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Oct 16

China’s 4 billion Investment in Afghanistan: Nation building?

Written by guest on Friday, October 16th, 2009 at 12:38 pm
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http://worldblog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/10/14/2098654.aspx

It looks China’s investment policy toward many African countries is taking root in Afghanistan. It is the usual kind of investment; building roads, schools, railway, hospitals, telecoms, etc… in exchange for copper in Aynak mines. Given the poverty rate in Afghanistan, this is something badly needed there. In some way, the US was kind of unhappy about this because US has provided some kind of stability in Afghanistan to make way for China to put their investment there.

US has been investing in Afghanistan into nation building in terms of defeating the Taliban and having elections there. However they have been focusing on political and social changes within Afghanistan which might’ve upset some locals while China focuses on the economic side of nation building. Can China succeed where US failed?


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15 Responses to “China’s 4 billion Investment in Afghanistan: Nation building?”

  1. pug_ster Says:

    Here’s a Chinadaily article about this: Fight Terrorism with jobs…

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-10/16/content_8800543.htm

  2. Charles Liu Says:

    Afghanistan has been stubbern when it comes to resisting conquest. From the Mongols to the Turks to the Soviets in the 80’s, and to us too I guess.

  3. pug_ster Says:

    The problem is that Afghanistan is a landlocked country, doesn’t have alot of natural resources and borders with countries like the formerly Soviet Union, Iran and Pakistan which had conflicting interests in that country, while China has remained neutral in the conflicts over the years.

    With all the talk getting rid of Al Qaeda and Taliban from Afghanistan by building a bigger Afghanistan police force, doesn’t seem to fix the problem. Rather, nobody really addressed the problem about providing an economic future for Afghanistan until China came along. Don’t get me wrong, elections and woman’s rights are essential in Afghanistan, but it means nothing if there is no economic prosperity in Afghanistan.

  4. S.K. Cheung Says:

    I agree you need both economic development as well as the development of governing institutions. As far as the Canadian contingent is concerned, I can’t say about building roads or telecom infrastructure, but they have tried to build hospitals and schools. The problem, particularly with schools, is that they get shelled once the army leaves, because the Taliban disapprove of educating girls. And you can’t build infrastructure without some degree of security, so China is benefiting to some degree from what other countries are providing, however tenuous that may be.

    All the same, if China is building stuff and the Taliban aren’t destroying it (or at least trying to), that does present an interesting dichotomy. Perhaps the Taliban realize that, even if they do eventually overthrow the current democratic institutions, they will need some infrastructure to move forward. And maybe they’re willing to tolerate the good stuff China is doing for the country since China isn’t picking a fight with the Taliban.

    To Charles:
    “conquest”? Really? Is that what NATO is doing there?

  5. tanjin Says:

    Nation building — Chinese style 🙂

    China is building its own Pentagon — only bigger

    http://blogs.usatoday.com/ondeadline/2009/10/china-is-building-its-own-pentagon—-only-biggerit-will-look-almost-identical-to-the-familiar-five-sided-building-near-the.html

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/6306348/China-builds-Pentagon-shopping-centre-in-Shanghai.html

  6. FOARP Says:

    Britain has been involved in the construction of roads, schools, hospitals and hydro-electric projects in Afghanistan as part of an attempt to win hearts and minds which is yet to bear real fruit. However, since we have no real trade interests in that part of the world, nor is it really conceivable that we ever will, the countries which do have real interests there (India, Pakistan, Russia, China) must be the ones to take the lead in such matters if Afghanistan is ever to achieve a higher level of development. I am sceptical of this ever happening though.

  7. justkeeper Says:

    I think political social, and economical developments are all needed in Afghanistan. The point here is to make local people realizing how much better life is going to be compared to it was under Taliban so that they’ll willingly resist Taliban’s coming back.

  8. Raj Says:

    pug_ster

    US has been investing in Afghanistan into nation building in terms of defeating the Taliban and having elections there. However they have been focusing on political and social changes within Afghanistan which might’ve upset some locals while China focuses on the economic side of nation building.

