Flag raising ceremony held on China’s first aircraft carrier
Various front pages in China today feature glowing reports of China’s first aircraft carrier on whose platform a flag raising ceremony was held yesterday. Yet the fact that it happened is just about everything we know for sure about the ship. The Shenzhen Evening Post (深圳晚报) has a special feature today on the carrier, filled with speculation as to when the ship will be formally launched and who the captain will be.
Officially the ship is called China’s first aircraft carrier Platform 16 warship (中国第一艘航母平台16号舰), and yesterday while it was moored in the port of Dalian in Liaoning province a special flag raising ceremony was held on its deck at 4 pm. At 4:26 pm, the five-starred flag of China was raised on the mast on the bridge, while two other military flags were simultaneously raised on the bow and stern of the ship.
Speculation on what was going on on the deck became intense on the 19th of September, when pictures started appearing on the Chinese Internet of white-clad sailors rehearsing for a ceremony on the deck of the ship. On the 21st, however, the sailors appeared on the deck dressed in blue training uniforms along with what appeared like factory workers, all working feverishly. A big banner reading China’s Aircraft Carriers Sets Sail from Here (中国航母从这里起航) that was purportedly hitherto standing on the deck was now dismantled.
With speculation mounting that the ship is about to be formally launched, the journalists were notified on the 21st that the ship actually still formally belonged to the shipyard, and the speculation of its leaving the yard were false. Rumors persist, however, that the ship has completed all of its ten sea trials and would be formally launched on the October 1st National Day holiday.
Based on what certain experts have been saying, the name of the ship will be the name of a Chinese province, but who will captain it? The Shenzhen Evening Post highlights recent speculation from various sources that seems to have settled on two candidates: Bai Yaoping (柏耀平) and Li Xiaoyan (李晓岩). A brief bio and picture of Bai recently appeared in the PLA Daily (解放军报); the 49-year old is currently in Dalian serving as deputy president of the naval college in the city. The man said to be another leading light in contention for the job as captain is the so-called ‘land, sea and air star commander’ Li Xiaoyan. Both Bai and Li graduated as air force pilots.
Here’s a few other aircraft carrier-themed front pages from around China today:
UPDATE 27/9: It was reported yesterday that the captain of the carrier will in fact not be Bai or Li, but admiral Zhang Zheng. CCTV did an English interview with the new captain; it can be viewed here on Youtube. The ship was handed over the the Navy of the People’s LIberation Army on Tuesday this week (25/9).