From London’s perspective, points have been made. The potent new super vessel, HMS Queen Elizabeth, has, since leaving Portsmouth on May 1, made the rounds of friendly ports, drilled with friendly fleets, promoted the concept of rules-based freedoms and made the case for stronger ties with Asian partners. And it has demonstrated that the Royal Navy, deploying naval air projection capabilities that it lacked for five years, is back in the big league.
From Beijing’s perspective, points have been taken.
The post-imperialist force opted not to challenge the People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN, with provocative maneuvers in the South China Sea, Taiwan Strait or East China Sea. Even so, its joint drills with multiple nations on China’s maritime periphery, many of them at odds with China, suggest that Washington’s aim for a naval “coalition of the willing” is gaining traction – with the UK a particularly willing player.