Friday October 18, 2019

CHINESE DELEGATION ATTENDS CONFERENCE ON AFGHANISTAN’S FUTURE

 

June 14, 2012

A Chinese delegation led by Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying attended an international conference on Afghanistan’s future held in Kabul on June 14. The conference was aimed at building confidence between Afghanistan and its neighbors and regional allies as the country prepares to regain sole responsibility for its security after the planned withdrawal of NATO troops at the end of 2014. China’s participation in the conference is just one of a number of recent steps it has taken to deepen ties with the Afghan government and to demonstrate its interest in the stability of its neighbor.

At the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) last week, China elevated Afghanistan to the status of an official observer in the regional security organization. Chinese President Hu Jintao stated that the SCO wanted to play a “bigger role” in Afghanistan’s peaceful reconstruction. Following the summit, President Hu and Afghan President Hamid Karzai held bilateral talks resulting in a Joint Declaration between China and Afghanistan on Establishing Strategic and Cooperative Partnership. The joint declaration outlined the two countries’ intentions to increase economic and security cooperation, expand bilateral trade and investment, and increase intelligence sharing in the fight against terrorism. Additionally, China announced that it would provide 150 million yuan (approximately $23 million USD) in foreign assistance to the Afghan government in 2012.

In the past, the United States and other NATO countries have called on China to play a larger role in security inside Afghanistan, where Western states have pledged significant funds to rebuild the country and train local security forces. In a decision consistent with China’s policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, China refused to contribute this past month to a $4.1 billion NATO fund to sustain Afghan army and police forces after 2014. Chinese assistance to Afghanistan has primarily come in the form of investment by Chinese companies in infrastructure and exploration of the country’s rich mineral resources. China’s recently announced $23 million grant to the Afghan government is small compared to foreign assistance by the United States—which totaled almost $4.2 billion in 2010—and other NATO members. However, it is a symbolic gesture that China seeks a stronger partnership with Afghanistan and greater influence in the future of the country following the 2014 transition.

China’s concern for Afghanistan’s stability is tied in part to its interest in protecting Chinese investments. Last year, the China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) signed a lucrative deal for oil and gas exploration in Afghanistan’s Amu Darya River. The oil fields being explored are estimated to contain over 87 million barrels of oil, which could be a valuable new source of energy for resource-hungry China. However, instability in Afghanistan poses a significant challenge to Chinese investment; Afghan and Chinese government officials stated earlier this week that intimidation by militia loyal to former Afghan warlord and current Army Chief of Staff Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum have been disrupting the CNPC project.

Even more than economic concerns, China’s interest in Afghanistan’s future stability lies in its own national security. Upon declaring their new strategic partnership, Presidents Hu and Karzai made a statement rejecting the “three forces” of terrorism, separatism, and organized crime. China is particularly concerned about the threat of separatism by ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang Province. China’s primary interest in Afghanistan is that the withdrawal of Western troops in 2014 does not result in the Taliban returning to power, as China fears a Taliban-dominated government could provide sanctuary and support for Uighur separatist groups such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). According to the Chinese government, ETIM receives terrorist training in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Regardless of its motivations, China’s increased interest in Afghanistan’s future could be a promising trend for both Afghanistan, which has sought to secure more foreign assistance for reconstruction, as well as the U.S. and its NATO allies who have called upon China to play a greater role in underwriting Afghan security. At the same time, in a region with numerous tensions between states, it will be important as Afghanistan’s neighbors seek influence in shaping the country’s future after the Western withdrawal that they cooperate to support Afghanistan’s stability and self-sufficiency. At the conference on Thursday, President Karzai urged regional countries to cooperate more closely. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying indicated that China was willing to work together with other countries in the region to support Afghanistan.

 

For more information on recent developments in relations between China and Afghanistan, please see the following news sources:

New York Times – “China Shows Interest in Afghan Security, Fearing Taliban Would Help Separatists

Wall Street Journal – “Beijing Pushes for Greater Central Asian Role in Stabilizing Afghanistan

Xinhua – “News Analysis: China, Afghanistan to further strengthen bilateral ties

Xinhua – “Talks on Afghanistan’s future kicks off in Kabul

 

For Chinese language commentary on the conference on Afghanistan’s future, please see the following news sources:

Xinhua (新华) – “阿富汗问题伊斯坦布尔进程部长级会议在喀布尔举行

People’s Daily (人民网) – “胡锦涛同阿富汗总统举行会谈

 

Compiled and edited by Amanda Watson.