China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier at launching ceremony in Dalian, China, 26 April 2017 ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

By David Schlesinger

Making a huge statement about wanting to project military might, China is beginning sea trials of its first home-built aircraft carrier, the same week it conducted exercises with its first carrier, a rebuilt Soviet ship bought from Ukraine.

The country began a massive modernization program for its military in the 1990s. One catalyst was tensions over Taiwan in 1996: when China was conducting military exercises and missile tests near the self-governed island that Beijing considers part of Chinese territory, the United States sent two of its aircraft carriers to show its support for Taipei.

Beijing clearly wants to show that it has naval might now and won’t be challenged in its own backyard, making a point not just about the waters near Taiwan, but also in the contentious South China Sea, the conduit for billions of dollars worth of trade and home for vast wealth in fisheries, oil and gas.

Here’s an interview on the subject that I gave to Monocle Radio:

David Schlesinger is the Founder and Managing Director of Tripod Advisors, a consultancy that advises on political risk analysis and strategy, and on running complex, dispersed global organizations with an emphasis on China and the media sector. He previously was Reuters’s global editor-in-chief before becoming chairman of Thomson Reuters China, responsible for government relations and businesses in financial markets, legal and regulatory databases, scientific information and journalism.
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