Communist China is covertly intensifying its military footprint across Africa, reports Voice of America (VOA), echoing recent comments from the top U.S. commander on the continent.
“[Chinese leader] Xi Jinping is carving out an increasingly assertive role for China on the world stage,” Peter Fabricius, a freelance journalist and a consultant at the Institute for Security Studies, an Africa-focused research group, told VOA.
The news outlet notes:
China’s security footprint in Africa has been expanding quietly alongside its deepening economic interests across the continent. Experts disagree about whether China might, in the future, protect its interests through force. But they see its presence in Africa as a testing ground for a new kind of multilayered engagement around the world.
Historically, China exerted its security presence in Africa through contributions to United Nations peacekeeping missions, Fabricius said. However, it has long used its U.N. involvement to protect its interests, he added.
VOA’s report came soon after Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the top U.S. commander in Africa, told lawmakers that the United States is “carefully monitoring Chinese encroachment and emergent military presence” in Djibouti, home to Beijing’s first overseas naval base.
Djibouti’s strategic location in the Horn of Africa with access to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden have prompted various countries, including the United States, to establish military facilities there.
The African country houses the most massive American permanent military installation in Africa—Camp Lemonnier.
VOA notes that China’s ambitious One Belt One Road (OBOR) project, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) may require Beijing to use direct military force to protect the investments in Africa.
While China has been known to protect its economic interests in Africa, it has recently taken direct military action in the continent.
“Its navy has monitored and captured Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean, and last year China opened its first overseas logistics and military base, a naval resupply facility in Djibouti,” acknowledges VOA.
China has “developed and fielded capability and capacity to challenge” America’s naval power in some parts of the world, Adm. Harry Harris, the chief of U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), recently cautioned lawmakers.