With the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan and its declining influence in the Middle East, China is increasing its military footprint in the oil-rich region.
The latest satellite images stated that China is constructing a multi-storey military facility in the UAE port of Khalifa, a major concern for India and the US.
The UAE government claimed ignorance over the issue and defending it stated that they were not aware of the building in the terminal which was built and operated by the Chinese shipping corporation COSCO.
Though building work has now apparently stopped, following a warning from the US, Indian intelligence agencies stated that it is just the tip of the iceberg and Chinese has inked deals with not only UAE but other nations, including Afghanistan, in the region. “Their sole interest to cash in the declining US influence,” said a source.
Through the Belt and Road Initiative, the UAE is a regional hub for Chinese investments. UAE is the most important trade partner in the Middle East region and is responsible for 28 per cent of China’s non-oil trade with the Middle East. And, more than 200,000 Chinese citizens live and invest in the Gulf country.
Beijing traditionally has viewed direct military involvement abroad as a last resort, but reports of the alleged military base in the UAE may indicate that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) might be ready to lock horns with the US military in the Gulf.
“As China becomes increasingly confident and ambitious about realising the Chinese dream of achieving national rejuvenation, it believes it naturally needs to pursue global power and global influence to go along with its expanding economic presence in the world,” said a source.
Security analysts suggest that such a construction would still illustrate China’s soft power projection abroad – a similar perception of Bejing’s logistical supply base in Djibouti.
“Any plan for a strategic troop deployment by China in a Gulf base would be plainly futile as it would be circled by a complex network of bigger and more sophisticated American military bases on all fronts,” a security analyst stated.
But the biggest dilemma Chinese decision-makers face are domestic – arising from rocketing nationalism at home, as China’s interests grow exponentially abroad.