Logistics: China Enters The Big Leagues


March 18, 2011: China quickly mobilized military forces, and commercial transport, to evacuate 35,000 Chinese citizens from Libya in late February and early March. A Chinese warship was quickly summoned from the anti-piracy flotilla off Somalia, to protect the commercial ships quickly chartered to take most of these Chinese expatriates out via the eastern Libya port of Benghazi. Others were moved by chartered bus to Tunisia and Egypt, while a few thousand were flown out using chartered aircraft, and four Chinese Air Force Il-76s flown in (via Sudan, a Chinese ally).

For the last two decades, China has been a growing factor in the sea and air transport industries, because of booming exports and raw materials imports. Sending warships to the anti-piracy patrol for the past two years was another exercise of China's growing global reach. But the prompt and orderly evacuation of nearly 40,000 Chinese from Libya was a masterful demonstration that China had entered the big leagues, as far as global logistics was concerned.

This operation also strengthens the Chinese Navy's call for more money, and diplomatic support, to establish some overseas bases (mainly in the Indian Ocean). The government has resisted this so far, but not refused all requests. Thus bases, or basing rights, appear likely in Myanmar (Burma) and somewhere in the Persian Gulf or East Africa.


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