South China Sea Remains Uneasy

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The US Navy has maintained operations in and around the South China Sea (SCS) through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Even though COVID-19 has had an adverse effect on US military operations and deployments globally, FON (Freedom of Navigation) operations, military aircraft overflights, and reconnaissance activities in the SCS region have continued. Granted, the size, and scale of these operations has dropped off somewhat they continue. The SCS is a critical area of the gameboard when it comes to the US-China security competition in the Pacific, and beyond.

Two days ago, the US sent two ships to patrol near an area of the SCS where a mineral rights dispute between Malaysia and China is ongoing. The two ships are the USS Montgomery, a Littoral Combat Ship, and the replenishment ship USNS Cesar Chavez. Chinese naval and coast guard vessels have been operation in the area regularly, and the recent appearance of US ships serves as a reminder to Beijing that the United States is watching its activities the SCS with great interest.

The number of available US naval assets in and around the Western Pacific is set to grow in the coming days and weeks. The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and her escorts have departed from Japan after the carrier’s annual repair period. Reagan will undergo a period of sea trails and carrier qualifications for her air wing before the carrier group begins its spring patrol in the Western Pacific. On the west coast of the US, the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is working up in preparation for a deployment set to begin later this month. This will give the US Navy potentially two aircraft carriers for operations in and around the SCS.

If US-Chinese relations continue down the same path they’re on presently, a largescale  US show of force in and around the South China Sea could occur sometime in the early days of summer.

COVID-19 Causing Supply Chain Disruptions

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The coronavirus outbreak has cast a light on the indispensable role China plays in global supply chains. China is the manufacturing base for a large percentage of global businesses and the virus has kept many factories and plants shuttered since the end of the Lunar New Year holiday. As the virus continued to affect every facet of life in China, with large swaths of territory under quarantine restrictions, multinational companies are waking up to the realization they could be facing a potential long-term disruption in the supply chain. The electronics industry is being particularly hard hit by disruptions to its supply chain. With assembly plants that make the iPhone in China still closed Apple will likely ship 5-10% fewer iPhones this quarter according to analysts.

With the economic blowback of the coronavirus continuing to expand, many companies are coming to the realization of how vulnerable their current supply chains are to disruption. The single geography sourcing strategy is suddenly not so appealing. As a result, alternatives are being examined carefully. The race is on to design sustainable supply chains that can overcome the disruption challenges of the present-day and the future. Regional sourcing will become more prevalent, meaning an economic boost for developing regions in places like Africa, and South America. Unfortunately, their good fortune will come at China’s expense and this is something that Beijing will not take lightly to.

 

Author’s Note: Short posting today, I apologize. Chemo effects kind of knocked me out, but I’ll bounce back with more detailed posts tomorrow and this weekend.