Thursday February 27, 2020


October 30, 2014

China declared it would provide Afghanistan with $327 million in financial aid and investment over the next three years. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visited Beijing this week to meet with President Xi Jinping and other high-level officials and discuss ways to increase regional ties. In addition to financial aid, the two sides addressed cooperation on cross-border security issues and intelligence sharing.

The United States military commitment to Afghanistan officially ends at the end of this year, and both countries worry that Afghanistan might lose what stability it has gained in the absence of U.S. forces. China, too, has a stake maintaining peace in Afghanistan for the sake of regional stability and safety at the border that they share. To that end, China is eager to throw support behind Afghanistan’s newly elected president in the form of investment. President Ghani, too, seeks Chinese aid to fill the void left by the American withdrawal. His visit to China is his first official visit abroad since he assumed office a month ago. As part of this new deal, China will help train personnel and develop agriculture, transportation, and energy infrastructure.

This deal is not an entirely surprising development. China and Afghanistan already share cooperative ventures in developing mining sites. Two Chinese state-owned companies hold a $3 billion deal to develop a copper mine near Kabul. China also holds rights to oil fields in northern Afghanistan. Furthermore, in light of Beijing’s failure to stamp out violent strife in Xinjiang province involving the local Muslim Uighurs, the Chinese government wants a guarantee that Muslim groups cannot escape into Afghanistan. The rise to power of ISIS, and the overt threat of terrorism from both ISIS and Al Qaeda, has no doubt contributed to the desire of both countries to strengthen their friendships with other regional powers.

The timing of President Ghani’s visit to China so soon after his election does indicate his desire to court China and his belief that China is the great power in the region. In fact, he has mentioned his intention to hinge Afghanistan’s economy on Chinese investments and markets. The deal also indicates China’s willingness to move into areas once considered the responsibility of the United States.

Far from feeling threatened by Beijing’s involvement with Afghanistan, however, the United States seems relieved that someone else might help pick up the slack. Many in Washington and around the globe have felt anxiety over pulling out of Afghanistan because of the instability in the region and potential for chaos and unrest to emerge once again. The announcement by Beijing of large-scale investment in Afghanistan has served to reassure Washington. On Thursday, a senior State Department official remarked that the U.S. considers China’s changing view on Afghanistan as headed in “a very positive direction.” He expressed Washington’s pleasant surprise at the China-Afghanistan deal, which, he claims, shows China’s commitment to preserving stability.

Yet, according to the Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, Washington overestimates China’s commitment to its troubled neighbor. China, they write, “supports peaceful rebuilding and ethnic reconciliation…but it won’t forcefully shape a new landscape.” This serves as a reminder to both the United States and Afghanistan that China intends to keep its involvement in Afghanistan limited to investment and encouraging stability by promoting a healthy economy. The new agreement will certainly help facilitate a peaceful environment, but it will not alleviate the more complicated social or political issues facing the Middle Eastern country.

For more information on this topic, consult the following sources:

Al Jazeera – “As Afghanistan looks for investment, China eyes stability”

BBC – “China media: Afghan investment”

Businessweek – “U.S. Sees Critical Role for China on Afghanistan Security”

CCTV – “Chinese Premier meets Afghan President”

NASDAQ – “China Pledges $327 Million in Aid to Afghanistan”

Reuters – “United States praises China’s growing role in Afghanistan

The People’s Daily – “China faces delicate task in Afghanistan”

The Wall Street Journal – “China Pledges $327 Million in Aid to Afghanistan”

Xinhua – “Afghans pin hope on China to play proactive role in stabilizing Afghanistan”

China Daily (中国日报) – “李克强会见阿富汗总统加尼”

Xinhua (新华) – “阿富汗:美军悄悄的进来又悄悄的离开”

Compiled and edited by Molly Bradtke