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China faces delicate task in Afghanistan

2014-10-30 09:30 Global Times Web Editor: Qian Ruisha

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani is in China for his first official state visit since assuming office last month. China will provide 500 million yuan ($81.8 million) in grant assistance to the Afghan government for 2014 and a further 1.5 billion yuan in the next three years. The two countries signed agreements on economic and technology cooperation. China will train 3,000 Afghan professionals in various fields over the next five years. The Fourth Foreign Ministerial Conference of the Istanbul Process on Afghanistan, which focuses on the reconstruction of the war-torn country, will be held in Beijing. All these display China's role in Afghanistan.

US and British troops have ended their combat role in Afghanistan, marking an end to NATO's mission in the country. Ghani's choice of China as his first state visit has brought much speculation. However, we can't say US influence is withdrawing from Afghanistan and that China will overtake its role in Afghanistan. The US has been adjusting its role in the country. It is not leaving. Around 10,000 troops will be left until 2016, during which time they will help retain Washington's influence in the region.

Even when the last US soldier leaves, China will never take on the role played by the US and NATO and act as a powerful meddler.

China supports peaceful rebuilding and ethnic reconciliation in the war-torn country, but it won't forcefully shape a new landscape. This is not something China is willing to do or thinks it is capable of doing.

The internal and external regional structure of Afghanistan has been shattered by the 13-year war. With a fragile new balance, the enormous investment by the US has achieved little results. It failed to stabilize the chaotic situation before the withdrawal of the US military. The affiliated goal of deterring China and Russia in the geographically critical country is no longer emphasized by strategists.

A comprehensive involvement in Afghan affairs by China will bring huge risks. It will have to confront the mess that the US experienced, the different views of Afghan sects in addition to the remaining US influence, making it a nearly impossible idea.

But the West insists China is taking a free ride in Afghanistan, urging us to offer more. Kabul also has high expectations on China over its rebuilding. China has many interests in Afghanistan. No matter how risky Afghanistan's peaceful reconstruction is, China needs to be there.

Afghanistan's neighboring countries are key areas of China's external cooperation. The core is how we should do this. China lacks experience in this regard. As long as we have sincere wishes and keep the principle of making friends, the risks in Afghanistan will be controllable. As China's interests expand, we cannot detach ourselves from dilemmas in international politics. This is the cost of being a major power and we need to get used to it.

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