China’s Third Aircraft Carrier Is Aimed at a Post-U.S. Asia

The ship’s bow, known as a ramp, helps jets take off from the carrier’s short runway. Both of those carriers were smaller, which means they could carry fewer aircraft. Fujian, the new Type 003 carrier, is a significant improvement for China’s first two carriers.

The latest U.S. Technology can only be found on the new USS Gerald Ford, making it the sole location for such advancements. This development allows China to catch up with the Type 003, which will utilize more advanced electromagnetic catapults instead of steam-powered ones. Historically, the United States has favored steam-driven catapults for launching aircraft off ships at high speeds. This preference is the reason why the ski jump imposes significant limitations on the size, weight, and payload of the aircraft being launched.

China’s initial endeavor is comparatively weaker than each of the United States’ 11 supercarriers. Even though it has been recently launched, it is still far from being completed and ready to be deployed. This supercarrier marks China’s first entry into this domain. The support vessels will rely more on this carrier to attain long distances and sustain operations, as it lacks nuclear propulsion like the Ford and other American carriers currently in service. The matter of size is also a significant factor.

In a significant conflict, aircraft carriers are unlikely to endure for an extended period due to the formidable and widespread presence of submarines and anti-ship missiles. The likelihood of a clash between surface fleets primarily focused on carriers, resembling the Battle of Midway, is highly unlikely. Aside from the persisting vast disparity in fleet size and capabilities, it is also important to reconsider characterizing China’s carrier fleet as a direct threat to the United States.

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Why bother with the long range if you can safely sail close to enemy shores? The U.S. Navy has tacitly acknowledged the fact that its carriers can decrease the range of combat aircraft aboard it. In the post-Cold War era, aircraft carriers have been useful for the United States when it comes to naval warfare against countries like Yugoslavia, Libya, and Iraq, which were largely defenseless. But that may not be the point.

Is the credibility of the U.S.-Centered architecture of security in the region slowly eroding? The nagging question is whether America’s military leadership and network alliance in Asia, which is crucial enough to risk a major war, is willing to be threatened by China’s moves. It is quite understandable that the United States, whose interests are calculated to be threatened by China, would resist without much hesitation. China has effectively demonstrated its control over the South China Sea by taking control of the artificial islands and equipping them with military facilities. This demonstrates that the network in Asia, which is crucial to America’s security, is fraying at the edges. However, it would be difficult for China, as a peer competitor, to deploy this kind of power without stumbling into a confrontation with the United States. The Communist Party, which wants a force that can help punish or coerce smaller rivals, does not want to fight a peer competitor.

China is considering an era in which it has a freer hand to deal with smaller countries, as the power and credibility of the U.S. In Asia has further eroded. This is a sign that China is thinking about a post-American fleet building, but it may not be a direct challenge to American naval power.

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In a territory that Canberra views as its area of control, Australia is concerned that an increasingly extensive Chinese military establishment is a sign of a potential takeover of the small Pacific nation of Solomon Islands, which Beijing has also entered into a security agreement with. As reported by The Washington Post, China is constructing a naval base in Cambodia. To enhance their monitoring capabilities in the region and minimize travel time, their aircraft and warships will require foreign bases. However, China’s resources will be stretched thin due to the vastness of the Pacific. China alone cannot aspire to dominate Maritime Asia solely with aircraft carriers.

Most Asian countries would prefer a future in which China is the dominant power, but they also recognize that the United States cannot maintain its military edge against China, so it is imperative for them to counter any rise in China’s military power that the Americans cannot recognize.

In order to guarantee that China’s ambitions to develop client-state relationships in Asia are frustrated permanently, it is essential to employ economic and diplomatic statecraft. China’s ambitions in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands cannot be solely countered with military weapons. Recognizing the response to China’s challenge, the Southeast Asian Nations, along with regional powers such as Australia, South Korea, and Japan, should also acknowledge the need to challenge China’s military ambitions by utilizing a combination of economic and diplomatic strategies.

China’s ambitious goal of countering a powerful naval force cannot be achieved by any means. However, China offers a good model for smaller countries on how to protect themselves against overwhelming military power. In the first few decades of its military modernization drive, China was not solely focused on how it could stop the dominating United States. It has built a vast array of anti-ship capabilities for the purpose of defending against almost impossible-to-defend attacks at sea. Even moving ships can be hit by ballistic missiles, and the enemy can respond before China’s naval vessels have a chance to react. This is why China has armed high-speed small naval vessels, sea-skimming missiles, and aircraft submarines with the purpose of “scoot and shoot” – to hit the enemy before they can respond.

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The result has been that Chinese missiles have made the seas close to China’s incredibly dangerous shores for U.S. Navy surface ships to operate in, overwhelming their defenses.

China’s maritime strategy is primarily focused on the deployment of naval submarines, anti-ship missiles, and mines, which could potentially hinder the free movement of fleets in Asia. This emphasis on negating the capabilities of other weapons and naval mines, along with the concentration on anti-ship missiles, makes it perilous for the United States to operate its aircraft carriers in close proximity to China. However, on a smaller scale, this self-defense model could be considered viable for other countries against China.

However, this does not imply that Beijing must control the seas. Naval vessels are an indication of Chinese influence–but through strategic investments, smaller nations can indeed diminish the manipulative capabilities of the Chinese navy and prevent Beijing from attaining dominant authority. It would be excessively expensive and precarious to hinder China from emerging as the foremost naval force in Asia.

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