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China launches 'Fujian,' its most advanced aircraft carrier

Third flattop boasts electromagnetic catapult technology for plane takeoffs

The 80,000-ton ship is the first of China’s three aircraft carriers to be fully designed and built domestically.   © Xinhua/Kyodo

SHANGHAI -- China launched its largest and most advanced aircraft carrier on Friday at a shipyard in Shanghai, in what state media called a "short but festive ceremony."

The 80,000-ton Fujian, named for the southern coastal province opposite Taiwan, is the first of China's three carriers to be fully designed and built domestically. Unlike China's Liaoning and Shandong carriers, which use ski-jump ramps, Fujian will launch planes using electromagnetic catapults, the technology used on current U.S. carriers.

"Although it will be years before the [carrier] enters military service and achieves initial operating capability, its launch will be a seminal moment in China's ongoing modernization efforts and a symbol of the country's growing military might," said analysts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, in an article earlier this month.

Commissioned in 2018 and constructed by China State Shipbuilding's Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, the warship reflects President Xi Jinping's ambition to fully modernize the country's armed forces by 2035.

According to state media, Xu Qiliang, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission and member of the Communist Party Politburo, presided over Friday's ceremony.

Its debut also comes at a time of growing focus by the U.S. and its allies on Asia, particularly Taiwan and the South China Sea, where Beijing's territorial claims clash with those of Southeast Asian states.

The Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, started life as a Soviet warship, then was used as the model for the Shandong. The Liaoning was seen near Okinawa last month, part of a flotilla of eight Chinese vessels that the Japanese government said were likely involved in a military drill.

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