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Will China’s next overseas port be in Djibouti?

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China’s noteworthy establishment of both ports and military bases overseas in recent years are connected. Jonathan Hillman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies explains (paywall) to the Financial Times that “port ownership opens the door to non-commercial activities like hosting military forces and collecting intelligence.” SupChina has covered the most significant and controversial port and military base developments in the past year:

Now, Reuters reports that last month, “Djibouti ended its contract with Dubai’s DP World, one of the world’s biggest port operators, to run the Doraleh Container Terminal, citing failure to resolve a dispute that began in 2012.” The article also says that during a U.S. congressional hearing on March 6, “which was dominated by concerns about China’s role in Africa, lawmakers said they had seen reports that Djibouti seized control of the port to give it to China as a gift.”

The Washington Post notes, “The U.S. military is now openly warning that if China gains control of the port, U.S. national security interests will be put at risk.”

Further reading: Foreign Policy (paywall) on China’s purchase of ports in Europe; also, the Financial Times (paywall) on Chinese money flowing to ports in Latin America. The FT notes a report from investment bank Grisons Peak, which shows that “Chinese groups announced plans to buy or invest in nine overseas ports in projects valued at a total of $20.1 billion” in the first half of 2017, up from $9.97 billion in the first half of 2016. Meanwhile, there are always more rumors and media reports on where China may next seek to establish overseas military bases — see, for example, this Bloomberg report that we linked to yesterday.

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Lucas Niewenhuis

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company's newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.