China and America’s clumsy dance over cheese and wine in Djibouti’s nest of spies

At the beginning of the 20th century it was Oslo, in the 40s it was Casablanca and in the 50s it was Berlin.

Today, you could say that the spy capital of the world is the little-known African nation of Djibouti.

Two US Osprey military planes roar above Camp Lemonnier, sending special forces missions into the war-torn deserts of Yemen and Somalia.

A few miles away, China’s only overseas military base is perched on the water’s edge.

This tiny, rough and sunny Horn of Africa nation is now home to one of the largest concentrations of foreign military bases on earth.

Over the past decade, the nation of less than a million people has become a microcosm of the new world order. It has become a nest of spies, a place where former Western powers vie for influence against the rise of China.

A regular cheese and wine party at the Kempinski Hotel overlooking the azure waters of the harbor draws in all manner of diplomats, military contractors and soldiers, except, it seems, the Chinese. Relations are peaceful but surveillance is everywhere.

“Everyone knows what you’re doing. You have to get used to nothing being private,” says a foreign diplomat. “Everybody here is conspiring. It’s the national pastime.”

Thousands of soldiers from the United States, China, France, Japan, Spain and Italy guarantee the safety of a local aristocracy of corrupt politicians in exchange for some of the most strategically valuable real estate. .

Western officials estimate there could be 10,000 Chinese troops behind the concrete blast walls of the top-secret Chinese facility. But to outsiders, the mesh of barbed wire and cannon towers seems mysteriously uninhabited. No one ever seems to come out.

“I walk past the base every day, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone. Who knows what they’re doing in there,” says a UN worker, who was asked to remain anonymous.

Comments are closed.