China is obsessed with sinking US aircraft carriers

The acquisition of the hull of the Russian aircraft carrier Riga, which was transformed into the Liaoning, marked the beginning of China’s effort to develop its own aircraft carrier fleet.

China’s obsession with developing capabilities to sink US aircraft carriers after the Third Taiwan Crisis.

The Genesis of a Military Obsession: The Third Taiwan Crisis

The confrontation in East Asia in the mid-1990s, specifically the Third Taiwan Crisis, marked a turning point in China’s military strategy. This episode, although little known in the United States, left an indelible impression on the Chinese military establishment, particularly for the demonstration of power and versatility that the American aircraft carrier represented. The triggering events date back to 1995, in the prelude to Taiwan’s first democratic elections, a political milestone that Beijing vehemently opposed.

The invitation to Lee Teng-hui, then president of Taiwan and leader of the  Kuomintang party, to speak in the United States, specifically at Cornell University, exacerbated tensions. This visit, interpreted as a grievance by Beijing, precipitated a series of Chinese military maneuvers in the East China Sea.

China’s actions included missile exercises and the deployment of F-7 fighters, evidencing a clear intention to intimidate Taiwan and, by extension, the United States.

The escalation reached its zenith in 1996, with China carrying out maneuvers that positioned missiles in the direction of Taiwan. The United States response was forceful, deploying advanced naval forces, including the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and its battle group. China’s inability to counter this show of force resulted in military humiliation, underscoring the need to develop capabilities that would effectively neutralize American aircraft carriers.

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Development and acquisition of post-crisis anti-aircraft capabilities

The acquisition of the hull of the Russian aircraft carrier Riga, which was transformed into the  Liaoning, marked the beginning of the Chinese effort to develop its own aircraft carrier fleet. In parallel, China intensified the development of missile systems capable of threatening enemy aircraft carriers, such as the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile.

This weapon, with its ability to strike maritime targets at long range, symbolizes China’s renewed focus on maritime power projection and denying access to its adversaries.

This strategic approach is complemented by the deployment of technological and tactical advances that could allow China to damage or even sink a US aircraft carrier in future conflicts. China’s ability to build its own aircraft carrier fleet while simultaneously developing means to neutralize those of the United States presents a significant strategic challenge to American naval supremacy in the region.

The Third Taiwan Crisis was not only a brutal lesson for China in terms of military limitations but also a catalyst for a profound transformation in its military doctrine. The  People’s Liberation Army Navy has demonstrated a remarkable ability to learn and adapt from these experiences, mobilizing considerable resources toward strengthening its naval power and anti-aircraft capabilities.

Strategic implications for regional and global security

China is obsessed with sinking US aircraft carriers
USS Saratoga

The evolution of China’s military posture and its focus on capabilities that counter US  naval power projection have significant implications for East Asian stability and global security.

China’s ability to project power through its growing fleet of aircraft carriers, combined with its arsenal of long-range anti-ship missiles, alters the balance of power and shifts the strategic considerations of countries in the region.

This paradigm shift in Chinese military capability requires a reassessment of the defense and deterrence strategies of the United States and its allies. The need to operate under the threat of advanced missile systems from China implies a rethinking of the US military presence and the nature of its alliances in the Asia-Pacific.

In conclusion, China’s military transformation, driven in part by lessons learned during the Third Taiwan Crisis, represents a strategic challenge that the United States and its allies must address to maintain a favorable balance of power and ensure long-term regional stability.