A country's strategy and policies, not the weapons it possesses, decides whether it is an aggressive or defensive power. China has always emphasized that it will stick to a defensive defense policy, and aircraft carriers will only strengthen its defense capability.
Moreover, as a rising power, China can better shoulder its international maritime responsibilities if its navy is well equipped. After some major natural disasters that hit the Asia-Pacific region, especially the tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011 and the typhoon that caused havoc in the Philippines in November 2013, US aircraft carriers played a vital role in the rescue and relief operations. Since some ports and airports were destroyed in the disaster-hit countries, helicopters taking off from the decks of aircraft carriers were able to carry professional aid groups and essentials to the people most in need. Aircraft carriers will allow China, too, to play such a role in the future.
Some people have raised questions about China's military expenditure and the possible effect of commissioning another aircraft carrier in the navy on its economy. According to the latest statistics, China's GDP reached 56.88 trillion yuan ($9.3 trillion) in 2013, which means it can afford the economic cost of having a second aircraft carrier. Besides, China is not entering a military race and it will not build an aircraft carrier in a day.
Even if China wants to build a second aircraft carrier, it won't be a big burden on the national economy. On the contrary, China could use the opportunity to develop its high-tech industries, because building an aircraft carrier involves advanced technologies like standard wind tunnels and high-speed computers, which can be applied to civil use. Experience shows that big projects like building an aircraft carrier always necessitate innovations in technology, which can be used to improve the lives of Chinese people.
All this makes it clear that some media outlets are playing up the "China threat" theory by sensationalizing the speculation about China's second aircraft carrier, which is an old trick trying to fool international public opinion.
Zhang Junshe is deputy head of the Naval Research Institute of the People's Liberation Army. The article is an excerpt of his interview with China Daily's Zhang Zhouxiang.
(China Daily 01/24/2014 page9)