China launched ‘Fujian’ its third and most advanced aircraft carrier, the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, on Friday, using a novel launch mechanism that experts say is quickly catching up to the United States.
The ship, dubbed “Fujian,” is China’s first domestically designed and built catapult aircraft carrier, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based research tank, its catapult-assisted launch technology is a significant enhancement over the Liaoning and Shandong’s less advanced ski jump-style launch systems.
The new system, which is comparable to that used by US aircraft carriers, will enable China to launch a larger range of aircraft from Fujian at a faster rate and with more ammunition.
In addition to the launch mechanism, the Fujian has blocking devices and a full-load displacement of more over 80,000 tons, according to Xinhua. After the launch, the ship will conduct anchoring and navigation tests.
According to Matthew Funaiole, a senior scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ China Project, the new ship will be the Chinese military’s “first excursion into a modern aircraft carrier.”
He stated, “This is a really major step forward.” “They’ve put a lot of effort into developing a carrier program, and they’re still pushing the limits of what they can do.”
With Liaoning in the northeast and Shandong in the east, China names its aircraft carriers after its coastline provinces. The nearest province to Taiwan is Fujian in the southeast, separated by a strait that is less than 80 miles (128 kilometers) wide at its narrowest point.
Despite never having administered Taiwan, China’s ruling Communist Party claims sovereignty over the self-governing democracy. Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, has stated repeatedly that “reunification” between China and Taiwan is unavoidable and has refused to rule out the use of force.
China today has the world’s greatest naval force, and aircraft carriers are the most important vessels in any major power’s fleet. The large ships function as a mobile airbase, enabling for the quick and long-term deployment of aircraft and weaponry to a conflict zone.
China’s naval buildup comes amid rising geopolitical tensions with the United States, which is attempting to improve connections with friends and partners in the Asia-Pacific area under President Joe Biden to offset Beijing’s expanding economic and military dominance.
Last year, Beijing reacted angrily to AUKUS, a security deal between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia in which the three countries agreed to share military information and technology in order to build a tighter defense relationship in Asia. The naval maneuvers, which were attended by members of the Quad, a resurrected informal discussion between the United States, Japan, Australia, and India, have further upset Beijing.