Any “face-off” would be just that, a face-off. China would be foolish in the extreme to provoke the US Navy. China’s carriers are nowhere of the quality of the US.
It is not a dissimilar situation to Germany and Britain on the high seas in early World War 2. Germany had a very small navy relatively speaking but was extremely strong on land and in air. Berlin also employed submarines to great effect.
China likewise could probably hold its own in the South China sea, at least for a while, with ready access to land based forces and neutralizing weapons like the “carrier killer” missile. (Deploying such a weapon would probably be considered on par with a nuclear strike even if the missile[s] were conventionally warheaded however. The carrier killer would – likely – either be deployed in “blitzkrieg” fashion on the front end of any conflict, or in a desperate last stand. Either scenario represents disaster for the world.) So like the Germans the Chinese might be outclassed surface navy wise but also like the Germans they might be able to sustain hostilities with alternative forms of engagement.
It is worth noting also that the Germans lost.
Global Times has also noted that to attain a genuine blue-water-navy stature, the PLA’s maritime force still has a lot of catching up to do. One aspect is the evolution from a mixed-combat model to a carrier-oriented one to cope with more missions and voyages in the high seas.
Beijing adopted a dovish tone when the US aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, nicknamed “the Big Stick,” arrived in Singapore for a scheduled port visit and R&R this week, and the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered carrier’s strike group has joined forces with warships from allies while en route to the center of the South China Sea.