China has been refurbishing the aircraft carrier it acquired from Ukraine and will reportedly deploy it soon for sea trials.
Understandably, the news has unnerved the US’ military planners and its East Asian allies, given the threat the ship could potentially pose in the western Pacific region.
However, a lone carrier is a far cry from a battle group, which usually includes an aircraft carrier, several submarines, numerous destroyers, cruisers, airborne early warning aircraft, long-range aerial refueling tankers, more than five dozen carrier-based fighters and space-based satellites.
On top of that, 4,000 to 5,000 carrier-based personnel and 100 to 200 naval staff are required for each supporting ship to feed and man the group as a whole. In effect, it is almost equivalent to a small city with a population of 10,000, an airport and hundreds of aircraft constantly on the move.
Once hardware constituents are established and personnel are well trained, a huge amount of materiel ranging from foodstuffs to precision weapons and ammunition must be positioned at the seaports of friendly nations, if available.
At the present, China is still lacking capabilities in many areas and is not expected to fill those gaps in the near future, if ever. Hence, one should not overplay the significance of the report the carrier is almost ready to take to sea.
Rather than sending an explicit threat, China released the news — including a picture — with the intention of setting the West on edge, for Beijing knows in its heart it simply does not have the sustainable resources to fight a war in time and space.
It is playing asymmetrical, psychological games in the hope that the West will be mentally fatigued after dealing with phantom threats.
In this age of the Internet, it would be more cost-effective for China to launch a large-scale cyber attack on the international banking system. As has also been reported recently, hackers that are traceable to China have penetrated the networks of Google and the US Department of State.
This, of course, is no surprise, since China’s army of patriots definitely possesses the ability — of their own choice and if so desired — to send out billions of pornographic videos and saturate the Web.
A lone Chinese carrier does not constitute a threat. An army of fanatic computer hackers does.
Kengchi Goah is a research fellow of the Taiwan Public Policy Council in the US.
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