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Gulbanu Mukhamejanova. The modern strategy of China in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

The IRA is of strategic importance for China, which plays a central role in the Afghan settlement by supporting political dialogue between Afghanistan and the Taliban. After the presentation of the newest American strategy for Afghanistan, China significantly intensified its positions by participating in various dialogues on the solution of the Afghan problem.

 

«Soft power» as the basis of the Chinese strategy in Afghanistan

China’s policy is conditioned by both geo-economic and geopolitical interests, since ensuring security in Afghanistan seriously affects the balance of power in the region, the security and stability in Xinjiang province and the promotion of China’s interests within the framework of the One Belt, One Road Initiative.

Considering the Afghan question, China’s position is guided by the principle of «soft power» and is aimed at intra-Afghan political dialogue and reconciliation of the parties. It was no coincidence that during the UN Security Council meeting on Afghanistan, China’s Deputy Permanent Representative Ambassador to the UN Wu Haitao said that China’s position remains unchanged in its principles and approaches: promoting national reconciliation, economic revival and restoration of stability. In particular, Wu Haitao said: « China has always played a constructive role in promoting the reconciliation process in Afghanistan. China will continue to support Afghanistan’s security capacity-building as well as the country’s efforts to promote economic and social development» [1].

It should also be noted that China, as one of the main donors of Afghanistan, actively supports civil infrastructure and other priority projects. For these purposes, China will provide $72 million in aid to Afghanistan in 2017 [2]. China is also ready to provide the IRA with emergency food aid worth $ 1 million through the UN World Food Program [3]. In addition, China promised Afghanistan to restore Kabul University.

 

Increased involvement of China in the Afghan problem

In recent months (September-October, 2017) China has been very active in Afghanistan. According to Western media, Beijing’s decision to «reconnect» to Afghan issues is directly related to Washington’s new strategy. China as a whole positively perceives the Afghan strategy of the United States, but does not agree with the tough stance of the D. Trump administration on Pakistan [4].

The destabilization of the region, in particular, the pressure of the United States on Pakistan is the least attractive scenario for China, as China needs a safe and stable region for the successful promotion of national economic initiatives.

In recent months, relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have deteriorated; both countries regularly accuse each other of providing jihadists with safe zones for attacks. It is not surprising, therefore, that the anti-Pakistan rhetoric contained in the new US strategy found support among the political elite of the IRA. Afghanistan is increasingly wary of the alleged support of Islamist militants by Pakistan [5].

Chinese $ 55 billion investment in the construction of transport infrastructure between Xinjiang and the Pakistani port Gwadar will have a concomitant effect in expanding trade and economic relations between states. However, the joint projects of Beijing and Islamabad within the framework of One Belt, One Road Initiative may be threatened in case the relations between the IRA and Pakistan escalate. Therefore, China seeks to reduce tensions between the two countries.

In particular, China proposed the establishment of a regional platform for negotiations at the minister-level, which will consist of foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China. The second round of talks were already held on September 30, 2017, where the parties reaffirmed their commitment to tripartite cooperation for achieving stability and economic development of the IRA.

Thus, the One Belt, One Road project includes the construction of five national railways, two gas pipelines (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan-China and Tajikistan-Afghanistan) and a transit corridor to Europe via Turkmenistan Lapis lazuli, in which Afghanistan can participate as a key transit state [6]. However, China will connect Afghanistan to these projects only if peace is achieved.

 

Beijing’s efforts to combat the terrorist threat

The Chinese investment projects may be adversely affected by terrorist activity in the region. According to the US Economic and Security Review Commission, Beijing faces a growing Islamic terrorist threat emanating from the Afghan-Pakistani region, which is home to 20 out of 98 terrorist organizations operating today in the world [7].

Terrorism is a serious threat to the ambitions of the PRC in creating the largest transport network in Inner Asia. In particular, Beijing fears that the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan, the Uyghur nationalist and Islamic movement from Xinjiang Province in China has ties to the Taliban and is participating in the Afghan conflict.

China’s concern is caused by recent Taliban attacks in Kunduz, as well as on the northern border of the IRA, which is close to Xinjiang and Tajikistan. In this regard, China is ready to help Tajikistan in organizing security along the Afghan-Tajik border, as well as in the training and education of personnel.

In general, the PRC actively encourages the IRA, Pakistan, Tajikistan to strengthen regional consensus in the fight against terrorism and extremism, emphasizing the importance of resolving the Afghan conflict for the whole region, and actively supports cooperation, both bilaterally and multilaterally.

 

Participation in consultations on the Afghan issue

China actively promotes the role of the SCO in the fight against terrorism, extremism, transnational crime and separatism. It is noteworthy that after a long break the meeting of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group was resumed, which was suspended in 2009.

On October 11, 2017, the parties held a constructive dialogue, where they supported the initiative to intensify the interaction between the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure and Afghanistan. The president of the IRA said that Afghanistan counts on China’s support on such issues as the full membership of the IRA in the SCO, the collective actions of the SCO against terrorist groups, the economic integration of the IRA with the SCO countries and intra-Afghan reconciliation [8].

China, along with Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States, is part of the Quadripartite Coordination Group for the inter-Afghan settlement. The main goal of the group is to end the protracted Afghan crisis by reaching peaceful negotiations with the Taliban. On October 16, 2017, for the first time in the last 18 months, the parties held talks. Despite the fact that Taliban representatives did not participate in the negotiations, the very fact of holding this meeting gives hope for a reduction in tensions and improvement of relations between Pakistan and the United States, as well as between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In general, the increased PRC’s involvement in the IRA is largely due to the growing attention of all global powers to the Afghan issue. In this regard, China actively participates in joint multilateral platforms on the inter-Afghan settlement, and also initiates its own negotiating platforms without the participation of the Russian Federation and the United States.

Unhindered promotion of its economic initiatives with the participation of Afghanistan and other regional countries is one of the key priorities of the foreign policy strategy of modern China. To this end, China is implementing a number of measures that support the interests and positions of the allies in the region, strengthen the regional consensus in countering terrorism, and coordinate practical efforts to ensure security and stability in Afghanistan and the region.

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[1] Chinese envoy calls for political dialogue in Afghanistan //http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-09/26/c_136637950.htm.

[2] China pledges $72 million in aid to Afghanistan //http://www.asianews.af/en/15789.

[3] Китай активно развивает глобальные партнерские отношения //http://russian.people.com.cn/n3/2017/1021/c31521-9283040.html.

[4] Top U.S. General: China Can Play ‘More Productive Role’ in Afghanistan //http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2017/10/03/top-u-s-general-u-s-china-anti-terror-interests-converge-afghanistan.

[5] What does China want to achieve in Afghanistan? //http://www.dw.com/en/what-does-china-want-to-achieve-in-afghanistan/a-39406187.

[6] The Blueprint for China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Cooperation //https://thediplomat.com/2017/06/the-blueprint-for-china-afghanistan-pakistan-cooperation.

[7] Top U.S. General: China Can Play ‘More Productive Role’ in Afghanistan //http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2017/10/03/top-u-s-general-u-s-china-anti-terror-interests-converge-afghanistan.

[8] Afghanistan seeks China support for SCO full membership //https://www.pajhwok.com/en/2017/10/11/afghanistan-seeks-china-support-sco-full-membership.