Beijing Conducts ‘Combat Patrol’ as US Ships Enter Contested Waters

Beijing Conducts ‘Combat Patrol’ as US Ships Enter Contested Waters

Is China getting ready to take on the world superpower in battle, or is it just being a bully on the playground?

The question is keeping analysts up at night, especially in light of increasingly aggressive behavior from the People’s Republic of China.

On Sunday, the United States held its first joint naval exercises in the South China Sea with the Philippines, Japan and Australia.

The purported reason for the drills was to demonstrate the four countries’ “collective commitment to strengthen regional and international cooperation in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” according to a statement by the four nations’ defense chiefs on Saturday.

While the statement did not explicitly name China, Beijing’s increasing forcefulness in claiming territorial rights over the maritime region was widely viewed as the driving force behind the military exercise, according to the Japan Times.

However, it seems as if China did not like being left out of the picture.

On Sunday, Beijing made a surprise announcement that they were having military “joint naval and air combat patrols” on the same day, in the same contested waters, according to Voice of America.

To add insult to injury, Beijing’s People’s Liberation Army  Southern Theater Command released a statement that read, “All military activities that mess up the situation in the South China Sea and create hotspots are under control,” — a move that seemed aimed at belittling the cooperative efforts of the four nations.

The drill was a precursor to the first trilateral summit with the leaders of the Philippines and Japan, due to be held by President Joe Biden in a few days. China is reportedly high on the agenda with growing concerns over the disputed South China Sea, according to Voice of America.

Prior to the PLA’s combat patrol, the Chinese side issued several strong warnings against “Philippines’ provocations and its attempts to introduce external forces as well as Manila’s tricks of “playing victim,” according to the China Communist Party-owned Global Times.

The Global Times also claimed that on April 2, Chinese President Xi Jinping directly conveyed China’s stance on the South China Sea to U.S. President Joe Biden, stating that “China has indisputable sovereignty over Nansha Qundao and its adjacent waters, noting the U.S. is not a party to the South China Sea issue and should not intervene in matters between China and the Philippines.”

China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, a claim rejected by the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

The U.S. relies on free passage through the South China Sea for trade and military movement, CFR reports.

To strengthen its claims, China is building up islands in the area, adding military bases and airstrips.

Additionally, Xi Jinping has instructed China to brace for “dangerous storms,” in addition to stockpiling fuel and food supplies, and trying to insulate its economy against potential sanctions — moves that could signal preparations for a worst-case scenario, according to a recent essay by professors Michael Beckley and Hal Brands in

Beckley and Brands contend that “many of Xi’s actions — the brutal zero-COVID lockdowns, the concentration camps in Xinjiang, the crushing of Hong Kong’s freedoms — betray ruthlessness.”

“Combined with the other changes China is undergoing, these forms of internal aggression should make us very nervous about the external aggression that may lie ahead,” they warn.

China undoubtedly has ambitions to expand its sphere of influence and displace the United States as the preeminent global power.

But its actions also seem driven by more immediate concerns, such as securing its territorial claims in the South China Sea and countering what it sees as foreign interference in its domestic affairs.

However, the threat is a real one.

China is no mere “desert country” that can be easily conquered or controlled. It is a military and economic powerhouse that would pose an immense challenge in any confrontation.

Given these stakes, the question is not whether China is preparing to take on the U.S. but whether the U.S. has the strength to withstand such an attack, should it come.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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