China is attempting to create a situation wherein the United States, to uphold international law, will either have to accede to their territorial claims in the South China Sea or openly resort to the use of hostile force, allowing China to publicly portray the U.S. as an imperialist aggressor state. Beijing is betting that the United States will not take this action and that power over the South China Sea and all the resources that lie beneath will pass to China, breaking American influence in the region.

The United States must anticipate Beijing’s next move, get inside its decision loop, and reveal China as the aggressive, would-be hegemon that it is. We’ve been here before. In 1996, the U.S. sailed two aircraft carriers near Taiwan, which led China to develop the DF-21 carrier-killer anti-ship ballistic missile. READ MORE