In a report published by The Wall Street Journal on December 6, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is ogling Equatorial Guinea in Central Africa to construct its first permanent military presence on the Atlantic Ocean, according to a report from a classified American intelligence source.
According to the report, the station would be a vast complex capable of rearmament and refitting vessels. It also reported that talks were underway with Tanzania’s government about establishing the country’s first naval base in Africa. China’s leadership has stated that it wants to strengthen diplomatic ties with African countries and extend its military presence in the Horn of Africa.
CHINA’S STRATEGIC REASON
If given consent, China’s military station in Africa would be the PLA’s second in Africa, complementing a $590 million site it oversees in Djibouti. The PLAN has valuable access to the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal from this facility. Every day, these essential rivers carry over 30% of the world’s seaborne petroleum and natural gas.
Beijing has emphasized the relevance of Djibouti’s geographic location in gaining an advantage on global shipping lanes and due to its proximity to important African and Asian countries.
These sea lanes are vital to global energy security and transportation, according to the United States Energy Information Administration. Any maritime threat in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait may divert the world’s tanker traffic from two 2-mile-wide channels around Africa’s tip, generating enormous bottlenecks like the one that occurred in the Suez Canal in March when a 1300ft container ship became jammed in the canal’s waterway.
Beijing’s recent move has raised security concerns for the US navy, which has put Washington on high alert. General Stephen Townsend, the top commander of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), told The Associated Press in an interview that:
“Chinese naval base on Africa’s Atlantic coast concerns me greatly,” indicating that the rumored port would be large enough to accommodate aircraft ships and possibly submarines within its confines.
The Chinese government has also approached a number of other African nations, from Mauritania to Namibia’s south, with the goal of establishing naval bases for vessels in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Its first military post was established in Djibouti, fewer than 10 kilometers from Camp Lemonnier, the largest US military base in Africa. It was also the first facility to house attack helicopters and armored war vehicles in a strategic location.
Townsend speculated that Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh agreed to Beijing’s Djibouti creation in 2017 as a result of “debt-trap diplomacy,” and that the station is now developing into a platform to project power throughout the continent and its waterways in order to increase its military footprint.
China, on the other hand, has not slowed down its expansion plans. The PLAN has been seeking for more “strategic strongpoint” prospects [around Africa] in order to launch anti-piracy operations in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the 18-mile-wide Bab-el-Mandeb or “Gate of Tears,” a strait connecting Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula.
The Doraleh Multipurpose Port in Djibouti, according to the Chinese government, is part of the International Free Trade Zone and was built under the guise of increasing trade. He said:
“Chinese peacekeeping efforts, anti-piracy missions, and maintaining peace and stability in Africa.”
With African defense ministers and military chiefs’ consent, Chinese President Xi Jinping kicked off a week-long China-Africa Peace and Security Forum in November. The purpose of the virtual conference, according to reports, was to foster a conversation about cooperation, peace, and security funding in the Horn of Africa.
During a daily briefing on Nov. 30, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijing’s presence in Africa “features sincere friendship and equality” and “is a win-win for mutual benefit and common development,” in keeping with the Communist Party’s vision of a “community of shared future for mankind.”
Even though China claims that the base will provide logistical and supply support to Chinese ships in the region. Analysts, on the other hand, believe China is attempting to expand its global influence.