China’s Skirmish With India Is Only Its Latest Aggression During the Pandemic

China and India have quarreled over their border for nearly six decades. But Monday was the deadliest day in their dispute since 1975. At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed when a skirmish broke out in the Galwan river valley in the remote Ladakh region of the Himalayas. Tensions had been mounting for weeks, with President Trump offering to mediate the dispute in late May. (Neither side took him up on the offer.) 

The Indian government previously warned that the People’s Republic of China (PRC), ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), has sent thousands of troops into the area since the beginning of the year. Naturally, the CCP accuses India of being the provocateur. Earlier Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian claimed that Indian troops first “provoked and attacked Chinese personnel.” 

From this great distance, we cannot know for certain what transpired. It isn’t even clear how the Indian soldiers were killed, or how many casualties the Chinese suffered. Both sides contend that not a single shot was fired. This is in keeping with their decades-old agreement to avoid using arms. In what must have been a bizarre spectacle, their men supposedly resorted to fisticuffs and throwing rocks. 

We do know that the CCP has been aggressively asserting its territorial claims throughout the coronavirus pandemic, taking advantage of a distracted world. And the CCP’s incursion into the Galwan river valley is entirely consistent with this pattern of behavior both at sea and on land. On April 3, a Chinese coast guard vessel sank a Vietnamese fishing boat near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. In May, the Chinese harassed Japanese vessels in the East China Sea. And late last month the CCP enacted a new national security law for Hong Kong, threatening to end the region’s longstanding autonomy. These moves occurred in conjunction with the CCP’s increasingly hostile stance toward Taiwan and America’s naval presence

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