Lily Kuo of Defense One writes that:
After Chinese state media warned that war with the United States may be “inevitable,” Beijing has published a policy paper detailing how the military will shift its focus from land and coastlines to the open seas. China’s State Council released a white paper today that criticizes “external countries…busy meddling in South China Sea affairs” and sets out an “active defense” military strategy for the country.
Tensions are rising as:
The US has been calling on China to halt the construction of entire islands with ports, army barracks and at least one air strip near the Spratly Islands. The area—one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and home to fertile fishing grounds as well as possibly oil and gas—is the focus of overlapping claims by China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Brunei.
So the Chinese policy paper asserts that:
"….the People’s Liberation Army Navy will expand its defense perimeter to include “open seas protection.” The air force will also expand its focus to include offensive as well as defensive military capabilities.
“We will not attack unless we are attacked, but we will surely counterattack if attacked,” the paper said.
Comforting to know, but meanwhile:
The US and other states are preparing for any potential confrontation. Southeast Asian countries are building up their navies and coastguards—defense spending in the region is expected to reach $52 billion by 2020, up from a projected $42 billion this year, IHS Janes Defence has said.