Today there are a variety of regional and trans- regional actors playing in the field of Afghanistan, but the role of China is very different from others politically and economicallyin the arena of Afghanistan.
Although China and Afghanistan’ common borders are not so much, in recent years, their mutual ties based on national interests have been expanded largely, the research conducted by Shahrvand Legal and Social Research Organization( SSLRO) shows that China, in contrast to other countries, does in actions more than just speak1.
People’s Republic of China is the largest foreign investor for infrastructure development in Afghanistan. Since 2012, Beijing’s diplomacy in Afghanistan has been becoming more active and dynamic, and China has increased its aid to Afghanistan aiming at strengthening humanitarian cooperation2.
In October 2014, Dr. Ashraf Ghani went to China on his first foreign visit; the joint statements confirm that China and Afghanistan will deepen their strategic cooperation and develop cooperation in political, economic, cultural, international and security issues3.
As part of its bilateral engagement with Afghanistan, China has set up a range of initiatives in the region to facilitate regional cooperation to support economic development in Afghanistan. In 2011, China hosted the “Heart of Asia4” summit to promote political, economic, and security cooperation in Afghanistan and neighboring areas, and to confront common threats such as terrorism, drugs and extremism5.
In October 2014, China hosted the fourth “Istanbul Process6” Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan. At the Istanbul conference, the principles proposed by the Chinese Prime Minister, Li Chiang7, included:
First, Afghanistan should be managed and led by the Afghans themselves; secondly, political conciliation should be accepted by all parties as a political solution; third, the whole efforts in order to bringing the economical development in Afghanistan should be settled. Fourth, the Afghan route needs to be expanded for external development and support5. These principles reflect China’s friendly and impartial views towards Afghanistan issues8.
China from 2001 to 2013 has aided$ 250 million in humanitarian assistance, trained more than 1,000 Afghan professional personnel, aided $ 110 million in humanitarian aid in 2014, and spent $ 330 million in the next three years, as well as agreeing on the training of 3,000 Afghan professional staff and 500 scholarships from 2015 by 2019. These all strongly prove deepening the strategic ties between Afghanistan and China9.
In the context of economic relations, China has invested $ 4.4 billion through its two companies – the China Extraction and Melting Company and Jiang Zi Copper Co10. – inAynak Copper Mines, one of the world’s largest copper mines11. Also in August 2016, for the first time in the history of China-Afghanistan relations, a rail link was opened with the aim of direct transport of goods between the two countries. In addition, China signed an oil extraction agreement with Afghanistan in 20114. Today, Afghanistan and China are building a “A belt and a way”. This way will bring prosperity for both Afghanistan and China12.
China has a good image politically in Afghanistan, as China continuously develops political development in Afghanistan and favors its independence and sovereignty, and actively promotes political reconciliation there13. The People’s Republic of China, along with its widespread economic activities, has always stepped up its efforts to strengthen the security and defense capabilities of the Afghan security sector through scholarships and educational trips. For example, the recent visit of the senior consultants of the Ministry of Interior to China has raised their awareness, skills, vitality and spirits.
The writer is a PhD, senior Researcher in Shahrvand Research Organization
Shahab S Mortazavi