Why Djibouti Is The Center Of The U.S.-China Rivalry

Credit: CNN

Djibouti does not have a big economy or land size. With a population of about 1 million and found in the horn of Africa, Djibouti is the center of the world’s greatest power rivalry between the U.S. and China. It is worth noting that Djibouti hosts both Chinese and US military bases.

Djibouti demands such attention because it resides at the crossroads of three important regions. It looks across the Bab el-Mandeb, a Red sea straight that is a conduit for 20% of the world’s trade, at the Arab Peninsula and the Middle East. It marks the western end of the vast indo-pacific theatre, which serves as a gateway to Ethiopia but also serves as an entry point to the African continent where Beijing has been making its strategic moves.

Since 2009, China has overtaken America as Africa’s top trade partner. China has granted African countries loans to support their various infrastructure projects. As part of its silk road initiative, Beijing is marketing advanced surveillance technology and city projects.

U.S. presence has been focused on counter-terrorism since 9/11, whiles China focuses on economics in a region hungry for growth.

In 2017, China established a military base in Djibouti. After years of being outsized in peace-keeping missions in Africa, it sought to increase its influence militarily.

Critics of Chinese loans argue that the Chinese take advantage of vulnerable, developing countries to entrap into ‘debt traps’, which allows Chinese banks to take over key strategic assets they built. China holds 70% of Djibouti’s gross domestic product in debt.

America has sought to counter this with a private investment called Prosper Africa, though it pales in comparison to Chinese loans.

For many in the U.S., they believe it is due to China’s authoritarian political system that gives it an upper hand in Djibouti.

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