While other warships such as the DDGs do spend alot of time in the SCS however they also do spend a significant amount of time operating thousands of kilometers away from China well outside SCS. so has the Liaoning or Shandong ever gotten out of the south China sea or the nearby seas in the east? I mean these carriers keep patroling the SCS and the Chinese cost as if it is a Corvette and not a CV, the entire point of an aircraft carrier is to provide an airforce where an airbase is not available, the skies of the SCS is almost completely covered by aircrafts from airbases in the mainland and in the SCS islands, and these aircrafts are superior to the ones taking off from the CV because they can carry their full weapon load.
If they have never left those nearby seas then that pretty much confirmes that (at least for now) the PLAN is using these ships purely as training ships, which would actually make sense as a strategy, the PLAN only began operating carriers in 2012, they may have done some vistits to other foreign carriers before 2012 but that can't be compared to the several years of experience needed, so not only do they need to train on how to operate the carrier itself as efficiently as possible but they also have to train on how to integrate the ship with other warships such as the type 055 and whatever SSN that is accompanying them, in other words this is training not just for the crews but for the navy as a whole. These carriers and their crews are perfectly capable right now of waging war against helpless enemies if they want to, however the main adversary of them is not some groups like AlQaeda, they need to come up and train on strategies to take on the number one navy in the world and I believe that is why they are spending all those years for training, hopefully by the time the type 003 is ready they will finally decide that is enough training, however there is still a chance that even when the type 003 is operational they would still train on it for 1 or 2 years because in many ways a CATOBAR is different from an STOBAR CV.
PLA’s Liaoning aircraft carrier group reportedly crossed the Miyako Strait and sent an aircraft near the Diaoyu Islands, which, experts said, sends a warning to Japan amid its recent, repeated wrong statements on China’s Diaoyu Islands.