According to a report released by the Pentagon on Tuesday, China is developing plans to expand its military footprint on foreign soil. After the completion of a facility in the African nation of Djibouti, it is expected that more Chinese military bases will follow suit, particularly in Pakistan.
The 97-page annual report to Congress listed a number of advancements in the capabilities of the Chinese military in 2016, thought to be ushered in by an increase in military spending that the Pentagon estimated had exceeded $180 billion over the past year. It’s worth noting that the figure assessed by the Pentagon is nearly $40 billion more than the Chinese government claims to allot to military expenditures. Defense analysts indicated in the report that government officials within China appear to be committed to defense spending increases for the “foreseeable future,” even as economic growth slows.
The report covered China’s new base in Djibouti heavily, which is the nation’s first overseas naval installation. Djibouti is already the site of an important U.S. military base due to its strategic location at the southernmost entrance to the Red Sea, which leads to the Suez Canal.
China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries.” the report said.
A new Chinese base in Pakistan would almost certainly ruffle the feathers of their political opponent, India. China has been developing a ring of military alliances surrounding India, adding to the tension between the nuclear powers. The report released by the Pentagon did not address the potential Indian reaction to a Chinese military base in Pakistan.
The report also addresses Chinese military expansion in the heavily traversed waterways surrounding the nation. The United States has repeatedly criticized China’s militarization of man-made islands in the South China Sea, as well as their aggressively expanding claims over the entirety of the body of water, despite overlapping claims levied by other nations in the region.
China’s military is amid a broad modernization effort that includes a complete restructuring of the command organization as well as introducing new technologies aimed at making the Chinese Liberation Army a world-class military organization with capabilities that match that of potential opponents like the United States.
China’s military modernization is targeting capabilities with the potential to degrade core U.S. military-technological advantages,” the report reads. “To support this modernization, China uses a variety of methods to acquire foreign military and dual-use technologies, including cyber theft, targeted foreign direct investment, and exploitation of the access of private Chinese nationals to such technologies.”
The report goes on to discuss confirmed instances of China using “illicit approaches that violate U.S. laws and export controls” to obtain equipment and technology that pertains to national security.
China’s Defense Ministry issued a statement indicating its “resolute opposition” to the findings laid out in the report, claiming it “hyped” the theory that China is a threat to the United States’ interests.
“The criticism in the U.S. report is pure conjecture,” it added. “We hope the U.S. side can rationally and objectively view China’s national defense and military building.”
Image courtesy of Reuters