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How China Acquired Its First Aircraft Carrier Through Deception

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China’s first aircraft carrier was bought under false pretenses, according to Hong Kong-based publication South China Morning Post. Xu Zengping, a businessman based in Hong Kong, was the man behind the acquisition of the Ukraine-built vessel, which would later become the Liaoning.

In a two-part expose by the Post, Xu revealed how he managed to purchase the ship despite meeting challenges along the way. The vessel was constructed in 1988 but it wasn’t offered for sale until 1992. Originally built for the Soviet Navy in 1985 as the Kuznetsov-class aircraft cruiser Riga, the vessel was launched on December 4, 1988 and renamed Varyag in 1990.

The Ukrainian shipyard, which had been ordered to build the ship, went almost bankrupt after the fall of the Soviet Union and was looking for someone to purchase the ship.

The shipyard approached China about buying the vessel but Beijing refused because it was keen on repairing U.S. ties after Tiananmen Square. Unhappy with the decision, some naval officials resorted to approaching Xu, who was the head of Chinluck Holdings, to purchase the vessel. Xu had previously served in the People’s Liberation Army before going into the “private” sector.

But the acquisition of the ship came with challenges: the navy lacked funds and wouldn’t be able to afford the carrier project. If Xu went on with it, he “would be taking a gamble on government policy.” Despite these challenges, Xu decided to buy the carrier.

It turns out it wasn’t the only obstacle Xu had to face. The shipbuilder made it clear that the carrier should not be used for military purposes. Xu deceived the Ukraine officials, telling them that the vessel will be transformed into a floating casino.

Hong Kong-based businessman, Xu Zengping, purchased the vessel.

Source: SCMP
An expose revealed he purchased the ship for $20 Million under false pretenses.

Xu acquired a gambling license just to prove that the carrier is meant to be a casino. But in 2011, a report from business newspaper Caixin stated that the gambling license was revoked the moment the vessel arrived on Chinese soil. It remains unclear how it eventually fell in the hands of the military.

The vessel was refurbished to protect national sovereignty in South China Sea.

In 2012, it was launched as China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning.

Those weren’t even the only tricks Xu had up his sleeves. It was revealed in the expose that all four engines of the vessel were intact when it was sold by the Ukrainians, which was contrary to the claims of Beijing at that time. Apparently, China falsely claimed about the engine removal so that Xu and the Ukraine shipyard will come up with a deal easily. In addition, Xu bribed the Ukraine officials and even got them excessively drunk when making the negotiation.

In a nutshell, Xu secretly working with support from Chinese Navy, lied, tricked and bribed his way into acquiring Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier.

H/T: SCMP

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