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Geo-Strategic Trend

Indian Scholar on China’s Promised Aid to Afghanistan

Not long ago, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that China has decided to provide Afghanistan 200 million yuan (US$31 million) worth of food, winter supplies, vaccines and medicine. China also promised, when security and other conditions are in place, to help build projects there to improve people’s livelihood and to support Afghanistan’s peaceful reconstruction and economic development.

Nandan Unnikrishnan, an Indian political scientist and honorary member of the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, India, said, “People just forget that in 1996 and 2001, respectively, China and the Taliban (a group banned in Russia) reached an agreement on the exploitation of mineral resources. So, this is not the first time for China.”

During the period of the Taliban’s rule from 1996 till 2001, China and the Taliban had some low level economic and technical cooperation. Some accounts suggest that after the US’ cruise missile attack on Afghani militant bases, Beijing reached out to the Taliban to offer Chinese support in the form of access to a missile computer guidance system. As the Taliban strengthened its hold over the country, Beijing signed a military pact in 1998 to train Afghan (and therefore Taliban) pilots. Then in 1999 they signed an economic cooperation agreement.

Source: Sputnik News, September 12, 2021
Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA), September 03, 2021

Xinhua: Wang Yi Attended the First Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan’s Neighbors

Xinhua recently reported that, on September 8, Chinese State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi attended the first meeting of Afghanistan’s neighboring foreign ministers. Wang said Afghanistan today stands at the crossroads of history. China, as a neighbor, should seize the critical time window of the transition and exert a positive influence on the changes in the situation. China agreed to institutionalize the Afghan Neighboring Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. The first meeting was chaired by the foreign minister of Pakistan. The foreign ministers or deputies of Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan also attended the meeting. Right before the meeting, Dai Bing, Chargé d’affaires of the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations, said at the UN Security Council that the evolution of the Afghanistan issue shows that foreign military intervention will eventually end in failure. The hastily and disorderly withdrawal of a certain country’s troops from Afghanistan has caused Kabul to fall into chaos and turmoil, leading to a major humanitarian disaster.

Source: Xinhua, September 8, 2021

The Taliban Asked the U.S. to Release Afghanistan’s Frozen $10 Billion

Well-known Chinese news site Sohu (NASDAQ: SOHU) recently reported that the Afghan media quoted the Acting Minister of the Interior of the Taliban Provisional Government, Haqqani, as saying that the Taliban asked the United States to release Afghanistan’s frozen US$10 billion. Earlier, some news sources reported that the United States had frozen nearly $10 billion in reserve assets in the U.S. bank account of the Central Bank of Afghanistan. In addition, the Taliban also called on the United States to continue to supply Afghanistan with billions of dollars previously promised in aid. In the meantime, the Taliban asked the United States and the United Nations to remove the names of Taliban leaders from the sanctions list. The currently known assets of the Central Bank of Afghanistan include foreign exchange cash reserves, which are largely in U.S. dollars. The amount is around US$362 million. Afghanistan’s gold reserves are valued at about US$1.3 billion. Most of the reserves are stored in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The Afghanistan government has other investments worth US$6.1 billion, which are mostly in U.S. long-term Treasury bonds and short-term Treasury bonds.

Source: Sohu, September 9, 2021

EU Supports Lithuania Which Is under Beijing’s Sanction

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was angered when Lithuania let Taiwan set up the “Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania.” It was the first office in Europe to be called “Taiwanese.” In the past, all of them were called “Taipei.” Beijing recalled its Ambassador to Lithuania and requested Lithuania to do the same. On September 3, Lithuania’s Ambassador Diana Mickeviciene left Beijing after finishing her 21-day forced quarantine there. Diplomats from other European Union (EU) countries gathered to see her off and to express their support for Lithuania.

China Railway Container Corporation stopped railway shipping to Lithuania. Lithuanian exports of agricultural, forestry, and livestock products to China, as well as imports of raw materials and components from China, are all facing obstacles from Beijing.

On September 1, the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee expressed its support for Lithuania in multiple ways: the Committee passed a bill to recommend that Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, should change the name of the “European Economic and Trade Office in Taipei” to the “EU Office in Taiwan.” The Committee also adopted the “EU-Taiwan Political Relations and Cooperation” report, calling for elevating EU-Taiwan “political relations.” It also passed a resolution to support and welcome Lithuania’s establishing the Taiwanese Representative Office and to condemn the CCP’s economic sanctions against Lithuania.

1. Epoch Times, September 3, 2021
2. Epoch Times, September 7, 2021

China’s “Aluminum and Iron Ally” Guinea

Since the military coup in Guinea, its relationship with China has received increased attention. Guinea has long maintained good relations with China. During the Presidency of Alpha Condé, Guinea became an important ally of China’s “Belt and Road” project.

