China is strengthening its influence in Afghanistan

China is working to develop its diplomatic and economic ties with Afghanistan at a time when most of the world has not recognized the Taliban government since its return to power, much to Kabul's relief.

China maintains good relations with Afghanistan, and regularly holds ministerial meetings and talks with its leaders on bilateral trade, huge Chinese investment in copper, and ways to open roads between the two countries.

While downplaying the formalities of these growing ties, Beijing is working to increase its investments in Afghanistan, a relationship that could benefit both sides, according to analysts and diplomats.

Valéry Nicet, an analyst at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris, said that Afghanistan is a region with challenges, but that the Chinese are distinctive in that they go where no one else goes in an effort to gain advantage, and he said that the Chinese are Extending hand towards Afghans who need all possible help.

In September, China became the first country to appoint an ambassador to Kabul, and on Tuesday, the Taliban government's envoy to Beijing presented his credentials to Chinese President Xi Jinping, along with dozens of other diplomats.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, “I believe that when the concerns of all parties are addressed, diplomatic recognition of the Afghan government will naturally follow.”

Last month, China also abstained along with Russia from a UN Security Council vote demanding, among other things, the appointment of a special envoy to Afghanistan, which was strongly opposed by Taliban officials.

But China's approach (exchange of ambassadors without official recognition) allows Beijing to maintain its relations with Afghanistan, while not detracting from the situation in the rest of the world.

natural resources

China's goal in all this is to be able to access Afghanistan's untapped mineral resources and open up markets for Chinese goods.

Jalal Bazwan, an assistant professor of political science at Cardon University in Kabul, said Afghanistan's vast natural resources, such as copper, lithium and rare earths, hold huge economic potential for China.

Following his appointment as Afghanistan's ambassador to Beijing in December, Bilal Karimi held talks with Chinese state-owned company MCC about Mes Aynak, the world's second-largest copper deposit, located about 40 kilometers from the capital Kabul .

MCC obtained exploitation rights in 2008 in exchange for approximately $3.5 billion, but the project was suspended due to war and insecurity.

Afghan Mines Ministry spokesman Humayun Afghan said these historical properties are a cultural treasure for Afghanistan and part of its identity.

Hydrocarbon-hungry China is also interested in Afghan oil.

The mines ministry says oil extraction has started at 18 wells in January 2023 after renegotiating an old contract in the Amu Basin in the country's northwest.

Afghan officials also announced plans for Chinese companies to invest half a billion dollars in solar energy in the country.

silk roads

Public Works Ministry spokesman Ashraf Haq Shanas said the 300-km-long road under construction will connect Badakhshan to the Chinese border.

The border between the two countries extends only 76 kilometers, but this new link will boost trade, which is currently worth $1.5 billion annually.

As part of rapprochement, Beijing has been exercising its “soft power” on Afghanistan by providing humanitarian aid, especially after recent deadly earthquakes. Kabul also has a modest Chinatown, consisting of two 8-story buildings where inexpensive Chinese products are sold.

The phrase “Belt and Road” was written in Chinese characters on the tops of the two buildings, referring to the massive infrastructure project linking China with Central Asia and the rest of the world.

Afghanistan could also be integrated into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is the cornerstone of the project and leads to the strategic port of Gwadar, which gives China access to the Arabian Sea in southern Pakistan.

Bazwan concluded that Afghanistan's strategic position along the Belt and Road Initiative makes it an attractive partner.

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