China’s foreign military bases and their implications – UPSC GS2

  • Beijing opened its first foreign military base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa in 2017. It is said to be building its second foreign military base at Ream, Cambodia.
  • Through acquiring foreign military bases, China is trying to assert its primacy in Asia and the Indo-Pacific region while pushing out the US and India.
China’s potential Foreign military bases:
  • In Bay of Bengal: Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka are candidates from the Bay of Bengal
  • To the West of India: Namibia, Seychelles, Tanzania, and the UAE.
  • Pakistan is likely to emerge as the most important vehicle for Chinese naval power projection in the Indian Ocean, with significant implications for India’s military planning.
Why China is building foreign bases?
  • In the past, Communist China claimed that it had no interest in projecting power to distant seas or foreign military bases. China also actively campaigned against the foreign military presence in Asia. As a defensive power in the second half of the 20th century, China’s priority was to fight off external threats to its sovereignty and consolidate its communist revolution.
  • This policy changed as China rose rapidly to become a great power in the 21st century.
  • Due to its vast globalized economy and growing reliance on foreign markets and resources, a need was felt within the Chinese security establishment to secure its regional and global interests.
  • In the 1970s, China valued the US role in containing Soviet social-imperialism and latent Japanese militarism. Today, China wants to establish primacy in Asia and its waters by expanding its military reach and is trying to push America out of Asia once again.
  • Hence, China started establishing foreign bases.
What are the features of the Chinese strategy of establishing foreign military bases?
  • Dual-use facilities: China’s focus was on building dual-use facilities rather than explicit military bases on foreign soil.
  • Construction of ports & BRI: China’s dual-use approach benefited immensely from its expansive foreign port construction and the more recent Belt and Road Initiative to build infrastructure across the Indo-Pacific.
  • Cultivating special relationships with the political elites, as well as strengthening ties with the military establishments in a potential host country.
  • Arms transfer, and military diplomacy, are also an integral part of China’s pursuit of foreign bases.

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