More than 70 percent of respondents in a Global Times survey supported the idea of the country developing its own aircraft carrier, despite Beijing downplaying the possibility of launching its first such vessel later this year.
Photo shows the 'Varyag' aircraft carrier being built at a shipyard in Dalian, China. The great 'Varyag' is going to be China's first aircraft carrier.[File photo]
Support was buoyed by the vessel's capability to shore up China's overall military power, according to the poll, conducted by the newspaper's Global Poll Center, in which 81.3 percent of respondents offered their support for that very reason.
Safeguarding territorial integrity and fending off invasions at sea were ranked as the top reasons for China to develop aircraft carriers (77.8 percent), the survey found.
But at the same time, more than half believe the building of a carrier may trigger an arms race in Asia.
The poll is based on telephone interviews of a random sampling of 1,166 people above the age of 18 in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Changsha, Chengdu, Xi'an and Shenyang.
Some 41 percent of those polled said they believed building a carrier is economically viable for China, while 35.5 percent said it is worthwhile to have one despite the huge construction costs.
The survey did not inform respondents of the possible costs of building a carrier.
Media reports of a sea trial in July of China's first carrier are rife after photos of a vessel, Vayag, were widely circulated and discussed on online military forums.
The ship was bought from Ukraine in 1998 by China and was said to be undergoing retrofitting in the northeastern port of Dalian.
Military officials have rejected such speculation, saying that there is no relevant information available on the subject.