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Chinese troops in ... Cuba?

An improvised gate blocks the way leading to a Cuban military base near Bejucal.

An improvised gate blocks the way leading to a Cuban military base near Bejucal.

REUTERS/Dave Sherwood

What's China up to in Cuba these days? First, setting up an electronic spy base. Now, it's reportedly planning to build a military training facility on the island.

That's right — America's No. 1 geopolitical rival could potentially deploy its troops just 100 miles off the coast of Florida.

If you're the US, that's too close for comfort. More troubling geopolitically, China's plans in Cuba seem to be part of "Project 141," an ambitious strategy by the People's Liberation Army to vastly expand China's global military footprint that includes a base in Djibouti and naval outposts in Cambodia and the UAE.

But if you're China, flexing your military muscles in Cuba is an adequate response to the US Navy's presence in the disputed South China Sea or near Taiwan, which is also about 100 miles from mainland China. And the US can hardly complain about a Chinese military presence on its doorstep when it has more than 350,000 troops stationed within striking distance of Beijing.

Throwback: In 1962, the Soviets got caught red-handed deploying nuclear missiles in Cuba. Yet, more than six decades later, the Chinese don't seem to be trying too hard to conceal their activities on the island from US intelligence. However inaccurate, the Cold War narrative is becoming harder to dispute.


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