Africa and Asia are the largest regional component of China’s $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative to reconfigure the architecture of global commerce and security. Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Maldives, Equatorial Guinea, Greece, Montenegro, Hungary and Bangladesh have already fallen into China’s debt trap.
Djibouti’s government publicly said it was offering ‘Djibouti as homeport to the Chinese navy’, and a draft bilateral security agreement was signed that year, apparently discussing military port facilities for China. When the facility opened in 2017, it was reported by international and even some Chinese media as China’s first overseas naval base, although Beijing officially described it as a logistics facility.
In 2017, in the middle of its three-year ramping up of military assistance and economic investment, China established its first overseas military base in Djibouti, on the coast of the Horn of Africa. Djibouti, situated at the strategic entrance to the Red Sea corridor across from Yemen, also hosts military installations belonging to the United States, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, the U.K., Japan, and Saudi Arabia.
A permanent Chinese military installation in Equatorial Guinea is the culmination of nearly a decade’s investment in Africa – and will not be the last of such bases on the continent’s Atlantic coast.
Since mid-2021, U.S. defense officials have warned that China is considering whether to build a naval base in the Central African nation of Equatorial Guinea. If built, it would be China’s second such facility in Africa and its first in the Atlantic.
The construction of a Chinese naval base in Equatorial Guinea has wider implications for the U.S. Navy than merely a cautionary tale of Beijing’s debt-trap diplomacy. Since 2015, China has been incrementally developing a systematic, pan-African approach to security on the continent.
The pursuit of large-scale commercial infrastructure signals strategic intent and the expansion of China’s military presence across Africa, Southeast Asia and Pacific regions.
Around the time the Solomon Islands decided to switch diplomatic ties to China, Taiwanese officials warned that Beijing was looking to build a military base.
China had established 20 points of military presence in the South China Sea despite telling the U.S. it would not militarise the region. Canberra feared Beijing was on a similar pathway in the Pacific islands, Dutton said in an interview with Sky News.
Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton said that a Chinese military base in the Solomon Islands would prompt Australia to significantly increase its military deployment to the region because the islands are very close to Australia.
China got dual-use military ports in Sri Lanka, Djibouti, Myanmar and Pakistan. China wants a military port in Papua New Guinea.
Australia’s failed attempt to pursue the Solomon Islands not to sign a security pact with China proves that Australia’s defense planners and political leaders are certainly inept in understanding Australia’s security needs and the strategic consequence of the Solomon Islands hosting Chinese Naval base in Australia’s doorstep.
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