What President Ghani’s Visit to China Means

Seeking a closer alliance with China could help Afghanistan improve its economy and enhance relations with Pakistan.

afghanistan-ghani-china

Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct 28, 2014. Credit: Reuters

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has planned to visit China on an official state visit starting on October 28.

After being elected as the new President of Afghanistan, Ghani’s trip is coming at a crucial time when the US-led coalition is set to end its combat mission in Afghanistan. This scenario provides an opportunity for a new phase of political and economic relations between Afghanistan and China.

As an immediate neighbor, China has a major stake in supporting Afghanistan to remain stable and resilient against a potential security vacuum left by the departing Western powers from Afghanistan in 2014.

Moreover, Beijing’s relations with Kabul will help Afghanistan avoid slipping into chaos that breeds threatening radicalization after the Soviet Union’s withdrawal in the 1980s.

The spillover effect of such a scenario would be too costly for Afghanistan’s neighbors, particularly China.

Furthermore, China’s robust economy needs more energy resources and plenty exist in Central Asia. By building good relations with Afghanistan, China can gain access to those markets through the Af-Pak region. In addition, Chinese investors can explore the untapped markets of Central Asian countries and benefit from various investment opportunities in the region.

Afghanistan sees improving Sino-Afghan relations vital to bringing about economic prosperity to the people of Afghanistan and the wider region. President Ghani would be especially interested in attracting Chinese investment in Afghanistan’s abundant precious minerals and other natural resources. He may also attract Chinese investment in wider infrastructure development projects.

Kabul also understands that China could be a more effective intermediary and interlocutor between Afghanistan and Pakistan on regional cooperation. China, a close ally of Pakistan, can facilitate the opening of a new chapter between Kabul and Islamabad for more cooperative and trustful relations.

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To formalize Sino-Afghan cooperation, President Ghani may sign a strategic partnership agreement with China. The strategy may outline how the two sides can cooperate on economic and political affairs and maximize each others’ strengths to contribute to stability and prosperity in the region.

Moheb Arsalan Jabarkhail is an Afghan analyst and writer on the governance and socioeconomic development affairs of Afghanistan and the region. After studying Economics at Kabul University and Bard College in New York as a Fulbright 2003-2007, Moheb studied for Master in Public Policy and Governance at Willy Brandt School of Public Policy in Germany 2010-2012. He also has extensive experience of working on development programs with various organizations in and out of Afghanistan. He is currently based in Kabul and can be reached at arsalan.moheb@gmail.com.