In August of this year, China opened its first overseas military logistics base in Djbouti. Chinese presence in on the Horn of Africa will help the People’s Liberation Army Navy secure vital Indian Ocean shipping routes which will form an integral part of China’s One Belt–One Road global trading initiative.
As The Duran reported when the base opened,
“China has joined a small club of nations with legal bases outside of its sovereign territory. Currently the US leads the world in foreign bases, both legal and illegal (such as those in Syria). Russia maintains two legal bases outside of Russian and former Soviet territory, one in Vietnam and one in Syria which is set to expand after Russia signed a 49 year agreement with Damascus to extend and expand a permanent Russian security presence in the country. Russia used to maintain a military base in Cuba although it was closed in 2002. Some speculate that Russia may reopen its Cuban base although no official plans are in the works.
Now, China has opened a facility in the East African state of Djibouti. The location of Djibouti as well as the timing of the base’s opening is highly significant.
First of all Djibouti is already home to bases belonging to China’s historic rival Japan as well as its current self-described adversary, the United States. China’s presence in Djibouti sends a clear message to both Japan and the United States who the youngest and freshest of the powers in Djibouti now is.
Secondly, with the United States already sowing conflicts in crucial spots along China’s One Belt–One Road trade and commerce superhighways, it has become crucial for China to develop a military presence in a place that is already a possibly destabilising hotspot along the One Belt–One Road.
Djibouti sits opposite Yemen on the African side of the Bab-el-Mandeb, the strait which separates the Gulf of Aden from the Red Sea and by extrapolation, the Suez Canal…
…Now that China has a naval base on the other side of the Bab-el-Mandeb, the Saudi naval blockade of Yemen is up against one of the most powerful navies in the world. Should things come to blows over Chinese and allied shipping to the Suez Canal, it goes without saying that such a fight would be over before it begun. Saudi Arabia has the least disciplined and most poorly trained armed forces of any wealthy nation in the world while China, a nuclear super-power has famously disciplined troops.
Finally, the timing of the opening of the Chinese base coincides with celebrations of the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army. Chinese President Xi Jinping used the ceremonies in Beijing to send a clear message to the wider world.
At the ceremony, President Xi stated
‘The Chinese people love peace. We will never seek aggression or expansion, but we have the confidence to defeat all invasions.
We will never allow any people, organisation or political party to split any part of Chinese territory out of the country at any time, in any form. No one should expect us to swallow the bitter fruit that is harmful to our sovereignty, security or development interests’.
The message of Chinese strength, modernity and perseverance in the face of threats was a clear warning to any would be rivals as well as a sign of reassurance not only to a domestic audience but to China’s regional and global partners, including and especially Russia and Pakistan”.
This week saw People’s Liberation Army units conduct their first live-fire military drills at the base. The drills aimed to ensure readiness against piracy which in recent decades has plagued the Horn of Africa due to political instability in Somalia.
Today, China announced plans to built an ultra modern navy pier on the India ocean.
According to a Chinese source which spoke to the South China Morning Post, as cited by Sputnik,
“The Chinese navy needs a large-scale pier to offer logistical support for its flotillas conducting anti-piracy operations in Somali waters.
The scale of the wharf should allow for the docking of a four-ship flotilla at least, including China’s new-generation Type 901 supply ship with a displacement of more than 40,000 tonnes”.
The new base will also help China to facilitate security and peace keeping missions in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabia Sea and the African shores of the Indian Ocean.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.