No piece of hardware better exemplifies America’s military might than an aircraft carrier. And for more than seven decades, dating to the brutal naval clashes of World War II, that has been especially true in the Asia-Pacific. Broad oceanic expanses, narrow straits through tropical archipelagos, and ever-expanding maritime trade make naval power the guarantor of security in the region. U.S. aircraft carriers remain the lynchpin of that power. So when I landed aboard the USS John C. Stennis as it sailed through the waters of the South China Sea in April 2016, I knew the gesture would be noticed. The nuclear-powered Stennis is massive: longer than three football fields, the Nimitz-class carrier is essentially a 4.5-acre floating fortress home to 3,000 American men and women who do everything from conduct counter-piracy operations to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Even before we touched down on the flight deck, the Chinese foreign ministry had issued a statement criticizing my visit as emblematic of a “Cold War mentality.”
Carter, Ashton B. "Reflections on American Grand Strategy in Asia." October 2018.