SOUTH CHINA SEA militarisation has been accelerated by China in recent years as they look to seize complete control of the oil-rich waters, and the unveiling of their new aircraft carrier – Shandong – indicates Beijing’s growing military tussle with the US.
China President Xi Jinping formally commissioned the colossal warship on Tuesday, yet another statement on Beijing’s unrelenting quest for military dominance in the South China Sea. The Shandong is the country’s first domestically built aircraft carrier, and will be based in Hainan, an island located south of mainland China and close to the contested Paracel Islands.
The ship weighs 50,000 tonnes and will focus its mission on the South China Sea, much to the annoyance of smaller nations in the area who also have sovereignty claims over various island clusters.
State controlled media has reported that the warship will be used to prevent foreign vessels entering Beijing claimed territory, with one source linked to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s publication claiming that the ship will have “face-to-face encounters” with rivals.
The source said on social media: “The main strategic focus of the Shandong will be on waters around the South China Sea.
“Recently, military vessels and aircraft from some nations have been carrying out so-called freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, stirring up trouble and challenging China’s national sovereignty.
“The aircraft strike group headed by the Shandong will be deployed to the South China Sea. It is very likely that it will have face-to-face encounters with foreign military vessels.”
China has the largest naval capacity in terms of smaller warships, however the US is far superior in the aircraft carrier department with 24 compared to China’s one.
Beijing’s People’s Liberation Army Navy has 52 frigates, more than double the US’ 22.
Worse for the US, China has nearly triple the Washington’s corvette (small warship) count, with 42 at Beijing’s disposal compared with just 15.
China also edges the US with its 76 submarines, while Washington falls just short with 68.
As far as defensive posturing is concerned, China also has a significant advantage with its 192 patrol vessels. The US has just 13.
It is not all bad for the US however, on top of its large aircraft carrier count, Washington possesses more than double China’s destroyer count – 68 to Beijing’s 33.
The most concerning aspect of China’s military presence is its huge bases in the Spratly Islands.
Described by many as “island fortresses”, China has engulfed the South China Sea with man made island bases.
A leaked set of photos given to a Filipino newspaper showed cargo ships and supply vessels, which the newspaper said appeared to be delivering construction materials to the China-controlled islands.
Others show runways, hangars, control towers, helipads and radomes as well as a series of multistorey buildings that China has built on reefs.
The bases also appear to boast sophisticated technology and developed resources, with communication antennae, underground petrol, oil and lubricant storage tanks and control towers.