China has not been distracted from its assertive agenda in the South China Sea despite its domestic focus on combating Covid-19. It continues to deploy oil and gas vessels and military muscle to bolster its position in the strategically vital region.
The major focus of China’s obstructive role in the area is where its claims overlap with both Malaysia and Vietnam, neither particularly friendly towards Beijing. Malaysian national oil company (NOC) Petronas is exploring in blocks ND1 and ND2, which are in waters also claimed by the Vietnamese and within China’s so-called nine-dash line boundary.
The Chinese elbowing into the bilateral dispute is described by US-based thinktank the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) as a campaign of intimidation—including harassing Malaysian oil and gas work close to shore.