Chinese military presence expands abroad with new support base in Djibouti

China 24

As China’s military looks to reform domestically, it’s expanding its presence abroad.

Earlier this year, China announced it was establishing its first overseas military support base.

It will be set up in the country of Djibouti, located in the Horn of Africa in the country’s east. 

CGTN’s Frances Kuo has more on what’s driving this move.

Chinese troops are on their way to Djibouti. Earlier this month, they boarded ships that left China’s Guangdong Province, embarking on a new path for China’s military abroad.

“The establishment of the base will help Chinese vessels’ escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and Somalia, and international obligations such as humanitarian rescue missions,” Geng Shuang, spokesman with the Chinese Foreign Ministry said “It also stimulates the social and economic development of Djibouti.”

The goal of the base is to help in humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts in Africa and West Asia. It will also be able to engage in rescue missions and naval exercises. 

Beijing emphasizes this will be a support facility, to help establish security in the region. “It helps China to continue to make even greater contributions to the peace and stability of Africa and the rest of the world,” said Geng Shuang.

This new base in Djibouti could house as many as 10,000 troops. Their new home of Djibouti sits in a relatively stable country, between two unstable ones – Somalia and Eritrea.

China is one of the largest suppliers of U.N. peacekeeping troops in Africa.  In a significant move in 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced to the U.N. General Assembly that China would set up a permanent U.N. peacekeeping force of 8,000 troops and contribute $100 million to the African Union.

“Africa has the biggest peacekeeping needs,” President Xi said.  “In the long run, the international community and the U.N. should support African countries in increasing their own capacity in keeping peace and stability so that African issues can be addressed in an African way.”

For years, Chinese troops have also contributed to anti-piracy efforts off  of Somalia’s coast and sent military medical teams to African nations during the Ebola virus crisis.

The military could find itself busy as soon as it arrives.

China has recently offered to mediate in the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea and could send troops if requested.

Hank Cohen discusses China’s military presence abroad, particularly in Africa

CGTN’s Mike Walter spoke to Hank Cohen, former assistant secretary of State for African Affairs, about China’s military presence in Africa and elsewhere.