China’s state-run People’s Daily published a defense of expansive maritime military plans on Sunday grounded in the need to protect the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) program, which uses infrastructure to grant Beijing a foothold in nearly every region of the world.
The Global Times, an English-language Chinese government newspaper, cites an article by Liu Jixian, former head of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Science in Beijing, in the People’s Daily this weekend unavailable on that newspaper’s English-language site promoting exponential Chinese military expansion.
“It is reasonable and necessary for China to strengthen its maritime power as it is becoming stronger,” Liu and other “experts” reportedly argued, according to government-controlled media.
“With the development of the Belt and Road initiative, massive personnel, resources and property are expanding to other countries and some countries are facing problems like war and terrorism,” Liu reportedly argued, suggesting that China has no choice but to protect its assets in volatile regions.
Asia Times reports that the official Communist Party newspaper printed a two-page spread with the article in its Sunday edition titled “Time Is Ripe for a Maritime Great Power.” The piece uses the OBOR initiative as the crux of the argument for Chinese military colonialism – —wherever China invests in an infrastructure or port project, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) should have a right to protect those assets.
“Building China as a maritime power fits China’s development, the global trend and is the necessary choice for realizing the Chinese Dream of the national rejuvenation,” the People’s Daily argued, according to the limited Global Timestranslation. The Times then goes on to quote former PLA official Xu Guangyu as confirming that China will build multiple overseas bases around the world.
“There is no need to hide the ambition of the PLA Navy: to gain an ability like the U.S. Navy so that it can conduct different operations globally,” Xu told the state newspaper. “The U.S. is a global power with massive overseas interests. Considering that China has already become a global economic power, it is entirely reasonable for China to boost its maritime power.”
China currently possesses only one overseas base in the eastern African country Djibouti. Djibouti lies a short maritime distance from Yemen, providing China access to the most volatile part of the Middle East. It also grants the Chinese military access to the African continent, where Beijing has invested millions in infrastructure programs the U.S. government has described as “predatory.” China grants millions in loans to African countries that cannot afford it, guaranteeing their dependence on Beijing in the long term. In the short term, China promises local jobs and development which, once completed, then return to Chinese control.
In July 2017, when China announced the Djibouti base, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang insisted that the base “is mainly aimed to enable China to better perform its escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters as well as humanitarian relief and to make greater contributions to the peace and stability of Africa and beyond.”
The Djibouti base does little to help China reach pivotal centers in the OBOR program, however. OBOR, consisting of the Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road, spans on land from Beijing to western Europe and via ocean from the South China Sea to Africa. China has developed hundreds of plans for ports, roads, and other transportation necessities across the Eurasian map, with the stated intention of recreating the ancient silk road. On the high seas, China has expanded its reach in the South China Sea by illegally colonizing territory belonging to the Philippines and Vietnam, placing military assets perilously near one of the most lucrative trade routes in the world.
The land road between Beijing and western Europe is fraught with war and poverty, however, beginning with the situation on China’s border with Afghanistan. The Taliban and other jihadist groups on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border are a threat to China’s plans, and so China has hinted at the possibility of establishing its second overseas base on Pakistan. China is currently helping build a port in Gwadar, Pakistan, where the base may reportedly be built. Chinese sources told the South China Morning Post last month that Gwadar is currently “a mess” and would require a Chinese military presence to prevent piracy and criminal activity from taking hold there.
Convincing Pakistan to grant China the access and control it needs for its port has been a struggle for Beijing. Chinese officials reportedly froze funding last year for Pakistan complaining that too much Chinese money was being lost to corruption. Tensions cooled in January, however, when the United States announced a reduction in aid to Pakistan, leaving Islamabad to find alternate sources of revenue. China responded by complimenting the Pakistani government’s efforts against terrorism and rekindling the OBOR conversation.
Last week, The Diplomat reported that China is apparently seeking to build an air base in Jiwani, 50 miles from Gwadar