The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

China re­cently has stepped up its flex­ing of big-power mus­cles on sev­eral fronts as South­east Asian states chal­lenge Bei­jing’s sweep­ing claims of sovereignty over the re­source-rich South China Sea. Be­gin­ning June 8, a mas­sive, highly or­ga­nized hack­ing at­tack em­a­nat­ing from China was car­ried out against sev­eral hun­dred key Viet­namese In­ter­net sites, in­clud­ing the of­fi­cial web­site of the Viet­namese For­eign Min­istry. The at­tacks par­a­lyzed all the sites and left them cov­ered with Chinese na­tional flags and mu­sic files that played a jin­go­is­tic ren­di­tion of the Chinese na­tional an­them.

Po­lit­i­cally and diplo­mat­i­cally, Bei­jing is try­ing to iso­late Viet­nam from its neigh­bors in the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions by in­creas­ing ties to Myan­mar, Sin­ga­pore, Thai­land and In­done­sia.

Mil­i­tar­ily, not a day goes by with­out state-run Chinese me­dia boast­ing of China’s naval prow­ess to counter al­leged Viet­namese “provo­ca­tions.” The mes­sage was high­lighted in midJune by China’s large-scale naval and am­phibi­ous drills near the dis­puted ar­eas of the South China Sea, a re­sponse to Viet­nam’s much smaller mil­i­tary drills. Mil­i­tary of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Rear Adm. Yin Zhuo, a cy­ber­war­fare spe­cial­ist, have be­come fix­ated on talk­ing down Viet­nam’s forces, ac­cus­ing it of naval “weak­ness” and “mil­i­tary des­per­a­tion.”

Al­though other na­tions in the re­gion, no­tably the Philip­pines and Malaysia, have sim­i­lar ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes with China, Bei­jing con­sid­ers Viet­nam the worst of­fender. His­tor­i­cally, China con­sid­ers Viet­nam an in­fe­rior trib­u­tary state.

China fought two naval bat­tles against the Viet­namese navy over the Para­cel Is­lands in 1974 and the Spratly Is­lands in 1988, in ad­di­tion to the full-scale in­va­sion of Viet­nam on land in 1979.

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