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Chinese Navy Yiyang 548 frigate and Qiandaohu 886 supply vessel are moored in the navy port, Gdynia, Poland, Oct. 7, 2015 (AP photo by Andrzej J. Gojke).

China’s ‘String of Pearls’: Naval Rivalry or Entente in the Indian Ocean?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Last week, Chinese engineers broke ground on what press accounts styledChina’s first overseas naval base” in Djibouti. That is a big deal. Djibouti lies in East Africa along the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, the waterway that connects the western Indian Ocean with the Red Sea. It also adjoins the patrol grounds for the Gulf of Aden counterpiracy mission, in which China’s navy has taken part since 2009. In short, it occupies strategic real estate.

China, however, will not be the lone occupant of the seaport. Djibouti is also home to other foreign logistics hubs: The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force operates a facility there, for instance, as does the U.S. Navy. But does the Chinese installation mark a shift in Beijing’s naval outlook? Is Djibouti indeed an overseas naval base, the first in the “string of pearls” that has occasioned so much commentary over the past decade? ...

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