Currently China has only one aircraft carrier in service, versus 20 for the US. Beijing is attempting to build a navy which can match the US according to experts. According to former Chinese naval officer Wang Yunfei the new carriers will enter service in 2035.

Mr Wang commented: “The country needs to keep developing until it is at the same level as the United States.”

The new Chinese warship will be fitted with electromagnetic aircraft catapults, which are already deployed by the US navy.

Separately, construction of China’s latest diesel powered carrier, the Type 002, is underway.

Tensions between the US and China have increased significantly in recent years, partly due to China’s claim of sovereignty over the South China sea.

This claim clashes with those of other regional powers including Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.

To strengthen its position, China has been constructing military bases on islands and artificial reefs in the area.

The US, and other western powers including the UK, regularly carry out patrols in the South China Sea in order to contest Chinese sovereignty.

In January, the US and Britain conducted six days of military drills in the region.

Meanwhile, work is continuing in the US on the USS Gerald R Ford, which will be the largest aircraft carrier in the world on completion.

In total, it will be able to accommodate a crew of over 4,500, whilst also carrying 75 combat aircrafts.

There is widespread concern that the South China sea dispute could trigger conflict between China and the US.

Malcolm Davies, a defence researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, warned authorities he expects South China Sea tensions to increase.

He commented: “Expect greater tension in the South China Sea. China won’t back down, nor will the US.

“The South China Sea will remain a key flashpoint between China and the US, who are now engaged in an extended period of strategic competition.”