China’s announcement of an air defense identification zone (AIDZ) that covers substantial portions of the East China Sea has unleashed a storm of concern among China’s neighbors — as well as in the United States.

For China’s action reflects the deeper challenge now posed by its growing military capability and international activism. Vice President Joe Biden was on solid ground when he objected strenuously to this new air defense zone during his recent trip to the region.

Washington and Beijing each insists it wants to build a “new kind of major power relationship.” If they are to succeed, however, and enhance peace and stability across the region, they must develop new strategies to manage their growing tensions.

China defended its new defense zone by asserting that its actions are consistent with international law. Beijing’s arguments are unconvincing, however, because they don’t address the reasons why this particular air defense zone is so troubling.

In contrast with the usual defense zone — which helps build stability by reducing the chances of accidents based on mistaken identity — the unilateral and assertive nature of the new Chinese effort increases the risk of conflict.