China’s Initiates Push To Establish a Military Base in Gabon

The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation has become a core component of China’s promoting its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).


“[Transitional President of Gabon] Nguema’s regime may not be transparent and may allow China to establish a permanent [naval] presence in Gabon.”


Gabon has become a key nation for China to expand its political, economic and, increasingly, military influence in Africa. Not only has China become Gabon’s primary trading partner, the two countries also upgraded their relations to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership when their foreign ministers met in Beijing last October.[i] Questions remain about whether China will develop naval bases or station troops in Gabon under Gabon’s new leadership, which came to power two months before the foreign ministers’ landmark meeting.

On 13 February, the Taiwanese newspaper Shijie Ribao, published the excerpted article on Bejing’s efforts to station troops in Gabon under the country’s former president, Ali Bongo. Had President Bongo not been overthrown by his own presidential guard in August 2023, China may have already been on the path to meeting that goal.[ii] Gabon could, therefore, have become the first country to provide China access to sought-after Atlantic Ocean naval bases.[iii]

The article also claims that although President Bongo’s successor, General Brice Oligui Nguema, states he will not allow any Chinese bases in Gabon, he may eventually prove unable or unwilling to resist Chinese pressure. Gabon is a uniquely oil-rich country, which, in addition to its strategic location, could make it more attractive for China to assert its influence beyond its geopolitical position. China has already built base and port infrastructure in East Africa, such as its naval base in Djibouti. However, stationing troops in West Africa has remained elusive. Should a Chinese naval base be built in Gabon, it would represent a victory for China’s global Belt and Road Initiative.[iv]


Sources:

“美中非洲角力 传北京拟于加蓬驻军未果 (U.S.-China rivalry over Africa: Beijing plans to station troops in Gabon but fails),” worldjournal.com (Largest Chinese-language newspaper in the U.S, which is moderately critical of the Chinese Communist Party), 13 February 2024. https://www.worldjournal.com/wj/story/121480/7767824?zh-cn

Bongo, the former president of Gabon, revealed he promised Beijing to station its troops [in Gabon], but Bongo was later overthrown by his own presidential guard.

According to the Chinese government, Chinese companies have constructed around 100 commercial ports in Africa since 2000, from Mauritania on the western end of Africa to Kenya on the Indian Ocean coast. But there is currently only one African port that has been built as a permanent base that can dock Chinese ships and troops. This was built by the People’s Liberation Army in Djibouti seven years ago. Aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines can dock at this Chinese base.Even though Nguema states that he understands the U.S.’s concerns, senior U.S. officials also expressed concerns that Nguema’s regime may not be transparent and may allow China to establish a permanent presence in Gabon.


Notes:

[i] Fmprc.gov.cn, “Wang Yi Meets with Gabonese Foreign Minister Hermann Immongault,” October 7, 2023, https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/zxxx_662805/202307/t20230725_11117519.html#:~:text=In%20April%20this%20year%2C%20President,the%20development%20of%20bilateral%20relations.

[ii] The overthrow of Ali Bongo on 30 August 2023 was related to the overthrow only five weeks earlier of Niger’s president Mohamed Bazoum by his own military entourage. Ali Bongo had been officially declared the winner of Gabon’s presidential election for his third term in office. However, a group of military officers, who were influenced by the events in Niger and were displeased with Ali Bongo’s attempt to continue his tenure as Gabon’s leader, announced his removal from office, arrested him, and suspended the constitution. Besides Niger, Guinea (September 2021), Mali (August 2020 and May 2021), Burkina Faso (January 2022) had also underwent coups before Gabon’s, which made attempting a coup in Gabon more palatable in the region, and especially among other post-coup countries. See “Question Time: Situation in west and central Africa in the light of the recent coups d’état,” European Parliament, Plenary—September 2023. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/ATAG/2023/751465/EPRS_ATA(2023)751465_EN.pdf

