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China’s Surface Warships Expansion Plans

Xia Ping, head of the Personnel Department of the People’s Liberation Army (Navy), is reported to have told a military conference at Beijing on May 9,2011, that the PLA (N) would be recruiting more than 2000 PhDs in the next five years. This statement, coming in the wake of earlier reports of plans to step up the recruitment of technology-savvy cadres and officers to the PLA (N), has given rise to speculation that in addition to inducting an aircraft-carrier, the PLA (N) has embarked on a plan to expand its surface fleet to give it a greater power projection capability. Annexed is a commentary on the subject carried by the Party- controlled “ Global Times” on May 11,2011. ( 13-5-11)

( The writer Mr B Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical  Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail: seventyone2@gmail.com ANNEXURE

Navy talent drive fuels carrier buzz

Source: Global Times May 11 2011 Comments

By Zhu Shanshan

A recent pledge by the navy to find top talents to upgrade its weaponry has led to new speculation that China plans to build its first aircraft carrier, a key move that would pave the way for a blue-water maritime force.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy is seeking to recruit more than 2,000 PhD degree holders in the next five years, Xia Ping, head of the Navy Personnel Department, said Monday at a military conference.

The military already cultivated more than 1,000 commanders and technical personnel to develop and operate new batches of marine weaponry, including “large surface combat ships,” nuclear submarines and new warplanes, between 2005 and 2010, Xia said, without identifying the weapons.

Such plans to build a talent pool for large surface combat ships have served to reinforce widespread assumptions of the launch of an aircraft carrier later in the year, analysts suggested.

Indications of the carrier’s development were believed to have begun in 2009 when Navy Commander Admiral Wu Shengli announced a development plan for large surface warships.

In an interview with the Xinhua News Agency that year ahead of the Chinese Navy’s 60th founding anniversary, Wu revealed the army’s ambition to accelerate its development of advanced weapons, including large surface warships.

But Wu did not specify if the plan included the development of an aircraft carrier, with media reports only citing him as defining large surface combat ships as those with a displacement of more than 10,000 tons.

Zhang Zhaozhong, a professor at the PLA National Defense University, told China Central Television that a large-scale destroyer already in service definitely falls into such a category, and an aircraft carrier with a displacement ranging from 60,000 tons to 100,000 tons based on US standards could also be included.

No further information was available on Tuesday when the Global Times contacted the Navy to ask if the training of talents has anything to do with the potential development of China’s first aircraft carrier.

Li Jie, a researcher at the Chinese Naval Research Institute, told the Global Times on Tuesday that a large-scale naval surface force mainly refers to heavy-tonnage vessels including cruisers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers and aircraft carriers.

“Dock landing ships are the most common ones in the current navy’s fleet,” Li said.

“China’s future development of an aircraft carrier can’t be ruled out,” he said.

Liu Yong, from the China Security magazine, told the Global Times that the enhancing of human resources is aimed at paving the way for the future development of an aircraft carrier as part of a systematic project, which requires experienced pilots and commanders.

Chinese military officials have kept a tight lid on information related to the development of an aircraft carrier.

Geng Yansheng, a spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense, told reporters in March while unveiling China’s military white paper that no relevant information was available on the subject.

In January 2010, the ministry dismissed rumors China was building a carrier.

But reports alleging that China’s first aircraft carrier would take to the ocean for its initial sea trial in July have continued to circulate.

Li said the Chinese military is being cautious in revealing information, and recent announcements of a personnel training plan seemed to be another sign that authorities were releasing information updates at a carefully designed pace.

Liu said it is understandable for China to keep cautious on revealing information on its first aircraft carrier.

“An open and explicit timetable for the development of a carrier would put China in a passive position. There has to be some level of flexibility for a huge project involving an aircraft carrier, especially its construction, which if confirmed, would mainly depend on home-grown technology,” Liu said.

Citing an anonymous US naval officer, Tokyo-based magazine The Diplomat said on Monday that China’s first carrier could become a major symbol of the second phase of the development of China’s navy.

The two-step process would see the “PLA Navy evolve from its current, mostly coast-bound status to a true ‘blue-water’ force capable of controlling distant waters and influencing events in adjacent lands,” the magazine said.

The idea was echoed by Li, who said with the country’s growing global clout came an urgent need for the navy to protect Chinese offshore interests with activities such as anti-terrorism drills.

However, Li warned that the Chinese navy is still under-staffed as it accounts for less than 10 percent of the military, totaling over 200,000 personnel, which is far less than the average proportion of one-third of other major forces in the world.

Huang Jingjing and Xinhua contributed to this story

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