China's Provocative Naval Flotilla in the South China Sea
As I have said many times, China, is like a teenager becoming an adult and becoming more provocative in many of its positions. In the past, China has been willing to be more submissive and agreeable where it meets its own needs. But as China becomes more self absorbed with itself, it is willing to be more vocal and belligerent in what it wants as their own. The West relies on China for cheap manufacturing products, and China relies on the West for many things, but as China continues to grow, like a Justin Bieber, China thinks it can pretty much do as it wants due to its size and wealth.
Take the recent sortie of China's naval flotilla, two destroyers, one amphibious ship and one submarine, sailed into and through contested waters of the South China Sea. The flotilla sailed on January 20, sailing directly into the Paracel Islands region, claimed by Vietnam, then travelled near the James Shoal, claimed by Malaysia for a ceremony. This was 50 miles off the Malaysian coast. China claims the Paracels and James Shoal as theirs!
Once their presence was noted, the flotilla sailed through the narrow Sundra Straits miles within the Java coast. It then sailed into the Indian Ocean where it conduct rescue exercises. Australian aircraft monitored their presence. The Chinese then passed Lombok and Makassar Straits in Indonesia until venturing into the Pacific just of the Philippine Islands. Oddly, as if to send a signal to that country, the Chinese for the first time conduct live fire exercises. China and the Philippines are contesting the islands close to the Philippines.
All of this caused alarm because it demonstrates how far and growing China's naval reach for the smaller nations in and around China. The show of force in the region sailed for 23 days. The numerous countries were vocal in their opposition because the flotilla sailed well within territorial waters of many countries. China responded that it was their right to have freedom of navigation.
The US Naval fleet was not in sight. But, warned China that such demonstrations of strength could be misunderstood as trying to assert control over the South China Sea area and violated international law that increase tensions leading to confrontation.
This naval sortie was a test. China's next one will be with its aircraft carrier under the premise it will conduct more exercises in and around contested waters. This is all subtle bullying. At some point, the nations in that area will contest their presence and America will be drawn in. All of this is inevitable as China becomes bolder and bolder, pushing the tolerance and limits of other nations. Only America can stand up to China, but would it if China actually physically controls the various contested islands in the South China Sea?
Stay tuned. It's in the future.