In a story a secret cabal of Chinese military officers put a Chinese basketball star up to buying Varyag from a Ukrainian shipyard under the cover story that the incomplete vessel would be used to serve as a floating casino. Instead, it was radically overhauled and rebuilt into a pure carrier with Chinese hardware.
The Shandong, then, is based on the Varyag—Ukraine transferred the blueprints for the vessel too!—but 100% made in China. That allowed Chinese naval architects to tweak its design to be better optimized for its role in the PLA Navy. Still, it shares basic design elements, such as being conventionally powered by four steam boilers, meaning it has to refuel roughly every six days.