China is the main importer of bauxite ore from Guinea, accounting for nearly half of the country’s total imports. Chalco’s (Aluminum Corporation of China Limited) bauxite project in Boffa, Guinea started operation in April 2020. As a result of exploration, the project sees resources of about 1.75 billion tons which will allow mining for up to 60 years. The total investment in the first phase of the project is about US$585 million and the designed capacity is 12 million tons of high-quality bauxite per year.

Simandou in southern Guinea is one of the world’s largest undeveloped high-quality open-pit hematite mines, with proven reserves of 2.4 billion tons and an estimated annual production of 150 million tons at full capacity, although its exploitation has been delayed by legal disputes and corruption allegations.

In November 2019, the Winning Consortium, a consortium led by a Chinese company, obtained 85 percent of the ownership of blocks 1 and 2 in the north of Simandou. In the south, Chinese companies control 40 percent of Blocks 3 and 4.

China imports more than 1 billion tons of iron ore each year. About 60 percent of it comes from Australia and 20 percent from Brazil. Although Simandou’s production seems small, analysts believe China can use it to reduce its dependence on Australia at a time when Sino-Australian relations have hit a freezing point.

The close ties between the two countries made Guinea one of the first countries to receive Chinese vaccine aid this year. Earlier, China was quick to congratulate President Condé after he amended the constitution and was re-elected president in October 2020, despite the opposition’s accusations of electoral fraud.

Source: BBC Chinese, September 7, 2021

DW Chinese: Most Germans Support a Tougher Position against China

Deutsche Welle Chinese Edition recently reported that Internationale Politik (IP) magazine under the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) commissioned a survey conducted by Forsa, a polling agency. The survey showed that 58 percent of Germans believe that, even if economic and trade relations with China will be affected, Germany should adopt a tougher policy toward China and pay more attention to defending Germany’s own interests. Around 17 percent of the interviewees supported a tougher position if economic and trade relations are not affected. Another 19 percent of the respondents opposed any form of hardline in principle. China is often criticized by the international community for its bad human rights record, especially on its suppression of Uyghur Muslims. However, Germany has strong economic and trade ties with China. In Germany’s current federal election, the China issue clearly occupies a more important role than in the past. The campaign strategy papers of all major German political parties have all covered their China policies in great length.

Source: DW Chinese, August 30, 2021

Global Times: Taliban Said China is Afghanistan’s “Passport to the Global Market”

Global Times recently reported that Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid mentioned in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that China is Afghanistan’s “Passport to the Global Market.” He also emphasized that, “China is our most important partner. This is a fundamental and unusual opportunity for us, because China is willing to invest and rebuild our country.” Zabiullah Mujahid expressed his strong interest in China’s Belt and Road project. He made it clear that the Taliban hopes to rebuild Afghanistan’s economy with the help of China. He said that Afghanistan is rich in copper resources. With China’s participation, production can be restarted and modernized. Mujahid also encouraged Western countries like Italy to have diplomatic contacts with the Taliban. Recently, the Taliban has repeatedly released friendly messages about China. On September 2, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Wu Jianghao had a phone conversation with the deputy director of the Taliban’s political office in Doha. The two sides exchanged views on the situation in Afghanistan and issues of common concern. The Taliban emphasized that China is a “trustworthy friend of Afghanistan.” The Taliban is willing to continue developing friendly relations between Afghanistan and China, and will never allow any force to use Afghan territory to threaten China’s interests.

Source: Global Times, September 3, 2021

ETIM Stands between China and the Taliban

China held its first diplomatic talks with the Taliban on Wednesday August 25, establishing “effective communication” with the insurgent group in Afghanistan. However, the growing relationship between the two countries seems to be contingent on the Taliban’s ties with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a Uyghur militant group.

ETIM is an extremist group of native Uyghurs, which is a Muslim minority in China. The ETIM’s stated objective is to form a sovereign nation of East Turkestan. It is to be carved out from Xinjiang province.

In 2002, the United Nations and the US officially designated the ETIM as a terrorist group. “ETIM has a close financial relationship with al-Qaida and many of its members’ received terrorist training in Afghanistan, financed by al-Qaida and the Taliban. A statement from the US Treasury Department in 2002 said, “A number of ETIM and ETIM-linked militants were captured in Afghanistan last fall fighting alongside al-Qaida and the Taliban.”

On August 30, a Chinese government spokesperson for Xinjiang province said, “In the past, the ETIM gathered in Afghanistan, posing a direct threat to the security and stability of Xinjiang. It is hoped that the Afghan Taliban draw a clear line from ETIM and attack them resolutely and effectively.”

Days earlier, on August 27, Xi Jinping, the general secretary of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) said in a meeting in Beijing, “We must resolutely guard against major hidden dangers in the ethnic field. It is necessary to  …  eliminate ethnic divisions and religious extremes.” “We must strengthen international anti-terrorism cooperation.”

Source: Central News Agency, August 30, 2021