China to Establish 1st Overseas Base in Africa

China has set a course for Djibouti and it’s bringing some major toys. The small East African country will be home to Beijing’s first overseas military base. It’ll be joining a heavy metal parking lot of other bases flying the flags of France, Japan and the U.S.

Washington’s base will actually be a neighbor of sorts to its Chinese counterpart occupying the same port city. The Xinhua news agency reports Beijing’s base will “assist China’s contribution to peace and stability both in Africa and worldwide.”

In fact, the People’s Liberation Army will have a lot of work to do. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the base will be supporting anti-piracy efforts in the region, engaging in “humanitarian rescue” missions and contributing to “Djibouti’s economic and social development.”

The addition of the base follows a series of economic and social relations between China and parts of Africa.

NPR’s Gregory Warner notes that “Africa, as a whole, I think has been demanding that China become more of a long-term partner. And China’s been responding to that, showing that it’s not just here to build roads and airports, but it’s building jobs, building security.

“So we see a number of uncharacteristic moves by China in the last few years — first, dispatching a battalion of peacekeepers to a conflict in South Sudan. We see a tremendous investment in media on continent to tell that China story to Africans and more exchange programs for African students and engineers to go to China, something that the West used to offer but has decreased since Sept. 11.”

In addition, China is moving forward with other foreign investments, not the least of which is its proposed modern-day Silk Road or the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. The first link to that belt came in the form of a transcontinental railroad linking China with Europe.

About Andrew Burke 145 Articles
Editor-in-Chief Andrew Burke is a lifelong aficionado of all things Chinese. He studied Mandarin while living in Taiwan for six years and now works as a digitization specialist at the Yenching Library, which specializes in Asian books and documents, at Harvard University where he also studies topics related to China, Chinese, Asia and foreign affairs.