The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and its strike group have entered the South China Sea to hold military drills.
The U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet says the strike group is “conducting maritime security operations, which include flight operations with fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, maritime strike exercises, and coordinated tactical training between surface and air units.”
For China and other countries in the region, however, it is what happening in the dark that counts, and it’s not really that complicated.
Roughly 5 trillion U.S. dollars in annual trade passes through the South China Sea. This involves half of global daily merchant shipping, a third of oil trade and two-thirds of liquid natural gas.
Just as important, the naval crossroads are vital for China’s global supply chain, including its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to improve regional cooperation and connectivity on a trans-continental scale.
The U.S. is losing ground to China in Asia and beyond in economic and technological terms. Many Americans blame President Donald Trump and his administration for America’s decline, and they are desperate to check China in the hope of changing public opinion.
There are several other reasons why there has been a significant uptick in U.S. military activities in the South China Sea, including an attempt to insert itself into a belligerent and pugnacious maritime dispute with the world’s second-largest economy.