China President Xi Jinping has commissioned the country’s first regionally built aircraft carrier, Shandong, during a ceremony in Sanya, Hainan.

The ship is China’s second aircraft carrier. Named after Shandong province, the ship was delivered to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy on 17 December, Chinese media reported.

The commissioning of the carrier represents another key milestone in China’s efforts to modernise its military.

Xi Jinping, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, presented the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) flag to CNS Shandong commanding officer captain Lai Yijun at the commissioning event.

With the commissioning of Shandong, China joins a number of countries operating more than one aircraft carrier, including the US, UK, and Italy.

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Shandong represents a significant improvement over the first aircraft carrier, CNS Liaoning. The new ship features an improved design.

The second carrier provides the capability to deploy fighter aircraft from its deck. Liaoning did not provide this capability in its initial service days, China Daily reported.

Global Times cited a China Central Television (CCTV) report that stated Shandong is capable of carrying 36 J-15 combat jets.

The new carrier has been designated the hull number 17. Construction of the vessel started at Dalian Shipbuilding Industry in 2013.

The ship completed nine sea trials prior to its formal commission, with the latest trials held last month.

CNS Liaoning is a Soviet-era vessel that underwent significant refitting in China. It was inducted into the fleet in 2012.