With more such projects in the pipeline at least in Asia, China has opened its first ever over sees military base on October 31 in African country of Djibouti. 

Speaking to China’s Djibouti-based forces during a visit to a joint battle command center in Beijing, Chinese President Xi “got a good understanding” of the base’s operations and the lives of the soldiers there, China’s Defense Ministry said late Friday.

Xinhua said in its short report that the ships had departed from Zhanjiang in southern China "to set up a support base in Djibouti." Navy commander Shen Jinlong "read an order on constructing the base in Djibouti." It did not say when the base might formally begin operations.

Ships carrying Chinese military personnel for Beijing's first overseas military base, in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, have left China to begin setting up the facility, the state news agency Xinhua reported.  Troops serving at China’s first overseas military base, in the Horn of Africa country of Djibouti, should help promote peace and stability, President Xi Jinping told them in a video chat, encouraging them to promote a good image.

China began construction of the base in Djibouti last year. It will be used to resupply navy ships taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia, in particular. Xi “encouraged them to establish a good image for China’s military and promote international and regional peace and stability”, the ministry said.

This will be China's first overseas naval base, although Beijing officially terms it a logistics facility.  China began construction of a logistics base in strategically located Djibouti last year that will resupply naval vessels taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia, in particular.

$180 billion spent

After months of anticipation since announcing plans for its first foreign base, China opened what it calls a logistical facility on August 1. The base will be used mainly to resupply ships moving through the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea, and support humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts in East Africa, China has said. Satellite photos, however, have led to speculation about a large underground area where unseen equipment may be stored, and the facility could shift the balance of power in the region.

Xinhua said the establishment of the base was a decision made by both countries after "friendly negotiations, and accords with the common interest of the people from both sides."

The base will ensure China's performance of missions, such as escorting, peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and west Asia. The base will also be conducive to overseas tasks including military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese, and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic seaways.

China spent $180 billion on its People's Liberation Army last year, according to the Pentagon report, though the report concedes “it is difficult to estimate actual military expenses, largely due to China's poor accounting transparency.”

China's official defense budget puts its expenditures at about $140 billion, but that budget fails to include major defense expenditures related to research and procurement of foreign equipment. The official Chinese defense budget has nearly doubled since 2007, from roughly $75 billion to $140 billion in 2016.

The base is part of China's plan to expand its Belt and Road Initiative, a $1 trillion plan to link China with 68 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe through trade deals and infrastructure projects. The initiative was first announced in 2013 and includes a Chinese presence around the east coast of Africa.

Economic power

Chinese President Xi Jinping is overseeing an ambitious military modernization program, including developing capabilities for China’s forces to operate far from home.  During his visit to the command center, Xi also instructed the armed forces to improve their combat capability and readiness for war, the ministry said. Xi said progress in joint operation command systems, especially in efficiency at the regional level, was needed and troops must conduct training under combat conditions.

Djibouti, which is about the size of Wales, is at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal.  The tiny, barren nation sandwiched between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia also hosts USA, Japanese and French bases.

Products that China wants to ship are based in the region, so it makes sense to expand the infrastructure to transport them. But the Djibouti facility is also a sign of China diversifying its engagement and avoiding restrictions on its presence. This might be the start of some more military, security-related bases

Currently, China mainly imports minerals and oil from Africa, but its long-term plan is to build factories on the continent and move some of its manufacturing there to take advantage of the cheaper labor and geographic position.

Pakistan singled out

There has been persistent speculation in diplomatic circles that China would build other such bases, in Pakistan for example, but the government has dismissed this. Myanmar and Sri Lanka are other nations China would be considering for similar military bases.

The report singles out Pakistan as one of those allies potentially willing to host Chinese troops and says China already has begun construction on a military base in the small east African country Djibouti, which lies along the Gulf of Aden. The Pentagon believes construction will be completed within the next year. “This initiative, along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China's growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces,” the report reads.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying blasted the report, saying it disregarded facts and made “irresponsible remarks.” Speaking with reporters, Hua refused to comment on the potential future overseas bases, but said China is a force for safeguarding peace in Asia and "friendly cooperation between China and Pakistan does not target any third party.” “We hope the USA side will put aside the Cold War mentality, view China's military development in an objective and rational manner, and take concrete actions to maintain steady growth of the military relationship between the two countries,” she said.

Djibouti is located at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal. The tiny, barren nation sandwiched amid Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia also hosts USA, Japanese and French bases.

China's new military and logistical base in Djibouti has put other foreign powers on edge, but observers believe China's strategy in the region is more about economic growth than military might.

Djibouti’s position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fueled worry in India that it would become another of China’s “string of pearls” military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Regional concern

China's ambitions have fueled concern in India, which has watched its neighbor's presence grow in the Indian Ocean. In a strategy known as the "string of pearls," China already has military and commercial links with Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.  India has always viewed the Indian Ocean region as its domain, and as China increasingly has more economic interest and a large military presence in the region, India seeking to play a larger global role is going to have deeper and deeper concerns about its presence.

The base in Djibouti is like a game changer in terms of the security environment, and India is worried about it. The speed with which China is executing its strategy in the region caught India off guard and may prompt countermeasures.

For China, the Djibouti base represents a shift to a more dual role in its global expansion — one that focuses on economics as well as military and logistics support. "We're going to see more of these types of facilities in other places," said the Asia Society Policy Institute. "Some of these aren't going to look like bases. They're going to look like dual use, civilian sort of access facilities, where also you can get access for military vessels as well."

China's expansion has also garnered the attention of the U.S., which has its own base, Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti. France and Japan also have military bases in Djibouti. The United States will be concerned about the possibility of espionage, including electronic espionage, but will likely also be very closely observing the Chinese.

US remarks

China likely will try to expand its military presence across the world with military bases in Pakistan, Djibouti and elsewhere, as it sees its role in global affairs growing, according to a report released by the Pentagon.

The annual Pentagon report on Chinese military developments says China already is expanding its presence in foreign ports as a way to "pre-position the necessary logistics support" to sustain far away from the Chinese homeland.  “China's expanding international economic interests are increasing demands for the Chinese Navy to operate in more distant maritime environments to protect Chinese citizens, investments, and critical sea lines of communication,” the report reads.

The Pentagon believes China most likely will try to set up additional military bases in countries where it has “longstanding friendly relationships and similar strategic interests.”

The report singles out Pakistan as one of those allies potentially willing to host Chinese troops and says China already has begun construction on a military base in the small east African country Djibouti, which lies along the Gulf of Aden. The Pentagon believes construction will be completed within the next year. “This initiative, along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China's growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces,” the report reads.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying blasted the report Wednesday, saying it disregarded facts and made “irresponsible remarks.” Speaking with reporters, Hua refused to comment on the potential future overseas bases, but said China is a force for safeguarding peace in Asia and "friendly cooperation [between China and Pakistan] does not target any third party.” “We hope the U.S. side will put aside the Cold War mentality, view China's military development in an objective and rational manner, and take concrete actions to maintain steady growth of the military relationship between the two countries,” she said.

Playing the game of Asia pivot to contain China as well as Russia, America is increasingly concerned about the Chinese expansionism in Asia. It can easily understand the rules of expansionism as it guides Israel in its expansionist agenda in West Asia, especially in Palestine.

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Prolific writer, Independent Analyst; Columnist contributing articles to many  newspapers and journals on world politics; Expert on Mideast affairs, Chronicler of foreign occupations & freedom movements (Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.)  Chancellor-Founder of Center for International Affairs (CIA); Commentator on world affairs & sport fixings, Former university teacher; Author of eBooks/books

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