With a ceremony on Tuesday, China officially opened its first overseas military base — though it would prefer that you not call it that.
Instead, the base, located on the coast of Djibouti along the strategically significant Gulf of Aden not far from the Suez Canal, is referred to by Chinese state media as a “logistics support base” from which China will project its humanitarian, rather than military, power, helping to supply and coordinate peacekeeping and charitable missions in Africa.
The opening of the base happens to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army which China celebrated over the weekend with a massive military parade on the dusty steppe of Inner Mongolia attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping in uniform. During a speech to the assembled troops, Xi called for the creation of a stronger and more technologically sophisticated PLA to defeat “invading enemies” and safeguard peace.
Whether this naval base ends up helping to safeguard world peace or not, it is certainly another boon for the tiny African nation of Djibouti which has managed to remain relatively free of hostilities compared to neighbors in the region, making it a favorite staging post for foreign powers. Already, the country of fewer than 1 million people hosts US, Japanese and French naval bases.
Recently, China has been making particularly generous investments in the country’s infrastructure including building a $4 billion railway linking it with its landlocked manufacturing powerhouse neighbor, Ethiopia, which launched earlier this year to much fanfare.
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