Security initiative shows China’s vision for Central Asia

By Xiao Bin Source:Global Times Published: 2016-3-29 22:23:01

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

During his trip to Kabul in early March, General Fang Fenghui, a member of China's Central Military Commission (CMC) and Chief of Joint Staff Department of the CMC, floated the idea of a four-nation alliance against terrorism, which was endorsed by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Besides China, the alliance includes Pakistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, which are next to China. They have expressed different attitudes toward the proposal. Afghanistan wants to deal a heavy blow to anti-Kabul terror groups that have taken root in Pakistan. Tajikistan has not expressed a clear stance, but confirmed a willingness to boost defense and security cooperation with China. China and Pakistan have the largest consensus because both sides have been engaged in the anti-terror cooperation for years.

US and Russian authorities have also supported China's proposal. However, some Russian experts hold different opinions, believing that the proposal, once implemented, may become a NATO-like bloc that excludes Russia.

In order to promote the reconciliation process in Afghanistan, since 2016 China has been playing a positive role in the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) that involves the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan. China proposed a four-nation alliance against terrorism based on its own commitment. All this shows that China eyes a bigger role in maintaining security in Central Asia.

The most direct motive for China to shoulder more international responsibilities is to advance major-country diplomacy with distinctive Chinese features, in order to create a favorable external environment for its domestic development.

To build toward this, China has the following goals. First, China wants to take part in international anti-terror cooperation in its own way. As China is entering the center of the world stage, it needs to find a way that suits its national interests and expand converging interests with its neighboring countries.

For a long time, the Afghan peace process has been a topical issue in the international community. As Afghanistan's biggest neighbor, China has put enormous efforts in boosting the country's reconciliation process and attached high importance to international cooperation.

In July 2014, China announced a special envoy for Afghanistan. To regulate international anti-terror cooperation, Article 71 of China's anti-terrorism law, passed in December 2015, permits Beijing to send security forces abroad on anti-terrorism missions with the approval of the military and the respective countries.

In addition, China hopes to accelerate Afghanistan's reconciliation process. In recent years, the international community has made strong efforts in this regard. In March this year, countries such as China, the US, Japan, Russia, India, Iran and organizations such as the EU, the Red Cross and the Asian Development Bank lent a helping hand by offering assistance and loans and reducing debts. The four-nation alliance can provide security shelters for the above measures and prevent international assistance materials from being attacked by terrorist groups.

But China is bound to meet obstacles. Some Russian scholars have defined the alliance proposal as a Central Asian NATO. Given concerns that China might challenge their regional or even global interests, some established powers do not want to see China play a bigger role in Central Asian security. To cope with potential negative impact from these countries, China needs to make certain laws to standardize its cooperation with other countries and show its stance to the international community.

China's participation in the QCG and proposals of the "Belt and Road" initiative and the four-nation alliance are what a rising power should do. China is in a process of learning to become a responsible stakeholder in international politics and a fair and prudent participant on the world stage.

The author is an associate research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion

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