China’s surprise visit to Afghanistan

It’s the first time since 1966 that a Chinese political figure made an official visit to Afghanistan–but why?

Bloomberg is reporting that Zhou Yongkang, one of the nine members in the Standing Committee of the Politburo and a top Chinese security official, made a surprise four-hour business to the war-torn central Asian nation on Friday, where he met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and said China “will actively participate in Afghanistan’s reconstruction.” More on the mysterious visit:

“The trip comes at a time when U.S.-led NATO forces are leaving Afghanistan after more than a decade of war. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Sept. 21 in New Zealand that the U.S. has withdrawn the last of 33,000 so-called ‘surge’ troops from the country. All combating NATO forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Zhou, who is in charge of China’s police and judicial systems, oversees crackdowns on religious extremism and terrorism in China’s northwestern Muslim region.”

China Daily had more on the history and context of Zhou’s visit:

“The last visit was made by late Chinese leader Liu Shaoqi in 1966 when he was the President of China …

Zhou said the Chinese government fully respects the right of the Afghan people to choose their own path of development and will actively participate in Afghanistan’s reconstruction.

China and Afghanistan established diplomatic relations in 1955.

The two countries decided in June to upgrade their ties to the level of a strategic and cooperative partnership at a meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Karzai in Beijing, marking a new step for the development of bilateral relations.”

Security and stability are certainly important, but The Globe and Mail points out that it’s about more than fighting terrorism:

“China, which shares a 76-kilometre border with Afghanistan’s far northeast, has already secured major oil and copper mining concessions in Afghanistan, which is believed to have more than $1-trillion worth of minerals.

The scramble for influence in Afghanistan is expected to intensify in the run-up to 2014, with its central position in a volatile region having shaped its history for centuries …

Mr. Zhou’s appearance in Kabul comes after Mr. Karzai pledged to work with China to fight terrorism and extremism in the region during a visit to Beijing in June, where he attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting.”

What do you think? Should China get involved in the Afghanistan quandary?

Read more on China, France, America and the world beyond in the latest edition of Carnet Atlantique! And keep your eyes on this space–our October issue goes live soon! With everything you want to know on life in France, Chinese expats, presidential elections and more!

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