China is making big headlines today, on our site and in newspapers, for the launch of its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. But to add some perspective to China's latest military gain, we've updated a chart to reflect the new naval status quo.
Much of the coverage of the official commissioning of the ship focused on what it means for the future. The Wall Street Journal called the ceremony a "public display of [China's] ambitions to challenge U.S. naval supremacy in Asia." The Associated Press reported that "the carrier embodies huge symbolism for China's political and military leaders as a totem of their country's rise from weakness to strength." Chinese President Wen Jiabao said the ship would "arouse national pride and patriotic passion." But it's important to note, first of all, that the carrier is not yet battle-ready (China doesn't have planes or pilots that can land on carrier decks, for one) and the Liaoning will stick to research and training missions for now. Still, here's where the current carrier scorecard stands between China and the U.S.
Yep. The addition of one in-service aircraft carrier is not all that impressive considering the fleet of 11 aircraft carriers owned by the U.S. In January, budgetary pressures raised expectations that the U.S. would reduce its carrier fleet but the Obama administration blinked and kept all 11 in service. But if America's monopoly on aircraft carriers seems substantial compared to China, just look at it compared to the rest of the world, which has, in total, only 20 carriers, a number that includes U.S. NATO allies.
Just something to consider when Mitt Romney laments the size of U.S. naval power.