Did you hear the one about the Chinese aircraft carrier? Sorry; that made me sound like your uncle telling a lousy joke at the Christmas party last week. But it’s a serious question. A spokesman for the Chinese defence ministry confirmed Thursday what U.S. intelligence sources have been saying for a while: the People’s Republic of China is building its own aircraft carrier from scratch in the port city of Dalian, which is still probably more familiar to history buffs as Port Arthur.
Aircraft carriers are such fascinating objects. With the exception of manned spacecraft, there is probably nothing that signifies national prestige quite as boldly as a flattop. It is almost the best single marker you can identify of the difference between states properly called “powers” and those that are just — well, will I be forgiven for saying “Canadas”? They attract enormous amounts of attention and analysis from military experts and amateur opinionators.