After coming to power, US President Joe Biden has put all his focus on one thing- needling Russia. So, with all the attention from Beijing getting diverted, China is now doing what it always wanted to do- militarise the South China Sea. Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump had upped the ante in the region, and with American naval assets constantly guarding the hotly contested region, China had to forgo its military ambitions.
So, while Biden is busy instigating Eastern European nations like Ukraine, Poland and the Czech Republic against Russia, Beijing is leveraging the opportunity to lay siege in the South China Sea. China is also looking to deploy a new vessel in the South China Sea with much fanfare and this has officially begun the militarisation of the region.
Chinese President Xi Jinping commissioned three warships into the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy on Friday.
Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece which also functions as an extended arm of the Chinese Foreign Ministry reported, “According to report footage, the three large warships are likely a Type 09IV nuclear-powered strategic ballistic missile submarine, a Type 055 large destroyer, and the country’s first Type 075 amphibious assault ship, observers said.”
The new warships are actually supposed to enhance Chinese belligerence in the South China Sea. Global Times reported, “It is also the first time the PLA South Sea Fleet has received three large surface and underwater main battle equipment on the same day, which highlights China’s determination to manage the South China Sea.”
The mouthpiece also quoted Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military affairs expert and TV commentator, as saying, “These vessels will play important roles in solving questions in places like the island of Taiwan and the South China Sea.”
Meanwhile, SCMP reported that the type 075 amphibious assault ship is likely to be deployed in the South China Sea. Military observers revealed that the ship is likely to be deployed in missions around Taiwan also. Named the Hainan, the amphibious assault ship has an estimated displacement of 40,000 tonnes, and can also carry around 30 helicopters ferrying hundreds of troops.
Song said, “The ship is deployed to the South Sea Fleet under the Southern Theatre Command. It does not mean it will only be responsible for the South China Sea. It will also be used for missions around Taiwan and other cross-theatre command tasks.”
The Hong Kong-based expert added, “But presumably it will mainly be for the South China Sea”.
The likely deployment of the Hainan in the South China Sea has led to considerable agitation amongst the ASEAN neighbours like Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines who dispute Beijing’s South China Sea claims.
Collin Koh, a research fellow from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said, “The ship can perform offensive functions – such as capture of terrestrial features in the disputed Spratlys, and in a Taiwan invasion scenario; or it can also be used for providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in times of peace.”
Koh added, “As far as the region is concerned, given uncertainty over China’s strategic intentions and its proclivity to use military coercion, this vessel will more generally be seen with wariness by regional countries especially those which have territorial and sovereignty disputes with China”.
So, China is actually looking to push the envelope in the South China Sea. It was already getting more and more aggression with actions like the ongoing standoff with the Philippines at the Whitsun Reef. Chinese militias, disguising as civilian fishing boats, have been stationed at the Whitsun Reef in the disputed South China Sea for several months now.
But now China is getting even bolder. By commissioning an amphibious assault ship, with an eye on the South China Sea, Beijing is actually terrorising smaller nations in the region. Yet, Biden and the US military are nowhere to be seen. They are too busy needling Russia over anachronistic matters that have literally no relevance in the present world order.
Biden has therefore let the Indo-Pacific region down. He is letting the paper dragon militarise the South China Sea region, and sooner or later, Beijing will start asserting dominance in the fiercely disputed region.