In the near to medium term, China will likely continue to forgo formal military alliances and full-fledged bases, and instead seek to develop partnerships that allow it access to its expanding interests. This can be seen in partnerships established under the Belt and Road Initiative, which some Chinese officials view as a framework for greater military cooperation. These infrastructure projects are quicker to build, easier to operationalize than proper military bases, considerably less expensive to establish and maintain, and nonetheless effectively Chinese-owned.
Sustaining Chinese growth and development through energy imports, as well as protecting Chinese investments and citizens abroad, will continue to be key motivations for the establishment of these new facilities.
At the same time, China’s growing military power and its expanded global posture may increase the prospect of conflict and requires serious and regular assessment.