Whilst countries around the globe have been distracted with the COVID – 19 crisis and trying to curb the spread of the virus as well as recovering the economy, Beijing has not stopped its activities in the South China Sea (SCS). After originating in Wuhan, Hubei province of China in late December 2019, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus has spread to at least 188 countries, with the US being among the worst hit.
The long-standing issue between China and other four claimant countries in South East Asia: Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei over territorial disputes in the SCS has not been paused due to the pandemic. The sea is significant and contentious as it connects North-East Asia and the Western Pacific Ocean, offers the shortest routes between the two and contains major sea lanes of communication.
Additionally, approximately $3.37 trillion in total trade passes through the SCS every year.
China claims almost the entirety of the disputed islands, known as the “nine-dash line” and stated that it has a historical basis on the claims. The then 11-dash line appeared on the map of the South China Sea Islands in 1947, later the Communist Party of China removed the two dashes to give the Gulf Tonkin to Communist Vietnam in 1949.