Rumours of China’s Plans for a Vanuatu Military Base Draw Similarities from their Previous Expansion into Africa

Australian Politics, China, Foreign Policy, International Relations, Military Affairs, Rundown

Parties from both China and Vanuatu have denied talks involving a Chinese military base to be set up in the South Pacific Ocean nation. Rumours suggest that Vanuatu has agreed to establish the base which will give China the ability to sail warships right onto Australia’s doorstep and as stated by Fairfax Media, “could result in a major military presence for China in the region, upsetting the delicate strategic balance.”

So far the denial of talks by these two countries has been successful in silencing the media to a degree, keeping the general public calm enough and has not provoked any immediate action from foreign policy makers. This begs the question; could this after all be just another false flag?

To answer this question let’s look at what reasons we have to believe that these rumours are true.

  1. They Have Done It Before

Let’s start by going back to 2015 when rumours started to emerge concerning a Chinese military base in the Horn of Africa, more specifically in the country of Djibouti. Neither country was willing to comment on these rumours, they simply maintained that China only wanted to contribute to peace in the area. The Chinese military, when asked completely denied any of it.

Months later however (by January 2016) construction of the base was well underway and the first of the troops were moving in one year later.

While intentions may still have been pure, if the base is there to uphold the peace in the area, but recent reports have stated that Djibouti has seized a major port formally ran by DP World, one of the world’s largest port operators, with plans to hand it over to China.

What started as the denial of rumours has turned into the seizure of land.

  1. Foreign Aid?

Just like in Djibouti, China has been very generous towards Vanuatu regarding foreign aid. With a bit of research, one can find many parallels between China’s relations to these two countries. Since establishing relations with Djibouti China has donated millions of dollars’ worth of foreign aid, including the sending of food and funding the construction of a major hospital.

Vanuatu is no stranger either to China’s foreign aid stick, accounting for half of the country’s 440-million-dollar debt. This is a well-known strategy for China, experts say they have a track record of getting countries into debts they can’t pay, calling it a “Debt Trap.” This allows China to have much more leverage in negotiating with these smaller nations, making it easier for them to seize land within their borders.

With Vanuatu in so much debt, there is no reason for them to not back China unconditionally when it comes to their operations in the area. The Vanuatu government has already publicly pledged “full understanding and support” for the nation’s claim to the disputed South China Sea.

  1. Protecting Chinese Interests

China has many reasons to want to expand into the Pacific, a possible trade war breaking out with the United States being only the beginning.

US president Donald Trump has been battling to “even out” US- China trade which would be a real shock to China who has been dominating trade for a long time. This could be one of the reasons why China has been expanding its military capacity. Not for a direct war but as a show of strength against the US, a country that considers itself to be a major military power.

Let’s also look domestically here. It is no secret that China has its fingers in the Australian cookie jar. Whether it is buying up land, business expansions or immigration, China has been creeping into Australia’s backyard for years now. You can walk around a major Australian city and find it to be ripe with oriental culture, people and architecture. Some suburbs are even starting to translate their street signs into Chinese.

Chinese/Australian population is as follows:

Statistics show that a large portion of the population of our major cities are Chinese. This begs the question, that with so many Chinese citizens in Australia is there not a reason for China to want to protect their citizens? This takes us back to the 1930s when Hitler’s policy of “Lebensraum (Living Space)” was being discussed as a means to protect German speaking communities in other countries as culturally different groups are going to have different interests by default. But one culture always dominates a country’s government.

Yes, I know relations with China are nowhere near as serious as they were as 1930’s Germany with countries like Poland back in the day, but we can still draw some parallels here. With China’s favourability rapidly plummeting within the opinions of the Australian public and increased opposition to Chinese ownership and immigration maybe China will have something to worry about in a few years’ time? Maybe they are preparing for the time where Australia starts to “even out” our side of interational trade.

For now, it will remain speculation.

With time, more evidence will emerge, and we will know for sure if China is going to go ahead with its plans for a Vanuatu military base, which will possibly allow them the ability to fire a rocket that will hit our shores in less than 12 minutes.