WASHINGTON - China’s inauguration of its first military base abroad in Djibouti has raised concerns among US intelligence officials that Beijing’s growing military presence around the world could spark a conflict of interests among the two sides, a report says.
“China has the fastest-modernizing military in the world next to the United States,” New York-based Bloomberg News quoted US intelligence officials as saying on condition of anonymity on Friday.
That will establish “new areas of intersection -- and potentially conflicting -- security interests between China and the United States and other countries abroad,” added the officials.
They said China’s base in Djibouti is “probably the first of many” Beijing intends to build across the globe, which could bring its interests into conflict with that of Washington.
China’s first overseas military facility was inaugurated on August 1 after being under construction for more than a year. China’s military presence in Djibouti will continue until 2026, with a contingent of up to 10,000 soldiers. Beijing held military exercises at the facility for the first time last month.
Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, is strategically located in the entrance from the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and lies at the gateway to the busy Suez Canal. It provides a port to neighboring landlocked Ethiopia. The United States, France, Japan, and several other countries already have a military presence in Djibouti.
“Chinese leaders see the US-led world order, most notably the US alliance network and promotion of US values worldwide, as constraining China’s rise and are attempting to reshape the world order to better suit Chinese preferences and growing clout,” the intelligence officials further emphasized.
According to the report, the Djibouti base of the People’s Liberation Army would back up the military’s naval escort, peacekeeping and humanitarian missions across Africa and western Asia as well as military drills and emergency evacuation.
The report further said, as part of China’s expanding military and economic clout, Beijing is hardening its position regarding territorial claims in the South China Sea, Taiwan and in promoting its “One Belt, One Road” trade initiative.
It then cites the intelligence officials as saying that where Chinese interests are in conflict with those of Washington, Beijing is “actively seeking to undermine US influence.”
The report also points to strong opposition to transfer of US technology to China by Stephen Bannon -- ultra-right media figure and recent chief strategist to US President Donald Trump – who described it as “the single biggest economic and business issue of our time” and further insisted that “if we don’t get our situation sorted with China, we’ll be destroyed economically.”
The report also cites US intelligence authorities as suggesting that Beijing is aware of the “threat” such perception poses to its ambitions, adding, “Beijing is trying to downplay concerns that this state-led technology acquisition drive creates an unlevel playing field, forces technology transfer to China, limits foreign companies’ access to the Chinese market, and is a threat to US and other countries’ economic strength.”