Chinese maritime forces have raised tensions with Vietnam and Malaysia, but Xi Jinping has been focused like a laser beam — literally — on disputes with Manila in 2023.
- Chinese ships have directed a military-grade laser at a Philippines Coast Guard vessel, blasted Philippine charter boats with water cannons, and erected physical barriers at Scarborough Shoal, a traditional Philippine fishing ground legally recognized by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
Targeting Manila may seem an odd choice. After all, the Philippines is the only South China Sea claimant that is formally allied to the United States. But that may be precisely the point.
China has already crossed a threshold and they’ve done so by design.
- Having watched the U.S. response to Russia’s war on Ukraine and now the response to Hamas’s barbarism in Israel, Beijing knows that the Biden administration is at times paralyzed by the fear of escalation.