A recent report from the USCongressional Research Servicedetails how China's navy, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), has undergone a stunning modernization push that puts it near parity with the US.
In fact, China's military posture and prowess in the Western Pacific presents the US with a challenge unseen since the end of the Cold War.
By perfecting deadly ballistic and cruise missiles, by buying and designing submarines, planes, and surface ships, by cracking down on corruption and improving internal organization and logistics, the PLAN presents US naval planners with plenty to think about going forward.
Though few expect a military conflict to emerge between the world's two biggest economies, China's brinkmanship in the South China Sea has lead observers to describe their strategy of escalation as a kind of "salami-slicing," or steadily taking small steps to militarize the region without taking any one step that could be viewed as a cause to go to war.
However, the US military, with its global network of allies, doesn't have the luxury of choosing which conflicts to get involved in, and therefore must take every threat seriously.