, Volume 92, Number 4

Zhao Huasheng
This article investigates the latest developments and changes in China’s increasingly active diplomacy towards Afghanistan. This is interpreted from two perspectives. First, focusing on China’s domestic perspective the author points out that under the ‘one belt, one road’ initiative, China’s interests in Afghanistan have expanded, particularly in the area of transport; it has started seriously to consider Afghanistan as a transport corridor. The other perspective considers the withdrawal of US military forces and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan in 2014, which has been followed by a critical transitional period. Concerned by these developments, China has increased its involvement and taken on more responsibilities, as demonstrated by the unprecedented frequency of Chinese senior officials’ visits to Afghanistan; the significant increase of bilateral aid to Afghanistan; and above all, the fact that Beijing has begun to coordinate negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government. The process of political reconciliation in the country will be extremely difficult and a quick solution is not to be expected. With regard to the idea that the Chinese are filling a ‘vacuum’ left by the US, the article argues that the so-called vacuum does not actually exist because the US military presence was temporary and the withdrawal of the US forces represents a return to the normal state of affairs. Also, excluding the US is not part of Beijing’s policy in this area; rather, it is cooperating with the US and other countries in assisting Afghanistan.

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