“China has stood up,” said John Pike, director of Virginia-based GlobalSecurity.org, an expert on industry strategy.
Only the United States has successfully produced more than one stealth jet and the challenges facing China’s less experienced developers are undoubtedly immense.
The unveiling also served as a reminder to its neighbours of China’s growing clout as tensions rise over rival claims for territory in the East China Sea and South China Sea.
“China is doing this as part of a political equation,” said Robert Hewson, editor of IHS Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons. “It has had a rapidly staged coming out but I am surprised to see it here so soon.”
By mixing domestic and international messages, the model also filled a void left by the absence of top Chinese government officials distracted by the transition in Beijing.
BASIC BUT RELIABLE
The business end of the show is about present-day realities.
After relying heavily on Russian and to a lesser extent Israeli technology in the 1990s, China is pushing exports of home-grown equipment to expand its influence in areas like Africa where it is busy buying land and forging new allies.
“The Chinese used to simply produce cheap knockoffs of their basic Russian equipment. They have made very considerable advances, but still have problems, particularly with engines,” said Simon Wezeman, senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.