While being a partner to the West through holding thorough relations, China is concerned about continued NATO’s presence in Afghanistan, and it looks at the military coalition’s stay in the country as posing a security threat to Beijing. Strategically, China is against the US’ long-term stay in Afghanistan. The Beijing’s Afghanistan policy seeks the US’ forces exit and ensuring stability of Afghanistan. In fact, the long-term presence of the American forces in Afghanistan could tighten the encirclement of China by the West.
Meanwhile, it seems that the Chinese are unhappy with an Afghanistan which implements the NATO’s policies in the region. Therefore, distancing Kabul from the West, especially from NATO, stands out as one of Beijing’s strategies.
The strategic absence of China in Afghanistan along with expansive US’ presence in this country are seen as a serious threat and China, through such solutions as establishing peace in Afghanistan, wants to prevent more Western presence in the neighboring country.
Additionally, the Chinese hold the idea that an unjustified US and Western picture in contrast to a positive China figure could prepare the atmosphere for Beijing’s more active and constructive role in Afghanistan.
Besides, having in mind that previously Kabul has said that it would welcome larger Beijing’s role in Afghanistan, the China-Afghanistan’s ties during the past ten years saw an expansion, and despite the fact that China shares short and mountainous borders with Afghanistan, it has set a sensitive eye on the Afghan developments.
Meanwhile, China’s success in mediating between Kabul government and Taliban group, while the West has failed to reconcile the two opposing sides, would bolster Beijing’s political clout and prestige as a significant player in Afghanistan.
It should be noted that China and Pakistan hold strategic relations with each other and the current Afghan government wants China to use its sway over Pakistan to encourage Taliban j o i n the peace process. Certainly, Beijing could use influence over Islamabad and take some steps for peace making.
In another aspect, China is trying to secure a sway among Taliban’s leaders and in the militant group’s body, to use them is appropriate opportunities for its own advantage.
In fact, such policies as mediating between Taliban and the Afghan government, exploiting Taliban’s influence for securing borders with Afghanistan, fighting ISIS and using Taliban’s power to contain more Western and American influence are seen to be followed by Beijing.
Actually, in the past, when Taliban ruled the country for five years, it established good ties with China and the group was even provided with weapons by Beijing.
In the present time, Beijing is making efforts to pull Taliban out of radicalism and encourage the group to j o i n the peace negotiations.
On the other hand, China is trying to establish the best possible relations with the Afghan militant group. Such efforts made Beijing host a couple of Taliban’s top leaders.
Security and domestic motives
In the 1990s, Afghanistan was a safe haven for China’s Uyghurian fighters. During the past few years, a lot of media reports have pointed out that some Chinese fighters j o i ned ISIS terror group, and as the top Chinese officials claimed, some of the Chinese Muslims from the country’s Uyghur region were fighting in Syria and Iraq within ISIS’ forces.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, has earlier said that the group’s members from tens of the world’s countries, including China, have arrived in West Asia region to fight for establishment of the so-called Islamic state.
Furthermore, during the past year, some of the international and regional players like the US and Turkey have facilitated arrival of hundreds of Chinese dissenters to northern Syria, most of them Uyghurs.
Meanwhile, Chinese nationals j o i ning the ISIS terrorist group has sent China’s officials worried.
In addition, ISIS’ penetration of Afghanistan has caused Chinese concerns increasingly grow, because the group could find a way inside the Xinjiang autonomous region in northwest of the country.
Sharing borders with eight countries, including Afghanistan, the Xinjiang northwestern region in the recent years has, in fact, been the hotbed for activity of the separatist groups. Additionally, the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement, which formerly during its presence in Afghanistan had cooperated with Taliban and Al-Qaeda, is considered by China as a major threat to home security.
Meanwhile, with ISIS getting active further in Afghanistan and its closeness to Xinjiang autonomous region, the Chinese officials begun to feel more insecurity surrounding their autonomous region.
But, with regard to ISIS and Taliban’s rivalry in Afghanistan, China could take advantage of friendly ties with Taliban and the Afghan government to curb the danger posed by ISIS group.
Based on this Chinese vision, security and calm are ensured in Xinjiang region as well as other Chinese borders only when peace, stability and security are obtained in the neighboring Afghanistan.
From another aspect, concerning the possibility of targeting China by ISIS, the analysts suggest that the NATO and the West in general have the ability to set ISIS on China.
Thereby, Further Chinese involvement in Afghanistan’s developments could prevent return of the terrorists to China and consequently the possibility of terror operations against Beijing’s interests would be remarkably reduced.
From economic perspective, Kabul is open to China’s growing motives for enhancing the investments in Afghanistan.
China eyes increasing its exports to Afghanistan while at the same time Chinese financial aids and loans aim at building the country’s infrastructures and developing Afghanistan’s mining sector.
On the other side, in the past few years, economic partnership with Afghanistan has stood out as one of Beijing’s major foreign policy strategies.
Presently, China is one of the major investors in Afghanistan and its investment in Aynak copper mine, locally known as Mes Aynak, indicates that Beijing is eyeing accessing Afghanistan’s rich mines and other underground resources.
Additionally, Afghanistan could make a suitable route for building energy supply lines to China, and through making peace in Afghanistan, investments in energy sector could bring about huge profits.
Actually, China backs Afghanistan’s reconstruction process by considering engaging Kabul in its new Silk Road economic belt project and its economic projects in Pakistan’s Gwadar port as well as other investment plans in central and southern Asia.
Meanwhile, Beijing’s friendship with Taliban or its standing neural beside ensuring peace in the country could guarantee China’s remarkable portion of economic interests in Afghanistan. A stable Afghanistan could present itself as a significant transit path and a marketplace for Chinese products.