For a state just beginning to recover from Covid-19, China has been remarkably active in pressing its sovereignty claims. Chinese forces have been involved in a spate of incidents around its borders, most recently a series of tense encounters with India. Foreign media have seized on this as another example of Chinese opportunism, in which Beijing shamelessly presses its territorial agenda against weaker rivals still in the throes of the disease. However, China’s actions also constitute a strategic blunder, sacrificing the propaganda value of its contributions to regional pandemic responses and weakening its long-running attempts to dilute US influence. This gives Washington a second chance at drawing a contrast with China and demonstrating concrete leadership for a region still reeling from Covid-19’s effects.
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Dr. Joel Wuthnow is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at National Defense University.