The Big Ideas

'Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Is a Blow for China'
'Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Is a Blow for China'
No items found.

April 15, 2021
BIG IDEA | ‘President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan at the end of summer is likely to confound Chinese calculations, both economic and geopolitical.’

‘President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan at the end of summer is likely to confound Chinese calculations, both economic and geopolitical.’

  • ‘China’s interests in the neighbor with which it has the shortest border— less than 50 miles long — have grown more complex in recent years.’

‘Afghanistan was not part of the original plan for President Xi Jinpeng’s pet project, a New Silk Road connecting China with Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe; Beijing reckoned safe passage was impossible through a country it regarded as too prone to religious fanaticism and violence.’

‘Beyond economic considerations, China is keen to prevent Afghanistan from turning into a safe haven for Uyghurs fleeing the persecution Beijing has unleashed in Xinjiang province or into a base for Uyghurs to launch a cross-border insurgency.’

  • ‘The worst-case scenario would be for the country to become a staging ground for a new jihad in Xinjiang, drawing extremists from across the world.’

‘Beijing also has some geopolitical interest in Afghanistan.’

  • ‘Its alliance with Pakistan requires China to support Islamabad’s bid for greater influence in the country.’
  • ‘This requires containing the influence of their mutual rival India, which has grown exponentially over the past two decades.’

‘But most of China’s interests in Afghanistan are predicated on political stability and the absence of violence.’

  • The prospect of both have been greatly diminished by Biden’s withdrawal announcement.’

‘It can’t have escaped Beijing’s attention that the announcement was attended by ill tidings:’

‘With the withdrawal of Western forces only five months away, the Taliban has little incentive to make peace.’

  • ‘More than likely, it will brush off Chinese inducements of investment in infrastructure, and make a bid to take complete control of the country.’
  • ‘This would entail a war against the forces of the government in Kabul, which could drag on for years, making Afghanistan once again a sanctuary for jihadists of every stripe — some of whom will undoubtedly direct their attention to that very short, mountainous and porous border with China.’

‘An Afghan civil war would obviously be unpropitious for Chinese investments in the country, but will also have a bearing on Beijing’s interests elsewhere in the neighborhood.’

  • ‘We’ve seen this movie before: Fighting in Afghanistan spills over the border into Pakistan, which is swamped by refugees even as it struggles to contain the inflamed passions of its own extremist groups.'
  • ‘This in turn will have consequences for that corridor connecting Pakistan to the New Silk Road.’