America vs. China: Who Has More Military Bases Abroad?

Empire Wars: Here's how China compares with the US militarily as it strives to flex its muscles

File photo of a warship near the South China Sea (Photo: Pixabay)

Awbuck Quandoe

February 8, 2020, New Delhi: Did you know that the US officially has 500 times more overseas military bases than China?

Despite fears of Beijing’s growing overseas influence, a look at the number of military bases worldwide shows the US still holds immense sway overseas and China is nowhere in the reckoning.

According to the latest US defence department figures, the Pentagon last year had 514 “foreign sites” or overseas military bases.

It had its footprint in places as far away as Australia, Bahrain, Germany, Peru, Iceland, South Korea numerous other nations.

In stark contrast, China officially has only one international military base – in the East African country of Djibouti.

The 2018 Base Structure Report made public by the US Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense says last year the US Army had 202 overseas sites or bases, the US Air Force 166, the US Navy 123, and the US Marine Corps 23, totalling 514 foreign military bases.

Along with domestic military bases and those in US territories, the combined total number of US military bases stood at a staggering 4,775 last year.

According to the report, the US defence establishment “manages a worldwide real property portfolio that spans all 50 states, eight US territories with outlying areas, and 45 foreign countries.

The majority of the foreign sites are located in Germany (194 sites), Japan (121 sites), and South Korea (83 sites).”

China, meanwhile, set up its first overseas military base in 2017 in Djibouti, according to another US defence department report shared with Congress this year.

The report, titled Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2019, says, “In August 2017, China officially opened a military base in Djibouti, its first overseas military base. Chinese officials claim that the base… will support China’s antipiracy operations in the Horn of Africa and its UN peacekeeping deployments.”

The report predicts Beijing will seek to establish more military bases in countries with which it has a “longstanding friendly relationship and strategic interests, such as Pakistan”.

Recent media reports say Beijing has set up armed outposts on several atolls in the South China Sea, but it is still well short of building full-fledged overseas military bases abroad.

According to an AFP news agency report, the US has a huge military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

It can be said that there is a certain encircling of China that the US military could be systematically carrying out in a long-term game of one-upmanship.

The report states the Pentagon currently has 28,500 troops from the US Air Force, US Army, US Marine Corps and US Navy stationed in South Korea.

In Japan, too, the US military has a big footprint, with nearly 50,000 soldiers stationed there. On the tiny island territory of Guam, the US military has over 5,000 soldiers posted, reportedly along with a THAAD set-up.

An insightful documentary film that deep-dives into the subject of the ongoing hegemonic war between America and China is filmmaker John Pilger’s The Coming War On China.


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