China’s growing territorial aggression amid coronavirus crisis
China is trying to restart its economy amidst a second wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic, but this has not dampened its territorial aggression. Making most of this crisis even as most countries have been reeling with the impact of Covid-19 virus, the dragon has been breathing fire on its neighbours.
The Psyops, the online warfare, the infiltration into strategic communities in various countries aside, China has become a belligerent force, trying to open up as many fronts as possible.
India and China have been fighting the worst border conflict in four decades in Eastern Ladakh with the India-China border witnessing bloodshed for the first time since 1975.
However, China’s cartographic plans extend to the whole of Indo-Pacific region. As ORF’s Distinguished Fellow, Rajeshwari Rajagopalan points out that “for a decade since Xi Jinping came to power, the country has been aggressive on both the East China sea and South China sea apart from the Sino-Indian border.
SOUTH CHINA SEA
Beijing’s presence in the South China Sea involves military maneuvers and large-scale deployment of military assets to the region. This move caught the international community, particularly the United States completely off guard.
The Chinese territorial onslaught across the nine dash line that consists of all the nations in the South China Sea stretching upto Taiwan has increased in the past months, with the country increasingly claiming the maritime space and even putting on displays of air power.
On March 16, Taiwan’s newest Coast Guard Administration (CGA) patrol vessel was damaged after being rammed by Chinese fishing boats near Kinmen County.
It was second such confrontation in which shots were fired to repel Chinese fishing boats.
On April 11, they conducted unwanted drills in the Taiwan strait to oppose US support for Taiwan’s sovereignty.
In the past weeks alone, Chinese fighter planes entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone thrice, according to the Taiwanese defense ministry.
The most recent of which was on June 16 when Taiwan Air Force jets “drove away” a Chinese J-10 fighter.
Prior to that, a Chinese Y-8 was warned to leave Taiwan’s air space on June 12 after several Su-30 fighters crossed over Taiwan and were also warned to leave on June 9.
On April 2, the Chinese attack sank a Vietnamese fishing boat near the Paracel Islands, an archipelago in the South China Sea that China claims as its own.
These are unprecedented moves against countries that have had good ties with China.
In Indonesia, the first instance of encroachment of fisheries by the Chinese was reported in the month of January when the world was waking up to the crisis of the coronavirus pandemic
There have been Chinese pressure on Malaysia as well. The Chinese Navy deployed a survey vessel, armed China Coast Guard, and “maritime militia” vessels to tail the West Capella – a drillship contracted by Malaysia’s national oil company.
Following its strategy of territorial aggression, followed by the diplomatic onslaught, China has established new districts in the South China Sea and gave new names to the islands in the region.
Retired Intelligence official Jayadev Ranade calls out this “Wolf Warrior diplomacy of China being pushed by the younger lot of diplomats in China. Under global pressure due to Coronavirus, their strategy is to hit back hard.”
HONG KONG GAMBLE
The biggest gamble China is playing is with Hong Kong. The new national security bill there ensures the semi-autonomous state is absorbed completely within the Chinese jurisdiction. The legislation will effectively strip Hongkongers of their freedom and rights.
The Indo-Pacific powers have been wary of the Chinese threat and Japan, Australia, India and the US are partnering to counter China’s aggresive moves in the region.
On March 30, a Japanese naval ship came under the target of the Chinese.
China also deployed an aircraft carrier in the Miyako Strait, an important sea link.
Last month, China sent the aircraft carrier Liaoning and its strike group on its first round-trip mission through the Miyako Strait – between the islands of Okinawa and Miyako as Japan nervously looked on.
Australia has come under one of the worst cyber attacks and the intelligence points to the Chinese involvement in the online warfare as pointed out by the country’s political leadership.
China and the US have been involved in a bitter trade war. And despite the fear of sanctions, China has been taking on the US in the South China Sea waters.
This month, a US vessel conducting routine operations was expelled by the Chinese navy with the US and the Chinese maritime forces coming within 100 meters of each other.
On June 15, the US Mission to the United Nations formally submitted a ‘note verbale’ arguing that China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea are “inconsistent with international laws”.
Even Canada has been at loggerheads with Beijing over arrests of its nationals.
The two Canadians were detained by China as retaliation following the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese technology company Huawei, in Vancouver on charges filed in the United States.
If this is China’s idea of sending a strong message to its neighbours and countries across the world to not join forces with the US against Beijing, they have gone about it the wrong way. After mishandling the coronavirus crisis, it seems like China is fumbling through keeping partnerships demonstrating absolute strategic tone-deafness through its aggression.
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