Days after Chinese Web sites reported the test-flight of a fifth-generation J-18 carrier-based aircraft, state media released pictures of the J-15. Skeptics say China may be using news reports to project power
Barely two weeks after splashing photographs of an aircraft carrier on the Internet, China’s state media on Monday published what it claimed were the first close-up pictures of a J-15 (pictured) carrier-based fighter aircraft.
The day before, Web sites that focus on China’s military had run the same photographs, snapped outside the Shenyang plant in northeast China where the plane is being developed. The J-15 Flying Shark has the folding wings, shortened tail cone and hardened landing gear that would allow it to serve on China’s first aircraft carrier, which is expected to start sea trials soon. Some analysts said this was indisputable evidence of China’s growing mastery of military technology.
However, Contacted by the Taipei Times for comment, Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Washington, said one should always be cautious with print stories about new Chinese weapons that only appear on Chinese Web pages.
In his view, Chinese state media have developed the habit of picking up material posted on Web pages and turning it into news stories so that Western media will propagate the message that “China is getting bigger and badder.”
This article, a combination of New York Times News Service coverage and my own analysis, was published today in the Taipei Times. My material appears at the end and includes the part on the J-18 and Richard Fisher’s comments. My article on the same subject in Jane’s Defence Weekly can be accessed here (subscription required). Of course, what is drawing attention to these two stories is the fact that they come on the heels of reports that China’s first aircraft carrier could embark on its maiden voyage as early as this summer.