There is a lot of global jockeying going on right now. The Chinese want the South China Sea, and likely beyond over the medium to long term. The Chinese know that as long as the US Navy owns the the South China Sea Beijing is always potentially in economic peril. The Sea is a chokepoint for the rising power. A lot of oil and other raw materials flow right through that stretch of ocean to Chinese ports. (Not to mention the good coming FROM Chinese ports.)
Just hours after the latest close military encounter between the US and China, when the US navy sailed a destroyer to within 12 nautical miles of the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea as a “freedom of navigation” operation – a move that China condemned as a “severe provocation” just as the two countries launched an all-out trade war – the Chinese military launched its spring combat readiness drills with an air force exercise in the West Pacific and a joint combat patrol mission in the South China Sea.
The air force drills include H-6K bombers and Su-30 and Su-35 fighters, according to the PLA , and have a simple, if clear, purpose: “Air Force exercises are rehearsals for future wars and are the most direct preparation for war,” the Chinese Air Force said on its Weibo account on Sunday, according to Reuters.
“The more exercises China practices far from its shores the better it will be positioned as an important force for managing and controlling crises, containing war and winning battles”, it added.