WASHINGTON — China’s first domestically developed and constructed aircraft carrier began its first sea trials on Monday, the latest step in China’s long-range economic, military and political plan to assert itself atop the world’s power structure.
The carrier is not named — designated only as Type 001A —and goes to sea after a year of having heavy weapons and internal systems installed, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
“Our country’s second aircraft carrier set sail from its dock in the Dalian shipyard for relevant waters to conduct a sea trial mission, mainly to inspect and verify the reliability and stability of mechanical systems and other equipment,” Xinhua said.
China’s first carrier was purchased unfinished from Ukraine and retrofitted for the Chinese needs. It began operations in 2016 and has been used for training in disputed waters with Taiwan and around islands in the South China Sea it is fortifying that are claimed by other nations.
When it joins China’s active fleet, the new carrier will increase China’s sea prowess in its immediate waters and the South China Sea, including navigational straits that the U.S. and others consider international waters.
It also will be able to increase pressure, should it wish, on Japan and Taiwan.
Aircraft carriers have two primary purposes. First is force projection, which means a nation can move a sizable military prowess to almost any spot on the globe. Second is prestige.
Pentagon officials have previously said China seeks to have at least six carriers in its fleet. The U.S. now has 10, with a new one approved by Congress. Other nations are Brazil, France, India, Italy, Russia, Spain and Thailand.
The House Intelligence Committee plans a hearing for Thursday on China’s worldwide military expansion.