    I think you’re somewhat misrepresenting/not giving enough credit to US aid to Afghanistan.

    1. The US has invested in building schools, hospitals, roads and the like.

    2. Afghanistan’s constitution now requires elections. The US and partners have to put money towards funding them. Didn’t you miss the protests over the fraud in the first round? Do you think that if tomorrow China announced that as part of a new deal all future elections were cancelled and Karzai was dictator for life, those protesters would smile and walk away happy or start a general uprising?

    3. Whilst a peace deal is possible, not fighting the Taliban would be suicide. Do you really think that China could stabilise Afghanistan just by pumping in a few billion dollars with no non-Afghani troops to help boost security? Moreover without military aid to Afghanistan there would be no Afghani forces to give home-grown security to the country in the first place.

    It’s true that the reconstruction effort could have been better, but it has been happening. Also international military assistance is necessary to give Afghanistan hope. Without it China wouldn’t be able mine the copper and certainly not build anything. Of course, if Beijing wants to send troops over to provide its own security for reconstruction and mining I doubt the US and friends would object. With such a large army (2.1 million?) I’m sure China could spare the necessary numbers.

  9. Allen Says:

    According to this report, US $128.9 billion has been spent by the military in Afgahnistan.

    According to this report, the United States has spent $38 billion on reconstruction in Afghanistan, more than half of it on training and equipping Afghan security forces.

    I have not been able to find concrete numbers on how much was actually spent on building schools, hospitals, roads and the like.

    But recent request gives some scale. According to the Washington Post article linked above:

    Although spending on civilian programs pales beside the military budget, Obama has pledged substantial increases in U.S. civilian personnel and development funds, focusing on agricultural development and rule of law. The size of the U.S. Embassy is scheduled to grow this year to 976 U.S. government civilians in Kabul and outside the capital, from 562 at the end of 2008.

    Eikenberry’s $2.5 billion request includes an additional $572 million for the expanded agriculture program. U.S. Marines, who this summer launched an offensive against the Taliban in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, are working with civilian officials to try to persuade farmers there not to plant opium poppy this year. The program includes the supply of seeds and fertilizers for alternative crops, loans to farmers, and payment for work on roads and irrigation ditches.

    Among the other elements of the request are an additional $521 million for stabilization efforts in conflict zones; $450 million in economic assistance funneled through the United Nations in Afghanistan; $190 million for roads, schools and civil aviation; $194 million for local government development; and $106 million in economic grants.

    I sort of agree with FOARP’s comment earlier. Long-term stability in Afghanistan will be achieved only if the local economies get developed. Hopefully the integration of the economies of China, Central Asia, and maybe even the Middle East will be achieved soon.

  10. FOARP Says:

    @Allen – The main reasons I am sceptical about Afghanistan’s neighbours investing in the country are:

    1) These countries themselves have large undeveloped regions of their own to invest in.

    2) These countries are not entirely interested in seeing NATO succeed in Afghanistan, especially if a NATO ‘victory’ (whatever that might look like) leads to a permanent NATO presence.

    3) By the same token, Pakistan has no desire to see Indian soldiers in Afghanistan, nor does Russia wish to see a further spread of Chinese influence into a sphere which used to be there own. The entire reason for the existence of the artificial entity that is Afghanistan is as neutral ground.

    4) The entire Afghan adventure is mad, neither the soldiers who are fighting the conflict nor the Afghan people believe in it. Most likely at some point in the future our governments will tire of it and withdraw their troops, at which point the modicum of security which allows invests such as the one mentioned here will disappear.

    Comparisons made with Vietnam are not apt. The Saigon government was at least able to stand its own ground against the Viet Cong, and was only toppled by a full-scale invasion from North Vietnam, but the Karzai government cannot even defend itself from its own people unaided (and this after 8 years of training) .

