We have touched this topic in previous lessons.
China was leading negotiations with the small state of Djibouti at the Horn of Africa, about building a Chinese military base there. The base officially opened in 2017. There is an American Navy Regiment in Camp Lemonnier in the small country that is no larger than 200 km x 150 km (124 miles x 93 miles). Djibouti is also where the Americans base the bulk of their armed drones, UCAVs that operate over the alQaida-infested Yemen, or they used to at least. Camp Lemonnier is a center for about 6 drone and surveillance bases that extend straight from west to east and symbolically splits northern Africa from southern Africa. Due to its strategic location, Camp Lemonnier serves as a hub for aircraft carriers and aviation operations in the Gulf region. There are about 4,000 American soldiers in Djibouti. Djibouti serves as a base for a number of foreign powers, e.g. for the French fleet and the Foreign Legion. In 2015 Japan built, their first foreign military base since wwii, in Djibouti.
Chinese bases in Gwadar and Djibouti creates an opportunity for China to gain military influence over the oil commerce in the Persian Gulf. and thus an economic influence over the US and Europe. It’s an effective and fearful way, a potential game changer. I mean, the Chinese don’t even have to pass through the Red Sea with their merchant ships to reach their homeland from the Persian Gulf or from African trading partners.
China’s President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan in April 2015. Several formal visits between China and Pakistan have taken place in recent years. During his visit, it was expected that Xi Jinping was to announce extensive Chinese strategic infrastructure investments in Pakistan. The planned Chinese investment in Pakistan is expected to reach 46 billion dollars. The main purpose of the investments was to create what is known as the Chinese-Pakistani economic corridor. It will become a network of roads, railways and oil pipelines between the two countries. The corridor stretch about 483 km (300 miles), from western China into Pakistan.
Today, most of China’s trade and oil imports run through the Malacca Strait, and Beijing fears that, in the event of a conflict, the US fleet can easily carry out a blockade at the “chokepoints” of the Malacca Strait, the Sunda Strait and the Lombok Strait, thereby giving a hard blow to China’s economy. One could accomplish this remote blockade with 16 smaller military vessels, plus support and rotations, someone has figured out. In reality, a remote blockade requires relatively extensive efforts to search ships and take care of the seized vessels, etc. But practices and regulations are well established by the Royal Navy in the past.
The investments in Pakistan are a key part of an overall Chinese strategy to increase China’s influence around Asia. The United States, and perhaps especially India, regards the Chinese investments with great skepticism. The planned Chinese investment in Pakistan is significantly higher than the US investment in the country. Closer links between China and Pakistan are also not welcomed by the strategic antagonist India. But in Pakistan, they speak very positive about it. The poor country is in great need of investments for its deficient infrastructure. The Government in Islamabad is hoping that the Chinese projects can help turn Pakistan into a regional economic center. The port city of Gwadar is located near the Strait of Hormuz between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. But not as near as the two American air bases in Bahrain and Qatar in the Persian Gulf lies to the Strait of Hormuz. Two US airbases are even located right next to the Strait of Hormuz in the UAE.
In Burma east of India, the Chinese operate the Kyaukpyu port. According to the IDSA – Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis, the Chinese are building a 982 km (610 miles) long oil pipeline from the port to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province in southern China. A motorway will be built along this pipeline to connect the port with China and railways will be linked together. The pipeline shortens the distance by 1,200 km (745 miles) bypassing the normal vessel route through the Malacca Strait, for at least part of China’s oil demand.
Bangladesh in the depths of the Bengali Gulf at east India, and China signed several co-operation agreements and economic agreements, in March and June 2010, including the construction of a nuclear reactor to meet the energy challenges. China also sells modern military equipment to Bangladesh, instead of the second-hand weapons and the outdated technology that the western powers provided them.
On the large island of Sri Lanka off India’s southeast coast, in July 2011, the first part of the Hambantota port was built by the Chinese company Harbor Engineering Company with a Chinese 425 million dollar loan, according to PortCall’s Asia. Hambantota is just one of four ports built or upgraded. China played a major role both militarily as it provided the Sri Lankan government forces with military equipment that became crucial to defeat the Tamil Tigers’ uprising on the island. And China also played a major role politically as they supported international organizations to counter persistent allegations of government’s human rights violations. The small state of Sri Lanka sides with Pakistan.
The dispute between India and Pakistan has prompted Pakistanis to support the Chinese in order to in return gain military support from China. A strengthened Pakistan can force India to take a defensive stance in the event of a war with China over territorial claims, because if Pakistan is allied with China, India will be in a difficult seat with two enemies and thousands of miles of militarized border. According to an article in Reuters electronic edition in January 2012, China was an important supplier of technology and equipment to Pakistan. In the 1980s and 1990s, China provided Pakistan with knowledge so that Pakistan could develop nuclear weapons, and the Chinese also provided the Pakistanis with short-range ballistic missiles in 1992. The Chinese also built a facility to produce this type of weapon near the town of Rawalpindi. In 2004, the Chinese helped Pakistan build two nuclear reactors in the Punjab province, and more recently, China has planned to build two more reactors at the same construction site.
Neither the Indian nor the Pakistani side have attempted to resolve the issue politically. Instead, India has in April 2012 developed and launched its first long-range ballistic nuclear weaponry that can reach targets at a distance of 5,000 km including targets anywhere in Chinese territory. This makes India a member of a very selective club of countries which owns intercontinental ballistic missiles, along with the US, Russia, China, UK and France.
China builds or invests in, from East to West, the port of Tanjung Priok in Jakarta Indonesia, and Port Klang, Penang and Tanjung Pelepas in the Malacca Strait in Malaysia. These are at present date not military Naval ports.
The Chinese have also built a military runway on a Kambodian island and they have invested in a Kambodian Naval base in the Gulf of Thailand.
Sources; Raimundo Oliveira, Social and Political Scientist, and SR; Ekot on April 20, 2015. Modified by the author.
Why do you think China would need a Naval base in Djibouti for? Please explain your thoughts.
Roger M. Klang, defense political Spokesman for the Christian Values Party (Kristna Värdepartiet) in Sweden