China's first aircraft carrier may be named the "Liaoning", after the province where it was completed, according to mainland media.
Dalian, a port city in northeastern Liaoning province, has been home to the ship for more than a decade, since the uncompleted Soviet carrier formerly known as the Varyag arrived from Ukraine in March 2002.
Citing an unnamed naval expert with the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis News reported that the former Varyag was unlikely to be named after a famous person. The paper went on to quote unidentified sources as saying that authorities decided the ship should be named after the province where the ship had been "resurrected".
Li Jie , a senior researcher at the Chinese Naval Research Institute, said yesterday that "the name of the carrier is likely to be chosen from either provinces or words signifying magnificence or bravery".
Macau-based PLA watcher Antony Wong Dong noted yesterday that speculation over the carrier's name has been rife, particularly among military enthusiasts at home and abroad, but he too could only speculate. "The carrier will probably be named Liaoning," he said, adding that he has "tried but failed to get confirmation from independent sources" of the name.
Some pundits have guessed that the ship could be named after a famous person such as Shi Lang , a 17th-century admiral, or after former chairman Mao Zedong . Others have suggested place names like Beijing, Hubei or even a controversial one like "Diaoyu", after the disputed island chain in the East China Sea.
Shi Lang served during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties and played an instrumental role in conquering the breakaway island of Taiwan.
Some military watchers have suggested that the carrier could be in service as soon as October 1, which is National Day.
Last week, the number 16 was painted on the body of the aircraft carrier. According to PLA Navy practice, the painting of the number on a warship means it has finished all tests and is ready for naval service.
The vessel had undergone 10 sea trials by the end of last month.