As US Fights, China Spends to Gain Afghan Foothold

The Washington Post reports on China’s investment in Afghanistan:

As the U.S. and its NATO allies fight to stabilize Afghanistan, China has expanded its economic footprint with several high-profile investments and reconstruction projects. In 2007, it became the country’s largest foreign investor when it won a $3.5 billion contract to develop copper mines at Aynak, southeast of Kabul.

The U.S. is in favor of the Chinese investment. “It can be a good thing. As a matter of fact, we encourage all of the international community to take an interest in the economic development of Afghanistan,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid.

“Working with our coalition partners and other interested partners, we are trying to establish a viable market economy in Afghanistan. This is one way to wean people from illicit activities and also to fight the ideology of the terrorists,” he said.

For China, the reward is not only expanded trade and access to natural resources, it’s also security for its western flank, the vast Xinjiang region that is home to a separatist movement of minority Uighurs, said Liu Xuecheng of the China Institute of International Studies, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s think tank.

“Our interest is clear. We need a peaceful neighbor because we have our own problems in Xinjiang,” Liu said. “If we have a friendly country in Afghanistan, they can help us to manage issues on the separatists, security and territorial integrity. We want to be successful.”

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