One year ago, we reported that while the west was scrambling to assure the world that it wasn't collapsing courtesy of record central bank debt monetization even as number of people not in the US labor force steadily approaches 100 million, while peripheral Europe is saddled with 25% unemployment and 50%+ youth unemployment (but... but.. the stock markets are at all time highs), China was busy colonizing a new continent not only infrastructurally.....
... but militarily, in this case in the southern African nation which recently had achieved the pinnacle of Keynesian economic dogma: hyperinflation through currency debasement. Recall what the Zimbabwean wrote in March of 2014:
China is planning to set up a modern high-tech military base in the diamond-rich Marange fields, says a German-based website, Telescope News.
The news of the agreement to set up the first Chinese military airbase in Africa comes amid increasing bilateral cooperation between Zimbabwe and China – notably in mining, agriculture and preferential trade. China is the only country exempted from the indigenisation laws which force all foreign investors to cede 51% of their shareholding to carefully selected indigenous Zimbabweans.
The Marange story quoted unnamed military officials and a diplomat admitting knowledge of the plan to set up the base. Efforts to get a comment from the Zimbabwe Defence Forces were fruitless, as spokesperson Lt Col Alphios Makotore was consistently unavailable and did not respond to emails by the time of going to press.
The website speculated that China could be positioning itself for future “gunboat diplomacy” where its military presence would give it bargaining power against superpowers like the US. It would also be safeguarding its significant economic interests in Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa.
And while this is not a story about Zimbabwe, we should remind readers that Zimbabwe's despotic ruler, a person widely loathed by the west (after being an object of "democratic" admiration in the 1980s and 1990s), Robert Mugabe has recently become a pawn of none other than China:
Confidential Central Intelligence Organisation documents leaked last year suggested that China had played a central role in retaining President Robert Mugabe in the July 31 elections, indicating that high level military officers had worked closely with the local army in poll strategies while Beijing bankrolled Zanu (PF).
China is Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner after South Africa and has strategic economic interests in many African countries to guarantee raw materials, job sources and markets for its huge population. The new Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Lin Lin, recently said trade between the two countries last year exceeded the $1 billion mark. Yet Zimbabwe is only 26th on the list of China’s 58 biggest African trading partners.
The Asian country has supplied Zimbabwe with military hardware, including MIG jet fighters, tanks, armoured vehicles and rifles, since Independence.
Bottom line: one year ago China was well on its way to marking its territory in southern Africa, with a core military presence near the all important for global trade Cape of Good Hope which is the transit point for about 10% of global seaborne-traded oil.
Fast forward to today when AFP reports that after securing Southen Africa, China is now in process of securing the second critical geopolitical area in Africa: the horn, which just happens to be right next to the infamous Bab el-Mandeb Strait located by the recently infamous country of Yemen, which in recent months has been overrun by US-armed Houthi Rebels.
According to AFP, China is negotiating a military base in the strategic port of Djibouti, the president said, raising the prospect of US and Chinese bases side-by-side in the tiny Horn of Africa nation. "Discussions are ongoing," President Ismail Omar Guelleh told AFP in an interview in Djibouti, saying Beijing's presence would be "welcome".
Why Djibouti? So China can have a bird's eye view of everything that happens at the Bab el-Mandeb Strait: one of the top 5 oil choke points in the world: "An estimated 3.8 million bbl/d of crude oil and refined petroleum products flowed through this waterway in 2013 toward Europe, the United States, and Asia, an increase from 2.9 million bbl/d in 2009. Oil shipped through the strait decreased by almost one-third in 2009 because of the global economic downturn and the decline in northbound oil shipments to Europe. Northbound oil shipments increased through Bab el-Mandeb Strait in 2013, and more than half of the traffic, about 2.1 million bbl/d, moved northbound to the Suez Canal and SUMED Pipeline."
Ironically, Djibouti is already home to Camp Lemonnier, the US military headquarters on the continent, used for covert, anti-terror and other operations in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere across Africa.
The US is not alone: France and Japan also have bases in the port, a former French colony that guards the entrance to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, and which has been used by European and other international navies as a base in the fight against piracy from neighbouring Somalia.
And now here comes China.
China is already financing several major infrastructure projects estimated to total more than $9 billion, including improved ports, airports and railway lines to landlocked Ethiopia, for whom Djibouti is a lifeline port.
"France's presence is old, and the Americans found that the position of Djibouti could help in the fight against terrorism in the region," Guelleh said.
"The Japanese want to protect themselves from piracy — and now the Chinese also want to protect their interests, and they are welcome," he said.
Djibouti overseas the narrow Bab al-Mandeb straits, the channel separating Africa from Arabia and one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, leading into the Red Sea and northwards to the Mediterranean.
The US will be very angry, especially since Washington was already angry when Djibouti and Beijing signed a military agreement allowing the Chinese navy to use Djibouti port in February 2014. Surely the US top diplomat will not be happy to learn that now China aims to install a permanent military base in Obock, Djibouti's northern port city.
Then again, John Kerry and the US State Department may have more than enough domestic scandals on their plate, now that everyone is demanding (or should be) to learn out why said Department will not investigate Hillary Clinton's breach of protocol and abuse of her foundation for personal financial gain offset by US diplomatic "favors."
Meanwhile, China's colonization - both peaceful and military - of Africa will continue, as will its increasing presence in determining who decides which way the world's oil flows.