China: May 8, 2000


The Russian newspaper Kommersant reports that China has purchased the old Russian aircraft carrier Kiev, complete with a $1 billion refit to make it operational. If true (and rumors that China is buying a Russian aircraft carrier have been rampant for a decade) this would give China a power-projection capability, although the small carrier (which is basically a cruiser with a flight deck down one side) could hardly stand up in combat against a US carrier. China will have to pay at least another $2 billion for escorts, aircraft, and support ships (e.g., tankers) to operate it. The ship was first laid down in 1970 and has not been operational for years. It was the last of the four Soviet cruiser-carriers; two were sold to South Korea for scrap and India has reportedly bought the Gorshkov along with a $700 million refit. The Russians may get more out of the deal than the Chinese. They will net hard currency, work for their shipyards, and money to develop new naval
weapon systems.--Stephen V Cole


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