While the UK faces the prospect of a decade without seaborne airpower China announces that it will build its first aircraft carrier.

Yesterday Chen Bingde, chief of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) General Staff confirmed the building of the carrier as reported in China Daily [1].

"China is a big country and we have quite a large number of ships, but they are only small ships. This is not commensurate with the status of a country like China." Chen said adding that having 11 aircraft carriers makes the United States "a real world power".

China has in the past bought three old aircraft carriers to study them two of them being the Russian carriers Minsk and Kiev, which are now theme parks. More recently they purchased the Varyag from the Ukraine, which China intends to make operational. It has taken China forty years to reach this position since the first feasibility studies in the 1970s.

This will make China the last member of the United Nations Security Council to have an aircraft carrier.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, who is on a visit to China commented that there can be quite a gap between the symbolism of ownership of a carrier and its actual capability.

China is planning to bring the Varyag into service this year, possibly for training purposes only, whilst it is rumoured that another is being built in Shanghai.

The Varyag, although much smaller than its American counterparts at 67,500 tons compared to the US 100,000 tons, will still make China one of only four countries to have a carrier of more than 50,000 tons. The other three being the US, France and Russia.

There has been no mention of how many carriers China intends to build.

[1] http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2011-07/12/content_12882029.htm

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