March 10, 2016 | Commentary on Pacific Ocean, China, China Military Modernization

Taking China's Carrier Operations Seriously

This past week, Sino-Vietnamese tensions rose as China moved a deep-sea drilling rig into disputed areas and began earnest exploration for oil. Coming in the wake of President Obama’s visit to Asia, this suggests that Chinese assertiveness has not been deterred by the American pivot, but, rather, has accelerated. Of particular note to the Chinese may have been President Obama’s decision to personally underscore the American commitment to Japan, specifically the disputed Senkaku Islands.

The President’s visit occurred against the backdrop of a growing Chinese naval aviation capability, most prominently embodied by the new Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning. Indeed, as with the J-20 test on the eve of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ visit, and the J-31 on the eve of Secretary Panetta’s, Beijing unveiled the J-15 just before Secretary Hagel arrived in China. This new fighter is intended for carrier operations. The Chinese reportedly began large-scale production of this aircraft late last year.

 - Dean Cheng is the senior research fellow for Chinese political and security affairs at The Heritage Foundation.

 - This piece originally appeared in War on the Rocks and can be viewed in full at

About the Author

Dean Cheng Senior Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center
Asian Studies Center

Originally appeared in War on the Rocks