While the images, captured on September 22, are inconclusive, the slow pace of assembly shown is consistent with a military hull under construction. The dock in question is associated with refit and repair of a Soviet-era Kuznetsov-class carrier China purchased from Ukraine, according to a report from Jane’s IHS.
Airbus Defence and Space imagery first noted assembly procedures taking place at the dock in February 2015, following the launch of a commercial cargo ship. On March 10, more images showed the dock transitioning into initial stages of hull construction.
Chinese military officials have expressed interest in providing an aircraft carrier for its People’s Liberation Army Navy since the 1970’s, as part the nation’s efforts to industrialize both the economy and their military. PLAN’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, was commissioned in 2012.
While the People’s Liberation Army cannot yet compete in capabilities with the United States military, experts have recently pointed out the country’s outstanding ability to modernize at a surprising rate. A report by the RAND institute noted that the gap between the United States and Chinese armed forces has been shrinking.