China hasn’t been known for establishing military bases in Africa – or even beyond its immediate sphere of influence. This is changing following its decision to build a military base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. The base will be next door to the United States Africa Command. China will be able to use the base to improve the way it manages its peacekeeping operations and humanitarian efforts in Africa, as well as its regional maritime operations.
How should this be understood in terms of China’s global positioning? And what are the implications of its expanding military footprint in Africa? The brief answer is that there has not been a sudden change in China’s role and foreign policy profile on the continent. Instead, the change has been gradual and incremental. This is particularly evident from an international peacekeeping perspective.