Tuesday 18 November 2008
Mystery Chinese Hospital Ship: What's It For?
Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) accepted its first purpose-built floating hospital, the 10,000-ton "Ship 866." What's It For?Ship 866 has its roots in the 2004 tsunami. Many world powers sent ships to help out in the aftermath of the storm, which killed more than 200,000 people in countries bordering the Indian Ocean. But not China: the PLAN didn't have any ships capable of assisting. "The tsunami embarrassed them," he says. "The Chinese respond to embarrassments in very focused ways." In this case by building a hospital ship.Ship 866 is probably intended to support the growing Chinese amphibious fleet, which in turn is meant for enforcing China's claim to South China Sea oil reserves. It's a far cry from humanitarian soft-power missions.
Of course, intentions are only intentions. Regardless of the original motive, the PLAN now has a ship capable of both humanitarian missions and supporting amphibious assaults. The Chinese are still decades from matching the U.S. Navy's huge amphibious and humanitarian fleet, but it's a start.