[iii] On Beijing’s plans to establish a naval base in Gabon, see North Africa Post, “Ousted Ali Bongo nodded to establishment of Chinese military base despite concerns of France, U.S.A.,” September 8, 2023, https://northafricapost.com/71098-ousted-ali-bongo-nodded-to-establishment-of-chinese-military-base-despite-concerns-of-france-u-s-a.html

[iv] For more information on the BRI’s previous expansion, see Les Grau, “China Belt and Road Initiative Test on Trans-Eurasian Rail,” OE Watch, September 2020. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-articles-2-singular-format/360893


Image Information:

Image: The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation has become a core component of China’s promoting its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Source: Stephen Wallihttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Forum_on_China-Africa_Cooperation.jpg
Attribution: CC x 2.0


China Reinvigorates Belt and Road Initiative in Central Asia

Kyrgyz Highway A363 towards Chinese border-Xinjiang.


“China firmly supports Uzbekistan in safeguarding its national sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, and firmly supports Uzbekistan in choosing its own development path.”


China seeks to strengthen its security cooperation with Central Asian countries to safeguard its core interests in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). According to the first excerpted article from the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, People’s Daily, Chinese President Xi Jinping met his Uzbek counterpart, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, in Beijing and pledged an “all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership” with Uzbekistan. This places Uzbekistan at the highest ranking of China’s foreign relations alongside Pakistan, Belarus, and Venezuela. These elevated diplomatic ties not only pave the way for the advancement of strategic BRI projects but also signal to the BRI stakeholders the urgency of security cooperation in the current turbulent international environment.

To this end, Mirziyoyev places significant emphasis on the One-China principle and strictly opposes external interference in China’s internal affairs, especially with regard to Beijing’s crackdown on Uyghurs in Xinjiang Province in the name of deradicalization. Xinjiang is home to the Muslim Uyghur minority and borders the former Soviet states of Central Asia, serving as the geopolitical linchpin in the success of the rejuvenation of the Silk Road. Mirziyoyev firmly supports China stabilizing Xinjiang by taking repressive­­ measures to eradicate extremism, terrorism, and separatism. This state visit indicates a growing China-Central Asia alliance in security cooperation and soft power development. The day before Mirziyoyev’s visit, China’s State Council Information Office released a whitepaper, cited in the second excerpted article. This white paper articulates the legal basis for countering “The Three Evils,”[i] operation and supervision mechanisms, and China’s vision of security cooperation on a regional and global scale.[ii] With the growing “all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership” in the region, Beijing is undertaking a more direct engagement in Central Asia’s security and defense capabilities. Overall, China’s multifaceted BRI strategies are likely to intensify the growing Great Power competition in the region.


Sources:

Yijun Yang, “习近平同乌兹别克斯坦总统米尔济约耶夫会谈 (Xi Jinping holds talks with President Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan),” People’s Daily (official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee), 25 January 2024. http://paper.people.com.cn/rmrb/html/2024-01/25/nw.D110000renmrb_20240125_1-01.htm

On January 24, President Xi Jinping hosted President Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan at the Great Hall of the People. The two heads of state announced that China and Uzbekistan have decided to develop an all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership, symbolizing an era of a more meaningful and dynamic China-Uzbekistan relationship.

Facing the current complex international situation, the two sides pledged to build a solid foundation for mutual trust and continue with high-quality joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China firmly supports Uzbekistan in safeguarding its national sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, and firmly supports Uzbekistan in choosing its own development path.

Mirziyoyev said that he looks forward to the opportunity to further consolidate and deepen mutual trust and expand all-round cooperation under the BRI, including agriculture, green energy, and tourism. Uzbekistan firmly abides by the One-China principle, resolutely opposes external forces interfering in China’s internal affairs, and is willing to firmly support China on issues involving Taiwan, Xinjiang, human rights, and other matters related to China’s core interests. Furthermore, Uzbekistan is ready to work with China to combat the “Three Evilsand safeguard their respective and regional security.


“中国的反恐怖主义法律制度体系与实践 (China’s Legal Framework and Measures for Counterterrorism),” The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, 23 January 2024. http://english.scio.gov.cn/whitepapers/2024-01/23/content_116958678.htm

Terrorism poses a persistent and asymmetric threat to international peace and security. China has found a path of law-based counterterrorism that conforms to its realities by establishing a sound legal framework, promoting strict, impartial, procedure-based law enforcement, and ensuring impartial administration of justice and effective protection of human rights…

Relying on more than 40 years of experience, China has gradually developed a counterterrorism legal framework based on the Constitution. The Counterterrorism Law, in concert with the criminal laws and National Security Law, covers administrative regulations, judicial interpretations, local regulations, and departmental and local government rules…Upholding the vision of a global community of shared future, China is willing to work closely with other countries to push forward counterterrorism cause as part of global governance. On the basis of equality and respect, China will engage in extensive exchanges, cooperation, and mutual learning to facilitate the global effort to counter terrorism.


Notes:

[i] The “Three Evils” (三股恶势力) is a political slogan referencing extremism, terrorism, and separatism.

[ii] Released by China’s State Council Information Office, the white paper consists of chapters such as “An Improving Legal Framework for Counterterrorism,” “Clear Provisions for the Determination and Punishment of Terrorist Activities,” “Standardized Exercise of Power in Fighting Terrorism,” “Protection of Human Rights in Counterterrorism Practices,” and “Effective Protection of People’s Safety and National Security.”


Image Information:

Image: Kyrgyz Highway A363 towards Chinese border-Xinjiang.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kyrgyzstan_(6052094329).jpg
Attribution: CC BY 2.0


China Nears Completion of Large Port in Peru With Dual-Use Capabilities

A worker stands in front of a map depicting the massive Port of Chancay in Peru.


“Cosco Shipping seeks to improve China’s access to minerals from the mountains to the coast, and from there execute shipments through the port of Chancay.”


Weeks after the tenth anniversary of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China is on schedule to inaugurate one of its biggest port development projects to date: the $3 billion Port of Chancay, just north of Lima, Peru. In recent years, Chinese-owned and operated deep-water ports around the world have captured the attention of many analysts for their dual-use potential, for both commercial and military purposes.[i] In the past, China has used its owned and operated ports as logistical points and ports of call for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).[ii] Chinese-owned and operated ports also offer the potential for China to track data on trade flows, which could open the door to economic coercion against the host countries as well as other third-party countries.

In response to rising questions about the Port of Chancay project, Peruvian media conglomerate RPP reports the Peruvian government maintains that the port is purely economic in nature and that the local population will be compensated for displacement and any environmental damage to the surrounding areas. The second excerpted article in the Peruvian energy and mining-focused news outlet Energiminas, says that the port will play an important role in helping China to solidify its dominant position in Latin America’s critical minerals supply chains.[iii] Peru also maintains that the port, built by Chinese state-owned enterprise Cosco Shipping, will save an average of 10 to 12 days on goods traveling to Asia from Latin America. Further, the Peruvian government has confirmed its commitment to the project and stated its goal is to leverage its role as host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in 2024 to officially inaugurate the Port of Chancay. China has dozens of contracts to upgrade, build, and/or operate deep-water ports in the Western Hemisphere, an economic reality with implications for the region’s operational environment. Given China’s past use of deep-water ports for naval port calls, the Western Hemisphere may soon witness an uptick in the PLAN presence.


Sources:

“Puerto de Chancay estaría listo para iniciar funcionamiento a fines de noviembre de 2024 (Port of Chancay would be ready to start operations at the end of November 2024),” RPP (Peruvian radio, television, and print media company located in Lima), 23 October 2023. https://rpp.pe/economia/economia/puerto-de-chancay-estaria-listo-para-iniciar-funcionamiento-a-fines-de-noviembre-del-2024-noticia-1512135?ref=rpp

The port of Chancay would finally be inaugurated in November 2024 with cutting-edge technology…‘we hope to finish the port at the end of November 2024 and inaugurate it on that date taking advantage of the APEC Summit’…‘We have more than 3,000 families registered with a baseline of the conditions of their house and with a commitment letter from Cosco, responsible for solving any environmental damage,’ said an official with the company.


