Powering the PLA Abroad

The establishment of China‘s first official overseas military base in Djibouti in 2017 set the precedent for People’s Liberation Army (PLA) units to be permanently stationed abroad. Many foreign analysts assume that China will continue expanding its overseas military presence, most likely through a mix of adding new bases and leveraging dual-use ports. The 2021 U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) report on the Chinese military lists “Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola, and Tajikistan” as locations where Beijing is “pursuing additional military facilities to support naval, air, ground, cyber, and space power projection” (DoD, November 3, 2021). China faces many challenges in establishing and sustaining a more global military presence, but one overlooked yet fundamental consideration is the energy resources necessary to fuel its international military presence and operations. This article explores PLA research concerning potential challenges of overseas energy supplies and one perhaps surprising solution: renewable energy.

This report is part of the RAND external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND’s publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.

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