Whenever any US Navy vessel goes on a FONOPs or freedom of operations like the US destroyer John S. McCain, it passes through the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, where there is a swarm of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy ships.
It is one sign that the Chinese Navy can field more ships, but is it enough.
Many of these encounters usually have Chinese swarming, but they never get close enough to breathe on the Americans' necks.
Instead, Chinese Colonel Zhang Nandong of the PLA's Southern Theater Command just broadcast on their radio to tell the ship to leave.
And, when the ship leaves, they claim that they kicked it out, reported Defense Aerospace.
The Xisha Isles is part of the South China Sea claimed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Their installations are all over to control sea traffic, which the Americans are opposing.
In 2016, the Chinese lost their claims in the South China Sea via the 2016 international tribunal, but they have ignored that ruling. The US Navy is what keeps China from having absolute control in the area. But, will having more ships scare away the Americans?
Sources have confirmed that the Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is the biggest maritime force noted in a recently released Pentagon report. It is the tool they use to strong-arm their foreign policies.
The PLAN has about 350 ships that are missile patrol boats, corvettes, frigates, and destroyers stationed across Chinese coasts. Beijing is adding more vessels to overwhelm other navies.
Most of the PLAN ships are multi-role and touted to have advanced anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-submarine weapons and sensors. One problem is that they are not verified, and Chinese equipment are bad copies.
Key ships in China are 52 nuclear and diesel-powered attack submarines, four nuke subs with ballistic missiles, and two aircraft carriers based on soviet designs.
The total number of US Navy ships is 293 in 2020. For the US, less is better for analysts. It is bigger with a beefier force than a slimmer PLAN. These warships are large and more potent than the PLAN.
Michael O'Hanlon, a defense analyst from Brookings Institution, said, "The issue is not the number of ships - the US' are generally much bigger and more capable, and the Navy has twice the tonnage of the Chinese Navy."
Explaining massive numbers is not enough.
The current tonnage of the Chinese Navy is close to two million tons, compared to the US Navy at 4.6 million tons, according to a 2019 estimation by the Center for International Maritime Security.
Though smaller, PLAN vessels make up for their relative inferiority by compensating with more missiles and vertical launching tube (VLS). More ships but with questionable technical refinement.
According to the report, there are more ships produced as mere missile magazines for air defense, anti-ship, and anti-submarine capabilities.
The concentration in numbers will have an effect on the strategy of a technologically superior US military.
China wants to secure the first island chain from forces like the US Navy to make it hard for intervention in its coercive activities against its neighbors. Arming ships with missiles and installations is supposed to deter US Naval forces.
The People's Liberation Army Navy is more, but they are unsure if the US Navy will get into a direct conflict.