the home of online investigations

China’s Liaoning Departs Qingdao

June 29, 2017

By Chris Biggers

Translations: Русский

Imagery of Qingdao acquired on 26JUN2017 by Planet.

China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, has departed its home port of Qingdao, recent imagery acquired by Planet confirms. China’s Ministry of Defense said the carrier would conduct routine training while also making a two day port call in Hong Kong.  This year marks the former city state’s 20th anniversary under Chinese rule since being handed back over from Great Britain.

According to imagery and news reporting, the aircraft carrier sets out with its co-located flotilla, which includes the destroyers, Jinan (152) and Yinchuan (175), the frigate Yantai (538), as well as several other vessels. Equipped with a detachment of J-15 fighters, the carrier’s visit to the former British colony also coincides with President Xi Jinping’s first trip to the special administrative region since taking office in 2013.

The visit is expected to put China’s military achievements on display in an attempt to strengthen patriotism tied to the mainland. However, that may be difficult with younger generations—particularly since most of Hong Kong’s recent pro-democracy movement has been youth-driven. Of Hong Kong residents aged 18 to 29 years old, recent polls suggest that only 3.1 per cent identified as Chinese, compared to 3.4 percent six months ago. That’s the lowest rating since Hong Kong University began the polls in 1997.

China’s Liaoning, and its future carrier which launched in April at Dalian, represents a significant step forward as Beijing develops capabilities for a blue-water navy. Previously, China’s sole operational carrier deployed for training in December 2016 in the Bohai and Yellow Seas, before making an appearance in the South China Sea at a new pier at Hainan Island.

“In the long run, China needs to develop its own aircraft carrier battle teams, with at least six aircraft carriers, maritime forces led by guided missile destroyers, as well as attack submarines,” Xu Guangyu, a senior advisor to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association wrote in the PLA Daily in April. “China will build about ten more bases for the [carriers, and]…could have bases in every continent,” he went on to write.

Chris Biggers

Chris Biggers is a public and private sector consultant based in Washington, D.C.

Join the Bellingcat Mailing List:

Enter your email address to receive a weekly digest of Bellingcat posts, links to open source research articles, and more.

Support Bellingcat

You can support the work of Bellingcat by donating through the below link:

3 Comments

  1. Ukukraman

    It should be no surprise that this development has come to be but it should be put into perspective both individually as China’s move into carrier ownership and as a comparison to other carrier owning nations

    Firstly the liaoning may have just been commissioned but at the end of the day it’s an unfinished Russian ship… sister shop yo the operating Russian shop the Kutsenov (forgive any small naming innacuracies as I’m doin this from the top of my head) originally bought for scrap and initially intended as a floating casino before the Chinese government decided to use it as a study platform for building carriers…to this extent it has served its purpose but you would have to ask yourself Was is a good place to start…

    The sister shop dalian is equally likely not to be much different

    The author speaks of developing a fleet of 6 carriers for blue water global presence….that will take many years and much geo political water can flow under the bridge in that time.

    Bottom line is that China has joined a club…which includes a surprising number of countries apart from the obvious ones…. even Brazil has a carrier

    In terms of who has the most then that answer is as you would expect…. the USA has 19 carriers in service… even Russia only has 1

    So what’s the point…. to be able to sea transport loads of air power….to make bold grandiose muscle flexing arrivals at international ports

    At the end of the day they are simply resource hungry floating first strike targets any one of which can be sunk by any number of means…. air attack… underwater attack….long range missile attack…a proximity detonated small nuke would not even have to hit them….

    I suppose you have to have them if you want to shift large numbers of aircraft beyond their flight range if you can’t on course fuel them any other way… the odds of a of a weak opponent sinking them is low… they make a big geo political power statement wherever they go….the oooooh factor!….but are carriers best military bang for the buck, yuan, euro or what ever country denomination you choose from the 19 countries that have 200 carriers in various states of play….perhaps they were once….i don’t think so now

    Reply
  2. Ukukraman

    It should be no surprise that this development has come to be but it should be put into perspective both individually as China’s move into carrier ownership and as a comparison to other carrier owning nations

    Firstly the liaoning may have just been commissioned but at the end of the day it’s an unfinished Russian ship… sister shop yo the operating Russian shop the Kutsenov (forgive any small naming innacuracies as I’m doin this from the top of my head) originally bought for scrap and initially intended as a floating casino before the Chinese government decided to use it as a study platform for building carriers…to this extent it has served its purpose but you would have to ask yourself Was is a good place to start…

    The sister shop dalian is equally likely not to be much different

    The author speaks of developing a fleet of 6 carriers for blue water global presence….that will take many years and much geo political water can flow under the bridge in that time.

    Secondly….Bottom line is that China has joined a club…which includes a surprising number of countries apart from the obvious ones…. even Brazil has a carrier

    In terms of who has the most then that answer is as you would expect…. the USA has 19 carriers in service… even Russia only has 1

    So what’s the point…. to be able to sea transport loads of air power….to make bold grandiose muscle flexing arrivals at international ports

    At the end of the day they are simply resource hungry floating first strike targets any one of which can be sunk by any number of means…. air attack… underwater attack….long range missile attack…a proximity detonated small nuke would not even have to hit them….

    I suppose you have to have them if you want to shift large numbers of aircraft beyond their flight range if you can’t on course fuel them any other way… the odds of a of a weak opponent sinking them is low… they make a big geo political power statement wherever they go….the oooooh factor!….but are carriers best military bang for the buck, yuan, euro or what ever country denomination you choose from the 19 countries that have 200 carriers in various states of play….perhaps they were once….i don’t think so now

    Reply
  3. Rob

    I recall China’s strategy and explanation (not verbatim) for this evolution “China wants want to be able to send carriers to regions in the world where its economic or political interests are challenged, or at stake, just like the US does!”.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)