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The official explanation for the carrier move was force protection. “The home port [Qingdao] can effectively protect the Liaoning from air and underwater strikes,” said the People’s Daily, citing a navy source.

The newspaper explained that Qingdao is a more-developed port with better supply, support and repair facilities that also can accommodate a host of auxiliary ships in a future carrier battle group formation.

“Qingdao, the most subtle place for home port,” is how the People’s Daily headlined the story.

Qingdao was a deep-water port built by the Germans before World War I, when the German navy had a lease from the Chinese government.

China has said it will need more than one carrier to meet its naval ambitions. Reports have been circulating in state-controlled media that Beijing is building at least two carriers and at least one of them will be deployed as a routine power-projection platform in the South China Sea.

Miles Yu’s column appears Fridays. He can be reached at and @yu_miles.