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New carrier does not mean change to defense policy

China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-27 07:23

New carrier does not mean change to defense policy

China officially launches its second -- and the first domestically developed -- aircraft carrier on Apr 26, 2017, in Dalian, Liaoning province. [Photo/Xinhua]

The launch on Wednesday of China's first totally home-built aircraft carrier marks a major step forward for its military modernization, and highlights the technical progress the country has made over the past several decades.

The carrier, which is expected to enter service in 2020, is the country's second. Its first was bought secondhand and refitted, and is now used for training purposes.

However, it would be wrong, or ill-intentioned, to perceive the new vessel as evidence of the "China threat" so beloved of some.

As it has integrated more closely with the rest of the world, the interests that China has beyond its borders have grown commensurately. Building a strong defense capability with a widespread global reach is now necessary to protect China's businesses and the massive interests that arise from them.

Also despite its growing overseas interests, China's top priority remains national rejuvenation and its most important task is still domestic development. Its defense policies are therefore first and foremost aimed at ensuring a peaceful external environment and providing a security guarantee for its own economic development and social progress.

To safeguard its national security, territorial integrity and development interests, China is therefore committed to meeting the strategic requirement of defending offshore waters and protecting the open seas, and building a multi-functional and efficient navy.

Aircraft carriers are the proven way to accomplish these tasks.

If anything, China is late in joining the club of nations that have aircraft carriers. The world's second-largest economy is the last among the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council whose navies have carrier groups. Even its Asian neighbors, India and Thailand, have had aircraft carriers in service for several decades.

And China's long-delayed deployment of an aircraft carrier lies in sharp contrast with the increasing role that it is playing in international affairs.

Its navy has joined in multinational anti-piracy patrols off Somalia since 2008, escorting thousands of foreign and Chinese cargo ships through the risky waters. China is also the largest contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, with more than 2,400 peacekeeping personnel in service worldwide.

An advanced navy equipped with aircraft carriers will definitely help the nation better fulfill its international responsibilities.

Criticizing China for adding aircraft carriers to its naval capabilities simply raises the question of why it should be a concern to those questioning an action that is long overdue.

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