China Signals Resolve with Bomber Flights Over the South China Sea

Published in: War on the Rocks website (2016)

Posted on RAND.org on May 18, 2021

by Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga, Cristina L. Garafola, Astrid Stuth Cevallos, Arthur Chan

Read More

Access further information on this document at warontherocks.com

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

An unprecedented display of Chinese strategic systems over disputed territories in the South China Sea reflects China's efforts to signal its resolve following a diplomatic defeat.

After the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) tribunal ruled July 12 in favor of the Philippines' case, invalidating many of China's territorial and other claims in the South China Sea, Beijing has sought to demonstrate its military strength in the region. The People's Liberation Army Air Force's (PLAAF) long-range strategic bomber, the H-6K, has played a key role in projecting Chinese military power via publicized flights over the South China Sea. Since early May, state-run media have released photos and videos of H-6Ks flying over Fiery Cross Reef, Scarborough Shoal, Mischief Reef and Livock Reef in the southern Spratly Islands, as well as Woody Island in the northern Paracel Islands. "Combat readiness patrols" by H-6Ks and other PLAAF aircraft "will continue on regularized basis," a PLAAF spokesman said July 18.

Research conducted by

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.