Open For Business in Africa: China Launches First Naval Base in Djibouti

China celebrated the 90th birthday of its People’s Liberation Army on August 1 by officially introducing a naval logistics base in Djibouti, between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

The Djibouti naval facility is the first foreign base under Beijing’s command.

Analysts have wondered whether the hub will primarily be used as part of China’s One Belt, One Road project, for pure military expansion or for the purpose promulgated by the Chinese Defense Ministry: supporting “naval escorts in Africa and southwest Asia, UN peacekeeping and… humanitarian support."

Beijing has consistently referred to the base’s installment as “defensive in nature.” 

According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, “the Djibouti base has nothing to do with an arms race or military expansion, and China has no intention of turning the logistics center into a military foothold.”

Chinese sailors stationed at the base may bump elbows with US petty officers from nearby Camp Lemonnier, the sole permanent US military base in Africa. Japan and France also have military bases in Djibouti.

Beijing plans to help ensure maritime security near Somalia and Yemen, according to the Defense Ministry.

Reports have surfaced suggesting the next Chinese navy base will be constructed in Pakistan but President Xi Jinping’s administration has called these suggestions mere speculative rumors.