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The opening ceremony of China's military base in Djibouti. Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images

China is leveraging debts to gain control of strategic ports and secure primary access to African oil in Angola, Kenya and Djibouti.

Why it matters: The Chinese are offering up attractive infrastructure projects to the countries that need them most and following up with escalating demands for influence. That approach will spread to even more of the globe under Beijing's trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative.

Angola is using its precious resource, crude oil, to chip away at a $25 billion debt to China.

  • Since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1983, China has loaned $60 billion to Angola through investments, loans and projects — one of the most recent being a $600 million deep sea port off the African nation's shores.
  • Instead of using cash, Angola pays China back with oil (it's Africa's second-largest producer) which means its ability to repay debt depends on the price of oil, writes Yinka Adegoke, Quartz's Africa editor, in his weekly brief. It also leaves less oil for Angola to sell to other trading partners.

Djibouti is home to China's only overseas military base, and it could soon give up a key port to Beijing.

  • After developing ties with African countries through its involvement in a global anti-piracy effort, China built up enough of a relationship to set up a full-scale military base in Djibouti, where the U.S. also has a base. Tensions escalated this month when Chinese military fired lasers at U.S. aircrafts from the base.
  • And China's influence in Djibouti may expand. As of the end of 2016, China owned 82% of Djibouti's foreign debt, per a report from the Center for Global Development.
  • "Chinese shippers could use the country to tap lucrative East African markets. China also built a railway from Addis Ababa to the port to transfer Ethiopian goods," the Wall Street Journal's Nikhil Lohade and Matina Stevis-Gridneff write.
  • Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, Djibouti's foreign minister, brushed off concerns, saying Chinese debt is "so far manageable." He said, "Let me first underline the fact that no country can develop itself without having a strong infrastructure. And China is, from that perspective, a very good partner."

The majority of Kenya's external debt is Chinese, and the country has a growing trade deficit with Beijing.

  • More than 70% of Kenyan foreign debt is owned by China, per Quartz. And Kenya has just joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, China's answer to the World Bank. "The growing interest in the multilateral financial institution in Africa points to China’s emergence as a favored lender, rivaling the World Bank," per Adegoke.
  • But the Kenyan public is wary of China's influence, he writes. "The concern is Uhuru Kenyatta’s government and others before had been naive in their lopsided dealings with the Chinese."

Go deeper: Sri Lanka falls into the Chinese debt-trap

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Capitol review panel recommends more police, mobile fencing

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan. 6.

Why it matters: Law enforcement officials have warned there could be new plots to attack the area and target lawmakers, including during a speech President Biden is expected to give to a joint session of Congress.

CDC says fully vaccinated people can take fewer precautions

Photo: Filip Filipovic/Getty Images

People who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can take fewer precautions in certain situations, including socializing indoors without masks when in the company of low-risk or other vaccinated individuals, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Monday.

Why it matters: Per the report, there's early evidence that suggests vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection and are potentially less likely to transmit the virus to other people. At the time of its publication, the CDC said the guidance would apply to about 10% of Americans.