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H-6K bombers fly in formation during a military parade at Zhurihe military training base. Photo: Cui Nan/CHINA NEWS SERVICE/VCG via Getty Images

A Chinese H-6K bomber landed on Woody Island in the Parcels last week — the first time a Chinese military aircraft has touched down on one of the disputed islands in the South China Sea, and a strong assertion of sovereignty by Beijing.

Why it matters: China is not only restoring its place as the dominant power in Asia, but also extending its presence and influence far beyond. Along the way, it has become the most significant global competitor the U.S. has ever faced.

The significance of China’s challenge is due to its mix of legitimate economic and diplomatic activities (those conducted within the rules of the current international system) and illegitimate ones (those outside the rules). The former include investing massive amounts in educational and cultural programs to enhance its soft power and building its own set of free-trade agreements, institutions and programs that, while legitimate, are designed to exclude the U.S. and increase China’s influence at American expense. China’s illegitimate activities include intellectual property theft for commercial gain, economic coercion to gain technology for its own companies or bend other countries to its will, intervenroom in foreign politics to secure more China-friendly policies, seizure of contested territories, and a disregard for rulings by international institutions not to its liking.

Militarily, China is on a path to become a peer the likes of which the U.S. has not seen since the Soviet Union. Beijing has invested wisely in systems designed to counter those of the U.S. The Chinese know that any contest in Asia between China and an adversary will be first a matter of naval and air combat, and they have prepared accordingly by developing sophisticated counter-space, counter-air and counter-maritime capabilities. Combined with profound organizational reforms, China’s weapons modernization will leave its forces much more capable of projecting military power beyond Chinese shores.

The bottom line: In the U.S., there is no consensus -- indeed, hardly much debate -- about an overarching strategy to deal with China. Without one, the U.S is doomed to continue ceding ground and possibly worse -- facing China in a military contest.

Michael Morell is global chairman of geopolitical risk at Beacon Global Strategies, a former deputy director of the CIA, and a CBS commentator and host of the podcast "Intelligence Matters."

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Top Pentagon officials contradict Biden on Afghanistan advice

Photo: Carolone Brehman/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Top military leaders confirmed in a Senate hearing Tuesday they recommended earlier this year that the U.S. keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, and that they believed withdrawing those forces would lead to the collapse of the Afghan military.

Why it matters: Biden denied last month that his top military advisers wanted troops to remain in Afghanistan, telling ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "No one said that to me that I can recall."

Poll: Latinas more likely to open their own businesses, despite pandemic setbacks

Janie Isidoro, owner of My Corazon, a Chicano business in downtown Hanford, Calif. Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Latinas in the U.S. are more likely to own, or plan to open, their own businesses than non-Hispanic women, despite the pandemic’s disproportionate burden, a recent poll found.

Why it matters: The survey, conducted by Telemundo, the Latino Victory Foundation and Hispanics Organized for Political Equality, suggests Latinas can be a driver of growth for the U.S. even though they have faced greater COVID-19-related setbacks.

Warren opposes Fed chair Powell's renomination, calls him a "dangerous man"

Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks during a hearing before Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 28. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) questioned Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell's record on financial regulation during a hearing Tuesday, calling him a "dangerous man" and saying that she would not support his renomination for a second term.

Driving the news: While the Fed chair’s term expires in early 2022, President Biden is expected to make a decision this fall on whether to reappoint Powell or nominate another candidate.