There has been a noticeable uptick in the number of Chinese military aircraft and ships prowling the skies and seas lately.
China’s military has been very active in the weeks approaching President-elect Donald Trump’s ascension to the highest office in the land.
Deploying full range of power-projection tools, China is sending its long-range bombers and a carrier battle group throughout the Asia Pacific.
In recent weeks, Chinese heavy bombers have flown along the previously-discredited nine-dashed line, which runs through the Korean Strait and into the Sea of Japan, then through the Miyako Strait into the Western Pacific, and around the highly-contested Spratly Islands.
Bombers have also made flights past Taiwan, and an aircraft carrier battle group has sailed through the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, the Western Pacific, the South China Sea, and the Taiwan Strait, conducting live-fire combat exercises along the way.
Alarmed by Chinese activities, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan scrambled fighters and ships.
The latest drills serve several different purposes.
Chinese military activities are “part of China’s long-term plans to become a power-projecting nation in air and sea and land operations,” Dr. Michael Auslin, an Asian politics and security expert at the American Enterprise Institute and author of the “End of The Asian Century,” told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
China has “spent the last decade steadily increasing the range and scope of the” People’s Liberation Army Navy, he explained.
“To be a credible naval power, they have to get it out there,” Auslin said, referring to the recent month-long deployment of China’s carrier battle group led by the Liaoning. China understands the necessity of conducting drills in waters close to home, as well as distant seas.
The military exercises are unquestionably a part of China’s ongoing efforts to increase its capabilities.
At the same time, China is also sending messages to other regional actors, including the U.S.
It’s not making threats in the traditional sense; rather, it is making statements.
There is no other nation in Asia that would be able to effectively counter a Chinese carrier battle group, which gives China influence over other players in the region.
Compared to the U.S., China’s naval and aviation forces are limited in their combat capabilities, but China’s abilities are improving. “Everything of ours is better, but we are facing a potential adversary that can test us,” Auslin explained.
China is conveying important messages about its enhanced capabilities to American leadership.
To President Barack Obama, China appears to be saying, “You failed to deter or constrain our growth in military strength in any way. We are measurably stronger than we were eight years ago,” Auslin commented.
Chinese experts have made similar arguments.
“Without [Obama], China would have faced a more challenging US side,” Liu Weidong, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies of the China Academy of Social Sciences, said earlier this month.
To President-elect Donald Trump, China is announcing, “We have these capabilities. We are here, and we aren’t going anywhere,” Auslin added. “Now that they have got these things, they are going to be out there as much as they can get them out there.”
China refers to its drills as “routine,” signaling that they are becoming a new normal for the Chinese military.
When Trump takes office, he will face a China that is much more powerful than the one Obama first encountered.
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