A maritime territorial dispute is currently taking place in Asia, which has gotten almost zero coverage in Western media. A dispute between the Republic of the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China over Scarborough Shoals. (The Philippines turns to the US over two week Chinese/Philippine Scarborough Shoals Standoff) Waters that are in fact on The Philippines doorstep geographically, and quite a distance away from China.
China wants the world to believe that it is building a large, superior Navy with a battle fleet to rival that of the United States Navy. To believe that there is a new big shot on the high seas and everyone in the Western Pacific should be in awe and fear of it.
Historically, when emerging naval powers have decided to make their entrance on the world maritime stage, they have picked or created an incident with a powerful rival navy. Such as in March 1889, when Germany wanted to assert German naval power in the Pacific as a rival to British and newly emerging American naval power, German warships anchored in Apia Harbor to challenge British and American interests in the Samoan Islands and dared either nation to do anything about it, with the final result being the 3-way division of the islands between the three powers. The Imperial Japanese Navy in 1905, burst onto the world scene, by engaging and nearly annihilating the Russian Pacific Fleet in a battle which no one in the world thought Japan could win. The US Navy made its mark by first defeating the Spanish Empire, then by sailing The Great White Fleet around the world.
However the Chinese didn’t pick a maritime dispute with a modern naval power such as a America, Japan, South Korea or even its lost offshore province of Taiwan which actually has possession of islands directly adjacent to China. No, China picked a dispute with the Philippines. A country that has no Navy, no viable naval or land based air force, but one and only one, light coast guard cutter.
They picked this dispute with the Philippines, because they were the weakest and easiest to pick on. China has in the past had island disputes with Vietnam. Disputes which have occasionally degenerated into actual combat. (Q&A: South China Sea dispute) But, disputes which were close to both nations shores, within range of Chinese air power. This incident however, is China trying to project its power much further away from its shores or giving the appearance of doing so and the Philippines were an inviting target.
If China were able to project real naval power, they would have challenged a modern Navy. One with teeth that can bite back. They picked this dispute because they know their ships and planes would be woefully outclassed by modern, well armed and equipped ships, aircraft and submarines of any other serious naval power in the region.