|PLA soldiers sing anthems|
The commissioning on Tuesday of China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, to the People’s Liberation Army, marked an important milestone for the Chinese military, and even though it will be perhaps years before the PLA can deploy carrier battle groups, its entry into service underscores a new reality in Asia: China’s “hard power” is now a force to be reckoned with.
While the modernization of the Chinese military, buttressed by a rising economy and double-digit growth in military spending for a good part of the past decade, has been an ongoing process since the late 1990s, the past 18 months have seen an unprecedented series of highly symbolic developments. Chief among them was the unveiling, in January 2011, of China’s first fifth-generation stealth aircraft, the J-20, with reporting of a second project, the J-31, also in the works.
But China still has ways to go before it can represent a true challenge to regional forces, let alone the United States.
My op-ed, published today in the Ottawa Citizen, continues here.