Ships carrying Chinese military personnel depart Zhanjiang, south China's Guangdong Province, July 11, 2017. They are to set up a support base in Djibouti. The establishment of the People's Liberation Army Djibouti base was a decision made by the two countries after friendly negotiations, and accords with the common interest of the people from both sides, according to the PLA navy. (Xinhua/Wu Dengfeng)
China's first overseas support base in the East African nation of Djibouti differs from military bases of other countries in its scale, function and the ships stationed there, so the Western media should not hype the China threat theory, Chinese experts said.
Two ships carrying Chinese military personnel left from Zhanjiang in South China's Guangdong Province on Tuesday for the support base in Djibouti.
Chinese navy warships Jinggangshan and Donghai Island semi-submersible ship headed to the base with an unknown number of military personnel on board.
"Jinggangshan is a Type 071 amphibious transport dock, which can load more helicopters and special troops and is more capable of dealing with pirates or maritime attacks and taking part in protective convoys," Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based military expert who served in the Second Artillery Corps (now called the Rocket Force) of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), told the Global Times on Wednesday.
The Donghai Island can serve as a rescue vessel since it could be used to build a temporary wharf and offer assistance in repairing damaged ships during war time, Song said, adding that the ship is usually used to transfer materials and goods.
"Sending the two ships to the Djibouti base shows China's intent on anti-terrorism and anti-piracy, and in offering logistical support to fleets which have convoy missions in the Gulf of Aden," Song said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a press conference on Wednesday that China's support base in Djibouti would be beneficial for China to fulfill its international responsibilities in convoys in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia, and offering humanitarian assistance.
The support base could also drive local economic and social development and will be beneficial for China to make more contributions to safeguarding peace and stability in Africa and the world, Geng said.
Many of the Western media has described China's Djibouti facility as a military base and referred to the move as military expansionism.
"China's base in Djibouti has basic differences with military bases of other countries in scale, function and equipment. Compared with the specialized function of logistics support of the Chinese base, other military bases station more troops and fighters and conduct military training," Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times.
Xu said that the Western media's reports on China's Djibouti base shows their prejudice. "Whether a country needs to build an overseas base should come out of its own concerns and it merely involves bilateral talks with the other nation. Why do some Western countries make carping comments about China's first overseas base, while they already have many?" Xu said.
The establishment of the PLA Djibouti base was a decision made by the two countries after friendly negotiations and accords with the common interest of the people from both sides at heart, according to the PLA navy.
Song said that any military move China makes overseas would touch a sensitive nerve in Western counties, who would overlook China's peaceful purposes and hype the China threat theory.
The PLA Daily said in a front-page commentary in October 2016 that "China would not seek military expansionism or get into an arms race no matter what happened … These promises will not change because of the construction of the overseas logistics base."
Ensuring global peace
The Djibouti base can also help China better fulfill its international responsibilities on ensuring global peace as well as protecting its overseas interests," Xu said.
The PLA Daily report said that China has the most UN peacekeepers and is very involved in anti-piracy patrols. "China's fleets have taken part in 24 convoy missions in the Gulf of Aden … and the Chinese fleets have faced difficulties in food resupply and refueling since China has no overseas allies or bases."
Song said that the base in Djibouti, which is located at the southern entrance of the Red Sea, would also offer great convenience for China to protect its overseas interests and evacuate overseas Chinese if they encounter difficulties, and the base could also help protect the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
"As China is expanding overseas trade and pushing the Belt and Road initiative, there are millions of Chinese living or working overseas, and China's overseas investment has reached $120 billion … China needs to protect its people and assets," read the PLA report.