A Hong Kong businessman wined, dined, gave away stacks of US dollar bills plus $20 million price to Ukrainian shipyard officials to bring home a disused aircraft carrier which later surfaced as the Liaoning, China’s first carrier.
How the Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) realized its blue ocean ambitions by getting an aircraft carrier at a throwaway price were revealed in an article today in the South China Morning Post. It details how the businessman, Xu Zengping contracted the unofficial deal on behalf of Chinese intelligence and was left in debt himself as the entire deal cost him US$120 million and was not paid a feng by Beijing.
The Ukrainian shipyard was led to believe that the carrier would be used as a floating casino in Macau and auctioned the ship in which Mr. Zengping was the highest bidder at US$20 million. There was no official involvement from China and the businessman contracted a Dutch company, International Transport Contractors to tow the huge vessel to Dalian port in China.
How good a deal it was for the PLAN can be gauged from a similar aircraft carrier deal which India made with Russia to buy the Admiral Gorshkov carrier for US$2.3 billion. The Gorshkov was on the verge of being scrapped.
The details of how the carrier deal was made are contained in a book, China's Carrier, published by China Development Press.
After its commissioning in the PLAN, the Liaoning has become a potent symbol of China’s growing naval power.
The 53,000-ton, 999 foot carrier is home to locally made J-15 carrier based fighters. The ex-Soviet era carrier was once called Varyag and ended up in the hands of Ukraine which auctioned it in 1998.