China’s economic footprint steadily expanding across Afghanistan



China is focusing firmly on business and cultural diplomacy to expand its economic footprint across Afghanistan. It is also sparing no effort to promote and support the Taliban, which finds itself in near diplomatic isolation.

Latest media reports from Kabul and Beijing indicate ‘good’ progress on Chinese investments and reconstruction projects, reported Policy Research Group – Poreg.

Chinese businessmen like Yu Minghui, who have stayed put after the US-led Nato’s withdrawal, have reaped benefits. He has four steel processing lines. The China Town, a 10-storey building is the hub of Chinese business activity.

An industrial estate is coming up in Kabul suburbs as the first Sino-Afghan joint venture at a cost of USD 216 million. There is talk of extending China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) into Afghanistan and beyond. China has exempted 98 per cent of its Afghan buys from import duties.

China Metallurgical Group will soon start exploration and extraction at the Aynak copper mine. It is the biggest copper mining project in the country.

China has also stepped up its efforts to promote and support the Taliban which captured Kabul a year ago. On the one hand, it is building a case for international recognition of the Taliban and for lifting the travel ban on Taliban leaders.

Meanwhile, it is engaged in what is no more than business and cultural diplomacy to broaden its footprint on the economically deprived nation of nearly four crore people, reported Poreg.

It is towards this end that China is walking the extra mile to offer a helping hand to the Taliban regime firstly in the matter of travel ban exemptions for Islamic Emirate leaders, and secondly in grappling with its economic and humanitarian crisis. It has provided eight million US dollars’ worth of assistance to families affected by the recent earthquake, according to Global Times.

China is also giving a big push to its cultural diplomacy befitting its position as the third largest trading partner of Afghanistan after Pakistan and Iran. It has deputed scholars help protect cultural heritage in Afghanistan, reported Poreg.

China thus far focused on the historical relics at the Mes Aynak copper mine (Logar province) and the Unesco heritage site, Bamyan Valley where the Taliban 1.0 demolished a huge Buddha statute.

According to Peshawar daily, The Frontier Post, Chinese archaeologists have given a fresh lease to the monuments/relics found in the copper mine belt “after scientific research” with a team of Afghan experts. Maulvi Atiqullah Azizi, Deputy Minister of Culture was impressed by their work. A team of Afghan archaeologists will now travel to China ‘to gain scientific and professional experience’.

And, in the Bamyan Valley, besides a clean-up, most of the caves have been officially numbered and installed with introduction nameplates, under the guidance of Friends of Dunhuang, a Hong Kong based a non-profit organisation. Dunhuang, located in an oasis of the Taklamakan Desert in western China, was an important outpost of the Silk Road nearly two thousand years ago. Chinese scholars funded a program to teach local children on ways to preserve cultural heritage.

This level of interaction at the commercial and cultural level should have normally led to China recognising the Taliban 2.0 in the Kabul seat. But it has not though Chinese diplomats, including ambassador Wang Yu, frequently meet senior Taliban officials, reported Poreg.