Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, December 8th, 2019

Chinese Contribution to Afghanistan Obvious to All

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Chinese Contribution to  Afghanistan Obvious to All

It is my great honour to serve as Chinese ambassador to Afghanistan. Since taking office, I have spent most of my time meeting friends from all walks of life. I have deeply felt the desire of the Afghan people for peace and development and their friendly feelings to China. This heroic land has been independent for a hundred years. Its people are industrious and brave but have been ravaged by war and chaos in the past nearly 40 years. Many Afghan friends told me that the US has not brought about peace, stability or development to this country in the 18 years of its presence. Where is democracy, human rights or freedom promised by the US all these years? This sets me to ponder what China and the international community can do to better help Afghanistan in its peaceful reconstruction.
A few days ago, Alice Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistance Secretary of State for South Asia and Central Asia at the US State Department, commented that ‘China has not been a real player in Afghanistan development’, that ‘China is not a provider of any significant grant assistance’ and that what China has done in cross-border railway, electricity lines, trade exchange and other regional connectivity initiatives lags behind Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. On the basis of a careful review of China-Afghanistan cooperation, I would like to give a responsible account here.
In the 1970s, when China and its people still suffered underdevelopment and poverty, it helped to build a multi-purpose hydro-engineering project in Parwan Province and the Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar Province. Now more than 40 years later, the Parwan project still contributes to the irrigation of vast farmland and the hospital has become a well-known medical centre in Kandahar and surrounding provinces and affectionately dubbed as the Chinese Hospital among the locals.
Since 2001, China has joined the peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan, with continuously increasing assistance and support. The Jamhuriat Hospital, built with Chinese aid, is still Kabul’s largest public hospital. The building of the Chinese Department of Kabul University allows a large number of young students to study in bright and spacious classrooms. Construction of the National Vocational Education and Training Centre has also been completed this year. Equipped with modern teaching facilities, the centre will help train more Afghan skilled talents. In 2014, China pledged to provide RMB 2 billion in gratuitous aid to Afghanistan over the following four years. With the financial support, construction of the Kabul University’s comprehensive teaching building and auditorium is expected to complete next year, a low-cost housing project is scheduled to begin next year, and a solar power station is under construction in Bamyan Province. These are just a few examples of Chinese assistance to Afghanistan and they serve as new drivers for socio-economic development here in Afghanistan.
We Chinese have never forgotten the ordinary Afghan people and every year we provide gratuitous emergency humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan in great quantities. Whenever Afghanistan is hit by a snow disaster or an earthquake, Chinese emergency supplies including blankets, tents and generators always arrive in Kabul at the earliest moment by air. Since 2017, rice and flour with a worth of RMB 100 million has been delivered to Kabul in 10 shipments for distribution to disaster victims across the country. A new aid package, including more than 11,500 tents, is being mobilized. Nearly 200 Afghan children with congenital heart disease have been treated for free in Xinjiang, China, with a success rate of 100%. Every year, the Chinese Embassy provides financial aid and support for orphanages, primary and secondary schools as well as poor families to help them tide over the difficulties. We have also built a China-Afghanistan Friendship Primary School, with improved schooling conditions for the pupils there. The Chinese people have always cared for the well-being of the Afghan people.
The Chinese government has not only given the Afghans fish but also taught them to fish, thus building up its own capacity for socio-economic development. In 2016, Afghanistan was among the first countries to sign a memorandum of understanding with China on jointly developing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It is our hope that ordinary Afghan people will benefit more from our development and Afghanistan will regain its glory as the Heart of Asia in the days of the ancient Silk Road through greater policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds within the BRI framework. China actively encourages qualified enterprises to invest in Afghanistan. ZTE, Huawei and other world-class Chinese high-tech companies now provide high-quality services for the Afghan telecommunications industry. The Aynak copper mine invested by a Chinese company remains the largest foreign investment project in Afghanistan. Although mining has not started for issues related to cultural relics and security, the Chinese company would rather bear the losses by itself than abandoning its promise and is still actively engaging the Afghan government for an early resumption of the project.
China have opened direct regular train services with Afghanistan through Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, as well as direct flight between Kabul and Urumqi. If Madam Wells finds direct connectivity between China and Afghanistan insufficient, I would be very happy to have a research done by American experts on the feasibility of a direct China-Afghanistan rail link in the existing geographical and natural conditions.
We have enabled Afghan specialty products such as pine nuts, saffron and marble be exported to China. A charter flight route for pine nuts was approved last year and in just four months of its approval pine nuts worth USD 15 million were exported to China. It is reported that this year contracts involving 30,000 tons of pine nuts have been signed, which means foreign exchange for Afghanistan and direct benefits for Afghan pine growers and traders. Statistics show that two-way trade will exceed USD 1.2 billion in 2019 and that China will once again be Afghanistan’s third largest trading partner on a consecutive basis. Since 2015, the Chinese government has trained more than 4,000 Afghan personnel.
It is fair to say that China has made great efforts for the peace and development in Afghanistan, with remarkable results, which have been fairly recognised by the Afghan people. Nevertheless, China admittedly has limited strength. We have therefore actively increased cooperation with other members of the world community to jointly help Afghanistan. China and the US have been jointly supporting training of Afghan diplomats for eight consecutive years. Agricultural trainings targeting veterinarians and technicians in high value-added agricultural produces have been sponsored by China and the US jointly. Another training programme in higher education will start soon, again co-sponsored by China and the US. China also sponsors other joint training programmes for Afghanistan together with Germany, U.K., Pakistan and India. China is an active participant in most Afghanistan-related reconciliation mechanisms, including Quadrilateral Coordination Group of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the US, the “6+1” liaison group and the China-US-Russia-Pakistan consultation on peace in Afghanistan, with a view to steering the international community towards greater common understanding, proper handling of differences and constructive solutions.
The Afghan issue has been a long-standing one and will hardly be resolved by any one country in any short time. China will continue supporting Afghanistan to the best of its ability. We sincerely hope that the US will regard Afghanistan as a place for cooperation rather than gaming and devote all its actions and thinking to helping Afghanistan develop better.
In my term here, I am ready to work with my Afghan friends from all walks of life for the international community to contribute positively to the peace, reconstruction and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

Wang Yu is Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Afghanistan.

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