China in Afghanistan
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China is a country that has always taken a long view of the world and its destiny. Its relationship with Afghanistan is no exception. China has time on its side and they are very comfortable waiting events out. Their strategy of minimal involvement in the military occupation of Afghanistan while developing and maintaining economic and diplomatic ties will pay off in the long run.
Diplomatic Relations. China has maintained friendly diplomatic relationships with Afghanistan over the years. President Karzai and other Afghan government officials have visited China and Chinese authorities have visited Kabul. At the same time China has shied away from interfering in the internal politics of Afghanistan. China has made minor efforts 2. to develop cultural exchanges but until the security situation improves it will hold back in this area.
No Military Involvement. China has not provided troops to the ISAF coalition, they do not participate in the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) allowing military supplies to transit China on their way to Afghanistan. The country has avoided becoming entangled in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.
Non-Military Assistance. China has provided assistance to Afghanistan in the form of diplomatic support, humanitarian aid, and financial assistance. It has engaged in building hospitals, roads (Karakorum Highway), and water resources. This aid, however, is very little when compared to other donor nations such as Japan, Canada, Australia, United States, and European countries.
China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan (in that order). China's relationship with Afghanistan takes into account the geo-politics of the region and especially it's long-term relationship with Pakistan. Pakistan is seen by China as a strategic counterweight to the military, political, and economic power of India. Any interaction by China with Afghanistan certainly takes into account the effects on the China-Pakistan relationship. For instance, any involvement by China in the disruption or destruction of Afghan insurgent groups supported by Pakistan could cause a strain in the China-Pakistan relationship.
Economic Ties. China has strong economic ties with Afghanistan. The country sees great potential in the future should Afghanistan become stabilized. Afghanistan has many mineral deposits (marble, copper and iron) that can be mined, there is potential for oil fields to be drilled, and Afghanistan could prove to be a big market for the export of finished goods from China.
Security Concerns of China. A stabilized and secure Afghanistan is in China's security interests. China has a fear that with the withdrawal of Western security forces (ISAF) in 2014 the internal security in Afghanistan will take a turn for the worse. This could provide for more smuggling of drugs into China from Afghanistan and the harboring of members of Uighur separatist groups that pose an internal threat to China.
East Turkestan Islamic Movement. China fears that the strife in Afghanistan could potentially spill over into China's Xinjiang province providing further support to a Muslim separatist group known as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. This Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim group seek a separate homeland in the western region of Xinjiang province. So a primary aim of China is to prevent the destabilization of Xinjiang province.
Who LIves in the Xinjian Region of China? The Xinjian autonomous region in China is populated by the indigenous ethnic Uighur population who chafes under Chinese rule. 6. The region is the largest of China's administrative regions. Before a heavy influx of Chinese (ethinic majority Han) the area was mostly Uighur. Most Uighurs are Muslim and they are culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian peoples. 7.
Economics of Greater Central Asia Region. There is great promise ahead for the economic prosperity of Central Asia. Mineral deposits, oil fields, and commercial trade are growing in the region. Should the countries (Afghanistan included) found in this region increase security then the prospects for economic growth and increased trade is promising. China stands to benefit from this promising economic future. The Old Silk Road could become the New Silk Road. Once again, China views its relationship with Afghanistan as one element in the larger picture of Central Asia.
Oil Fields. In December 2011 China and Afghanistan signed a 25-year deal that allowed China's state-owned National Petroleum Corporation to become the first foreign company to develop oil and natural gas reserves. 1. There is the possibility of building an oil refinery which will most likely be located in either Sari Pul or Faryab province.
Oil and Gas Pipelines. There is the possibility of building a trans-Afghan natural gas pipeline that comes from Turkmenistan and goes to China - providing a valuable resource for China's economy.
Mineral Deposits. China has also invested heavily in the Aynak copper mine in Logar province through its China Metallurgical Construction Company and Jiangxi Copper. This is one of the biggest foreign investments in Afghanistan thus far by a foreign power. Currently the discovery of a Buddist archaeological site near the Aynak mine has slowed the development of the mining project 5. - which is a blessing for the Chinese because the Afghan security and political situation is far from resolved. A future rail line linking the mine to the rest of the Afghan railroad network is also associated with the mining project.
No Heavy Lifting But Reaping the Benefits. China has positioned itself well in the context of the Afghan conflict. The country is not doing any of the heavy lifting in terms of troops and financial aid; however, it is positioned to benefit greatly in terms of economic enrichment once a stable Afghanistan comes into being. This low-profile stance avoids diplomatic and military consequences yet provides opportunity down the road.
Long Term Strategic View. In summary, China is employing a strategy of "wait-and-see" on Afghanistan. China is covering down on all the possible angles so it is positioned favorably no matter what the outcome. Should Afghanistan become peaceful, stabilize and prosper, China will be there to reap the political and economic benefits. At the same time, should the Taliban take power China has ensured that its stance on the conflict will not put it in an unfavorable position with a Taliban regime. Most important, China's actions in Afghanistan will not jeopardize its relationship with Pakistan. Some believe that China will be the "ultimate winner" 3. in the Afghan conflict.
Swaine, Michael D., "China and the 'AfPak' Issue",
China Leadership Monitor, No. 31, February 15, 2010.
