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Geopolitics

The Chinese Public Celebrates A War Ship It Doesn’t Know Very Much About

China’s media and general public are abuzz about the country’s first aircraft carrier, a converted Soviet-built behemoth that set off earlier this month on its maiden voyage. But they’re missing some key information, like how much it cost, and what it’s e

Varyag, the first Chinese aircraft carrier
Varyag, the first Chinese aircraft carrier
WANG Xiaoxia

BEIJING -- China is celebrating the maiden voyage of its first aircraft carrier, which took to the seas Aug. 10. The "new" ship is in reality anything but. "Varyag," first known as "Riga," was actually built by the Soviet Union. Its construction began in the mid 1980s. But the Soviet Union fell and the ship was transferred to Ukraine before being bought for "entertainment purposes' by a Chinese company believed to be a front for the Chinese Army. Having spent more than 30 years in a dockyard, the carrier was finally converted as a military ship in the Chinese port city of Dalian.

Though Varyag isn't officially in service just yet, it is receiving quite a lot of attention. Its launch made headlines on most Chinese news sites and the population as a whole seems to have fallen in love with it. Varyag is a boost to Chinese patriotism, after decades of Western domination over the seas since the 19th century. With this new ship, China is experiencing an unprecedented "big power climax" that even the Beijing Olympics didn't generate. Dubbed "Chinese naval nationalism" by the West, it explains why the carrier is receiving overwhelming support not just from the general public, but also from the intellectual elite.

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