Wednesday, July 12, 2017

China opens its first overseas base in Djibouti.

Chinese sailors visited Djibouti in 2015. BBC/China News Service.

China is sending troops and supplies to staff their first overseas base in Djibouti. BBC. China says the base will be used to assist in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions in Africa and to support naval missions including keeping the sea lanes open and rescue missions. China has greatly increased its investment in Africa so the move isn't seen as a surprise. The base is widely seen by outsiders as a move to increase Chinese military presence in the area. The Chinese for their part have noted that many other nations, including Japan, France and the United States have bases in Djibouti as well. 

My Comment:
The soft colonialism of China in Africa continues. China has invested billions of dollars into Africa in order to build up their logistics and infrastructure in the continent. By doing so they will make it easier for them to extract Africa's resources that they need to prop up their economy. 

In the past, similar actions by Western governments have been condemned as racist. China's actions however have largely been ignored. Part of it is how much of a light touch China is using. They aren't really interfering with African governments, other than probably bribing them, and they aren't oppressing the African people. 

Indeed, this situation seems like a win win for both China and Africa. The Chinese get military bases and all the raw materials that they need while the Africans get the logistics and infrastructure that they haven't been able to build and maintain themselves for free at the small cost of having to sell their products to China. 

It's win win for them but a loss for everyone else. The great fear is that if the West doesn't increase their investment in Africa, China might take over and cut us off from the most resource rich continent on Earth. 

Still, it would be a mistake to assume that this new base is just about Chinese soft colonialism in Africa. There is an obvious military aspect to the Djibouti base as well. Though Djibouti is a small otherwise unimportant nation, it does sit in a critical strategic area. It sits on the southern gateway of the Red Sea and provides access to the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean and is a critical pathway for trade and commerce. 

There are obvious military operations that China probably wants to participate in Africa. The first and most obvious is protecting the sea lanes against pirates. Though piracy from Somalia has been greatly reduced, the threat still exists and China wants to ensure that none of their ships are taken by pirates. They also want to participate in peacekeeping missions that give good press for China and provide training for their troops. 

I think that there are other major reasons for China to have a base in Djibouti. They have wanted a blue water navy for a long time and one of the requirements for that is overseas bases. A base in Djibouti greatly extends the range of China's Navy. Doing so makes them a much more credible threat. 

It also helps China isolate and surround India. China and India have a very strained relationship over territorial disputes and there is a real fear that someday the two nuclear powers might go to war. To make that war more winnable for China, the country has gone to great lengths to surround India with allies and bases and Djibouti is just the latest one...  

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