China plans aircraft carrier battlegroups to protect offshore interests

Zhen Liu zhen.liu@scmp.com  PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 March, 2016

Battlegroups to also be deployed in East and South China seas, admiral tells state media

The Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, returns to port after its first navy sea trial in Dalian in northeastern China's Liaoning province in 2012. Photo: APThe Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, returns to port after its first navy sea trial in Dalian in northeastern China’s Liaoning province in 2012. Photo: AP

China is building aircraft carrier battlegroups and plans to deploy them not only in the disputed East and South China seas, but also to protect the country’s overseas ­interests.

Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, who served as a national political adviser and sits on the navy’s advisory board on cybersecurity, told the state-run Xinhua News Agency that building aircraft carriers served to “defend China’s sovereignty of the islands and reefs, maritime rights and overseas ­interests”.

The defence ministry confirmed this year that China was building its second aircraft carrier, its first wholly home-made one.

Xinhua mentioned China’s growing interests overseas, including the increasing numbers of nationals travelling abroad and its direct investments. It also noted a need to protect overseas ethnic Chinese.

“Protecting the economic,Xinhua said since the opening up programme began in 1980s, overseas Chinese accounted for 60 per cent of total foreign direct investment in China. political status and occupational safety of overseas Chinese is paramount to safeguarding

China’s domestic economic development and its reform and opening-up,” Yin said, adding that such protection required strong naval power like aircraft carrier battlegroups.

Xinhua said since the opening up programme began in 1980s, overseas Chinese accounted for 60 per cent of total foreign direct investment in China.

The Liaoning, China’s first and so far only aircraft carrier, has conducted drills in the South China Sea on a few occasions since it was commissioned in 2012.

But so far the carrier has been used mainly for training purposes rather than playing any practical combat role.

Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military analyst, said Chinese aircraft carriers were unlikely to visit the South China Sea in the near ­future.

“Sending aircraft carriers would be a strong diplomatic statement. It is a demonstration of a country’s power and strong will to use force,” said Ni.

Original post scmp.com

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