The People’s Republic of China is sea-testing an aircraft carrier, apparently sucessfully. She is believed to have originated as the Soviet carrier Varyag, which was originally designed to support missile-carrying subs and surface ships, and is diesel-powered rather than nuclear. What mission she will fulfill on behalf of the PRC, however, is an open question. She is not yet operational for flight of either fixed-wing or rotary aircraft. But one thing is clear — modern aircraft carriers are the centerpiece units of the projection of naval power beyond a nation’s own geographic territory.
Presumably, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will rename her by the time she becomes operational as the reference to the Byzantine Emperor’s Varangian Guard isn’t of any particular interest to either the Chinese public or its military. Most of PLAN’s existent ships are named for cities or regions in China like the Guangzhou or the Zhuhai. This really isn’t any different than, say, the USS Jacksonville or the HMS Essex.
Zheng He seems appropriate to me, but while Zheng He was obviously historically very significant, the PLAN has already named another ship, a converted liner used for training, after the author of China’s historically greatest naval achievements.
So do they go with something more poetic like “Mighty Source Of Firey Chrysanthemums Showered Upon The Running-Dog Imperialists”?* Or they could go with something boring like Chairman Mao. What do you think — what name would be most appropriate for the PRC’s first aircraft carrier?
* A phrase which I am told is reducable to three simple, beautiful, and elegant Traditional Beijing Mandarin ideograms. No, not really.