China could begin testing its first aircraft carrier within weeks and is developing more advanced satellites, Reuters reported.
China's first aircraft carrier is a retrofitted ship bought from Ukraine in 1998. The former Soviet carrier Varyag, is to be mainly used for testing purposes, however, others are believed to be in the works, reported a state-run newspaper. Varyag is part of President Hu Jintao's push to modernize the navy.
According to Chinese military and political sources, Beijing could launch the carrier this year as China marks 90 years since the founding of the ruling Communist Party. The Varyag is expected to serve primarily as a training vessel for pilots and deck crews, China Daily reported.
It will begin initial sea trials probably either late this month, in early August or later in the year, the official newspaper added.
It is uncertain when the Varyag will be made operational and where it will be based.
The paper also reported there were rumours that another aircraft carrier is being built in Shanghai, but it did not elaborate.
According to the China Daily, Chen Bingde, chief of the People's Liberation Army General Staff, told the United States top military chief Admiral Mike Mullen, who is visiting China, that the Varyag was very valuable for us to research these things.
China's rapid military development has been alarming its regional neighbors as well as the US. According to People's daily Chinese aircraft carriers could ultimately change the balance of military power, threatening U.S. power projection in the Pacific
However, analysts feel that in practical terms it will probably take the Chinese navy years to possess a credible carrier operation in Asia's seas, which have been the dominated by the U.S. navy since the Second World War.
In People's Daily report, Andrei Chang from Kanwa Asian Defense, who was working on the Varyag, said that aircraft carriers were just one weapon in China's arsenal. Compared with Russia and U.S., only China simultaneously is building aircraft carriers, strategic ballistic missile submarines, stealth fighters, nuclear attack submarines, GPS satellite - everything simultaneously, he said.
The carrier will also add to regional concerns about China's military modernization and arms build-up. China has been in territorial conflict with Taiwan and several South-East Asian nations, including Vietnam and Philippines in the South China Sea. Recently, China has adopted an aggressive approach towards the South China Sea conflict.
According to a Reuters report, China is also working on a ballistic missile that could pose a serious threat to U.S. aircraft carriers, which Washington could deploy to seas around Taiwan in the event of a crisis with the self-ruled island, which China claims as its territory.
The missile is still undergoing experimental testing and will be used as a defensive weapon when it is successfully developed, not an offensive one, Chen was quoted as saying.
Use of such missiles would leverage China's growing prowess in developing more advanced satellites, according to a report in October's Journal of Strategic Studies.
However, officials within China's military establishment have tried to dismiss the idea of a China threat claiming that China had no expansionist motives.
People's Daily reported retired Maj. Gen. Xu Guangyu saying, We only want one thing: Don't harm our interests. The U.S. must accept the changing situation. As China becomes more powerful, we'll start voicing our opinions about our maritime demands, and any conflicts regarding surrounding territories. He characterizes China's security stance as active defense, and says Beijing has no intention of opening military bases overseas or replacing the U.S. as a global policeman.
However, many believe that given China's swift military advancements, the China threat cannot be subverted.