FPI / May 30, 2019
By Richard Fisher
In a May 26 article in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post (SCMP), veteran military issue correspondent Minnie Chan reported that China’s current conventional-powered aircraft carrier, complete with combat aircraft, cost about 50 billion Chinese Yuan, or about US$ 7.2 billion. This compares to about $14 billion for the latest U.S. Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
Chan also disclosed that the most recent 14,000 ton Type 055 cruiser costs 6 billion Yuan, or $870 million, which is twice the cost of the 8,000 ton Type 052D destroyer.
The similarly sized U.S. Navy Burke-class destroyer costs over $1.8 billion.
The Chinese government rarely makes public information about the cost of major and minor weapon systems. Chan merely cites a “military source” for the carrier and cruiser cost numbers. Chan, however, is a regular source of such inside insights, often quoting unnamed officials, but also quoting an array or semi-official Chinese sources that would rarely if ever allow themselves to be quoted by U.S. or other foreign reporters.
However, the vaguely sourced price numbers offered by Chan are meant to support a much larger point: the current trade war between China and the United States is causing some Chinese military leaders to reassess the expense of China’s military buildup ambitions.
The purpose of such an article may be to help assure Trump administration officials that their trade war is starting to have a serious effect of starting to constrain China’s power ambitions. Such a theme might then assist those in the administration seeking to “contain” the trade war.
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