Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi will begin a trip to Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan on Monday to discuss China’s plans in Central Asia as it begins to close in on Afghanistan following western troop presence in the country after 20-years. The move confirms growing fears that China has big aims of greater infleunce and power in the region as it looks further to push beyond its own borders.
Speaking to WION news channel, host Palki Sharma said: “As the deadline for the complete US troop withdrawal nears, China is moving fast to fulfil the power vacuum in Afghanistan and Central Asia.
“The Chinese foreign ministry claims that the three nations have extended an invitation to Wany Yi.
“The Chinese foreign minister will also take part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting which will be held in Dushanbe (Tajikistan) on July 13-14.
“Other members of the SCO are some of Afghanistan’s closest neighbours and regional powers including India, Pakistan and Russia.”
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The news comes as speaking to Express.co.uk in June, Zhouchen Mao, Asia-Pacific Analyst for A K E International, a global risk and security consultancy group and expert in China’s Foreign Policy at SOAS University London explained how Central Asia is a major focal point for China.
Mr Mao said: “Central Asia is considered perhaps one of, if not the top priorities of the Chinese with regards to its ‘neighbourhood policy’.
“[Its] Belt and Road Initiative is a great example of how China has utilised so-called infrastructure initiatives to bring Central Asian states closer to its own orbit.”
In 2019, Beijing announced its intention to link Afghanistan to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a £45bn series of infrastructure projects which will eventually connect Pakistan not central Asian energy markets.
While in May Wang Yu, China’s ambassador to Afghanistan, said the country was consulting with the government in Kabul on the “Belt and Road Initiative” to revive part of the Silk Road in Afghanistan.
But analysts point out that it has more to gain than the West in economic, political and security terms.
Speaking to Express.co.uk on Monday, East Asia expert Alessio Patalano from King’s College London, said: “Unlike the West, China doesn’t have the option to ignore Afghanistan which is on its border and where its Muslim minorities are found.
“It’s a national security issue as much as it is an economic and political one. What we need to understand is the impact this may have on India, which remains a giant thorn in China’s ambitions.
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“A China-Pakistan-Afghanistan could increase efforts to destabilise Kashmir and put other pressures on Delhi, causing it to start pulling back on engagements with the US, the UK and France.
“Biden’s entire Indo-Pacific strategy revolves around India and Japan, The West is banking on the US, but the US is banking on India, and it could all fall apart. We must take this threat seriously.”
The Central Asian region is also rich in oil and gas as well as gold, uranium, iron ore, and other precious metals which are a major draw for resource-poor China.
The news comes as on Saturday, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen claimed how his terrorist organisation see China as an ally, saying: “China is a friendly country and we welcome it for reconstruction and developing Afghanistan.”