Chinese media coverage of the recent US naval patrol near its outposts in the disputed Spratly Islands suggests, to me at least, Beijing’s increasing confidence in its handling of public opinion on this sensitive issue.
In turn, the content of some of Beijing’s publicity offers insight into China’s intentions for the handling of the matter going forward. Specifically, the government’s response suggests a firm determination to avoid escalating tensions. It could even foreshadow an increasingly tolerant attitude towards US assertions of freedom of navigation into the future.
The basis for this speculation is outlined below, but as always i’d encourage readers with other explanations to get in touch or leave a comment.