Huasheng, Zhao, China and Afghanistan: China's
Interests, Stances, and Perspectives, A report of the CSIS Russia and
Eurasia Program, Center for Strategic & International Studies, March 2012.
Yilmaz, Serafettin, Afghanistan: China's New
Frontier? e-International Relations, December 19, 2012.
Zyck, Steven A., The Role of China in
Afghanistan's Economic Development & Reconstruction, Civil-Military
Fusion Centre, March 2012.
Afghanistan-China Relations. WikipediA. A
historical look of relations between China and Afghanistan.
China in Afghanistan. China in Central Asia.
February 26, 2014. "China in Afghanistan: All About Xinjiang Now?". The Dipolomat. China is concerned about the Afghan situation and how it affects its western region of Xinjiang.
February 22, 2014. "Top official says Chinese security depends on Afghan stability". The Chicago Tribune.
February 10, 2014. "China's all-weather friend in Pakistan". Registan.net.
January 15, 2014. "China's Westward Strategy". By Yo-Jung Chen, The Diplomat.
January 10, 2014. "China Reaches to India on Afghanistan - Analysis". Eurasia Review. China and India are chatting a little more now that Western powers are slowly withdrawing from Afghanistan.
October 21, 2013. "China - the first mover in Afghanistan's resource war". STRATRISK.
September 29, 2103. "Afghanistan's Karzai Meets With Top Chinese Leaders". Radio Free Europe.
September 27, 2013. "Karzai meets China leaders amid security concerns". News Observer.
August 12, 2013. "U.S. Geopolitics: Afghanistan and the Containment of China". Small Wars Journal.
July 19, 2013. "As America fights, China gets contracts". CBS Money Watch.
July 13, 2013. "Residents of Afghanistan's most isolated area ponder leaving". Stars and Stripes. Villagers in the Wakhan Corridor bordering Afghanistan and China consider moving to other countries.
May 20, 2013. "India, China to cooperate on Afghanistan despite Pak role". Business Standard.
April 20, 2013. "What Kabul means to Bejing". Business Standard. China seems more willing to cooperate with India over Afghanistan - but others warn India to be careful.
April 5, 2013. "China's Afghanistan Challenge".
April 2, 2013. "China's Leadership Opportunity in Afghanistan". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
January 28, 2013. "China Is Set to Make a
Killing on the Afghan War". Business Insider.
January 26, 2013.
China Could Prove Ultimate
Winner in Afghanistan. NPR.
January 19, 2013.
China and Central Asia in
2013. China in Central Asia Blog.
December 4, 2012.
China in Afghanistan, a
tale of two mines. China in Central Asia Blog.
November 7, 2012.
Shifts in Beijing's Afghan
Policy: A View From the Ground. China in Central Asia Blog.
October 21, 2012. "China's CNPC begins oil
production in Afghanistan". Reuters.com.
October 19, 2012. "Chinese Checkers in Kabul -
Analysis". Eurasia Review.
October 11, 2012. "China in Afghanistan: Expect
stronger presence after U.S. 2014 withdrawal".
The Washington Times.
October 3, 2012. "China's Afghan Moment".
August 16, 2012. "Finding common ground in
Afghanistan", The AFPAK Channel.
July 23, 2012.
Sino-Afghan Relations in
Perspective. The Tokyo Foundation.
June 8, 2012. "China Shows Interest in Afghan
Security, Fearing Taliban Would Help Separatists",
The New York Times.
June 6, 2012. "Why China is likely to get more
involved in Afghanistan". The Christian Science Monitor.
May 4, 2012.
China Digs Into Afghanistan.
China in Central Asia.
December 28, 2011. "China wins $700 million
Afghan oil and gas deal. Why didn't the US bid?"
The Christian Science
November 3, 2011.
China takes higher-profile
role in Afghan diplomacy - diplomats. Reuters.
October 28, 2011. "China passes the buck in
Afghanistan", The AFPAK Channel.
December 4, 2009. "US sees bigger role for China in Afghanistan". South China Morning Post. At one time the U.S. considered asking China to allow access through the Wakhan Corridor for the shipment of supplies and equipment through China to Afghanistan.
October 23, 2009.
Bringing China (back) in, GMF Blog.
1. In December 2011 China and Afghanistan signed
an oil development agreement. See Afghanistan Signs Its First Oil
Contract - With China posted on CNCNews.com.
2. A Chinese language program was established at
Kabul University. See One man's Confucius Institute, Global
Times, June 12, 2010.
3. See China Could Prove Ultimate Winner in Afghanistan, National
4. For the specifics on the Wakhan Corridor boundary see
Boundary Study, No. 89 - May 1, 1969, Afghanistan - China Boundary,
Officer of the Geographer, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department
of State. Posted on Florida State University site.
5. The co-location of the copper mine with a
"vast complex of richly decorated ancient Buddhis monasteries has put the
Afghan and Chinese mining company in a fix. Read more in "Ancient Buddhas,
Modern Peril", The New York Times, December 22, 2012.
6. For more on the Xinjiang region and the ethnic Uighurs see "Why is
there tension between China and the Uighurs?". BBC News China,
March 6, 2014.
7. For info on the ethnic rift in Xinjiang region read "China Remodels an
Ancient Silk Road City, and an Ethnic Rift Widens", The New York
Times, March 5, 2014.
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