China Military Buildup Continues
Beijing began a new project remodeling the never-completed former Russian aircraft carrier Varyag—dry-docked in China’s Dailian shipyard.
The ship’s ultimate purpose has not been revealed. Regardless of whether the refitted carrier will enjoy civilian usage, be sold to another nation or added to the Chinese Navy, it is evident that “the Chinese will gain valuable experience in aircraft carrier construction and operation from the refit, which will contribute to the overall modernization of Beijing’s military” (Stratfor, July 13; emphasis ours).
The expertise required to refit and reconstruct an aircraft carrier—one of mankind’s greatest military developments—cannot be found at just any port. Few nations have aircraft carriers, let alone the competence and resources to construct one. The technological benefits and experience China stands to gain from this remodeling project cannot be underestimated.
Also, by refitting the Russian-made aircraft carrier, Beijing gains an asset even more important than expertise and a new piece of naval hardware: a prime opportunity to deepen ties with Russia. “Sino-Russian cooperation could include provisions for Russian technical assistance in restoring the Varyag to some level of operational capacity. Helping the Chinese refit the Varyag also would represent a way that Russia would counter the U.S. geopolitical offensive in its periphery” (ibid.).
Watch for China to push to acquire and construct more military hardware. Russia will continue to be China’s primary weapons supplier as Moscow seeks greater Chinese investment and Beijing remains in the hunt for Russian oil and weaponry. As China’s military buildup continues and the nation develops strong ties with oil-rich Russia, watch for Asian nations to rally more intensely around Beijing.