China’s plans to add aircraft carriers to its fleet and an historic long-distance mission by its navy are aimed only at protecting the country and its trade interests, senior officials were quoted as saying on Monday.
By Emma Graham-Harrison
A long coastline, and high dependence on seaborne trade, meant China needed to have a strong presence at sea, but its growing confidence should not be misread as a “China threat”, the Navy’s deputy chief of staff told the official China Daily.
“Even when the navy has its aircraft carriers one day, our national defence strategy will remain purely defensive,” Major General Zhang Deshun told the paper in a story splashed across its front page.
Beijing has been keen to emphasise its case that its growing economic and political might is not a threat to other nations, even downgrading a doctrine of “peaceful rise” to “peaceful development” over worries the former might sound aggressive.
But long-term plans to add an aircraft carrier to its fleet, and the unprecedented deployment of its navy to fight pirates in waters off Somalia late last year have sparked discussion in the West about Beijing’s ultimate goals.
Zhang said any worries were misplaced.
Aircraft carriers are “strategically very common” for big countries with long coastlines and the “historic” mission to join an anti-piracy campaign in the waters off Somalia was no different from those of other nations, he added.