Eighteen months. That's the timeframe Beijing has to test how much territory it can claim in disputed Asian waters, before a more uncompromising United States commander in chief takes over from a perceived militarily-passive President Barack Obama.
"The Chinese calculation is 'run hard now'," says Ernest Bower, a senior adviser for south-east Asia at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
The view from Washington is that US credibility in the Asia Pacific region, an area of major economic and strategic importance to Australia, is on the line as China pushes the boundaries.
The drumbeats for a more muscular US defence posture, combined with the ticking clock on the Obama presidency, are an important explanation for the surprise public revelation by a US Assistant Secretary of Defence last week.
Read the full article in Financial Review.