While the war rages on in Europe, reactions to the passage of a Chinese ship in Taiwanese waters remind us that the geopolitical quadrants are multiple, never asynchronous and always interconnected.
The facts. Friday 18 March, the aircraft carrier Shandong (Type 001A) was sighted in the waters of the Taiwan Strait as it proceeded northbound, just 30 miles from the rebel island territory.
The second aircraft carrier in the Chinese arsenal passed around 10.30 am, 3.30 am Italian time, near Kinmen, an island controlled by Taiwan, off the coast of Xiamen, in the south-eastern Chinese province of Fujian.
The Taiwanese defense ministry was the first to report it, which was immediately picked up by Reuters1 who cited a local source protected by anonymity that the ship was also spotted by passengers on a scheduled domestic flight.
La Shandong, during the close pass she was followed by the US destroyer, USS Ralph Johnson, and by some Taiwanese military ships, which monitored it for a long stretch of sea, but no statement on the matter was issued by the two staffs.
The Chinese government, unsurprisingly, did not comment, although it had previously hinted at scheduled routine naval training activities.
Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, several commentators and analysts have feared the possibility that Beijing may decide to invade the island of Taiwan, exploiting the weakening of the US to open a second front in Europe.
A fear that has spread within public opinion, which has also found hospitality in large sectors of politics.
As we have already illustrated on these pages, the two scenarios are not comparable; not only for the particular “porcupine” defense organization, which makes the island of Taiwan a stronghold that is difficult to conquer, but above all for its particular orography and the distance from the Chinese mainland.
A combination that would risk keeping the Chinese landing forces glued to the Taiwanese rocks for a long time, while Taipei would have plenty of time to unleash a missile attack aimed at the Mainland.
On the other hand, it is considered plausible that the passage of the ship, rather than – as asserted by many parties – to a demonstration act linked to the telephone meeting between Xi Jinping and Biden scheduled a few hours later, is to be connected to the need to reposition the ship in one of the northern ports, to participate in the celebrations for the founding of the Chinese Navy scheduled for the month of April.
Shandong2 (Type 001A) is the youngest aircraft carrier in the Chinese fleet, the first of the STOBAR type (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery, short take-off but assisted stopping).
Launched in 2017, it represents a reworking of the Liaoning (Type 001), with a series of modifications that have increased the spaces dedicated to personnel and aircraft on board.
It is 315m long (10,5 meters longer than Liaoning), 75m wide, with a displacement of 65.000 tons (higher than the previous one).
Its propulsion system delivers about 200.000 horsepower, which can propel the ship at a speed of 30/31 knots, with a range of 4.400 miles.
Board up to 28 J15 fighters and 12 helicopters, including 4 in AEW (Airborne Early Warning) version.