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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

China's first aircraft carrier

Now this is an interesting development. For years now the Chinese have been buying old Russian (and one Australian!) aircraft carriers, studying them, then pulling them to bits (or in at least one case, turning it into a floating tourist attraction).

Up until last month I've been reading military analysts say China has no intention of putting one of these 2nd hand examples into service, and that China couldn't possibly build its own aircraft carrier for another decade or so.

But according to Janes Defence Weekly, after studying the design of one Russian aircraft carrier for several years the Chinese have started to repair it, and have even gone to the (expensive) step of repainting it in PLA(Navy) colours.

In related news, China recently purchased two modern Russian destroyers (Sovremenny Class) which are useful for blue-water fleet defense.

Posted by Antarctic Lemur | 8/17/2005 10:24:00 PM


Blogger Chefen said...

Strange, China couldn't have a carrier operational before a decade? Sounds a lot like Iran not being able to develop a nuke within 10 years.

So if China unexpectedly gets a carrier group what does that do to Taiwan's situation? Even if the Chinese use the carrier as a pawn it would gain valuable hours in any assault on the island and once they are on it would be pretty hard to shift them.

I'd imagine that it would be exceptionally vulnerable to American subs in the open sea, what is the state of China's antisub warfare?

8/17/2005 10:48:00 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

I think China gaining control over the Straits of Malacca would be a worry. It's a major sealane and very easy to choke off. Maybe this is part of their program to secure the supply routes for oil and raw materials?

8/17/2005 11:14:00 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

"The nuclear submarine fleet is composed of 5 Type 091 Han class nuclear attack submarine (SSN) and a Type 092 Xia class nuclear missile submarine (SSBN), which can carry 12 JL-1A submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM)."


Excellent site to get an idea of the Chinese navy's present staten of development. And frightening.

8/17/2005 11:19:00 PM  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

You can see a picture of the aircraft carrier in question here:

There's some other links in our 'Interesting Reading' section.

I'll create a separate defense category later tonight. Clearly military rearmament in the Asia-Pacific area is one area the New Zealand media falls flat on its face.

8/17/2005 11:25:00 PM  
Blogger Chefen said...

Clearly military rearmament in the Asia-Pacific area is one area the New Zealand media falls flat on its face.

You mean repeating "benign environment" with your eyes shut doesn't constitute an adequate analysis??

8/17/2005 11:29:00 PM  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

Chinas anti-sub capability is shit, but they're buying new Kilos off the Russians. But thats not the point. At the moment no potential enemy of the West can project surface power anywhere.

If China had a couple of aircraft carrier battle groups then its foreign affairs pull is immediately strengthened. Think Sudan or any other oil-producing country China cares to do business with. Such countries would become untouchable if China could project military power globally.

8/17/2005 11:31:00 PM  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

Not just re-armament, but dodgy deals involving Chinese state-owned companies and several Pacific Island nations.

As an example of our medias ignorance on such matters, the involvement of Italian mafiosi in the Cook Islands got sweet f-all coverage here.

And what do you guys know about a Tongan revolutionary movement? Bugger all I'd say.

8/17/2005 11:33:00 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

So why is nobody very interested? I've been beating this drum for years, yet people I talk to seem to think that somehow the U.S. will pull a rabbit out of the hat and neutralize the threat. I doubt it.
We should be working very hard to destabilise China domestically--it surely would be more productive than allowing them to flood the West with cheap consumer goods in order to fund their military expansion.

8/17/2005 11:36:00 PM  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

American blogs are interested, but as usual New Zealanders live in a little dreamy utopia where issues like GE and farting cows dominate the news rather than the fact substantial numbers of people would like to see Washington DC reduced to a smoking hole in the ground.

We'd soon wake up if we saw regular news broadcasts of the NZ flag and effigies of our PM being burnt by foreigners.

8/17/2005 11:41:00 PM  
Blogger Chefen said...

