China is making big geopolitical moves at the moment, and it has used the cover of the pandemic to assert itself as a significant power player in the Pacific and challenge the existing world order and the US.
The existing world order, controlled by the US empire, which is a world defined by capitalism and democracy, is running into severe crosswinds in a post-corona world. The US risks losing its status as a leader of the free world as China and its authoritarian system of state capitalism emerge.
We noted in early April China conducted war drills in the South China Sea as the Pentagon was distracted by fighting a war on the virus at home.
The US State Department recently said Beijing is taking advantage of the region's focus on the COVID-19 pandemic to "coerce its neighbors".
Beijing has ordered the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) to conduct regular flight patterns around Taiwan and in the South China Sea -- has also ordered the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to increase vessel sails in the highly contested waters where it claims the trillions of dollars in natural resources for itself. These recent moves by China have sparked outrage by the US, accusing Beijing of "bullying behavior."
"Now that the domestic coronavirus outbreak has been stabilized, China wants to send an important signal to the world that its military and foreign affairs, previously put on hold, are back on track," Cheng Xiaohe, associate professor of international politics at Beijing's Renmin University, told Reuters.
As the pandemic unfolds across the world, Beijing has deployed military assets near Taiwan, enforced stricter rules in Hong Kong, and increased fortification of the South China Sea.
One of the most concerning moves Beijing made this month, is that it ordered the PLAN to sail its only aircraft carrier, called Liaoning, around Taiwan's east coast. The drills enraged Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and US allies.
This comes at a time when four US Navy aircraft carriers — the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the USS Ronald Reagan, the USS Carl Vinson, and the USS Nimitz — have reported cases of coronavirus, crimping their operations.
A Chinese military expert bragged to the state-run Global Times that PLAN had no virus cases on its warships.
"Through the voyage, the Liaoning showed that the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has done a great job in the epidemic prevention and control work and COVID-19 epidemic has not had an impact on its deployment and operations," Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said in the report.
In a statement to Reuters, China's Foreign Ministry said: "No matter when or where, China resolutely safeguards its sovereignty, security and development interests"
US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus blasted China's latest moves:
"The United States strongly opposes PRC efforts to take advantage of the region's focus on addressing the COVID pandemic in order to coerce its neighbors in the region. We call for the PRC to live up to its international obligations."
As America is weakened by the virus, China sees the opportunity to expand its control in the Pacific, a move that will challenge the existing world order and the US' role within it.