Army Chief of Staff says he observes “China’s increasingly aggressive attitude”
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In 2015, China published a White Paper on Defense in which it focused on the concept of “active defense.” This document emphasized the development of the projection capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army [PLA]. As part of President Xi Jinping’s “Chinese dream of a great national renaissance,” the White Paper explained that the naval component of the PLA had to move “gradually from an offshore defense strategy to a combined defense of these waters and protection on the high seas.”
Since then, Beijing has continued to advance its pawns in the South China Sea by practicing the fait accompli policy and inaugurating its first foreign base, in this case in Djibouti. And, as part of its “New Silk Roads” project, the Chinese government has continued to implement the so-called “Pearl Necklace” strategy while increasing its influence in Africa.
The new White Paper on Defense issued by Beijing is meant to be “more reassuring,” if you will, about China’s intentions. While China’s military ambitions are reaffirmed, Taiwan remains in the sights. However, the document insists on cooperation and multilateralism, making Russia also a leading partner.
However, the Foundation for Strategic Research summarized the goals assigned to the PLA in this new white paper: “deter and resist aggression – safeguard national political security, population security and social stability – oppose ‘Taiwan independence’ and crack down on supporters of separatist movements such as ‘Tibetan independence’ and the creation of ‘East Turkistan’ – safeguard national sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and security – protect rights and interests of China – protecting China’s security interests in outer space, the electromagnetic space and cyberspace – protecting China’s interests abroad – and supporting the country’s sustainable development.”
And as he had already discussed in a previous hearing, the Chief of Staff of the Armies, General François Lecointre, noted that the attitude of China was not necessarily always very friendly and selfless.
“I observe an increasingly aggressive attitude of China, beyond the China Sea, particularly in Africa and through the strategy of the new silk roads,” said General Lecointre, before the deputies of the Defense Committee. “You know that we are directly confronted with the very powerful and increasingly assertive presence of China in Djibouti, which is a country with which we have important strategic agreements,” he then recalled, without entering into the details.
Located in a highly strategic region, Djibouti has seen Chinese influence grow considerably in recent years. And the tactics used are immutable: to finance infrastructure works, Beijing grants large loans that the borrower has difficulty repaying, which allows it to take control of the strategic sectors of interest.
“In fact, Chinese achievements have been largely financed by Chinese loans to Djibouti. However, from 2019, Djibouti will have to start repaying these loans, even though the country produces little itself,” explained Senator Gilbert Luc Devinaz, co-author of a report on this subject. “In these circumstances, the risk is high that the Chinese creditor pays in kind, recovering all or part of the ownership of infrastructure,” he warned.