"We don't have enough experience running this type of ship."
It's official: China has now joined the exclusive club of world powers with an aircraft carrier. It won't be carrying planes for a while, though. For the foreseeable future, the crew of the Liaoning will be focused on training and finding ways to integrate the ship into its existing fleet operations.
On Tuesday, China's state-run TV station, CCTV, broadcast an exclusive interview with the carrier's commander, Zhang Zheng. It's a rare thing for Western audiences to see the Chinese military in the flesh, much less represented by someone with such direct authority in the field and control over the country's future naval doctrine:
I can tell you there are three things that I think are quite important: firstly, the integration of naval aviation and surface combatants -- we need to establish some new kind of specialists. We have to train them and make them effective. Secondly, I think it's quite important also to set up new safety procedures, since as you know the flight deck is ... small compared to airfields on land. ... Finally, I think the management of this ship is also very important ... We don't have enough experience running this type of ship. That's why I think administration -- the structure and the principles -- should be modified.
By the way, that lightly edited transcript doesn't do justice to Zhang's remarkable grasp of English, which may reveal a bit about how Beijing sees its navy's relationship to other countries. Watch the full interview here:
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