The New Chinese Base and Global Impact

China’s development in the past twenty-five years has led to a fundamental change in the structure of the international system. The change largely passed without painful shocks such as bloodshed or wars. Instead, it focused on the economic scene, like the China approach.

But are we facing a new era? whether it will be more painful than the past? From past experience, it seems possible to say that the system will remain the same (without wars between China and other Superpowers, and economic growth for everyone), but it will be better to pay attention to the changes taking place not very far from Israel. The biggest change took place in a tiny African country which has less than a million people, whose name is known only to few people, Djibouti. This country, located on the southwest side of the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, one of the most important maritime transport nodes worldwide, won independence from France in 1977. The control of this Strait affects the goods transport from Asia to Europe and vice versa.

In November 2015, the Chinese government announced an agreement with the government of Djibouti to establish a Chinese logistics center in Djibouti coast. Because of the centrality of this coast, two bases were built four decades ago: The French one and the American-Japanese one. Most commentators and experts tend to believe that the Chinese logistics center is a convenient and diplomatic name for what is in fact a military base. But even if we do not accept what they were saying, this is an unprecedented move in terms of the Chinese. This is actually the first time since the Communists took power in China in 1949, that they built such an important basis, so far away. It seems a significant portion of the American naval fleet is located in Asia, and the leadership’s view is that this is a significant move, a move that may have implications for regional stability, in Asia and in the international scene.

In response to China’s move, last week the United States signed a maritime cooperation agreement with her largest ally in Asia – India. Under the new agreement, the US Navy will use Indian bases in Asia and the Indian Navy will use US military bases worldwide. Official spokesmen from both countries have stressed that these agreements did not mean military cooperation, but only mutual logistical support. Indian speakers also emphasized that this cooperation is not intended to support the allegations in the Asian region in relation to the various territorial disputes and Indian forces did not join the American patrols in the area. As with similar tensions which occurred in the past, the Americans called for all sides, when it is clear that the intention is for China, to honor the freedom of maritime traffic and international agreements.

Is the construction of the new basis of China in Djibouti and the American Indian agreement related to each other? Seems to be. But are these actions going to step up the struggle between China and the United States and its allies? It is very difficult to draw a significant worsening in the relationship that will lead to real fighting, mainly due to the fact that each side has a lot to lose and little to gain. Americans are largely dependent on the export and import from the Chinese markets and in addition to American bonds worth tens of billions of dollars, which are in the hands of the Chinese and may be lost if and when war breaks out between the countries. The Chinese economy needs similar aspect and continued stability maintenance operations Americans are letting the Chinese to focus on developing the economy. It is hoped that the leaders of all sides will call the citizens respect the need to of other side let to the other side do fake muscles and continue to cooperate for the benefit of all parties and the best interests of international stability.

About the Author
Researcher and PhD student at the Middle Eastern studies department, Bar-Ilan University.
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