If China's new aircraft carrier could be described as the new supermodel in town, she'd be one without her make-up on.
Just as a supermodel is nothing without her make-up, an aircraft carrier, to state the obvious, is nothing without planes.
And the Liaoning has no planes or pilots aboard it yet. The planes are still being developed and the pilots are still being trained, said defence experts.
Taking off and landing on a constantly moving carrier deck in all weather conditions, day or night, is a difficult skill that requires plenty of training.
Diplomats said China has yet to land a plane on the carrier, reported the Wall Street Journal.
Mr Ralph Cossa, a military analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Honolulu, told AFP: "Carrier operations are not easy. Refitting the ship is one thing. Developing a carrier-based air wing is another."
China is developing J-15 strike aircraft, possibly for use on the carrier.
Pictures have emerged on Chinese websites of aircraft on the carrier's flight deck, but China's capabilities are unproven.
"You cannot call a ship an aircraft carrier without aircraft," air force Major General Qiao Liang was quoted by state media as saying, although he added that he was confident China would soon be able to field a carrier-based air wing.
The Soviet-built Liaoning is not expected to be a fully operational aircraft carrier for another three years at least (see graphics on what it will look like when it is fully operational), and a domestically-made carrier is even further in the future.
But even when it is operational, the Liaoning has little hope of countering the smaller but technologically superior US-backed Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force, let alone the US Seventh Fleet, Mr Cossa said.
"I can't see them trying to sail their unprotected carrier into the East China Sea to pressure the Japanese, not for a few more years anyway," he said.
Still, analysts said China has to start somewhere and the Liaoning will "add some prestige" and allow the Chinese navy to "cast a bigger shadow" on the region's seas.
At the very least, this could give China a further intimidating edge over its smaller rivals, such as the Philippines, Mr Cossa said.
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