China conducted war drills in the South China Sea this week as the COVID-19 pandemic terrorizes the US, forcing the Pentagon to divert its attention to the Homeland to manage the public health crisis that is unfolding rather than countering Beijing in the open seas.
Asia Times reports that in recent days China ramped up military drills and deployed military assets in the highly contested waters of the South China Sea, specifically in areas that are known to have massive fossil fuel reserves.
While some see China's nationalistic messaging as a bid to rally its people during difficult Covid-19 times, others view the increasingly aggressive naval maneuvers as a bid to exploit America's weakened condition to secure new advantage in the hot spot theater. -Asia Times
While China conducted maritime exercises, countries surrounding the South China Sea, who also have staked rights to the fossil fuel reserves in the contested waters, are in countrywide lockdowns enforced by their respective militaries. This is an instance where military assets of Western powers and allies are preoccupied in their own countries, as Beijing sails around the South China Sea uncontested.
Many people don't realize, the Chinese virus unleashed a nuclear bomb on America, but did not destroy any physical assets. Instead, it imploded the financial economy. And without China firing a shot, the US Navy has likely lost the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), a massive nuclear aircraft carrier stationed in Guam. At least 1,000 sailors have been evacuated from the vessel for fear of contracting the virus.
The virus is a giant distraction from the Pentagon's freedom of navigation missions that are used to counter China in the South China Sea. With most of its time and effort focused on fighting the virus on the Homeland and maintaining social order – America's power overseas diminishes.
The Western world is melting down over a virus outbreak. China didn't even have to fire one shot – as it now seizes this opportunity to increase its power in the South China Sea:
China's bid to opportunize on the Covid-19 crisis which originated in its Wuhan city has been on display on multiple fronts. On one hand, Beijing has launched a concerted attempt to reshape the pandemic's narrative, including the bizarre suggestion by top Chinese officials that the US military planted the virus in China.
This has gone hand-in-hand with attempts to drive a diplomatic wedge between the US and its traditional transatlantic allies, some of which have recently committed naval vessels to US-led freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea. -Asia Times
The People's Liberation Army flexed its muscles in the northern portions of the South China Sea last month, saying:
Training for war preparedness will not be stopped even in the middle of the Covid-19 epidemic, and the training of carrier-based fighter pilots must continue.
The Global Times described the latest war drill as part of fighting the pandemic.
An aircraft carrier is a large warship with many people concentrated in its cabins, making it vulnerable to infectious diseases. Being able to successfully conduct related missions indicated that the Liaoning has done a great job in controlling the epidemic. - Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie told Global Times.
And just like that, a Chinese virus implodes the American economy, takes out an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, and China makes a big move in the South China Sea. Is the virus the first silent shot fired by Beijing in World War III?