Chinese security in Afghanistan and beyond
China’s priorities are shifting towards the containment of security threats in its region, and Europeans should capitalise on this trend.
China’s focus in Afghanistan is moving away from development projects and towards the containment of perceived security threats, according to our latest report, “Fortress of solicitude? Chinese security in Afghanistan and beyond.” (INSERT LINK) Europeans do not yet fully understand China’s new approach, seen in its patrols of the Wakhan Corridor – in what it calls a “joint counter-terrorism operations” with Kabul – and other security initiatives involving Afghanistan.
It remains unclear whether China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is still a purely development-focused operation, or whether there is a planned and profound long-term shift in Chinese security priorities. So far, Beijing’s most substantive engagement with Afghanistan has been in border control efforts designed to prevent terrorists from entering China. According to the report’s author, Angela Stanzel, “a similar pattern has emerged in Central Asia: China is working to deepen its cooperation with countries in the region by largely concentrating on measures to combat terrorist groups and other threats. Although Beijing rarely speaks about expanding its security ties with other countries, these trends indicate that it could be developing a capacity to promote stability in the region.”
It is imperative that Europeans understand the apparent shift in Beijing’s approach, even though “cooperation between the EU and China on security issues seems unlikely at this stage due to the major differences in their approaches.” Europeans should work to understand the substance behind Chinese rhetoric on the BRI, since in future they may either “cooperate or compete with China’s expansion of its influence from Asia to Africa”, and “their capacity to engage with the rest of the world will to some extent depend on an understanding of Chinese ambitions to provide development and security.”
Note to the editors
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About the authors:
Angela Stanzel is a senior policy fellow in ECFR’s Asia Programme, as well as the editor of China Analysis. Alongside China’s foreign policy and EU-China relations, her research focuses on South Asia in the context of China’s rise. She is author of a range of publications and often features as a commentator in the international media.
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