String of Pearls / Overseas Military Bases
The ‘belt and road initiative’ is a strategy for setting up a string of regimes in states surrounding India and headed by strongmen financially beholden to China.
The PLA’s responsibilities today have gone beyond the scale of guarding the Chinese territories. The PLA must protect China's interests anywhere in the world. Overseas military bases will provide cutting-edge support for China to guard its growing overseas interests.
As China's first overseas military base, the Djibouti base has more important meanings. A Navy commander said that Djibouti will provide China with experience of building overseas military bases. After all, China has not had any such bases before. Djibouti is just the first step.
Reporter with Phoenix Satellite TV asked questions to Wang Yi on the Djibouti base and expanding of China’s overseas interests at the press conference of the fourth session of China's 12th National People’s Congress.
Wang Yi replied, "You mentioned China’s growing overseas interests. I think it is the key to understanding the matter. Like any major country that is growing, China’s overseas interests are expanding. At present, there are 30,000 Chinese enterprises all over the world and several million Chinese are working and living in all corners of the world. Last year, China’s non-financial outbound direct investment reached 118 billion U.S. dollars and the stock of China’s overseas assets reached several trillion U.S. dollars. So it has become a pressing task for China’s diplomacy to better protect our ever-growing overseas interests."
In an editorial published 21 April 2017 marking the anniversary of China's navy, the official military outlet PLA Daily suggested that the nation needed six aircraft carriers, an enlarged marine corps and ten naval bases in friendly foreign nations. "In the long run, China needs to develop its own aircraft carrier battle teams, with at least six aircraft carriers, maritime forces led by guided missile destroyers, as well as attack submarines," said Xu Guangyu, a senior advisor to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association. "China will build about ten more bases for the [carriers] . . . Hopefully, China could have bases in every continent, but that depends on countries which would like to cooperate with China."
Xu Guangyu, a senior advisor to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association wrote "China will build about ten more bases for the [carriers] . . . Hopefully, China could have bases in every continent, but that depends on countries which would like to cooperate with China." China is already building its first-ever overseas military base, a "support facility" in Djibouti, and it is also funding the construction of new seaports at Gwadar, Pakistan and Hambantota, Sri Lanka.
The 06 June 2017 annual report to Congress on Chinese military power said "China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan".
It is reasonable and necessary for China to strengthen its maritime power as it is becoming stronger, Chinese experts said after People's Daily published three articles on a whole page on 11 February 2018 to emphasize the importance of building China into a strong maritime country. "Building China as a maritime power fits China's development, the global trend and is the necessary choice for realizing the Chinese Dream of the national rejuvenation," read one article published on People's Daily under the topic "It's about time to build a strong maritime country."
The three articles reviewed China's maritime development since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2012, including promoting marine ecological protection, safeguarding integrity and the national interests as well as launching cooperation on disputed issues. The authors of the three articles included Liu Jixian, former head of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Science in Beijing.
With development of the Belt and Road initiative, massive personnel, resources and property are expanding to other countries and some countries are facing problems like war and terrorism, Liu wrote. Thus it was urgent that China strengthen its maritime power to protect overseas interests, he noted. "Building a powerful maritime strength is the strategic mainstay of China's development," he said.
"These articles sent a clear message that China will invest more efforts in strengthening its ability to safeguard sea routes and overseas interests," Xu Guangyu, a retired major general and senior adviser to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times. "More overseas logistic bases will be built in the future to assist the PLA Navy to conduct operations globally."
"There is no need to hide the ambition of the PLA Navy: to gain an ability like the US Navy so that it can conduct different operations globally," Xu said. "The US is a global power with massive overseas interests. Considering that China has already become a global economic power, it is entirely reasonable for China to boost its maritime power." The Djibouti base "won't be the last," he said. "More overseas bases will be built on different continents for sure, but they are not military bases and not based on a military alliance with other countries. Instead, they are based on partnership and not targeting any other country," Xu said.
China's maritime ambition is not the same as Western countries when they built their sea hegemony in the past, said Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China in Beijing.
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