China is developing technologies to build a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, state media reported on Wednesday, as Beijing pushes forward with an ambitious military modernisation programme.
Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged in October last year to turn China’s military into a world-class fighting force by 2050, and has made new technology development a key policy plank, investing in stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and missiles.
State-owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), the country’s largest naval vessel manufacturer, revealed on Tuesday the ambition in a list of technical developments the company hopes to achieve as part of weaponry upgrades for the Chinese navy by 2025, according to the state-backed Global Times.
The announcement by CSIC appears to have been subsequently edited on the company’s website to remove the mention of nuclear-powered vessels, but it remains widely available on the Chinese internet.
"We must…speed up key breakthroughs such as the realisation of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, new-style nuclear submarines, quiet submarines, and unmanned intelligent underwater defence systems," the original document said, according to the Global Times.
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CSIC declined to immediately comment on the Global Times report.
CSIC built China’s first home-built aircraft carrier, which was launched in April last year and is expected to enter service in 2020, once it has been fitted out and armed.
The vessel was designed based on China’s first carrier, the Liaoning, which was bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted for China.
CSIC has also said that it is working on a third carrier that will be designed, constructed and equipped entirely using the company’s own technology.
Little is known about China’s aircraft carrier programme, which is a state secret.
Chinese state media has quoted experts as saying that the country needs at least six carriers, an endeavour expected to take decades. The United States operates 10 and plans to build two more.
China’s navy has been taking an increasingly prominent role over the last year, with its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and new Chinese warships popping up in far-flung places.