China is acquiring foreign military bases
1st Dec, 2021
Report of China’s growing interest in acquiring foreign military bases has been in spotlight now as the United States is prevailing on the United Arab Emirates to stop China from secretly constructing a military facility at an Abu Dhabi port should not come as a surprise.
- For much of China’s historypost the establishment of CCP rule in 1949, its leaders eschewed the establishment of military bases on foreign soil.
- Even in the boom years of Chinese growth in the 1990s and 2000s, China’s military and political elite pursued defence modernisation while making clear that “military expansion” in the form of foreign bases was off the table.
What are the reasons behind China’s shift?
Increasing economic influence
- China’s main asset is its economic levers of influence, and Chinese actors are proactive in wielding these.
- Thus, China is helping to construct mega infrastructure projects in every country in the region.
Stabilizing oil dependency
- China’s breakneck economic growth necessitated the consumption of large quantities of fuel.
- While China was largely able to meet its energy needs through domestic supplies in the early years of its economic boom, it became an energy importer after 1993.
- Since then, China has become the world’s largest importer of crude oil and meets around 67 per cent of its oil imports from abroad.
- To policymakers in Beijing, US domination of strategically vital sea lanes in the Middle East, especially near the Straits of Hormuz through which much of China’s oil imports travel, represents a strategically dangerous dependence for China that is only likely to get worse over time.
Expanded economic and human capital investment
- China’s expanded economic and human capital investments in often unstable regions of the world require an enhanced military presence.
- China discovered this to its cost in 2011 when it had to scramble to evacuate its citizens from war-torn Libya.
- That it was able to do so was largely thanks to the effort of non-military vessels that assisted in the evacuation effort.
How would it impact?
- China’s fast-expanding military presence is designed to fortify substantial political and economic influence.
- This phenomenon, fast on the rise, is already undermining the US presence and greatly influencing political institutions and strategy across a wide array of US-allied African nations
Beijing’s investments in infrastructure would provide China a foothold in important areas of the world. Also, such deployment could be a game changer as it will cement Chinese influence into regional structures to the extent that it will be almost impossible to stop or remove. While Chinese engagement looks largely economic, it could turn political quickly. Thus, an effective cooperation among countries is required.