As the People's Liberation Army focuses on countering the US, the Pentagon has increasingly used China - labelled by Washington as a strategic rival and military threat - as the adversary in its war games.
The latest was a huge sealift exercise off Virginia this week, with 28 vessels put to the test carrying the US Army and Marine Corps and their equipment to a major conflict overseas - possibly against China or Russia.
Meanwhile, US and Japanese troops carried out a joint drill this week using land-to-ship missiles to attack an enemy ship at Kumamoto, in Kyushu, reportedly "keeping in mind China's increasing maritime activities", according to local media.
They followed five days of US-Asean naval exercises at the start of the month, the first such drills between the United States and the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations members. Four of those countries - Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam - have territorial disputes with Beijing over the South China Sea.
In a separate drill last month, US Marines conducted airfield- and island-seizure drills in the East and South China seas, near the Philippines and around the Japanese island of Okinawa.
Observers said the Pentagon and the PLA had been increasingly focused on each other in their war game scenarios.
"China's military modernisation since the early 1990s has been almost entirely focused on countering American capabilities," said John Lee, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington.
"From this point of view, it is natural to expect that many American military exercises would have China in mind."
While the US is not a claimant in the South China Sea, it regards the area as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy to contain China's military expansion in the Pacific and Indian oceans - a strategy that has had Beijing on alert.
Since a major overhaul of the PLA that began in 2015, the Chinese military has emphasised the importance of "real war" exercises and stepped up the frequency, scale and intensity of such drills.
Hong Kong-based military commentator Song Zhongping said Beijing was responding to what it saw as "strategic threats".
"China feels that it is facing a lot of external strategic threats - especially from the US," Song said.
And despite John Bolton's departure from the White House - the former national security adviser took a hardline approach to US adversaries such as China - other hawks in Washington made it unlikely the policy on Beijing would change direction.
"This strategy will remain in place for a long time," Song said. "And China will use every means it can to be prepared for a real military struggle - for the worst-case scenario."
Retired PLA colonel Yue Gang also noted that the US was seeking support from its allies to increase its influence in the region and contain China.
Those regional allies include Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and Australia, all of which have taken part in joint military exercises with the US in the past few months.
Yue said the recent US military moves were carefully choreographed to support its efforts in other areas - such as the trade talks that are expected to resume next month - and China should not take active measures to counter them.
"(China) should see through the rhetoric and realise its purpose, and be clear that a counter move would not necessarily be something that could lead to a war," he said, adding that the US was attempting to apply pressure on Beijing.
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