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Beijing wants you to know there's another Philippine resupply mission coming

China's leaders believe there's another Second Thomas Shoal resupply mission imminent. They are once again preparing to aggressively interdict it, but are desperate to reshape the messaging around their blockade.
| JANUARY 3, 2024
Beijing wants you to know there's another Philippine resupply mission coming

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For the second straight month, Beijing's propagandists at the South China Sea Probing Initiative have announced an impending Second Thomas Shoal resupply mission. And once again they've jumped the gun a little.  

Last month they were initially off by about 12 days, but this time they may be quite a bit closer to the mark, as China is even now deploying its blockading force from Mischief Reef. This has generally been a pretty solid indicator that something is about to happen.

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So what does it all mean?

1. Beijing clearly believes there is a Second Thomas Shoal resupply mission coming imminently.

2. China once again plans to aggressively blockade the anticipated resupply, as it has other recent missions--especially since August. We should expect the full range of belligerent tactics: swarming, blocking, bow-crossing, water-cannoning and ramming are all once again on the menu.

3. China's leaders are desperate to control the narrative around these events. There have been near-daily messages coming out of Beijing echoing variations on the same tired themes: Second Thomas Shoal belongs to China; Philippine resupply missions are provocative; Manila promised to remove the BRP Sierra Madre; the Philippines is a U.S. puppet with no independent agency; etc.:

Beijing's frantic messaging indicates that Manila's assertive transparency campaign to expose China's aggression in the West Philippine Sea has been taking a toll on its reputation, and it has yet to come up with an effective response. Neither its continuing maritime escalations nor its tin-eared narrative warfare have convinced Manila to back down. Unfortunately, if its messages and actions over the past couple of days are any indication it doesn't seem to have another plan except ... well, "more cowbell".

Strap in--we seem to be headed for more stormy seas in the coming days.

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