Skip to main content

Risk and instability: Afghanistan seen as weak link for China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Yet, it is also deeply concerned that the very withdrawal could bring risk and instability to that backyard — Central Asia — and possibly even spill over their narrow, remote border into China itself and the heavily Muslim northwestern region of Xinjiang.

In July, Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pose for a photo during their meeting in Tianjin, China.

In July, Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pose for a photo during their meeting in Tianjin, China. AP

The Taliban’s takeover could certainly present political and economic opportunities for China, including developing Afghanistan’s vast mineral riches, and Beijing has said it is ready to help rebuild the impoverished nation. But stability will be required to reap most of those benefits, and the immediate result of the American withdrawal has been more instability, not less.

“I think Beijing will play up the narrative of American fecklessness and decline of Empire, painting this as evidence of why Beijing will be a better steward for the Eurasian heartland,” said Raffaello Pantucci, an expert on the region at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

“But in reality, I am not clear that I see that many huge upsides for Beijing at the moment.”

Like many nations, China is concerned about the risk of terrorism from a Taliban-led Afghanistan. Beijing has repeatedly told the Taliban that the country cannot become a breeding ground for militants to launch attacks in Xinjiang, much as Osama bin Laden used it as a base to prepare his September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan. AP

A more proximate threat may be the spillover of militancy into Pakistan and Central Asia, where China has invested heavily and sought to build alliances.

“The Afghan Taliban have promised that they will break from international terrorist forces, but we still haven’t seen how they will do this because they are not officially in power,” said Li Wei, an international security expert retired from the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

The Taliban could be an incongruent partner for China since their religion-based philosophy is diametrically opposed to Beijing’s vision of atheist rule under the Communist Party that puts social stability and economic development above all. That, however, has not prevented China’s ultimately pragmatic leaders from reaching out to them.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted a delegation led by the Taliban’s political leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, late last month and pressed China’s hopes for stability and an end to violence and terrorist threats.

Chinese officials and state media have been critical of what they call America’s “hasty” retreat from Afghanistan. “Taliban’s rapid victory embarrasses US, smashes image, arrogance,” read a headline in the state-owned Global Times newspaper.

Hundreds of people gather near a US Air Force C-17 transport plane along the perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Hundreds of people gather near a US Air Force C-17 transport plane along the perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. AP

Despite the rhetoric, Wang told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that China was willing to work with the US to promote the “soft landing” of the Afghan issue.

However, he added that “the US cannot, on the one hand, deliberately curb and suppress China to damage China’s legitimate rights and interests, and on the other hand, count on China to offer support and coordination”.

President Joe Biden has said leaving Afghanistan will prepare America to deal with bigger potential threats, including from China.

“Our true strategic competitors — China and Russia — would love nothing more than the United States to continue to funnel billions of dollars and resources and attention into stabilising Afghanistan indefinitely,” he said this week.

Yin Gang, a researcher in Middle Eastern Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the two countries share a common interest in a stable Afghanistan.

“If Afghanistan achieves stability, it will make the US look good and China will be invited to participate in reconstruction,” Yin said.

China has chased commercial ventures in Afghanistan, but the prospects of such projects reaching fruition appear no closer now than they were over the past 20 years of the US presence.

A consortium led by China Metallurgical Group Corporation bid $US3 billion ($4.2 billion) to develop what is one of the world’s largest copper deposits at Mes Aynak, promising also to build a power plant, railway and other infrastructure. Years later, work has yet to start, largely because of insurgent activity in surrounding Logar province.

Uighur Muslim men stand in front of map showing the area claimed by Uighur separatists as “East Turkistan” marked in blue at a resettlement community in Kayseri in central Turkey.

Uighur Muslim men stand in front of map showing the area claimed by Uighur separatists as “East Turkistan” marked in blue at a resettlement community in Kayseri in central Turkey. AP

China’s state-owned National Petroleum Corporation suspended oil drilling in the Amu Darya basin because of a delay in the signing of a transit agreement with Uzbekistan to allow crude oil to be trucked to China. The Afghan government later voided the drilling agreement.

China has invested heavily in Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan, in hopes of extending its Belt and Road Initiative to broaden China’s overseas reach by improving trade routes, but Afghanistan appears far from ready to serve as a link in that chain.

Four months after US President Joe Biden announces an end to ‘America’s longest war’, The Taliban return to power in Afghanistan. Most of the country fell without a battle. Video by Tom Compagnoni.

