As early as the second half of the twentieth century, as the pace of its economic development accelerated, the PRC began to position itself more and more clearly on the world stage. At first, Beijing tried to influence world politics through numerous Maoist communist and left-wing radical parties and movements that in 1960-e-1980-ies were active throughout the world - from Southeast Asia to Latin America, from Western Europe to South Africa. Then, when the revolutionary communist ideology was somewhat outdated, support for the Maoists was curtailed, although now China maintains ties with several Maoist parties in South and Southeast Asia, whose activities are used to put pressure on neighboring countries.
Now China is focused on economic expansion, which is carried out, firstly, by the total development of world markets with cheap Chinese goods, and secondly - by large-scale investments in the economies of very many countries of the world. For example, Beijing is very active on the African continent. After the collapse of the USSR and the serious weakening of the Russian positions in Africa, it was China that became the main competitor of the United States and the former colonial metropolises for economic and then political influence on the continent. As in the Cold War of the second half of the twentieth century, Africa once again became a field of confrontation between the powers, but not the USSR and the USA, but the USA and China. China is now making large-scale investments in economic projects in a number of countries in the continent. Africa is even called the “testing ground for soft power” - it is here that Beijing is testing the mechanisms of influence on political processes through investment and economic infiltration.
For China, Africa is a real storehouse of minerals that are not yet being developed or are being conducted in very modest amounts. Here are concentrated 90% of world reserves of platinum, 90% cobalt, 50% gold, 30% uranium. The “black continent” accounts for 40% of world hydropower reserves, and oil reserves are very significant. Naturally, Beijing cannot miss such a "tidbit." Moreover, China seeks to penetrate not only those countries that traditionally sympathized with the socialist camp (such as Zimbabwe or Angola), but also in the faithful, as it seemed before, younger allies of the West, for example, in Kenya. Economic ties with Kenya are growing rapidly, and an increasing number of young Kenyans choose Chinese in Kenyan schools and universities.
East Africa is generally very interesting to China. Firstly, geographically it is nevertheless closer to China, which facilitates many aspects of economic cooperation. Secondly, the countries of the region have access to the Indian Ocean, which is very important for China in terms of geopolitical confrontation with India and ensuring the presence of the Chinese fleet in this region. If China used to master Africa by economic methods, now the time has come for military-political expansion. So, the first military base of the People's Liberation Army of China appeared on the African continent.
The logistics center of the Chinese Navy opened in August 2017 in Djibouti. This small country, once a colony of France called "French Somalia", has long been providing its territory for naval and military air bases of Western countries. French, American, Spanish soldiers are quartered in Djibouti, and now it's the turn of the Chinese. The strategic position of Djibouti greatly facilitates the task of providing the Chinese fleet in the Indian Ocean. The emergence of a base in Djibouti is fully justified for China - since trade with African countries is increasing, China needs to protect the following merchant ships from the ports of East Africa to the PRC. Somali pirates are a known problem in this region, and to protect against them, the presence of warships is necessary, which they will supply at the base in Djibouti. In addition, the emergence of a military base in Djibouti for China facilitates the task of monitoring the actions of the naval forces of India and the US Navy ships in the Indian Ocean. There is no doubt that the military base in Djibouti is just a “pilot project” that opens the era of China’s rapid military and political penetration into African states.
The United States is greatly alarmed by the growing influence of China in Africa, but they cannot do anything. Chinese goods compare favorably with the price of American products, and the African consumer for the most part is not able to purchase products of Western production. Therefore, China dominates the market for consumer goods, and in addition invests heavily in infrastructure development in a number of African countries. For example, very large Chinese investments go to Nigeria. One of the world's largest countries in terms of population, the former British colony of Nigeria has always followed in the wake of Anglo-American policy, but now China’s positions are also very strong. In Nigeria - large reserves of oil, which until recently were exploited by Western companies. Now China has penetrated into the country's oil industry, to which the leadership of Nigeria treats much more favorably than to Western companies. China has a special relationship with Angola, which also produces oil. It is with Angola and Russia that Beijing wants to try switching to settlements in yuan, not American dollars.
