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China Signs Contract To Build Its First African Military Base

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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China just signed a 10-year agreement to build its first military base in Africa, continuing a strategy of expansion outside the Asia-Pacific region.

Commander of U.S. Africa Command Army Gen. David Rodriguez confirmed the news that China is set to begin building its first post in Djibouti, a country on the Horn of Africa, which sits strategically at the mouth of the Red Sea, The Hill reports. The base will include a port and an airfield. This moves signals that China is shifting from offshore defense to open seas protection.

China has a major economic presence in the area, so moving beyond agreements to temporarily make use of other bases makes sense. The Economist has calculated that China is Africa’s largest trading partner. Trade between the continent of Africa and China runs as high as $160 billion annually, and Africa is now home to over a million Chinese laborers and merchants, who mainly work in the resource sector, sending raw materials back to China. The amount of trade between Africa and China in 2013 was double the amount of U.S.-Africa trade.

Part of the reason why China has made such quick inroads into Africa is that the Chinese government is uninterested in forcing progressive values on the local governments, unlike the United States. Investments into infrastructure do not require African governments to become more democratic, or to upend traditional gender roles.

Congress has taken note of China’s aggressive economic gains.

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, said that the U.S. needs to pay close attention to China’s movements in Africa. U.S. has to be vigilant in the face of China’s growing ambitions.

“We don’t want to lose out on those opportunities to Chinese companies or the Chinese government, whose interests might not always align with ours,” he said, according to The Hill.

While some level of backlash has emerged, China has moved to quash accusations of new imperialism by pledging to offer more capital to local African companies.

The U.S. also has a strong presence in the region through its military base Camp Lemonnier, which is home to 4,000 U.S. servicemembers. (RELATED: China To Establish Military Base In Djibouti Where US Launches Counterterrorism Ops)

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