    As for the 4 billion, we will see how much of that actually goes into local infrastructure, and how much is either not actually spent in Afghanistan, or is syphoned off by local warlords. You may recall the large sums offered at the start of the Afghan war by Japan and other countries, of which little was ever actually forthcoming.

    What’s more the more that countries like China and Russia are seen to benefit from investment in Afghanistan without contributing troops, the more resistance there will be to a continuing NATO military presence.

  11. pug_ster Says:

    @Raj 8

    Yet with the elections and building there is much anti-american/nato sentiment out there. Perhaps the problem is that the locals see the troops buildup there as a threat rather than security. There’s a pbs documentary about the realities in there. And they are not winning the hearts and minds of the local people.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/obamaswar/

    Even when the nato troops out, China can probably stabilize the region with economic progress.

  12. Raj Says:

    pug_ster (8)

    Yet with the elections and building there is much anti-american/nato sentiment out there. Perhaps the problem is that the locals see the troops buildup there as a threat rather than security.

    The problem is that many Afghans, at least in places like Helmand, are being caught in the middle of a war. Naturally they’re going to blame the people fighting – which is why there is hostility towards the Taliban too. In other parts of the country there is less opposition to foreign troops because there is less fighting.

    There is also frustration about the perceived lack of delivery on construction efforts.

    Even when the nato troops out, China can probably stabilize the region with economic progress.

    With $4 billion? With no security? If China can really do all that, why isn’t it stabilising Somalia, Darfur and other places with a waive of its magic wand?

    Back in the real world, it’s a lot harder than that. I would guess that China is banking on other countries providing security to help deliver on its investment. It would never have authorised the project if the Taliban had been running around unchecked.

  13. pug_ster Says:

    @Raj,

    The problem is that many Afghans, at least in places like Helmand, are being caught in the middle of a war. Naturally they’re going to blame the people fighting – which is why there is hostility towards the Taliban too. In other parts of the country there is less opposition to foreign troops because there is less fighting.

    The problem with Helmand is that it is where most of the opium is grown. Even is Nato can get rid of the Taliban, they can’t provide them with an alternative means to sell goods that is as profitable as opium. The problem with nato is that it uses some kind of textbook operation to ‘stabilize’ the country without accessing the situation in the ground.

    With $4 billion? With no security? If China can really do all that, why isn’t it stabilising Somalia, Darfur and other places with a waive of its magic wand?

    Back in the real world, it’s a lot harder than that. I would guess that China is banking on other countries providing security to help deliver on its investment. It would never have authorised the project if the Taliban had been running around unchecked.

    The region where China made investment, they already made deals with the local people in the providence and it is not as unstable as Helmand. Also China’s job is not the stabilize governments. China’s involvement in those countries are strictly economical, and not political. Unfortunately, Somalia and Darfur are not politically stable, so it is considered a bad investment if they go to these countries or areas.

  14. Raj Says:

    pug_ster

    The problem with nato is that it uses some kind of textbook operation to ’stabilize’ the country without accessing the situation in the ground.

    That’s an easy criticism to make given you’re not saying what NATO is doing wrong. At the moment all options are being pursued, including reaching out to parts of the Taliban. But if they want to fight there is no choice other than to fight them – or withdraw, let them make things even more chaotic and then make foreign investment impossible.

    The region where China made investment, they already made deals with the local people in the providence and it is not as unstable as Helmand.

    Exactly, the reason China could make the investment is because there is security there! And that security is down to foreign military assistance. If the foreign troops pull out there will be no security and investments will become unworkable/undesirable. The fact you admit China cannot invest in Darfur and Somalia is evidence of how dependent Chinese investment is on NATO’s continuing presence in Afghanistan. If those troops pulled out China would be helpless.

  15. DJ Says:

    Raj #14,

    I think pug_ster’s point is that China’s approach is to create a mutual incentive to protect the investment, with the locals. Therefore, it is not particularly dependent on artificial security provided by an occupying force.

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