(Der Spiegel) The best view of China’s new flagship, which inspires fear in its enemies, could recently be had from a window on the fourth floor of an IKEA store in Dalian, a port city in northeastern China. Here, someone had scratched out a viewing hole in the opaque film masking the window, providing a view of the pier across the way — and of the Varyag.
This ship, whose keel was originally built by the Soviets, is now being put into service by the China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy. Shipyard employees spent years working on the colossal ship, drilling and welding. Then the Varyag disappeared a total of 10 times for sea trials, leaving geostrategists and naval experts from Tokyo to Washington endlessly speculating about where the ship might be at any given moment and with what kinds of weapons and airplanes China would decide to outfit it.
Since late August, the ship has once again been docked in Dalian. On the morning of September 2, observers noticed a team of painters at work and, by the afternoon of the next day, the result of their work could be seen: an enormous number “16” emblazoned on the gray hull of the ship. This, it seems, will be the identification number of the first aircraft carrier put into service by China’s naval forces, a number said to have been chosen in honor of Admiral Liu Huaqing, father of the modern Chinese navy, who was born in 1916.