In a bid to make proverbial waves in international waters, China has plans of having six aircraft carriers - four of them with nuclear capabilities - by 2035 in a bid to challenge US Navy.
According to a report in South China Morning Post, China - already on the fast track towards modernising its military - has set an ambitious goal to put its naval fleet at par with that of the US. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy is being ramped up and the addition of more aircraft carriers is being seen by Beijing as a logical step in keeping the Americans at bay. The country currently has one aircraft carrier while it commissioned another in April of 2017. With a volatile South China Sea where several countries have challenged China's claims over a number of islands, Beijing may deploy a number of these planned aircraft carriers here. "China’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers with [EMALS-like systems] are expected to join the navy by 2035, bringing the total number of carriers to at least six – although only four will work at the front line," Wang Yunfei, a naval expert, was quoted as saying in the report.
China has maintained that the urgent pace of modernising its navy stems from the need to secure its trade routes and maintain peace in international waters. It further claims that its military is devoted to peace and that its naval fleet in international waters is for patrolling purposes. Several countries - including the US and Japan - are, however, not buying the Chinese explanation and see the country as adopting an aggressive posture.
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Military and economic experts - both in China and elsewhere - believe Beijing is likely to maintain its expenditure on modernising its military and that the country's navy may well expect big gains. This despite an economic slowdown that China currently faces. "Even if the economic downturn has an effect, we can adjust proportions in total military expenditure to make sure naval modernisation keeps going," Wang said, adding that in case of a war or war-like situation, it is likely that funding for infrastructure projects are cut rather than cuts in military expenditure.
While China has indeed ramped up its efforts to expand and modernise its military, there is an increasing concern within that human-training exercises must keep pace as well. For President Xi Jinping, the priority appears to have China compete with the likes of US and Russia not only in terms of economic might but military strength and for this, he may well invest in training exercises for the military in the immediate future.