Ludwig von Gress
It seems that my, admittedly tongue-in-cheek, suggestion to the Chinese admiralty to keep the name Varyag for its first aircraft-carrier [Floating casino – fog of chaos 13-10-2011] fell on the deaf ears. The powers-that-be in the People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) decided, perhaps also tongue-in-cheek, to call the strictly defence ship SHI LANG. Shi Lang was not a comrade of Mao during the Long March, or a supplier of nubile dancers to his Marxist Majesty, but an Admiral of Manchu Fleet, sometime earlier. Born in 1621, a year after the Battle of the White Mountain*, he served under both Ming and Qing dynasties and in 1681 he defeated the Kingdom of Tungning, based, (surprise, surprise) on Formosa/Taiwan. He is still remembered in Taiwan as a cruel conqueror and governor. The politburo obviously approved both the ancient cruelty and the threatening name, overlooking the fact that from time to time he was referred to as a defector. That the fellow was somewhat independent, changing sides when it suited him, may have appealed to some politburo members. The provocative name proved too much of an attraction. They know that the West appeacenics, for whom Communists regimes can do no wrong, would not blink an eye.
Shi Lang’s naval tactics were apparently successful because he was skilful in taking advantage of wind and tide. The tide in the slowly disintegrating Communist China is predictable; the wind less so. Still, the danger (or hope) that Varyag / Shi Lang will turn to Red October** is real.
*/ Gratuitous reference to The Battle of White Mountain on the 8th November 1620, at the early stage of the Thirty Years War, is made in order to provide the perspective. It is not often realised that when something was happening in Europe, something different and equally significant was happening in Asia.
**/ Tom Clancy’s 1984 novel The Hunt for Red October, later also a movie with Sean Connery, loosely based on, for the long time denied, facts. (The retrieval by US Navy of USSR submarine K-129 and attempted mutiny on the USSR destroyer Storozhevoy)