Following the withdrawal of the American forces in August 2021, China was able to emerge as a key player in the matters of Afghanistan, particularly, in the areas of trade and economic development.
As an immediate neighbor, Afghanistan has been maintaining a close relationship with China for security reasons and economic development. China has had immense interest in Afghanistan to initiate its mega project, the so-called Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for years. Now, with no major players on the ground, China has the greatest stake to invest in Afghanistan and achieve its regional and national interests.
Amid the dire economic situation with almost zero foreign investment, Afghanistan’s de facto authorities are looking for every single possible opportunity to attract investors’ attention to Afghan markets. China seems to be a very promising trading partner for Afghanistan if concerns about regional security are adequately addressed.
Having a secure trading environment could help Afghanistan attract foreign investment, export minerals, and develop transport services. China could benefit from the opened-up transport routes and mineral resources Afghanistan offers. Both sides are thus keen to reap opportunities from a secure trade environment.
Last week, the authorities of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan signed the contract of extracting the Amu oil field with China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), marking the beginning of a new chapter in the economic engagement of the countries since the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021. The project will create employment opportunities for hundreds of local Afghans who are desperately looking for work to help their families survive during these difficult times.
China has taken a pragmatic approach to building relations with Afghanistan, willing to cooperate with the authority that is best situated to protect China’s domestic and regional interests. China’s approach, contrary to that of US and NATO member states through military engagements, will bear positive outcomes. Strengthening economic relations is what the de facto authorities and the people of Afghanistan are looking for to shape their future, rather than political interference in the internal affairs of the country.