A position paper, China’s image, and what it means

Source– The post is based on the article “A position paper, China’s image, and what it means” published in the “The Hindu” on 8th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- International relations

Relevance– Important geopolitical developments

News– Recently, China released its position Paper on its policy in Afghanistan. Titled, ‘China’s position on the Afghan Issue’

What are some important points regarding China’s position on its policy in Afghanistan?

The paper delineates the core principles of Beijing’s policy choices. These are ‘Three Respects’ and ‘Three Nevers’.

China respects the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and the independent choice, religious sentiments and national customs of the Afghan people.

These principles are put in opposition to the policies followed by the West. As per Beijing, western policies are influenced by geopolitics and their vested interests.

As per China, