On August 1, 2017, China official opened its first overseas military base in the East African nation of Djibouti. The base, constructed to provide logistical support to the Chinese navy’s counter-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia, marked a major step toward Xi Jinping’s goal of constructing a world class military by the middle of the century.

The US Defense Department has just released its annual China Military Power Report, and that says that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) probably has also considered adding military logistics facilities in 19 countries around the world (in addition to Djibouti): Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Equatorial Guinea, Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola, Nigeria, Namibia, Mozambique, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Tajikistan. To expand its global footprint, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will need to cultivate good relations with potential host countries. China’s military diplomacy is likely aimed at achieving that objective among others.

Today’s discussion focuses on the key features and goals of China’s military diplomacy and its quest for additional military installations – or what the Chinese call “strategic strongpoints.” Host Bonnie Glaser is joined by Kristin Gunness, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. She previously served as the Director of the Navy Asia Pacific Advisory Group at the Pentagon, advising the Chief of Naval Operations on security and foreign policy trends in the Indo-Pacific, focusing on Chinese naval and gray zone warfare capabilities. Earlier this year, Kristin testified on China’s overseas military diplomacy and its implications for American interests at a hearing convened by the US Economic and Security Review Commission.

Episode Highlights:

[02:20] Introduction to Military Diplomacy

[04:36] Three Objectives of Chinese Military Diplomacy

[06:15] China’s Regions of Interest

[08:48] Gauging the Success of China’s Military

[11:46] Beijing’s Broader Geo-Political Strategy

[13:47] Challenges Posed to US Interests

[15:53] Military Installations Versus Commercial Ports

[17:20] Potential Chinese Presence in Cambodia

[19:27] Potential Chinese Presence in Equatorial Guinea

[21:41] Beijing’s Assessment of their Military Diplomacy

[23:33] Recommendations for a US Response