China has dispatched its People’s Liberation Army’s troops to Djibouti in Africa to operationalize its first overseas naval base. A step seen as boosting its military influence and complement its growing arms sales in the region.
The defense ministry said on its website that a ceremony was held at a naval pier in the southern Chinese port of Zhanjiang presided over by navy commander Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong, ABC news reported on Wednesday.
It said the personnel would travel by navy ship but gave no details on numbers or units. Photos on the website showed naval officers and marines in battle dress lining the rails of the support ships Jingangshan and Donghaidao.
China says the logistics center will support anti-piracy, UN peacekeeping and humanitarian relief missions in Africa and western Asia. It says it will also facilitate military cooperation and joint exercises as the PLA navy and other services seek to expand their global reach in step with China's growing economic and political footprint.
China is making inroads into the African defense market by setting up a military base and exporting military equipment to almost two thirds of African countries.
Countries including Algeria, Angola, Cape Verde, Nigeria, Chad, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Uganda, Ghana and Zambia have bought military equipment from China in the recent past.
China will soon take control of a dual-use port facility in Djibouti, Newslaundry reported last September. The port facility will serve both military and civilian functions. The naval installation will serve China’s interests in the Western region of Indian Ocean and can be used as a platform for operations in Middle East and Africa.
Japan also planned to increase its foothold in Africa after China set up a military base. Last year, Japan also pledged to increase its support to infrastructure, education and healthcare projects in Africa, committing an extra $30 billion in public and private support. It was eyeing to lease additional land by next year to expand its military base in Djibouti to counter Chinese influence in the region.
"In addition to the land Japan has borrowed, it is considering leasing the neighboring land to its east," A Japanese Defence Ministry spokesman had said in October 2016.
According to a report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released in February last year, Chinese exports of major arms increased by 88 per cent between 2006–10 and 2011–15, and China’s share of global arms exports rose from 3.6 to 5.9 per cent.
Between 2006–10 and 2011–15 imports by states in Africa increased by 19 per cent. The three largest importers in Africa in 2011–15 were Algeria (30 per cent of imports), Morocco (26 per cent) and Uganda (6.2 per cent). China accounted for 13 per cent of the total imports by African countries.
Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has set up International Aero Development Corporation (IADC) in 2015 as part of their expansion plan in Africa.
The company has been involved in the development and export of several People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) platforms, including the FC-20, the export version of the Chengdu J-10, and the FC-1 Xiaolong, the export version of the JF-17 Thunder.
IADC was set up to promote exports of AVIC’s civilian aircraft.
Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ethiopia, Namibia, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, Mauritania, and Djibouti operate AVIC planes. This includes dual-use trainer aircraft, including the Hongdu L-15 and the joint Chinese/Pakistani K-8 Karakorum.
Zambia unveiled two its new L-15 Falcon fighter/trainer aircraft bought from China at the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exposition last week in their first public debut. Zambia reportedly ordered six L-15s in early 2014 at a cost of around $100 million.
Since 2011, China has also sold the Wing Loong I UCAV to several countries in Africa and the Middle East, including Nigeria, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.
In 2011–15 China supplied 5 UCAVs to Nigeria and 4 to Iraq. The Nigerian army is reportedly using Chinese drones in its fight against Boko Haram.
Chinese Poly Technologies has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with South African Denel last September to join forces in South African maritime rejuvenation. Poly Technologies is likely to make an investment in the recapitalization of the Simons Town dockyard as part of its management takeover by Denel Integrated Systems and Maritime (Denel ISM). Poly Technologies is involved in almost every defence sector including dockyard construction, ship building, tank and armoured vehicle manufacturing, and fighter aircraft production.