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For years, most experts believed that China’s military challenge to the U.S. was regional in nature - that it was confined to the Western Pacific. After decades of tacitly free-riding on America’s global power-projection capabilities, however, Beijing now is seeking the capabilities that will allow it to project its own military power well outside its regional neighborhood. The fact that China is building up its military strength is hardly news, of course. The 1995-96 Taiwan crisis, during which the U.S. responded to Chinese intimidation of Taiwan by sending two carrier strike groups to the area, underscored to the Chinese leadership that America's military dominance gave it the capability to intervene at will even in China’s own backyard.

Since then, Beijing has been developing the capabilities - advanced fighter jets, anti-ship ballistic missiles, and stealthy diesel-electric attack submarines among them - meant not just to give it leverage over its East and Southeast Asian ...

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