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Chinese Army Flexes Its Muscles Weeks before Trump’s Inauguration | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Ships of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy on maneuvers in the South China Sea, May 5, 2016 © AFP

Beijing – Chinese army is showing off its military capabilities, just a month before the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, which has revived the tension with the U.S. concerning the island of Taiwan.

Earlier, Chinese newspapers announced that the country’s aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was on its way to the Pacific for the first time, whereas the new fighter, the FC-31, executed its first flight test.

These measures come at a time when Beijing is preparing for the arrival of the new president Trump at White House on 20 January, who did not spare China of his criticism since his election in early November.

Tension between Beijing and Taiwan increased after the president-elect had a phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Donald Trump added fuel to the fire by hinting to a possible rapprochement with Taiwan, while Beijing didn’t rule out the possibility of resorting to force to restore its sovereignty on the island.

Amid this, the exercises carried out by Liaoning, an aircraft carrier that was bought from Russia, did not go unnoticed, especially since the ship, accompanied by several warships, never sailed in the Pacific since it was put into service in 2012.

After a passage in the ocean to the south of Japan, the flotilla reached the South China Sea, according to the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense, which monitored the aircraft carrier’s passage Sunday off its shores, according to AFP.

Meanwhile, Japanese Ministry of Defense announced that one of its ships detected eight Chinese ships, including the carrier and three warships, in the Eastern Chinese Sea on Saturday.

New China News Agency said that these maneuvers were preceded by exercises on “refueling and air engagements.”

Mid-December, Chinese navy announced that the carrier had carried out its first exercises with real ammunition, including a dozen missiles.

Beijing emphasizes that these planned exercises are routine, but Chinese newspapers mentioned that the Liaoning is ready to fight, and that another Chinese aircraft carrier, is under construction.

“An aircraft carrier is a strategic weapon to show China’s power to the rest of the world,” said Global Times newspaper.

The newspaper close to the communist regime added that: “If the fleet was able to cross into areas where U.S. has vital interests, it will change the situation in which Washington can unilaterally pressure China.”

The newspaper suggested that Beijing must accelerate the construction of other aircraft carriers and consider establishing supply bases in South America.

In addition, China Daily reported on Monday that China had recently tested a new prototype stealth fighter aircraft, an improved version of the FC-31 Gyrfalcon, previously known as J-31.

The aircraft can carry eight tons of weapons, including six missiles in its internal weapons bay and another six under its wings, according to the manufacturing company.

Yet, the development of Chinese armaments didn’t seem to worry Washington, which has ten aircraft carriers in service and a network of naval bases all around the globe, according to David Kelly, Chairman of China Policy, a research and consulting firm.

Kelly stated that an aircraft carrier is above all “symbolic and for domestic use,” noting that this has virtually no strategic importance. But, it reminds the United States that China has a pressure force in the region.”