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There Goes the Neighborhood: Afghanistan's Challenges to China's Regional Security Goals

Politics of Central Asia
Elizabeth Wishnick

After 9/11, the war in Afghanistan became a stumbling block for China's regional agenda.1 Afghanistan has posed many challenges to China's regional goals by complicating its plans for economic integration; introducing new threats to its western province, the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, and neighboring states; and bringing U.S. and NATO forces near the Chinese-Afghan border for the first time in decades. As the deadline for troop withdrawal approaches, China anticipates growing opportunities for resource extraction in Afghanistan and deeper economic integration within South Asia. However, these new economic opportunities may come at a very high cost. As the primary investor in Afghanistan, China will no longer be able to maintain the low profile it has kept for the past decade, potentially making the country more vulnerable to terrorist attack. On 8 June 2012, China and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement highlighting the mutual economic and political benefits of their cooperation as well as the security concerns they both confront. This article examines how Afghanistan has shaped China's economic, political, and security priorities in Central and South Asia. It draws conclusions regarding China's cooperation in international efforts to end the conflict in Afghanistan and the security environment facing China after the promised withdrawal of United States and NATO forces in 2014.