides the leadership change, was the launch of its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. Since it was commissioned this September, there’s been heavy media coverage on its gradual progress such as recently when jet fighters successfully landed and took off from it. The Liaoning no doubts boosts China’s naval military strength, giving it both prestige and the ability to expand its military capabilities. Yet I was really taken aback recently by this story about India’s carrier that it has bought from Russia. Mind you, this article was written back in September and I don’t remember reading anything about it. What was shocking is that the story says that besides the impending delivery of this carrier from Russia, India is already building a large carrier, with plans to build a second one, and by 2018 will likely have three carriers (it currently has one small carrier bought from the UK in the 80s). There’re two things that bothered me about this, enough that I even had a Facebook debate on a group forum. One is that the media fixation on China that one carrier merits while something like India’s sale of a similar large former Russian carrier has almost zero coverage. Second is that while there’s speculation and worries over China’s new carrier, there are no questions about why India would need three aircraft carriers. Of course, China’s greater geopolitical status and the recent troubles in the South China sea contribute to increased media focus on China’s military moves. But there needs to be some mention on other similar developments. China is not the only major nation to be moving ahead with carriers. The UK is also building two large carriers while the US continues to build new large carriers (the US currently has 10, by far the most in the world). For a country of China’s size and stature, one aircraft carrier is actually trivial, with something like at least three aircraft carriers being adequate. This seems something that gets lost in message at times, such as when media outlets or even nations question China’s launch of its first ever operational carrier.

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