Ridiculous to hype up China's ambition for maritime hegemony

Source: China Military OnlineEditor: Yao Jianing
2015-11-30 22:52

BEIJING, Nov. 30 (ChinaMil) -- The Chinese Foreign Ministry recently confirmed that China and Djibouti are "consulting with each other on the building of logistical facilities in Djibouti."

Meanwhile, media in western countries including the U.S. have paid close attention to this and called the facilities in Djibouti China's "first overseas military base." They mentioned that China has avoided the phrase "military base" and said the new facilities will help China expand its scope of influence.

Obviously, building logistical facilities in Djibouti will provide direct conveniences for the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy to carry out escort missions along the African coast and fulfill its international duties.

If such facilities constitute overseas military base, Chinese military fans would be very happy, but they really cannot be called so. At least in the early stage, this logistics support station is widely different from a military base.

Countries like the U.S. and France have built military bases in the real sense in Djibouti, which serve as their support station and outpost to implement their military strategy in Africa. With those bases as the center, the U.S. and France have realized military deterrence in Africa to maximize their national interests.

However, the relations between China and all African countries are established on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, and China doesn't need military deterrence to implement its Africa policies.

The escort missions and other operations carried out by the PLA Navy in the Gulf of Aden mainly target regional threats such as pirates, and the PLA Navy has played a critical role in evacuating overseas Chinese from the region due to local turmoil.

Of course the difference between "logistical facilities" and "military base" in terms of form isn't so conspicuous. Their main difference lies in motive.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry both avoided the phrase "military base", which in itself demonstrates China's attitude. The Chinese escort taskforce needs a replenishment station at the Gulf of Aden, and construction to meet that realistic need is a matter of course rather than the prelude to some kind of global strategy.

We've noticed that it is the western media that have hyped up China's "military base" in Djibouti, whereas no government of any North African, Middle Eastern or western countries has demurred.

Days ago, General David M. Rodriguez, commander of U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM), mentioned that China may build a "base in Djibouti" but didn't make any comment. By contrast, the Djibouti government warmly welcomes China to build logistical facilities there and takes the entry of China's engineering and construction capacity as an opportunity for national development.

China's influence in Africa will keep expanding without any doubt, but such influence will mainly come from the growing economic cooperation and political mutual trust between China and Africa.

After the logistical facilities are completed in Djibouti, it will be easier for the PLA Navy to normalize its escort missions along the African coast and give the Chinese businessmen in Africa a stronger sense of security. This is a legitimate logic and a positive factor for Africa's rise, rather than an external military variable to affect Africa's future development.

The western media's interests in China's construction of logistics support station in Djibouti are also understandable as Chinese military fans are even more interested in this matter. The point is we should all be objective without concealment, exaggeration or falsification. The Chinese government needs not pay special attention to the reactions of the U.S. or former colonial countries in Africa.

As a matter of fact, as long as the world welcomes Chinese merchant ships to appear on the coast of major oceans and welcomes Chinese construction teams to carry out engineering cooperation in countries along the Belt and Road, it will gradually understand and welcome the PLA Navy to appear on the major sea routes because it will not only protect the safety of Chinese ships, but also help guarantee the maritime order shared by all countries.

Given the fact that China is the world's largest country in terms of trade volume, the PLA Navy has not played an equally active role in the oceans and has never entered certain areas so far. If we think about the U.S. that has built military bases all over the world, it's really ridiculous to talk about China's "ambition for maritime hegemony", so let's be realistic and focus on more practical topics.

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