China’s swift and massive rescue operation to evacuate its more than 30,000 citizens from unrest-hit Libya has been portrayed by Chinese analysts and the media here as a reflection of the country’s growing comprehensive national power and rising naval capabilities.

As of Monday, China had already evacuated as many as 29,000 of its nationals, according to the Foreign Ministry. The details of the evacuation effort have received wide coverage in the State media in recent days, with an emphasis on the speediness of the response as well as the key role played by the People’s Liberation Army’s Navy (PLAN) in directing the rescue effort.

The PLAN dispatched a missile frigate, Xuzhou, to provide protection to Chinese ships participating in evacuation efforts off the Libyan coast. Some analysts said this marked the first instance of the PLAN deploying such a vessel in non-combatant evacuation operations.

The coverage here also stressed the swiftness of the Chinese government’s response. “The Chinese government was among the first group of nations to evacuate its nationals from Libya,” the official China Daily said.

By Saturday, when less than one thousand of India’s 18,000 nationals had returned home, China had already evacuated 10,000 of its citizens.

“This is the first time the Chinese navy has participated in such a mission. It once again proves the People’s Liberation Army is a reliable force safeguarding the safety of all Chinese people, be they at home or overseas,” the China Daily said. “The country’s growing comprehensive national strength has provided a strong backing to such a massive operation overseas.”

Quick dispatch of aircraft

China also managed to dispatch its aircraft quicker than many countries, including India. Its first aircraft left Beijing on Wednesday. The aviation administration said it had prepared 15 aircraft for each day for the next two weeks, for rescue operations.

China’s response, according to the official Global Times, reflected the government’s “improved ability to react swiftly to emergencies”.

The newspaper also called on the PLA to accelerate construction of aircraft carriers, which it said would reflect the country’s “great power status”, AFP reported.

China’s first home-made aircraft carrier is expected to be unveiled by 2014, a year ahead of schedule. The government for the first time, officially confirmed the highly guarded, but much debated, project in December, in a report released by the State Oceanic Administration.

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