Friendship should be what motivates China to provide aid to Afghanistan

By Zhu Yongbiao Source:Global Times Published: 2014-5-5 21:38:03

A massive landslide hit the northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan Friday, killing hundreds of people and leaving thousands missing. Given Afghanistan's limited national strength, it is now in urgent need of assistance from the international community. And China is expected to take this chance to expand its aid to its neighbor.

Afghanistan is a neighbor of the majority of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation member states.

Since 2001, it has been one of the three countries that have most frequently fallen victim to terrorist attacks. And it was home to more than 90 percent of the world's opium production and the largest number of refugees. Suffice to say, Afghanistan is bogged down in abject poverty and poignant strife.

Beijing is particularly concerned with Afghanistan because its security and stability wield enormous influence upon the western border of China. China also suffers a great deal from the opium trade in Afghanistan.

Furthermore, as the second biggest investor in the "Heart of Asia," China has a certain economic stake there. Therefore, Afghanistan's turmoil, whatever its nature, will be detrimental to Beijing's interests.

China has been providing a range of unconditional aid to Afghanistan for a long time. For instance, we helped build the Republic Hospital in Kabul, offered batches of supplies, food, medicine, recreational items and other materials for refugees, and gave zero-tariff treatment to most products exported to China, which has gained China a good reputation in Afghanistan.

Assistance to overseas countries is of strategic significance and foreign aid by the US, Germany, Japan and some other states has helped improve their international image. Notwithstanding our progress in this connection, we still have a long way to go.

Currently, China is just the 19th biggest donor to Afghanistan, which is inconsistent with our status as one of the largest investors there and our position as its neighbor.

Hence, appropriately beefing up assistance to Afghanistan will be conducive to Beijing's long-term strategic objectives.

By increasing assistance to Afghanistan, we can sustainably provide alternative crop seeds and demonstration projects, offer textbooks and facilities for schools and education institutions, expand the number of Afghan students studying in China, and increase the level of aid to Afghan refugees.

China can grant timely assistance when natural disasters like landslides strike the country. These measures will turn into strategic investment, with far-reaching influence.

What's more important, scaling up assistance to Afghanistan is in the interests of its people, and is better than getting directly involved in its security-related affairs, as well as in conformity with China's status quo. China provides more aid to the destitute nation for the sake of its friendship with Afghanistan, not for geopolitical interests nor for great power games.

The author is associate professor with the Institute for Central Asian Studies, Lanzhou University.

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