Hong Kong CNN  — 

China was one of two countries, along with Russia, named in a 2018 Pentagon report as posing the most significant military challenge to the United States. Two years on and that challenge has only grown.

Beijing’s program of rapid modernization has seen its military transformed into a true global power, capable of comfortably projecting its forces throughout the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

This year alone has seen China engage in deadly border clashes with Indian troops; China’s People’s Liberation Army aircraft have repeatedly buzzed Taiwanese and Japanese air defenses; and Chinese ships have been involved in multiple incidents in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Groups conduct dual carrier operations in the Indo-Pacific earlier this year.

At the same time, Beijing has been drilling its naval units in the Pacific with increasing frequency, sometimes with as many as five separate exercises happening across multiple locations in a matter of days.

China’s actions, especially those in the South China Sea, present a challenge to what the US military calls a free and open Indo-Pacific, a place where it says commerce should flow without intimidation and where fishing and mineral rights are respected under international laws and treaties.

As voters across the US cast their ballots in November’s presidential election, the rise of China’s military power represents one of the most complex and pressing foreign policy concerns confronting the country’s next leader. Here’s a look at the key areas:


The self-governing island has received increasing levels of public support from Washington during the Trump administration, including visits by high-level US government officials and the sale of high-end weaponry like F-16 fighter jets.

Analysts say the current state of play doesn’t leave much room for either the Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, or President Donald Trump to pull back from supporting Taiwan.