“Puerto de Chancay evalúa mejoras en acceso de inerals de sierra de Oyón a la costa, señala Gobierno Regional de Lima (Port of Chancay evaluates improvements in access of minerals from the Sierra de Oyón to the coast, says Regional Government of Lima),” Energiminas (Peruvian news outlet focused on the country’s energy and mining sectors) 18 October 2023. https://energiminas.com/puerto-de-chancay-evalua-mejoras-en-acceso-de-minerales-de-sierra-de-oyon-a-la-costa-senala-gobierno-regional-de-lima/

The Regional Government of Lima indicated that the operator Cosco Shipping seeks to improve China’s access to minerals from the mountains to the coast, and from there execute shipments through the port of Chancay…For the Peruvian Ministry of Transport and Communications, this megaproject, led by the Chinese company Cosco Shipping, is key for international trade and will be a hub that will redistribute cargo from the countries of Chile, Ecuador and Colombia as well.


Notes:

[i] For a useful dashboard of Chinese-owned and operated ports around the world, see: “Tracking China’s Control of Overseas Ports,” Council on Foreign Relations, 6 November 2023. https://www.cfr.org/tracker/china-overseas-ports

[ii] Researchers tracking Chinese port calls have found that the PLA Navy has called at about one-third of the nearly 100 Chinese owned and operated ports overseas. See: Jennifer Rice and Erik Robb, “The Origins of Near Seas Defense and Far Seas Protection,” CMSI China Maritime Report, no. 13 (February 2021).

[iii] For more information on China’s role in Latin America’s minerals exploration and production, see: Ryan C. Berg, “China Deepening Cooperation in Latin America’s Sizeable Lithium Sector,” OE Watch, 01-2023. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-articles-2-singular-format/434262


Image Information:

Image: A worker stands in front of a map depicting the massive Port of Chancay in Peru.
Source : https ://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File :Puerto_Chancay_2.jpg
Attribution: Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED


Chinese-Tajikistani Security Cooperation Gaining Momentum (Matthew Stein and Peter Wood) (January 2024)

(Click image to download brief.)


Key Takeaways:

  • China and Tajikistan share a 477km border and have an estimated $1.78 billion in bilateral trade, which is significantly imbalanced in favor of China.
  • Recent years have seen a significant improvement in relations between China and Tajikistan, with China constructing a military base in 2016 near Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan and a November 2022 bilateral agreement to increase security cooperation.
  • China’s security cooperation with Tajikistan does not appear to conflict or cause friction with Tajikistan’s main security cooperation partner, Russia, but nevertheless advances Chinese interests in the region at a time when Russian support is limited due to its invasion of Ukraine.

China Pursues Increased Access To Critical South American Resources

Chilean President Gabriel Boric has focused extensively on the country’s lithium reserves as a source of global influence and for Chile’s development.


“We highly value the spirit of collaboration and shared growth in the spirit of building a new world order based on peace and harmony among peoples.”


China has viewed Latin America as an important source of critical minerals, such as lithium, copper, graphite, cobalt, and nickel for well over a decade.[i] The tenth anniversary of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Beijing, with representatives from nearly 130 countries including Chile’s President Gabriel Boric and Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández, provided another occasion for China to make further advances in the competition for access to Latin America’s critical minerals, specifically, lithium. While Chile has the region’s most developed lithium mining industry, Argentina is developing the sector, and Bolivia, with the largest lithium reserves, has the least developed mining sector. Chile permits only a small number of mining companies to operate in the lithium industry, one of which is China’s state-owned Tianqi Lithium. Meanwhile, China’s mining companies have made inroads in Argentina’s lithium industry. Ganfeng Lithium, for example, is a majority stakeholder in Argentina’s Caucharí-Olaroz operation, which will soon be one of the world’s top lithium production mines.

