Two years ago, the China Metallurgical Group Corporation, a Chinese state-owned conglomerate, bid $3.4 billion — $1 billion more than any of its competitors from Canada, Europe, Russia, the United States and Kazakhstan — for the rights to mine deposits near the village of Aynak. Over the next 25 years, it plans to extract about 11 million tons of copper — an amount equal to one-third of all the known copper reserves in China.
While the United States spends hundreds of billions of dollars fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda here, China is securing raw material for its voracious economy. The world’s superpower is focused on security. Its fastest rising competitor concentrates on commerce.
S. Frederick Starr, the chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, an independent research organization in Washington, said that skeptics might wonder whether Washington and NATO had conducted “an unacknowledged preparatory phase for the Chinese economic penetration of Afghanistan.”
“We do the heavy lifting,” he said. “And they pick the fruit.”