The base would give China control over the passage between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, allowing the Asian country to monitor communications throughout the southern hemisphere, according to Diálogo, a magazine published by US Southern Command.
“A possible Chinese base in Ushuaia would allow Beijing to have a permanent enclave in the Southern Hemisphere, with projection toward the South Atlantic which, depending on the conditions negotiated with Argentina, could allow for the construction of facilities, as well as the presence of naval units and military contingents in this quadrant,” Alberto Rojas, director of the International Affairs Observatory at Chile’s Finis Terrae University, told Diálogo.
“China could intercept all kinds of regional communications with a clear economic and strategic impact, in addition to gaining the potential to maintain permanent monitoring of maritime transit,” he added, suggesting it could lead to a clear and massive interference in international affairs.
Tu Shuiping, a CCP official based in Argentina, is leading negotiations and has reportedly persuaded Tierra del Fuego Governor Gustavo Melella to be more accepting of Chinese investment in his province.
Rojas believes the push by the Chinese to build this base is an important strategic move for the Asian powerhouse.
“The Belt and Road [BRI] project announced by China in 2013 seeks to have a clear projection toward this area of the continent,” he said. “And if this base in Ushuaia materializes, it could become the first of many others, both on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts or the Andean area.”
Rojas added that he believes China's BRI project is a veiled attempt to increase Chinese dominance and control over developing nations.
Beijing currently has three operational overseas enclaves, the best known one being in the East African nation of Djibouti, which gives China a strategic presence along the route from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, Rojas explained.
“There is also the Ream naval base, in Cambodia, where China has an important projection in the Southeast Asian area, and a high level of autonomy both in the base and its surroundings, to the point that it has already built a new port,” he added. “And there is the base in Tadjikistan, under construction in the Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region, which shares borders with China and Afghanistan, with which Beijing seeks to reinforce its presence in Central Asia.”
On top of these bases, there's a Chinese space station in Neuquén, located in central Argentina.
US Army General Laura J. Richardson, commander of US Southern Command, expressed suspicion at these moves.
“What are they up to? They [China] don’t have the same concerns we do in terms of freedom and a free, secure, and prosperous Western Hemisphere,” she said. “They are facilities of an authoritarian government.”