With China's growing economy has come a growing military capability and this, in turn, has spurred internal development of many weapon types. No longer content with importing foreign goods to fulfill local solutions, Chinese engineers are heading work in what looks to become promising results. One of the areas that the military seeks to expand is in its ocean-going capabilities and what is needed here are modern aircraft carriers.
During the 1990s, amidst the backdrop of a growing China and a fallen Soviet Union, China purchased the hulk of an ex-Soviet aircraft carrier - a conventionally-powered warship with ski-jump ramp at the bow - from Ukraine. The carrier was rebuilt and repurposed for the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and its commissioning coincided with a new naval fighter developed from the Soviet Sukhoi Su-27 "Flanker" series. This aircraft carrier is now serving actively as CNS Liaoning (16).
Going on now (2017) is construction of a new, indigenous aircraft carrier to be named CNS Shandong (17). This warship, also powered by conventional means, will be both larger and heavier than the Liaoning while carrying more combat aircraft. It is estimated to be in the 60,000 to 70,000 ton displacement range and provide support for between 40 and 50 aircraft (including helicopters and drones). In addition to these qualities, the vessel will feature advanced processing systems, sensors, and a radar fit to include the Type 346A series. Lasers may also figure into the self-defense aspects of the ship. There is also talk of a shipborne Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) being prototyped.
Construction on Shandong began in 2015 and the vessel is scheduled to be launched sometime in 2020. It is expected that, once commissioned, the powerful Shandong will serve as flagship to the modern PLAN. The service hopes to fund and build as many as six aircraft carriers, no doubt to power-project in the region as well as to challenge the authority of the United States Navy on the high seas in general. The South China Seas, with its many resource rich areas and islands, also remains a point of contention between many of the regional powers including Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam.