In an effort to stoke nationalism and distract its people from a slowing economy, the Chinese government has been acting particularly aggressively in the South China Sea, engaging in territorial disputes with neighbors including Japan.
This is one of the most dangerous games in the world.
For over a year China has been diligently building islands on top of reefs in the South China Sea, reclaiming 2,000 acres of land. In April, satellite imagery showed that the Chinese military had built an airstrip big enough for military aircraft.
The government has been loud about it, too, declaring its right to reclaim the Spratly Islands, the land around the reefs, on historical grounds.
The Global Post, a state tabloid owned by party publication The People's Daily, wrote that any attempt by the US to stop China from building out parts of the South China Sea would inevitably end in war.
"If the United States' bottom line is that China has to halt its activities, then a US-China war is inevitable in the South China Sea," the newspaper said. "The intensity of the conflict will be higher than what people usually think of as 'friction.'"
This nationalist stance is no doubt a response to China's slowing economy.
Growth and China's rise have always been tied to the modern Chinese identity. The government is asking its people to accept a "new normal" as growth slows, debt piles to almost 300% of gross domestic product, construction and property companies default, and credit dries up.
China debt growthMGI Country Debt Database; McKinsey Global Institute analysis