Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday for a high-level bilateral visit. Li met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the two oversaw the signing of three agreements on security, reconstruction, and education cooperation, according to Tolo News. Li and Ghani praised the state of bilateral ties between China and Afghanistan and pledged to continue the expansion of their relationship.
Speaking in Kabul beside Li, Ghani outlined the nature of the three agreements. “The first agreement is about physical security of our people. The security system on Kabul gates will ensure that traffic entering Kabul are checked and investigated,” Ghani said, according to Pajhwok News.
Li additionally committed 500 million yuan (approximately $79 million) in Chinese capital to support to the construction of 10,000 apartments for the families of the Afghan National Security Forces and police who had died in service. According to the Afghan Ministry of Urban Development, the 500 million yuan represents the first tranche of a total of 2 billion yuan for the construction of the apartments. Following the distribution of these new apartments to the families of deceased Afghan security and police personnel, the remaining units will be given to government officers.
Additionally, China will offer 1,500 scholarships for Afghan students, according to Ghani. Li reaffirmed China’s commitment to the peace and reconciliation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Earlier this year, for the first time, China facilitated talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Pakistan, demonstrating Beijing’s increased interest in shaping security outcomes in Afghanistan. Beijing went as far as to host Taliban representatives on its own soil. In July 2014, China announced that Sun Yuxi, an experienced Chinese diplomat, would serve as the first Chinese special envoy for Afghanistan. China has additionally consulted with the United States at a high level on the issue of their bilateral cooperation in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan, for its part, has shown greater interest in courting China. As I discussed a year ago, Ghani chose China as the destination for his first trip abroad as Afghan president. Afghanistan has also applied for membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), an international organization comprising China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Afghanistan not only values a close relationship with China due to Beijing’s willingness to extend a helping hand financially, but also because of China’s ability to apply leverage on its ally Pakistan to crack down on militants along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Due to China’s own concerns regarding separatist Uyghur militants using Afghanistan as an area from where to plan and stage attacks on Chinese soil, Beijing has an interest in seeing the Afghan state succeed in its bid to fight the Taliban, particularly in the northern and northeastern parts of the country.