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Despite U.S. concerns, Djibouti may see gains from Chinese finance

Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation on September 3, 2018 in Beijing, China.
Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, in Beijing, on Sept. 3, 2018. Photo: Andy Wong / Pool via Getty Images

In unveiling the Trump administration’s new Africa strategy last month, national security adviser John Bolton cast Chinese financial and military activity in Djibouti as a threat to U.S. interests in the Horn of Africa. He cited concerns about Djibouti's mounting debt burden to China and China's potential to take over a strategically located port, along with its establishment of a military base near U.S. base Camp Lemonnier.

The big picture: Djibouti has enjoyed a four-decade relationship with China, and in the past few years, this relationship has become more instrumental in Djibouti's development. China holds 77% of Djibouti’s debt, largely because of Vision Djibouti 2035, the country's agenda to become a logistics and commercial hub for continental trade and spur medium-term growth of 10% per year.

Expert Voices

Trump threat likely to alienate Turkey, weaken U.S. leverage in Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photo with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani prior to their talks at Black Sea resort state residence
Russian President Vladimir Putin with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov via Getty Images

President Trump redefined his Syria policy in a volley of tweets Sunday, threatening to "devastate Turkey economically" if it attacks Kurds in Syria. At issue is Ankara’s longstanding objection to the U.S. alliance with the Syrian Kurdish forces (YPG), who have proven to be Washington's most reliable and efficient allies in Syria’s northeast in the fight against ISIS.

Why it matters: Trump's proclamation marks another troubling development in the souring U.S.–Turkey relationship, one that may further fuel anti-American sentiments in Turkey. 

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