Wu Shicun, President of China’s National Institute for South China Sea Studies and Chairman of the board of directors of the China-Southeast Asia Research Centre on the South China Sea, writing in the South China Morning Post (May 9) said though Covid-19 has dealt a "body blow to the United States, including its military combat capabilities and deployment" and "the virus has been found in at least 150 US military bases and on four aircraft carriers", nevertheless, the US military has continued its relentless pursuit of hegemony in the Western Pacific. The US military has increased the number and frequency of its flight missions in this region and this year itself conducted four types of military activities in the South China Sea.  Wu Shicun made an interesting observation and said: "From the US perspective, the South China Sea is indispensable to its hegemony in the Western Pacific. It is a vital artery for US-style sea power, and a handy issue to be manipulated amid China’s rise and growing maritime power. From China’s perspective, its sovereignty, security and development are all at stake in the South China Sea. The sea not only serves as a natural shield for its national security, but also hosts strategic sea lines of communication. Therefore, the US-China competition in the South China Sea is both strategic and structural. The Chinese are not so naive as to believe the US will ease off its competition with China in the South China Sea amid the pandemic. That is why China has calmly dealt with US operations, both in the air and at sea, amid the viral outbreak." He recommended that "In the face of growing US military provocation during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, China needs to focus on enhancing its capacity to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights in the South China Sea. In addition, China should expand the civilian functions of South China Sea islands. The recent establishment of the Xisha and Nansha districts under Sansha city, approved by the State Council, represents an important step in that direction. Furthermore, Beijing should consolidate its maritime forces and adapt to the changing mode of military operations at sea. Meanwhile, China needs to pursue maritime cooperation with other littoral states in the South China Sea, building more consensus and speeding up negotiations on a code of conduct. In this way, littoral states can jointly develop a regional order based on equity, transparency, openness and cooperation, and protect the South China Sea from turbulence or disruptive changes again."

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