On April 5, China launched an unprecedented in its dimension naval military drills in the South China Sea.
The exercises involved the Liaoning aircraft carrier and more than 40 vessels from the North, East and South Sea fleets, which China’s military muscle.
“China wants to show the outside world its determination to defend the fruits of its economic reforms over the past 40 years,” Chinese military analyst Zhou Chenming commented on the situation, according to “South China Morning Post”.
Chinese military spokesman Ren Guoqiang confirmed that the aircraft carrier would lead large-scale naval drills, but that was “routine” exercises of China’s “defensive” military policy and those activities posed no threat to other countries.
“Like the US, China’s military might is one of the government’s political tools to protect the country’s national interests”, Zhou Chenming emphasized.
Beijing deployed naval forces in response to the US increasing military cooperation with rival claimants, including Vietnam and the Philippines.
Currently, the USA have sent three aircraft carrier battle groups to the Asia-Pacific region. The USS Theodore Roosevelt group arrived in Singapore on April 2 after a deployment in the Middle East. It is likely to conduct drills with two US 7th Fleet carrier groups — centered on the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Carl Vinson — as it passes through the disputed waterways.
China considers the South China Sea as its own territory, claiming and demonstrating its readiness to challenge American tries to limit the influence and projects in the region.
Washington worries about the Chinese construction of military facilities at the artificial islands in the South China Sea. Thus, it can become a large anti-access and area-denial (A2AD) exclusion zone challenging the global dominance of the US Navy.
About 90% of the South China Sea has been declared sovereign territory by China under its arbitrary “Nine Dash Line”, extending some 2000km from its mainland. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims in the area. The US also challenges the Chinese claims and supports its competitors.
The military race comes as contraction rises between Beijing and Washington over a looming trade tariff “war”.
On April 3, Washington published a list of 1,333 Chinese imports with worth about $50 billion, for punitive tariffs of 25%.
On April 5, the US President Donald Trump stated the readiness to increase the tariffs up to $100 billion.
On April 6, China promised to respond with the same measures to the USA. Gao Feng, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Commerce affirmed that Beijing would fight “at any cost” and take “comprehensive countermeasures” if the United States continues its unilateral, protectionist practices.
The growing military and economic race between China and the USA could indicate that Washington perceives Beijing as a serious competitor.