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Best Birthday Gift: Why China Marks Army Anniversary With Djibouti Base Opening

© AP Photo / Wu Dengfeng/Xinhua News Agency / China Djibouti Military Base
China Djibouti Military Base - Sputnik International
On Tuesday, China formally opened its first overseas naval logistics center with a flag raising ceremony in Djibouti, the same day as the People's Liberation Army (PLA) marked its 90th anniversary. In an interview with Sputnik some experts said this is a clear sign of China’s determination to uphold its national interests outside the country.

The base in Djibouti is China's first overseas naval base, though Beijing officially describes it as a logistics facility.

The moon sets above a Chinese flag flying over Tiananmen Square after a flag raising ceremony on National Day, the 66th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, in Beijing, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 - Sputnik International
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According to media reports more than 300 people attended the ceremony, including Chinese deputy naval commander Tian Zhong and Djibouti's defense minister.

The ceremony was held with the participation of Chinese PLA soldiers and the guard of honor of the army of Djibouti. The culmination of the ceremony was the mooring of the ships of the PLA Navy, which headed for Djibouti on July 11.

The opening of the logistics center in Djibouti on the day of the PLA's 90th anniversary attracted no less attention than the military parade held in China, hosted by the head of state, Xi Jinping.

The military parade became a platform where China demonstrated many of its newest weapons. 

Shen Shishun, director of the Center for South Pacific Studies of the Chinese Institute of International Studies, told Sputnik in an interview that the flag raising ceremony in Djibouti was an important part of the celebration to mark the 90th anniversary of the PLA.

“The opening ceremony of the logistics base in Djibouti is part of the festive events dedicated to the jubilee of the PLA, like, for example, the military parade. The parade demonstrated the majestic process of the continuous development of the Chinese army from small to large, from weak to strong,” Shishun said.

The analyst further said that the parade also showed that the Chinese army is now playing an increasingly active role in protecting international peace and development. 

“If anyone dares to encroach on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, then the Chinese army will also be able to fulfill its duty unswervingly. The opening ceremony of the logistics base signaled that the Chinese army is a force to defend China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and security,” he said.

Talking about the base in Djibouti, the analyst said that there are comments in which the base in Djibouti is being described as a military one, but in reality there is a logistics center, primarily designed to replenish food supplies and ship maintenance, “so that they can better and more effectively perform the task of protecting the world beyond China,” he said.

“This is fundamentally different from US military bases. Those are aimed at domination and establishment of US supremacy in different regions imposing their control over certain countries,” Shishun said.

China has invested so much in the development of the countries of Africa, particularly in Djibouti, that there are no political obstacles to the construction of military bases there.

A retired colonel from the Military Air Defense Command Academy, Mikhail Khodarenok, expressed this opinion. According to him the Chinese military presence in Djibouti has a geopolitical character.

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“China has very large geopolitical and military-technical interests in Africa. It has invested a lot of money in African assets, which must be protected. The base in Djibouti, probably, will be the first step in implementing this new strategy of China, which is, creating its military presence in the most diverse regions of the world,” Khodarenok said.

He further said that Djibouti lies at the crossroads of commercial sea lanes. It is a very good platform for influencing large areas of the African continent. 

“Today, the base is called a logistics center; however, I must admit that over time, there will also be a naval base. Perhaps even an airfield will be constructed, not even the first-class kind, but a so-called non-class airfield with an airstrip capable of accepting military transport aircraft of all types. Djibouti is only the first step for the military consolidation of China on the African continent,” the expert said.

The experts believe that in the near future similar centers of logistic support for the Chinese Navy may appear in Pakistan and Myanmar. 

At present, Djibouti hosts US and French military bases. Last December, Saudi Arabia received permission to build a military base there also. 

For several years now the country has accommodated the military presence of Japan as well. In October last year, according to Reuters, Japan leased additional territory in Djibouti to expand its occupied area of 12 hectares. 

According to reports, Japan allegedly did this to counter China’s presence in the region.

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