CHINA: Taking advantage of the Pandemic
As the world agonises over how to contain the corona pandemic, eyes have been diverted from China's increasingly bellicose foreign policy towards its nearest neighbours. China has had fraught relations with most of its neighbours for decades. Now, under the radar of world wide awareness, it is flexing its military and diplomatic muscles.
South China Sea. China has this year established two administrative units on the Paracel and Spratly islands, as well as continuing artificially to enlarge islets in the region on which it is constructing military bases. Why is the area of importance? Other than the obvious strategic military reasons, there are off-shore oil reserves. Currently the United States, in collaboration with Australia, is conducting naval exercises in the area, in support of Philippine, Malaysian, and Vietnamese territorial claims.
East China Sea. Japan has lodged a formal protest with Beijing over the presence of Chinese ships in Japan's territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands. Japan had purchased three islands in the region from a private owner in 2012, giving rise to China's interference. South Korea also has claims in the area.
China-Russia Border. Tensions are always likely to escalate on this border separating two major Powers. The Chinese closed the border as they claimed that the corona virus which was crossing the border with infected people was the top cause of the virus spreading again in China. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Chinese living in Russia have made their way to the border hoping to cross. A Russian Professor at a University in Vladivostok has been quoted by The Guardian as saying, 'This is an unpleasant situation. It's a nuisance of course. But I don't see any rupture of bilateral relations coming from this particular situation. I might sound cynical. But these are just ordinary people.....They're mostly traders and students. Cynically speaking, the Russia-China strategic partnership can easily sacrifice the interests of a few hundred ordinary people.'
China-India Border, Kashmir. The armies of these two powerful nations are in a military standoff on the border between their two countries. Kashmir is divided between Pakistan, India, and China and is a powder keg ready at any moment to explode.The BBC has quoted an Indian military expert as saying, 'The situation is serious. The Chinese have come into territory which they themselves accepted as part of India. It has completely changed the status quo'. The Chinese for their part argue that India shifted the border when ending Kashmir's limited autonomy in 2019.
China-India Border - Sikkim. Further tensions have arisen here too. Soldiers on both sides have come to physical blows.
And, of course, additionally there is the growing violence in Hong Kong as China seeks to impose its will on what was meant to have been 'One country, Two systems'. This dispute shows up in stark manner the toothless nature of the British Lion.
Worried? We should be, at least, concerned.
Activities. To help with the current situation's mounting monotonousness, you may care to find the places mentioned above in an atlas and judge for yourselves how dangerous all of this might prove. You may also care to keep a lookout for articles about these disputes, tucked away on inside pages of the newspapers, and the short clips sometimes appearing at the end of television news broadcasts.