Sat, September 29, 2012
China > Mainland

Liaoning, China’s century-old blue dream, comes true

2012-09-29 08:01:52 GMT2012-09-29 16:01:52(Beijing Time)  SINA English

By Yu Runze, Sina English

China's first aircraft carrier was delivered and commissioned to the Navy of the Chinese People's Liberation Army on Sept. 25, 2012. (Photo/Xinhua) China's first aircraft carrier was delivered and commissioned to the Navy of the Chinese People's Liberation Army on Sept. 25, 2012. (Photo/Xinhua)

China's first aircraft carrier remained a Sphinx until it was unveiled on the day to be delivered and commissioned to the People's Liberation Army navy on September 25, 2012. 

The day makes history, and will be remembered by the Chinese as a long-awaited national pride at sea.  It takes Chinese people near a century to see the dream come true.

China’s aircraft carrier dream can be dated as far back as 1928.   Chen Shaokuan, who later became the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, put forward the idea to build aircraft carrier a document at the end of 1928. It was only ten years after Britain acquired the first carrier with a completely flat deck, the HMS Argus, in 1918.  

When Chen became the Commander-in Chief of the Navy, he put forward a plan to build 20 aircraft carriers. The Navy then had seen certain progress. However, the plan was halt as the Japanese initiated the second Sino-Japanese War.  

The Japanese using shipboard aircraft launched a large scale booming, which made the navy experienced the largest loss since the Sino-Japanese War in late 1937. 

The horrifying battles assured Chen’s determination to have aircraft carrier as the battles demonstrated the combat capacities of the carrier.  

After the Japanese was defeated, he was ambitious to continue the program. Unfortunately, due to sluggish economy and domestic situation, the plan was shelved, then ended, which also marked Chinese first endeavor to have aircraft carrier was failed.  Though the process of having carrier was interrupted, Chinese dream to have its own aircraft carrier went on.

Carrier dream of predecessors

Chairman Mao inspects the PLA Navy. (File Photo)Chairman Mao inspects the PLA Navy. (File Photo)

In 1958, Chairman Mao tabled a plan for what he called the 'railways on the high seas'. Characteristically, Mao's dream was gigantic: it envisaged the construction of fleets of merchant ships, escorted by 'proletarian' aircraft carriers.  In 1973 Premier Zhou Enlai expressed that “I have contributed my whole life to military and politics. I am not reconciled to leave without seeing the carrier. " 

Since the 1970s, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has expressed interest in operating an aircraft carrier as part of its blue water aspirations.  China has acquired four retired aircraft carriers for study, the Australian HMAS Melbourne and the ex-Soviet carriers Minsk,Kiev and Varyag.  

The first official plan of PLAN aircraft carrier dated back on March 31, 1987 when the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense approved the plan on the aircraft carrier and the next generation nuclear submarine for PLAN submitted by the 

Former commander-in-chief of PLAN, Liu Huaqing (L2) (File photo)

Former commander-in-chief of PLAN, Liu Huaqing (L2) (File photo).  

The original plan was to be progressed in stages, with basic research to be completed by the end of the 7th 5-year plan, and development of the platform and aircraft to be completed by the end of the 8th 5-year plan.  

However, Liu Huaqing’s plan proved to be too ambitious as the domestic Chinese industry at the time could not meet the goal demanded by the plan. As a result, the plan was drastically scaled back to basic research level and the date for an aircraft carrier entering PLAN service was postponed and eventually put on hold

What as follows was a saga

 In the 1980´s, "Varyag" was built in Ukraine´s Nikolayev shipyard by the Soviet military. (File photo)In the 1980´s, "Varyag" was built in Ukraine´s Nikolayev shipyard by the Soviet military. (File photo)

In April 1998, Ukrainian Trade Minister Roman Shpek announced the winning bid of US$20 million from Chong Lot Travel Agency Ltd., a company based in Hong Kong. They proposed to tow Varyag out of the Black Sea, through the Suez Canal and around southern Asia to Macau, where they would moor the ship and convert it into a floating hotel and gambling parlor. It would be similar to the attractions Kiev in Tianjin and Minsk at Minsk World in Shenzhen.

The hulk of the Varyag, the future Liaoning, under tow in Istanbul in 2001. (File photo)The hulk of the Varyag, the future Liaoning, under tow in Istanbul in 2001. (File photo)

But Turkey, whose consent was required for the ship to pass through the Dardanelles Strait, refused to cooperate. So the Varyag spent 18 months being towed aimlessly around the Black Sea, before Turkey was finally persuaded to let it through, in return for Chinese economic favors. 

The Suez Canal does not permit passage of "dead" ships - those without their own on-board power source - so the hulk was towed through the Strait of Gibraltar, around the Cape of Good Hope, and through the Straits of Malacca.   The tugs towing the hulk after the 15,200-nautical-mile (28,200 km) journey entered Chinese waters on February 20, 2002, and a

The ship finally arrives March 3 at Dalian Shipyard in northeastern China. (Photo/Agencies)

The ship finally arrives March 3 at Dalian Shipyard in northeastern China. (Photo/Agencies).   

What as follows was years of silence 

(Photo/Xinhua)(Photo/Xinhua)

On June 7, 2011, People's Liberation Army Chief of the General Staff Chen Bingde confirmed that China was constructing indigenously designed aircraft carrier.  

On 10 August 2011, it was announced that the refurbishment of Varyag was complete, and that it was undergoing sea trials.  Since then, the aircraft carrier has taken ten sea trails. The last one was on August 27, 2012.  

Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, was officially handed over to the navy and entered naval ranks on September

The century-old dream turns out to be a splendid reality.

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