China's refitted aircraft carrier platform left its shipyard at Dalian Port in northeast China's Liaoning Province on Wednesday morning to set sail for its first sea trial.
Military sources said that the trial is in line with the carrier's refitting schedule and will not take a long time. Refitting work will continue after the vessel has returned to the port.
The carrier was originally built by the former Soviet Union, which failed to complete the ship's construction before collapsing in 1991. The still-unnamed aircraft carrier was an empty shell when it was sold to Ukraine. Ukraine later disarmed it and removed its engines before selling it to China.
It is still unknown where or for how long the carrier's first sea trial will last.
The Liaoning Provincial Maritime Safety Administration publicized a notice restricting navigation in waters off the Dalian coast, saying that vessels are forbidden from traveling through an area of sea 13.25 nautical miles wide and 22 nautical miles long in the northern Yellow Sea and Liaodong Bay from Aug. 10 to 14.
Military enthusiasts and tourists flocked to Dalian in hope to view the refitted carrier days before it set sail. However, a dense fog prevented many people from seeing the vessel.
"It isn't a big deal for China to have an aircraft carrier. It is in the state's interest," said Tan Changbin, a tourist from southwest China's Sichuan Province, adding he was personally interested in seeing the ship.
Military enthusiast Lu Gang believes the carrier carries more symbolic significance than anything else.
"It is very complicated to refit an aircraft carrier. It is a challenge to upgrade the country's industrial manufacturing ability," he said.
Xu Jian, a retired navy officer, said China's international status implies that the country deserves to have its own aircraft carrier.
"Even countries like India and Thailand have carriers, let alone America and Russia. Why can't China?" he asked.
Zhou Xiangling, a researcher with the Dalian Institute of Modern History, said the carrier's trip signifies a new era for China's navy, an era that will put an emphasis on scientific research and training.
"It implies that China is able to make new contributions to maintaining global marine safety and peace," he said.
The Chinese navy is made up of three separate fleets: the Beihai Fleet, the Donghai Fleet and the Nanhai Fleet. Each fleet has its own support bases, flotillas, maritime garrison commands, aviation divisions and marine brigades.
Senior Colonel Geng Yansheng, a spokesman from the Defense Ministry, said earlier this year that China will never change the defensive nature of its national defense policy.
While conducting escort operations in the Gulf of Aden and waters near Somalia, the Chinese navy protected Chinese and foreign vessels alike, Geng said.