Since South Korean musician ‘PSY‘ released his ‘Gangnam Style’ song earlier this year it has gone viral around the world. Parodies have sprung up in virtually every country, ranging from individuals in their back gardens, to students from the highly prestigious Eton College in the UK.
But now China is competing for the top spot against Gangnam Style in the global parody charts. Since China released a video demonstrating its new aircraft carrier capability, the new ‘Carrier style‘ has gone viral within China, parodying the movement made by flight deck controllers on board the aircraft carrier Liaoning.
Why exactly this video has gone viral will never be explained properly, such is the mysterious nature of the internet. But whereas Gangnam Style went globally viral from pure comedy, China’s ‘Carrier Style’ represents not humour, but a distinct demonstration of national pride.
The Chinese are an immensely proud people, and quite rightly so given the accomplishments of their nation over the past 40 years in advancing technology, infrastructure, and living conditions. But the development of an aircraft carrier is a massive jump in their technological evolution. It represents far more than the simple ability to mobilise an airforce around the world, it’s a demonstration that China is very nearly reaching its military adulthood.
While the new Chinese carrier is Ukrainian in origin (it was gutted and retro-fitted by China), it means that the days when China was the only permanent member of the UN Security Council without an aircraft carrier are now over.
While I have no doubt that the Chinese find ‘Carrier style’ funny, that’s secondary to the pride felt by its actors. Pictures and videos of people imitating the carrier staff gestures went viral between the 25th and 27th November, reaching over 300,000 mentions on Chinese twitter-like site Sina Weibo.
According to the USA China Daily over 8 million people followed posts related to the craze. It also stated that:
“Enthusiasm for “Carrier Style” has demonstrated that the gesture has been accepted as a totem inspiring self-confidence and pride among Chinese people.”
While Chinese military capabilities are undoubtedly growing fast, there is still a long way to go until parity is achieved with the USA. At present there is a mini arms race in Asia, largely born out of regional concern over how an increasingly capable China might choose to utilise its military strength.
Chinese military capabilities are said to be “decades away” from those of the USA, according to US officials. But others suggest this period of military equality is much closer, with some in the US government suggesting a modern military capability might be operational as soon as 2020. This aircraft carrier is just one example of how China is cutting corners through the traditional route of military advancement. Through buying technologies and retired assets from countries such as Russia, China is able to reverse-engineer their technology and develop much quicker.
This is not to say Chinese defence engineers and scientists are not working hard, China’s defence budget was increased 11.2% last year, to $106bn. I’ve written elsewhere arguing that this increase is no cause for concern, given that Chinese military spending won’t exceed that of the USA until 2035 (a decade after its total GDP exceeds that of the US).
A large number of original photos from those who started the craze are available here.
- Forget Gangnam, this is ‘Aircraft Carrier Style’: Hilarious new internet meme mimicks Chinese navy personnel (dailymail.co.uk)
- ‘Aircraft Carrier Style’ bumps off Gangnam Style in China (wantchinatimes.com)
- “Flying Shark” J-15 flies for China (chinadailymail.com)