Even more understandable than in Africa, is the expansion of the Chinese military-political and economic presence in the Asia-Pacific region and in South Asia. In the South Asian direction, India remains the main Chinese opponent, in the confrontation with which Beijing is blocked with Islamabad. Pakistan is a long-time strategic ally of China, and here China is also expanding its economic and military presence. China’s military cooperation with Pakistan began as early as the 1960s and was initially directed against India and the Soviet Union, and now aims to confront India and the United States, who seem to be Pakistan’s ally, but overly intervene in the regional political situation. Now China is helping Pakistan arm the Pakistani army, conducts joint military exercises. The city of Gwadar in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, where the Chinese in 2002-2005 have, is of major economic importance for China. A large seaport was built. Gwadar is a key point in the economic corridor linking Iran with China. It is not excluded that Chinese soldiers will appear in Gvadar in the foreseeable future - if not the fighters of the People’s Liberation Army of China, then at least one of the numerous Chinese private military companies providing their services for the protection of economic and industrial facilities.
Another strategic direction in which Beijing-Southeast Asia is expanding its influence. Here, China has a few key issues. First, this is a relationship with Taiwan - in fact an independent state, which is still not recognized in Beijing. Taiwan exists solely due to the intercession of the United States and American allies in the region, since China strictly adheres to the concept of the country's indivisibility and dreams of the time when the island will return to the Celestial Empire. Second, China has unresolved territorial disputes over the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Archipelago in the South China Sea. Beijing regards these territories historically as its own, but China’s claims are disputed by several countries at once - Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. The positions of these states are supported by "heavyweights" - the United States, Japan, Australia, which are not at all impressed by the expansion of the Chinese presence in the region. However, China is not just expressing its claims to these islands, but is actively “rattling weapons"Without hiding the readiness to use military force in the event of an aggravation of the situation.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague believes that China has no reason to claim the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Archipelago in the South China Sea. But in Beijing they are not satisfied with the decision of the International Court of Justice and are not going to recognize it. Therefore, China continues to work on the artificial strengthening of reefs and the creation of artificial islands. On artificial islands, China creates objects of transport and communication infrastructure - airfields and communication centers, which, in the event of an aggravation of the situation, may well be used for military purposes - for the needs of the PLA.
Actually, to strengthen its military-strategic positions, China also needs artificial islands, which, according to world law, do not have their own territorial waters and are pointless from the point of view of increment of the state’s territory, but they can be used for needs aviation and navy. The United States has aircraft carriers, and China - artificial islands, which essentially perform the same function in the South China Sea as aircraft carriers - are used as a base for naval aircraft. The sections of the sea where Chinese man-made islands are being created are called the Chinese zone of responsibility in Beijing and rather rigidly require foreign states not to invade the airspace above these islands. Neighboring countries can’t do anything, because of course, their own forces for confrontation with China are not enough, and the United States will not start a large-scale conflict with China over artificial islands in the South China Sea.
The growth of the country's military expenditures testifies to the military-political ambitions of China. Of course, the Chinese military budget is significantly inferior to the US - it is about four times less. But do not forget that China and the United States have completely different methods of recruiting the army and attitude to military service. In China, the army is recruited by conscription, which eliminates the need for substantial funding for the soldiers' service. In the American army are contract soldiers who need to pay a very high salary by world standards. This fact alone explains the superiority of the American military budget over the Chinese. Secondly, the United States pays much more attention to financing the rest of military personnel, creating comfortable conditions for them, and providing all sorts of benefits to veterans who leave the army. If we remove the social component and the salaries of contract servicemen, then the gap in military expenditures of the United States and China will no longer be so disastrous.
The mobilization resources of China and the USA are all the more incomparable. 1,3 billion people live in China. Although the best are selected for conscription, the percentage of citizens who have completed regular military service in the PLA ranks is still very high in China. And, most importantly, they are ethnic Chinese and representatives of other indigenous peoples of the country, while the American army includes more and more immigrants and their descendants, who have far less motivation to protect the American state. It is necessary to take into account the fact that in China, military spending is often “disguised” under other budget items, and if we sum up all of Beijing’s defense spending and related areas, then quite impressive sums are released.
Now China has embarked on the path of active modernization of its armed forces. The PLA is much better armed than before, although in many respects it is still inferior to the Russian and American armies. It should also be noted that Beijing is actively using such a modern military presence mechanism as private military companies that act in the interests of Chinese companies in “dangerous regions” such as Africa or the Middle East. Since the Chinese PMCs are staffed exclusively by former PLA or police special forces, they are under the complete control of the Chinese special services.
The recent decision to give Xi Jinping the right to hold the position of the PRC chairman indefinitely indicates that China is ready for a tougher and more active foreign policy, for which an irremovable “supreme commander” is required. With the same purpose, Xi Jinping was directly subordinated to the Armed People's Police of China - the Chinese equivalent of the Russian National Guard troops, which can be used to quickly suppress any insurrections, mass unrest or fight against separatist and terrorist groups.