China’s extensive economic interests in Pakistan and Central Asia could clearly be impacted by any terrorist resurgence in Afghanistan, said Henry Storey, a political risk analyst based in Melbourne, Australia,

“At the same time, China is loath to get involved with any boots on the ground presence, as it does not want to repeat the mistakes of the US — or be distracted from more pressing issues like Taiwan,” Storey said, referring to the island China claims as its own and threatens to invade.

Chinese scholars echoed the government line that China will not insert itself into Afghanistan’s domestic affairs, regardless of how the situation develops. At a briefing this week, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China would provide assistance to Afghanistan within its means.

While “hawkish” Chinese state media have portrayed events in Afghanistan as a win for Beijing and loss for Washington, that reflects “a false sense of confidence,” said Meia Nouwens, a China expert with the International Institute for Strategic Studies

China might not be as interested in exploiting the US withdrawal as an opportunity to engage economically with Afghanistan as some have suggested, she said, noting that Beijing has been slowing its foreign infrastructure investment.

The question of how to safeguard security of Chinese investment and personnel also looms large.

“For the moment ... Beijing will do the same as most other countries,” she said. “Wait and see how things develop in Afghanistan.


Popular posts from this blog

SSG Commando Muddassir Iqbal of Pakistan Army

“ Commando Muddassir Iqbal was part of the team who conducted Army Public School operation on 16 December 2014. In this video he reveals that he along with other commandos was ordered to kill the innocent children inside school, when asked why should they kill children after killing all the terrorist he was told that it would be a chance to defame Taliban and get nation on the side. He and all other commandos killed children and later Taliban was blamed. Muddassir Iqbal has deserted the military and now he is  with mujahedeen somewhere in AF PAK border area” For authenticity of  this tape journalists can easy reach to his home town to interview his family members or   ISPR as he reveals his army service number” Asalam o Alaikum: My name is Muddassir Iqbal. My father’s name is Naimat Ali. I belong to Sialkot divison (Punjab province), my village is Shamsher Poor and district, tehsil and post office  Narowal. Unfortunately I was working in Pakistan army. I feel embarrassed to tell yo

RWR Advisory: Belt and Road at a Glance

This edition covers developments from March 12 - March 26..  Belt and Road at a Glance   Subscribe to the Belt and Road Monitor Top Developments China National Machinery Industry Corporation, commonly known as Sinomach, has agreed to  build  a $845 million, 255-mile railway across  Iran , building upon a sustained period of growth for Chinese investment in Iran that accelerated after Xi Jinping’s state visit to the country in January 2016. The railway will link the cities of Tehran, Hamedan and Sanandaj. China Civil Engineering Construction, a subsidiary of CRCC, is currently also  building  a 263-km railway line from Kermanshah to Khosravi. According to Chinese entrepreneur Lin Zuoru, who  owns  factories in Iran, “Iran is at the center of everything.”On March 23, China’s Ministry of Commerce announced that foreign direct investment by Chinese companies in 50 Belt and Road countries fell by 30.9% year-on-year. While the Ministry stated that this number covers investment across al

CPEC Jobs in Pakistan, salary details

JOBS...نوکریاں چائنہ کمپنی میں Please help the deserving persons... Salary: Salary package in China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in these 300,000 jobs shall be on daily wages. The details of the daily wages are as follows; Welder: Rs. 1,700 daily Heavy Duty Driver: Rs. 1,700 daily Mason: Rs. 1,500 daily Helper: Rs. 850 daily Electrician: Rs. 1,700 daily Surveyor: Rs. 2,500 daily Security Guard: Rs. 1,600 daily Bulldozer operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Concrete mixer machine operator: Rs. 2,000 daily Roller operator: Rs. 2,000 daily Steel fixer: Rs. 2,200 daily Iron Shuttering fixer: Rs. 1,800 daily Account clerk: Rs. 2,200 daily Carpenter: Rs. 1,700 daily Light duty driver: Rs. 1,700 daily Labour: Rs. 900 daily Para Engine mechanic: Rs. 1,700 daily Pipe fitter: Rs. 1,700 daily Storekeeper: Rs. 1,700 daily Office boy: Rs. 1,200 daily Excavator operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Shovel operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Computer operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Security Supervisor: Rs.