BEIJING -- The Chinese military has successfully landed a fighter jet on the Liaoning, China's first seaworthy aircraft carrier, according to a report on Sunday by Xinhua, the state news agency.
China Central Television showed video of the jet, the J-15, landing on the deck of the carrier, which was put into service in September after years of construction work. The video also showed the jet, which is painted yellow with the number 552 in red beneath the cockpit, successfully taking off from the carrier. Many Chinese and foreigners consider the Liaoning a symbol of China's military modernization and its desire to extend its combat capacity.
But the carrier will not be combat-ready for some time, and foreign analysts say China's military abilities and budget still lag far behind those of the United States, which is China's greatest rival for influence in the western Pacific.
China bought the carrier years ago from Ukraine, where it had been called the Varyag. The Xinhua report said the carrier had undergone a series of "sailing and technological tests" since Sept. 25, when it was formally put into service by the People's Liberation Army, whose navy is modernizing more rapidly than any other military branch. Xinhua said the carrier had completed more than 100 training and testing exercises.
The J-15 jet was designed and made in China, the Xinhua report said, and is the nation's "first-generation multipurpose carrier-borne fighter jet." It can carry antiship air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles as well as precision-guided bombs, the news agency said. The jet is comparable to Russia's Su-33 and the F-18 in the United States, according to Xinhua.
For years, the threat of hostilities in the Taiwan Strait drove much of the Chinese Navy's modernization plans, and the risk of a conflict there involving American and Taiwanese forces occupies a singular place in Chinese military strategy and planning.
But Chinese civilian leaders and generals are now also focused on rising tensions with neighboring nations over territory. A dispute with Tokyo over the Diaoyu Islands, which the Japanese administer and call the Senkakus, intensified this fall when the Japanese government announced it was buying the islands. There have also been diplomatic and maritime clashes with Vietnam and the Philippines over territory in the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas as well as fish. Several Southeast Asian nations dispute Chinese and Taiwanese claims to large parts of the South China Sea.
Foreign military officials and analysts are carefully watching China's development of warfare technology, including an antiship ballistic missile. Such a missile would give the Chinese military greater "area-denial" abilities, meaning it could help keep foreign ships, particularly aircraft carriers, outside of nearby combat zones, analysis say.
On Friday, Xi Jinping, the new Communist Party chief and civilian leader of the military, made his first promotion on the army's general staff. He made Wei Fenghe, commander of the Second Artillery Corps, a full general during a ceremony in Beijing. General Wei's unit is based in Sichuan Province and oversees China's nuclear arsenal. The promotion may have been a sign that Mr. Xi is moving quickly to build a base of support within the military.
Mr. Xi has served as a civilian vice chairman of the Central Military Commission in recent years and has personal ties to some influential generals from prominent Communist Party families.world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.