Reading on the American founding, I recall a quote (my indebtedness to anyone who can produce the source) which held something "as rare as a Catholic in America." Times change, as Catholicism is now the largest single religion in America.
Chinese war ships entered the Mediterranean today. "As rare as a Chinaman in the Mediterranean," it seems, would be another anachronistic reflection of the past. A Chinese frigate conducting anti-piracy escort missions in the Gulf of Aden rendezvoused with a Greek ship evacuating Chinese citizens from Libya and will dock in Crete.
All of this continues to raise questions not only regarding China's political and economic influence in Africa, but also its emerging military intentions. North Africa has often looked to China as a potential economic model, respecting its rapid growth within an authoritarian regime. However, Franco Zallio's Policy Brief for GMF suggests that "China will prioritize the defense of its economic interests over its political relations with incumbent regimes," and potentinal "new governments in the Mediterranean region will be much less attracted by the Chinese 'model' than the fallen regimes."
Though a country with nuclear weapons, China's military has been kept in check and not played a significant role in domestic or international affairs. However, Rodger Baker provides a warning as China's Military Comes Into Its Own:
For most of modern China's history, the military has been an internal force without much appetite for more worldly affairs. That is now changing, appropriately, due to China's growing global prominence and reliance on the global economy. But that means that a new balance must be found, and China's senior leadership must both accommodate and balance the military's perspective and what the military advocates for. As Chinese leaders deal with a generational transition, expanding international involvement and an increasingly difficult economic balance, the military is coming into its own and making its interests heard more clearly.
Like North Africa, China is on the cusp of generational shift. While many of the dynamics vary, the consequences for world stability are even more perilous. Let us hope America is not again caught by surprise and afraid to confront a potential crisis.