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COMMENTARY: China shows off military strength as Beijing eyes new rules for Hong Kong


Are China and the U.S. about to go to war over their sharp differences regarding China’s relative silence during the first eight or 10 weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Hardly.

But a surge this week of Chinese and American warplanes and warships into the South China Sea and the East China Sea demonstrate that battle plans have been dusted off by the U.S. and China and that Cold War sabres are being rattled.

This is concrete evidence that China sees an opportunity in a world reeling from COVID-19. Watch as over the next few days, the National People’s Congress rubber stamps draconian new security legislation designed to strip Hong Kong of its last democratic vestiges.

Killing off the democratic protests in Hong Kong that shook the Communist Party establishment last year will remove any pretense that Beijing remains bound by the agreement it struck with Britain in 1997.

That deal required the U.K. to hand the territory back to China on the promise that it would become a special administrative region that would maintain separate governing and economic systems until 2047.

Although most of the world has been paralyzed by the coronavirus, China continues to increase its military incursions into Japanese territorial waters and has been harassing Vietnamese, Malaysian, Indonesian and Vietnamese oil rigs and fishing vessels.

In separate actions, China last month sent warplanes and warships closer to Taiwan than ever before. In August, China plans to stage a mock invasion of Taiwan that it says will include marines, landing craft and helicopters.

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The U.S. military has been unusually busy, too. Five American destroyers and cruisers have transited the Taiwan Straits over the past few weeks, B-1 bombers have twice undertaken training runs over the South China Sea this month, and on Thursday, the Pentagon further provoked China by announcing the sale of US$180-million worth of state-of-the-art torpedoes to Taipei.

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However, Washington’s biggest message to China by far was the Pacific Fleet Submarine Force’s declaration this week that all its forward-deployed submarines — that is seven or more of them — were at sea at the same time in the western Pacific.

This unusual revelation of what is normally a closely-guarded secret came as the USS Roosevelt finally put to sea after being tied up in Guam for nearly two months while more than 1,000 sailors infected by the coronavirus were treated at a military hospital in the U.S. territory.


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