China's second aircraft carrier, the first domestically built one, called the Shandong, was delivered and commissioned by President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, at a commissioning ceremony in Shandong, an eastern Chinese province on the Yellow Sea, on Tuesday, reported China News Service.
China’s PLAN commissions it’s 2nd (1st locally built) aircraft carrier into service at near Sanya in Hainan island. Pennant no. 17 is named Shandong (山东) and looks like it will be assigned to the South Sea Fleet pic.twitter.com/W5ebvRRdEZ— Mike Yeo 杨启铭 (@TheBaseLeg) December 17, 2019
The commissioning of the new aircraft carrier was a significant milestone for China as it expands its efforts to become a dominant superpower in the Indo-Pacific region.
China has now entered an elite circle of superpowers that operate multiple carriers, including the US, the UK, and Italy.
China’s 2nd aircraft carrier officially commissioned. Named Shandong after the province. If every Chinese province gets an aircraft carrier named after, it will be 34 aircraft carrier 😬 pic.twitter.com/UrAHjQxG41— Carl Zha (@CarlZha) December 17, 2019
Before Shandong, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) operated one aircraft carrier called the Liaoning, which was built on a Soviet-era vessel, refitted as an aircraft carrier and launched into service back in 2012.
Construction of Shandong began in 2013 and was launch at the Dalian Shipyard in 2017. By 2018, the vessel started several sea trials, and it wasn't until late 2019 that the ship completed eight tests, including transiting the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.
WATCH: Xi Jinping tours China's first domestically-made aircraft carrier pic.twitter.com/gcftZ6zQ4I— QuickTake by Bloomberg (@QuickTake) December 17, 2019
Shandong has a displacement of 40,000-60,000 tons with a ski-jump flight deck similar to Liaoning. Significant improvements in layout design allow the new aircraft carrier to carry 36 J-15 fighter jets, compared to the Liaoning's 24.
China is the first Asian country since World War II to operate a domestically built aircraft carrier.
Military expert Song Zhongping told the South China Morning Post that Shandong will be stationed Sanya, a port city located on the southern end of China's Hainan Island.
Zhongping said: "The South China Sea offers ample scope for Chinese aircraft carriers to show their capabilities. It is also the area where the PLA needs to prepare for military struggles."
He added that Shandong "might be placed under the Southern Theatre Command for joint operations in the event of war in the South China Sea."
China's rapid modernization effort of its military in the last decade has caused concern among its neighbors, some of which are strategic allies of the US.
Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kono, on Monday, criticized China for its attempt to reconfiguring the balance of powers in the East and South China seas.
Kono warned that Japan was "also concerned about China's rapid enhancement of its military power without transparency, including its nuclear and missile capabilities."
China's ascension to become a global superpower could be realized by 2030. The economic war waged by the US on China has been an attempt to limit the rise of China, but if that fails, it seems that a trade war could transform into a shooting war somewhere in the South China Sea.