BEIJING – Chinese Internet users have been tirelessly imitating auspicious hand signals by crew members of the country’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, in celebration of a crucial breakthrough in marching toward a deep-sea navy.
In a cross between a genuflection and a two-fingered touchdown gesture from American football, two crew members on the carrier’s flight deck gave a green light to the pilot of a Chinese J-15 fighter jet who succeeded in the country’s first take-off and landing maneuver from such a vehicle.
Taking a close-up shot from images of crew members broadcast in 24-hour news coverage on China Central Television (CCTV) from Sunday to Monday, this unique flight deck signalling was soon imitated by Chinese Internet users on Twitter-like Sina Weibo and other major bulletin board systems in Chinese.
Nicknamed “Carrier Style,” it was deemed “cool, powerful and confident as well as amusing and comical” by netizens who uploaded pictures showing various takes on the gesture. “Carrier Style” rapidly eclipsed the online craze for the “Gangnam Style” music video after which it was named.
On Sina Weibo, posts related to “Carrier Style” were followed by more than eight million users in one day and topped the list of hot topics.
“Although the gesture has often been seen in movies, I couldn’t restrain my excitement the first time I saw it used in instructing a fighter jet to land and take off from China’s first aircraft carrier,” commented Han Lu, executive chief editor of a leading car website.
“Like my own child’s growing up, it’s really a thing worthy of congratulation,” wrote “Shizizuo Caimiyu.”
Some netizens also praised the Chinese government’s swift announcement of the dangerous exercise compared with the long time it took for the refitting of the carrier to be officially confirmed last year.
The successful exercise on the Liaoning was conducted within two months of the carrier’s delivery to the People’s Liberation Army Navy on September 25.
Enthusiasm for “Carrier Style” has demonstrated that the gesture has been accepted as a totem inspiring self-confidence and pride among Chinese people.
“With carrier-borne fighter jets, now China’s own aircraft carrier is truly charting a course for deep seas,” commented “lifushou” on Sina Weibo.
“We have done these test flights from the very beginning, and finally we mastered the key skills for the landing of carrier-borne aircraft,” said Vice-Admiral Zhang Yongyi, the commander-in-chief in charge of the exercise.
“It’s like dancing on a knife point as the aircraft has to land on a very limited space,” Zhang said.
The success of the exercise on the Liaoning, using a ski-jump type take-off instead of a catapult system, makes China one of a handful of countries to have mastered landing and take-off of fixed-wing jets on an aircraft carrier.
Refitted from the former Soviet Union’s unfinished carrier Varyag, China’s first aircraft carrier was towed to Dalian in northeast China in 2003.
Some netizens have expressed expectation of an aircraft carrier entirely designed and made by China, as they said that will really “make the Chinese feel more proud and secure.”
Chinese authorities said the aircraft carrier will be mainly used for training and scientific research, and its operation will not change its national defense policy, which is defensive in nature.
Military experts estimated that the J-15, which debuted during the exercise, has comprehensive capabilities comparable to those of the Russian Su-33 and the US F/A-18.
While people immersed themselves in “Carrier Style,” Luo Yang, the chief of the carrier-borne J-15 project died of a heart attack on the carrier’s voyage back to base on Sunday.
CCTV confirmed Luo’s death on Monday to many netizens’ disbelief at the grievous news.
“I just could not control such mixed feelings on a day when we should have had thousands of reasons for celebration,” “shuijunnandang” wrote on Sina Weibo. “Under unimaginable pressure, Luo sacrificed himself to turn J-15 jets’ take-off and landing into reality.”