As per the first excerpted article from the second-largest daily newspaper in Chile, La Tercera, while in Beijing, President Boric reiterated Chile’s commitment to China’s BRI and thanked President Xi Jinping for the “spirit of collaboration and shared growth.” Boric also pronounced Chile’s support for a multipolar world order and thanked China for its focus on development. Meanwhile, according to the second excerpted article from Spain’s largest daily, El País, Boric announced a multimillion-dollar investment by the Chinese company Tingaran in battery production in Chile. Boric’s trip to Beijing for the tenth anniversary of the BRI is significant because it demonstrates China’s steadfast focus on lithium as a key driver for future economic growth and global economic governance through reusable battery technology. Further, China’s investment in Chilean battery production represents the first investment in Chile’s nascent battery production potential. Moving up the lithium value chain is a stated goal of the country’s National Lithium Strategy released earlier in Boric’s administration. China has worked hard to position itself as Chile’s long-term economic partner of choice and showing that it is interested in building value chains beyond mineral extraction in the country will be key to that endeavor.



Sources:

“Boric sostiene bilateral con Xi Jinping: ‘Valoramos mucho el espíritu de colaboración y crecimiento compartido’ (Boric maintains bilateral with Xi Jinping: ‘We highly value the spirit of collaboration and shared growth’),” La Tercera (second largest daily newspaper in Chile), 16 October 2023. https://www.latercera.com/politica/noticia/boric-sostiene-bilateral-con-xi-jinping-valoramos-mucho-el-espiritu-de-colaboracion-y-crecimiento-compartido/FFSYQHIWVRDBLO4EIOOLE6ECVA/

While visiting with Xi Jinping, Boric announced: ‘We maintain and are going to defend multilateral spaces and the principle of ‘one China,’ a premise that has been observed in an unrestricted manner by our country throughout the more than 50 years of bilateral relations. Furthermore, we highly value the spirit of collaboration and shared growth in the spirit of building a new world order based on peace and harmony among peoples.’ For his part, the Chinese president maintained that ‘relations between Chile and China are one of the best in the Latin American and Caribbean region. Chile is the pioneer of the Belt and Road in that region. China pays a lot of attention to relations with Chile.’


“Boric anuncia una millonaria tilized de una empresa china para fabricar baterías de litio en Chile (Boric announces a million-dollar investment by a Chinese company to manufacture lithium batteries in Chile),” El País (Spain’s largest daily with some of the best coverage in Latin America), 16 October 2023. https://elpais.com/chile/2023-10-16/boric-anuncia-una-millonaria-inversion-de-una-empresa-china-para-fabricar-baterias-de-litio-en-chile.html The president of Chile…announced an investment of more than 250 million dollars by the Chinese group Tingaran, specialized in lithium, that will create hundreds of jobs…the group is engaged in the research and development, production and sales of lithium-ion battery cells applied to power systems of electric vehicles, including electric mining trucks, and other equipment. According to Boric, the most important thing is that ‘we are not going to limit ourselves only to extraction but we are going to create value chains and also transfer knowledge because one of the commitments that the company has made is to generate exchange programs so that Chilean professionals can travel to China and also train in the development of this industry. So we are going to be advancing the National Lithium Strategy with investments like these with which we are very happy.’


Notes:

[i] For more information on China’s advance in important mining spaces such as the lithium industry, see: Ryan C. Berg and T. Andrew Sady-Kennedy, “South America’s Lithium Triangle: Opportunities for the Biden Administration,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 17 August 2021. https://www.csis.org/analysis/south-americas-lithium-triangle-opportunities-biden-administration


Image Information:

Image: Chilean President Gabriel Boric has focused extensively on the country’s lithium reserves as a source of global influence and for Chile’s development.
Source : https ://www.flickr.com/photos/consejocultura/52377478252
Attribution: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 DEED