China launched its third aircraft carrier on Friday, the domestically designed and built Fujian, state media reported, sending a statement of intent towards rival powers including the United States as it continues to modernize its military.
Champagne, colorful ribbons, water and smoke were used to celebrate the warship’s launch and official naming at a ceremony at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai.
Dozens of Chinese Navy personnel lined up in front of the ship and sang the national anthem at the ceremony, which was also attended by senior officials including Xu Qiliang, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission.
The aircraft carrier features a full-length flight deck with a catapult launch system, according to state media.
The Fujian will join the Shandong, commissioned in late 2019, and the Liaoning, which China bought second-hand from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted domestically.
Only the United States, which has 11 aircraft carriers, has more of such vessels. Ranked just below China, Britain has two in operation.
The Fujian’s launch demonstrates the Chinese military’s increasing capability at a time of rising tension with the United States over Taiwan and Beijing’s claims to the South China Sea.
The new carrier was named after the coastal province of Fujian which lies just across the Taiwan strait from Taiwan, and is the home of the Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army.
Taiwan is a self-ruled democracy. But China considers Taiwan its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under Beijing’s control.