I think part of it is that Chinese aggression or military powerplays would fit noone's (media et al) ideas. It has never happened before and so the media and pundits, used to looking back on recent history to get all their analysis and inspiration, come up empty. They just have no clue how to even think about it.

8/17/2005 11:43:00 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

I dunno, AL. If that happened, there'd still be a large number of Kiwis who would cover their ears, chant lalalalalalIcan'thearyou and hope the whole nasty thing would go away.

8/17/2005 11:44:00 PM  
Blogger Chefen said...

OK I mean never happened before as in being a global player being able to project power beyond their immediate neighbours.

8/17/2005 11:44:00 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

China is going to be such a huge problem, I think no-one is game to look it in the eye and imagine where it's all going to lead, much less think of what it will cost to neutralize the threat. There seems to be a real sense out there that it's just too big to deal with.

8/17/2005 11:47:00 PM  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

We have India on our side. (as soon as we are actually back on 'our' side that is). A good ally to have I think. They spent decades learning how to do democracy, while the CCP still thinks it can run the show in China.

8/18/2005 12:09:00 AM  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

This is not a good time to remind people that China have been buying weapons and arms from France in the "serious shit" category?

Or that Russia and China have formed several alliances, in the form of various "benign" organisations such as the Shanghai 5 SCO, with a quarter of the world's population under the umbrella?

Or that they REALLY want Taiwan back.

Shot practice missiles over Japan and been working on ICBMs for many years?

Russia dreams of being great again. Russia has been courting China for some time, because China is holding all four seasons and flowers in a game of Mah Jong.

I think Russia has been working on handling media relations, and contacted all their account managers to start confusing the hell out of history. Like that associate professor of unhistory Lucyna just reported on.

It would be a conspiracy if we knew about it....

8/18/2005 12:10:00 AM  
Blogger Keith said...

AL, true. And India would be a dangerous enemy for China to have on her flank.

8/18/2005 12:11:00 AM  
Blogger Keith said...

Zen, which makes me wonder about the "10 years to a nuke" crap that the CIA and State claim for Iran. Why couldn't Iran simply buy a few nukes?

8/18/2005 12:15:00 AM  
Blogger ZenTiger said...

Maybe all of the potential sellers are worried about their trustworthiness, or even their own "reputation"?

They probably have to do it the traditional way in order to make it into the club.

8/18/2005 12:41:00 AM  
Blogger Tane said...

China is a very interesting case. It may turn out to be a huge threat to us, or it may collapse in civil war, ecological disaster, famine and plague.

Anyone read Jared Diamond's "Collapse"? The chapter on China outlines some of the truly massive problems facing their government. Population pressure is very high, but they also have encroaching desertification, salinization of soil, flooding due to deforestation, erosion and water shortages. Oh, and huge issues with power generation.

One key vulnerability China faces is that for the first time in it's history it is looking at importing grain. Lots of grain, tens of millions of tonnes. At the moment, only the US can supply this. Not a bad strategic lever in any sort of conflict...

But if China can get it's shit in one sock, then it will be a real threat to us. Maybe not to the extent of invading us, but certainly to the extent of telling us what to do. They've never forgotten their imperial past, and a few tribute kingdoms is entirely appropriate.

I'm not sure which way China will go. A large part of me thinks it'll collapse and I even hope so. But this will be a terrible thing if it happens, not only for the hundreds of millions of deaths that will result, but because a dragon in it's death throes will lash out at everything in reach.

How far away are we again.....?

8/18/2005 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger Sean said...

Agree with Tane - but would add that China (and Japan) are extremely vulnerable to submarines cutting their supply lines. And it wouldn't take the USN to bring them to their knees - the Taiwanese could do the job given the tools. In short, I think the Chinese have more to worry about from us than we do from them - at the moment at least.

8/18/2005 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Antarctic Lemur said...

Tane, all of the problems Diamond describes can be solved with the application of engineering skills. And I doubt a corrupt centralised monopoly party will give much of a crap anyway.

