The Chinese navy docked three ships at Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam Port on May 30 for a four-day meeting on how to fight piracy in the Indian Ocean, according to a report from state-run news outlet Xinhua.
Chinese diplomats and Tanzanian Navy officials attended a welcoming ceremony at the port, and the brief report notes the Chinese navy has been sending warships to the Gulf of Aden since December 2008 (as have many other nations) for escort missions, mainly due to the threat of Somali pirates.
The more important element to this story, however, is what’s not being said. The real story was detailed in a report published in The Namibian on Nov. 19, 2014, which said China was planning to build 18 naval bases with a goal to surround the Indian Ocean.
It said these alleged naval bases would be in countries including Tanzania, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma, Djibouti, Yemen, Oman, Kenya, Mozambique, Seychelles, and Madagascar. The source of the article in The Namibian was a 2013 story published in a Chinese state-run newspaper, the International Herald Leader.
The Chinese regime initially denied the report, but in the time since then, China has signed deals with every country listed to either gain port access or cooperate on building new ports.
China has also been stirring up trouble with India, with naval incursions that Indian officials have deemed too close for comfort. As Indian defense officials began to express their concerns, a senior captain from China’s National Defense University warned India on June 1, 2015, saying the Indian Ocean is not India’s backyard.
I detailed some of these incidents in a report on Oct. 26, 2015, and explained that China has a long-term interest in gaining influence over key chokepoints, and all signs suggest that the Indian Ocean will be its next naval focal point.
Richard Fisher, senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said in a previous interview that “one of the opening moves in China’s quest for global military and economic dominance” is to first break out of the South China Sea, “and then project into the Indian Ocean.”