China could prove ultimate winner in Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan — China, long a bystander to the conflict in Afghanistan, is stepping up its involvement as U.S.-led forces prepare to withdraw, attracted by the country's vast mineral resources but concerned that any post-2014 chaos could embolden Islamic insurgents in its own territory.
Cheered on by the United States and other Western governments, which see Asia's giant as a potentially stabilizing force, China could prove the ultimate winner in Afghanistan — having shed no blood and not much aid.
Security — or the lack of it — remains the key challenge: Chinese enterprises have bagged three multibillion-dollar investment projects, but they won't be able to go forward unless conditions get safer.
While the Chinese do not appear ready to rush into any vacuum left by the withdrawal of foreign troops, a definite shift toward a more hands-on approach to Afghanistan is under way.
Beijing signed a strategic partnership last summer with the war-torn country. This was followed in September with a trip to Kabul by its top security official, the first by a leading Chinese government figure in 46 years, and the announcement that China would train 300 Afghan police officers.
China is also showing signs of willingness to help negotiate a peace agreement as NATO prepares to pull out in two years.
It's a new role for China, as its growing economic might gives it a bigger stake in global affairs. Success, though far from guaranteed, could mean a big payoff for a country hungry for resources to sustain its economic growth and eager to maintain stability in Xinjiang.
“If you are able to see a more or less stable situation in Afghanistan, if it becomes another relatively normal Central Asian state, China will be the natural beneficiary,” said Andrew Small, a China expert at The German Marshall Fund of the United States, an American research institute.
“If you look across Central Asia, that is what has already happened. ... China is the only actor who can foot the level of investment needed in Afghanistan to make it succeed and stick it out,” he said.
Over the past decade, China's trade has boomed with Afghanistan's resource-rich neighbors in Central Asia.
For Turkmenistan, China trade reached 21 percent of GDP in 2011, up from 1 percent five years earlier, according to an Associated Press analysis of International Monetary Fund data. The equivalent figure for Tajikistan is 32 percent of GDP, versus 12 percent in 2006. China's trade with Afghanistan stood at a modest 1.3 percent of GDP in 2011.
Eyeing Afghanistan's estimated $1 trillion worth of unexploited minerals, Chinese companies have acquired rights to extract vast quantities of copper and coal and snapped up the first oil-exploration concessions granted to foreigners in decades. China is also eyeing extensive deposits of lithium, uses of which range from batteries to nuclear components.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Burkina Faso’s parliament stormed by protesters
- Airstrikes against Islamic State fail to stop flow of jihadists into Syria
- Kerry admits American official’s use of barnyard vulgarity is ‘damaging’
- Missing American siblings found dead in Mexico
- Israel limits prayers at Al-Aqsa site
- Activists’ families on hunger strike
- Hong Kong protesters to vote
- Malala donates prize money to rebuild Gaza school
- For more Asians, money delivers more happiness