- - Thursday, August 22, 2013


The successful launch of India’s first indigenously built aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant, and the tragic accident of an Indian navy Kilo-class submarine that killed 18 sailors created fodder for Chinese state media to use in ridiculing its neighbor.

“Paper tiger” was the term used by the Communist Party-run newspaper, the Global Times, to describe the Indian navy, which has been locked in a fierce buildup race with the Chinese navy.

The newspaper challenged India’s claim that the INS Vikrant is “indigenous,” calling it a “brand of 10,000 nations” because the ship is said to have used French blueprints, Russian air wings and U.S.-made engines.

“[The submarine’s explosion] seems to have provided a footnote to India’s real naval prowess,” the Global Times reported Monday in language that clearly gloated about the mishap.

India has operated aircraft carriers since the 1950s, with long experience in managing the giant ships. It also has a seasoned air wing component. Yet so far, all of the aircraft carriers India acquired were foreign-made and decommissioned or refurbished vessels from either Western or Russian navies. Russia is refurbishing a Soviet-era aircraft carrier to be delivered next year.

In comparison, China has no prior experience operating a carrier and lacks any meaningful carrier-based air operations know-how. Last September, in a big hurry, China commissioned its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, a 60,000-ton refurbished Soviet vessel once called the Varyag.

China bought it from Ukraine for $20 million when the Varyag was half finished in the early 1990s shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But at the time of its commissioning, the Liaoning was not a functional carrier in any real sense. It needed a multitude of further construction and tests.

Nearly a year later, the Liaoning is still going through vigorous testing without an operational air wing.

China warns Taiwan’s leader

Democratically elected Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, known for his soft line toward China, will be blocked from attending next year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum to be hosted by China as long as Mr. Ma insists that he attend the summit as president of the Republic of China, Taiwan’s official name, a high-level Chinese official announced Monday.

Ni Yongjie, the Chinese official, said, however, that Mr. Ma would be accepted at the APEC forum as ” the leader of Taiwan,” reported the official newspaper the Global Times.

The Chinese government is unyieldingly opposed to any official or chance meeting between the leaders of China and Taiwan at any international conference because of the One-China Principle that Beijing adamantly insists.

The One-China Principle says there is only one China, that Taiwan is part of China and that the government in Beijing, the PRC, is the only legitimate government of China.

However, next year’s APEC will be hosted by China, which will not necessarily involve any of what Beijing might perceive as “sovereignty” issues with regard to Taiwan because, as the host, Beijing can set conditions for Mr. Ma’s participation.

China claims sovereignty over all of Taiwan. It insists on treating Mr. Ma as only a regional leader under Chinese political control, not as a chief executive of a sovereign country. That is what Taiwan is for all practical purposes, albeit not diplomatically recognized as such by the international community because of China’s decadeslong diplomatic blockade against Taiwan.

This poses a special challenge to Mr. Ma, whose policies reflect a generally pro-China sentiment. But most Taiwanese favor the status quo arrangement or de facto independence.

Mr. Ma’s approval rating among Taiwan voters has reached a historical low, at about 15 percent in some opinion polls.

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

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