On April 3, 2020, coronavirus cases had crossed the 1 million mark globally, the world’s attention was focused on containing the cases but for Beijing’s business continued as usual in the South China Sea.
Why is the South China Sea so important to China? how much business is conducted on this route? A Chinese surveillance ship hit and sunk a Vietnamese fishing boat in the disputed waters, eigh people onboard the sinking vessel and two other Vietnamese boats were captured and detained.
It’s been more than a week and Beijing has steadily increased its presence and frequency of harassment. It is consolidating and strengthening its position in the South China Sea because besides China there are five other claimants of territories in this resource-rich waterway.
The state of Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei lay claim to the islands, together these nations have over 11,000 cases of the coronavirus. The outbreak in these countries has stalled most defence activities but the outbreak in mainland China has apparently been contained.
The coronavirus is a ‘foreign crisis’ now and Beijing is reminding the smaller neighbors of its supremacy. At least 130 Chinese vessels have been spotted near the Philippine occupied Pagasa island since January. Two new research stations have been launched on China’s large man-made islands – fiery Cross & Subi Reef. These facilities are apparently conducting field navigation & scientific research in the Spratlys – a disputed archipelago.
Since March, Chinese fighter jets have been conducting unprecedented air drills off the coast of Taiwan. It was followed by the deployment of an aircraft carrier – Liaoning that was intercepted by Japan’s military and now with the sinking of a Vietnamese boat, the dragon’s strategic game plan is getting clearer.
Beijing is using the pandemic to wage a silent war for lasting domination of this waterway, A war that may soon engulf more waterways and more countries if it remains unchecked & unreported.