China to play a constructive role in post-war Afghanistan with SCO
Wang Peng


Editor's note: Wang Peng is a distinguished research fellow at the Center for American Studies, Zhejiang International Studies University. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

International media call this week "China's Central Asia Time", since Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has visited Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan from July 12 to 16, marking his first trip to Central Asia this year.

Wang Yi's remarkable visit has shown the great significance of China's relations with central Asian nations. Central Asian countries are China's close neighbors. There is an old Chinese phrase that "a distant relative cannot be so helpful as a near neighbor".

China's relations with Afghanistan

When it comes to Afghanistan, as good neighbors, China and Afghanistan has no conflict or war and maintained traditional friendship, which have made a strong foundation for their bilateral ties building. So now are the honor and responsibility of China and its neighbor to inherit and carry forward this glorious legacy.

China's diplomatic principles, such as non-intervention, equality and mutual benefit, provide political guarantee and mutual trust. China never regards itself as a superior power to force its neighbors to obey and follow instructions. Rather, as an equal and trustable partner, China only provides practical advice and necessary material assistance in a humble and prudent way. Wang Yi pointed out that China supports and expects all parties in Afghanistan to follow the "Afghan-owned and Afghan-led" principle and proceed from the fundamental and long-term interests of Afghanistan to build a political structure that suits Afghanistan's national conditions and has the support of the Afghan people through intra-Afghan dialogue and consultation. This approach has established deep political trust and international reputation for China.

In addition, China and Afghanistan are highly complementary in strategy and economy. China needs security cooperation from Kabul while Afghanistan needs capital, foreign aid, and technology for its post-war reconstruction, especially infrastructure building. China can make great help. As Wang Yi said that the Chinese has attached great importance to the China-Afghanistan strategic cooperative partnership, and is willing to work with the country to prepare for high-level contacts between the two countries and send a positive and peaceful signal to the outside world.

Security and post-war reconstruction in Afghanistan

After America's two-decades-long war that failed to bring peace, now the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan offers this country a new chance to take its destiny into its own hands.

However, the security situation of Afghanistan is still uncertain. The domestic peace process between Kabul government and the resurgent Taliban will determine the future of this suffering country and its people.

As Wang Yi emphasized that the urgent task now is to avoid a civil war, restart the intra-Afghan negotiations, and seek a political reconciliation plan, especially to prevent various terrorist forces from gaining ground in Afghanistan.

A doctor fills a syringe with the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 16, 2021. /CFP

A doctor fills a syringe with the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 16, 2021. /CFP

Therefore, what should be noticed, no matter who comes to power finally, it is critically necessary that the administration of Afghanistan must cut all ties with terrorist groups; since it is the only way for the Afghanistan government to win the trust and acceptance from international society, especially from its neighbors. The legal government of Afghanistan with international recognition should resolutely draw a line with all terrorist forces, and return to the political mainstream of Afghanistan with a responsible attitude toward the country and people. After all, China which shares a narrow border with Afghanistan has ample reasons to concern about extremism spilling over into their border provinces; and so are Afghanistan's other neighbors.

As part of those prevention efforts, China has been sharing up ties with its central Asian neighbors to deal with possible security threats in the post-U.S. era. In this regard, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has great potential to offer solution.

The role of the SCO in Afghan security and economic cooperation

Wang Yi has attended meetings of the SCO where foreign ministers of the member countries have discussed solutions to the Afghanistan conflict. Meanwhile the international society wondered what solutions the SCO may contribute at a time when the U.S. and its NATO allies are pulling troops from the country.

Last month, Wang Yi has proposed five points in promoting peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. This time, Wang Yi said on July 14 that the Chinese will continue to provide anti-epidemic support including vaccines to Afghanistan until the country beats the outbreak.

As mentioned above, since the security situation of Afghanistan is still uncertain, the most urgent affair for Afghanistan is the domestic peace resolution and civil war prevention. It is reported that the Taliban and the Afghanistan government are currently meeting in Qatar to attempt a peace agreement. However, the international society widely suspects that it is unlikely any power-sharing will be agreed longer term as the Taliban regard the incumbent Afghan government as a "Washington puppet". If so, a bitter civil war seems to be unavoidable; and no doubt, it will be the nightmare for tens of thousands of innocent Afghan civilians.

In this case, the international humanitarian relief and assistance will be of particular value and great necessity. The SCO members who have had twenty years to build coordinating intelligence, security, and military capabilities, with an eye on when the extraterritorial power pulls out of Afghanistan may take its international responsibility for regional security and Afghan people's life. With that day arriving, Central Asia now has a regional body capable of understanding, organizing against, and repelling threats. SCO may serve the role as a practical multilateral platform for Afghan domestic security dialogue and regional security cooperation.

The second priority is how to deal with the pandemic. As COVID-19 pandemic dampens the international flow, in order to recovery and strengthen the connection, China, Afghanistan and their Central Asian neighbors can establish joint prevention and control mechanism, especially the immune and vaccine cooperation through the SCO platform. International media widely believe China is ready to play a bigger role in the post-war era of Afghanistan.

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