China considers access to resources as merely another form of warfare (they aren't capitalists remember). I'll put a link up to the Pentagon report describing present Chinese strategy.

Sean, you're forgetting China has openly said it will use force to prevent Taiwan from declaring itself an independent Republic. China is also becoming much more aggressive in oil prospecting around the Spratly island chain (shared ocean between China, Vietnam, Phillipines).

Chinese oil companies are involved in Sudan, and there are (reportedly) Chinese troops guarding Chinese facilities in that country.

8/18/2005 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger Chefen said...

I'm not that impressed with Diamond's writings. China virtually fell apart under Mao anyway, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution destroyed agriculture and industry on a massive scale and killed millions. They managed to hold the whole thing together though, can't see why they don't think they can do it again.

8/18/2005 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger Tane said...


"Past performance is no guarantee of future perfomance...." Sound familiar?

The Communist Party in China has held it together through past disasters (usually self-inflicted ones), but that doesn't mean they'll hold it together through future ones. And given that the population has exploded, and continues to rise (at a slower rate though), the Chinese government has the biggest problem in the world on it's hands.


Technology will assist the Chinese in their attempts to avert an ecological catastrophe, but it can only go so far. Maybe the Chinese will succeed in pulling it off, it's hard to say. They will probably need to import food at some stage though, and only the US can do that at present. Maybe the Russians can finally revive their grain production to the point where they can do it. With China and the US squaring off, I'd not want 10% of my grain coming from the USA if I was the Chinese government.

I guess I don't have unlimited faith in technology to solve our problems (which explains why I'm a believer in Peak Oil). Technology gives you the blueprint, but you still need to implement it. Without the skill, energy and resources to make that technology work, it's pretty much useless. I guess it's my logistics background coming through.....


8/19/2005 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Sean said...

AL - I'm not forgetting Chinese threats. I'm considering their capabilities and vulnerabilities - and those of her potential adversaries. My point was that they themselves are extremely vulnerable to submarine warfare against their oil supplies and that the Taiwanese themselves could do the job given a fleet of modern submarines. On the subject of threats however, what do you make of their threatening the US with a nuclear attack if it comes to Taiwan's defence? I find it bizarre - to say the least.

8/19/2005 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Tane said...


The nuke threat is bizarre, but the Chinese have other sticks to beat the Yanks with. Owning $180 billion in US bonds and cash is a potent weapon in it's own right I think. I admit I'm not that knowledgable about international finance, but I think that if this lot is dumped on the market at once, the US dollar will take a big hit, possibly a catastrophic one. In fact, if the Chinese just stopped lending money to the Yanks full stop, that'd be enough to badly damage the US economy. This is a country that borrows $2 billion each and every day. Most of this is from East Asian central banks.

Other weapons the Chinese have include the hackers they seem to be training up. I have no hard evidence of this; but there are a lot of stories surfacing in the media about Chinese espionage and electronic jiggery-pokery.

I think that the US and China may go to war, but if they do, there'll be many other stages of conflict first. The US of course has other weapons of it's own (grain exports being one). They may just of course do it the old-fashioned way, with proxy wars. Let the little people kill each other off.

We live in interesting times eh?!

8/19/2005 09:15:00 PM  
Blogger Chefen said...

The US has a trade deficit with China because China sells an enormous amount of stuff to America. China can't really stop the flow of money to the US, it would kill those markets and put a lot of Chinese out of work. Not that they wouldn't of course, the consensus prior to WW1 was that every side had far too much to lose in a war and that trade would keep the peace. So much for that.

It doesn't rule out proxy wars though, but I'm not sure China is so interested in that. Revolutionary movements don't seem to be as wildly popular as in the 60s.

Also you can't discount India, it is as big as China and industrialising fast. It is also sucking up an ever increasing share of petroleum, comparable to China, and it lies in a strategic position between Africa and Asia/China. I wouldn't be surprised if China was more worried about India than directly with the US.

8/19/2005 09:34:00 PM  

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