- Since the coronavirus pandemic swept the world, China has been aggressively pushing its foreign policy agenda.
- The moves China has made include strengthening its claim of sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea, cracking down on protesters in Hong Kong, and intimidating Taiwan with military procedures.
- China is also using its wealth to push its agenda. It pledged funding to the World Health Organization after the US announced it was freezing funding, and it is providing relief on loans to African countries struggling with the downturn, while national assets are expected to be put up as collateral.
- One of the reasons for this is that China wants to dislodge the US from its position as a superpower while strengthening its own global position.
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China is aggressively pushing its foreign policy agenda while the world is focused on the coronavirus.
In recent months, as the coronavirus, which originated from Wuhan, China, spreads, the government led by President Xi Jinping has tried to strengthen its position around the world, while trying to dislodge the US from its position as a superpower.
It has done this by enforcing its sovereignty over the South China Sea, asserting control in Hong Kong by cracking down on protesters from last year, and intimidating Taiwan with increasing military measures.
China is also using its wealth to push its agenda. It pledged tens of millions of dollars to the World Health Organization (WHO) after the US government announced it would freeze its own funding, and it is providing relief on loans to African countries in exchange for them putting up national assets like copper mines as collateral, according to Vox.
Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project, a think tank in Washington, DC, told Vox: “When it sees opportunities, China moves to exploit them. And we are in a moment where the Chinese definitely see opportunities.”
On April 18, China struck back at protesters in Hong Kong. More than a dozen key people were arrested for their roles in protests that gripped the city between August and October. According to The New York Times, “The arrests signaled a broader crackdown on the anti-government movement.”
On the same day, China strengthened its position in the South China Sea. China created two new districts for cities on Yongxing Island, which, along with earlier renaming the areas, was part of an attempt to assert its sovereignty, according to The Diplomat.
An island in the South China Sea might not sound like much when it’s only about 12 square miles of land, yet the city covers 1.2 million square miles of sea, and China’s push for sovereignty clashes with other claims made by Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines.
As for Taiwan, on April 23, Al Jazeera reported China was escalating military drills around the island, signaling discontent towards Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen who was reelected earlier in the year.
Throughout April, China increased military exercises, including having five warships sail unusually close by, conducting a 36-hour endurance exercise, and having its air force reportedly conducted its first night mission in the area.
In Africa, China’s using the struggling nations’ debts to gain assets. China is the continent’s largest creditor. According to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studied African governments are indebted to China for about $143 billion.
As debt continues to grow some governments are considering handing over assets to China in exchange for relief, according to the Wall Street Journal. For instance, Zambia was considering handing over its third-largest copper mine.
The most obvious recent occurrence of China moving in on the US was its offer to provide funding to WHO. Business Insider’s Rosie Perper previously reported on its pledge to give WHO $30 million after President Donald Trump announced earlier in April that the US would freeze $400 million in payments, which was previously the largest contribution from a single country.
John Lee, a former national security adviser to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, told Business Insider the new contribution was not from goodwill but was designed to boost its “superficial credentials” as a “global contributor” dealing with the coronavirus.