China rule the waves? Beijing launches third aircraft carrier amid rising Taiwan tensions

The naval launch comes as part of a naval buildup which could prepare China for an amphibious assault

Updated: June 17, 2022 - 6:37pm

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The communist Chinese government in Beijing on Friday launched its third aircraft carrier, as part of a naval buildup that could enable the country to challenge U.S. naval supremacy in the Pacific.

Christened the Fujian, after the Chinese coastal province closest to Taiwan, the vessel entered the East China Sea after disembarking from the shipyard in Shanghai, according to Chinese state media outlet Xinhua. The outlet touted that the vessel was entirely designed and manufactured by China

The navy's first carrier, the Liaoning, is a modernized Soviet vessel, while the second, the Shandong, was domestically built, but designed based on the Liaoning, according to the Epoch Times. The outlet further noted that the Fujian weighs in at 20,000 tons, making it much larger than the other two and is equipped with electromagnetic launch catapults that will allow it to field a wider variety of aircraft.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has made modernizing and expanding the communist regime's military a cornerstone of his policy. The launch of the nation's third carrier puts Beijing in second place for the most active ships of that class behind the U.S.

The Fujian's launch comes amid heightened fears of a Chinese attempt to invade Taiwan while the western powers are distracted with Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. China reportedly views the situation in Eastern Europe as a litmus test for efforts to fulfill its own territorial ambitions.

The Republic of China, which governs Taiwan, and the People's Republic of China on the mainland have been in a territorial standoff since 1949. Both governments adhere to the "One China" principle, espousing the existence of a single Chinese nation including the territories of both, though each claims to be the legitimate government of that state.

Taiwan has not formally seceded from China. The island came under the Republic of China's control in 1945 and has been its only bastion since the communist triumph in the Chinese Civil War. Beijing considers the island to be under the control of separatist forces.

Xi's naval buildup could allow China to adjust the status quo, however, as an expanding naval presence could facilitate a practical maritime invasion. Any such effort would likely have to address the sizeable American naval presence in the region. President Joe Biden, in late May vowed intervention should China attempt to conquer Taiwan.

Chinese Communist Party officials, such as Defense Minister Wei Fenghe have remained bellicose despite Biden's assurances to Taipei, insisting that "the Chinese army will definitely not hesitate to start a war no matter the cost" if outside powers interfere in what it considers an internal matter.

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