Liaoning aircraft carrier

Xi Jinping told Liaoning's captain to get aircraft carrier ship-shape soon

Magazine reports president's instructions to Liaoning's captain during August inspection

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 February, 2014, 9:11am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 4:05am

A Communist Party magazine has revealed concerns expressed by President Xi Jinping during his inspection of China's first aircraft carrier in August.

Xi's visit to the ship was widely covered by mainland media, but until yesterday what he discussed with the Liaoning's commander had not been reported.

"[You should] build up [the carrier's] combat readiness, logistics and support expeditiously," Xi told Captain Zhang Zheng before wrapping up his inspection of the Liaoning, according to an account in this month's issue of Dangjian (Party Construction) magazine.

The Liaoning, originally the Soviet Admiral Kuznetsov class carrier Varyag, was sold to China in 1998 after it was stripped of all weapons and engines. It underwent years of refitting and was handed over to the Chinese navy in September 2012 as an "aircraft carrier training platform".

In November it sailed for the first time in battle formation with warships in the South China Sea.

In December, two of the Liaoning's escort ships confronted the USS Cowpens during a carrier group exercise in nearby waters in an incident that the Pentagon described as a near-collision. The US State Department raised the matter with Beijing.

Zhang said that Xi, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, paid attention to details of the carrier's weapons and equipment, and was particularly keen about the ship's preparations for combat readiness, according to the magazine published by the Central Publicity Department.

Analysts at the time said Xi's inspection was designed to send a strong message to regional rivals, who were also strengthening their own navies.

But some Chinese defence researchers noted that the country would need at least three carrier battle groups to defend its national interests at sea, and that would be unlikely to happen before 2020 due to China's lack of shipbuilding capability and other technical reasons.

Wang Min, the Communist Party chief of Liaoning province, was reported as saying last month that a second aircraft carrier was being built in Dalian .