China and Afghanistan
March 26, 2012
Because China is principally interested in preventing the destabilization of Xinjiang Province, it has broadly deferred to the United States and its Western allies who are leading military efforts, political reconciliation, and economic reconstruction in Afghanistan. Author Zhao Huasheng writes that China’s interests in Afghanistan are more limited than those of the United States, and Beijing has no interest in playing a subordinate role “under the dominance of the West” either. Basically China wants the security threat contained, but is not prepared to contribute to the military effort, including opening a transit corridor on its territory. China is prepared to participate in Afghanistan’s economic reconstruction, especially when it advances Chinese foreign economic interests.
Zhao’s discussion of the interests of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Afghanistan is provocative in its speculation about an expanded future role for the SCO. Virtually all key regional states with interests, albeit often competing, in Afghanistan are either members or observers in the SCO, an organization militarily uninvolved in Afghanistan. Zhao suggests that the SCO may be well-suited to conduct political reconciliation talks between different national and political groups within Afghanistan. But economic development, particularly the promoting of Afghanistan’s regional economic connection with West, South, Central, and East Asia, is where Zhao sees the most significant role for the SCO.