Date: Thursday, 02 March 2017
The first Chinese military base abroad is nearing completion, and the new reality is beginning to sink in: The new China is assertive and militarily advanced.
After two years of media pronouncements and public relations campaigns, and after one year of construction, China’s naval base in the East African nation of Djibouti is now a reality: It will begin operations later this year.
China has downplayed the operational scope of the base as a mere “support facility” for its navy’s anti-piracy, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations in the Horn of Africa region. Yet in light of these pronouncements, the words of highly regarded sixth-century Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu come to mind: “[W]hen we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive” (The Art of War).
China has not publicly disclosed how many officers it is stationing at its naval base in Djibouti. Djibouti Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, however, told the Financial Times that the number of Chinese personnel will probably number “a few thousand.”
The base will provide maintenance facilities for ships and helicopters, docks for commercial ships and military vessels, and storage facilities for weapons.
This is “a huge strategic development,” Prof. Peter Dutton of the Naval War College told the New York Times. “China has learned lessons from Britain of 200 years ago. This is what expansionary powers do.”
China chose to build its first-ever foreign base near the strategic Bab el-Mandeb choke point that leads into the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. It is the fourth-busiest maritime choke point in the world, with 3.8 million barrels of oil passing through it every day, some of which ships straight to China.
In The Art of War, Tzu wrote: “[W]hen we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away.” It will be difficult for the Chinese in Djibouti to convince their American rivals that they are “far away,” given that they will be as near as eight miles from Camp Lemonnier, America’s only full-scale military base in Africa.
In our Aug. 17, 2015, article titled “China Dominates America in Djibouti,” we wrote:
America started using Camp Lemonnier in 2001 to help in its fight against terrorism. It uses the base for gathering intelligence on the Islamic State, al Qaeda and their affiliates in both Africa and the Gulf region. Camp Lemonnier is also the United States’ main base of drone operations in the region, and it’s equipped with fighter jets and helicopters.
The Pentagon is worried about the viability of U.S. intelligence-gathering operations now that China plans to move in next door. It fears that China will intercept U.S. intelligence and compromise its operations.
Youssouf told the Financial Times that China had the right to militarily pursue and protect its interests in the Bab el-Mandeb in the same manner that “the Americans have enough technology, enough fighter aircraft, enough drones [here] to control each and every piece of this land, and even beyond.”
The likelihood of increased military espionage from cyber-snooping China will severely undercut American presence and influence in the region. This is part of a trend we have been watching for decades: the declining influence of the Anglo-American world and the surging clout of what the Bible calls the “kings of the east.” China, as our free booklet Russia and China in Prophecy explains, is one of those “kings” that is asserting its growing influence in a new world order and changing world history in dramatic—yet artful—fashion. ▪