While Washington and Beijing’s overheated rhetoric and mutual recriminations amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic are grabbing headlines, equally important is what has been playing out across China’s eastern and southern peripheries over the past several weeks. At a moment when the Chinese Communist Party has been touting the generosity of its approach to COVID-19, there has been a marked increase in the number of incidents between China and its neighbors. Beijing has used its naval and paramilitary forces as well as its increasingly sophisticated information operations to ratchet up tensions, probe responses, and see how much it can get away with.
This raises the question of what exactly China is up to. Has Beijing truly embraced a new approach of cooperation with its neighbors? Is it trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 mess to assert its interests more aggressively? Or is this simply an extension — albeit an opportunistic one — of its pre-pandemic strategy?
Read the full article in War on the Rocks.
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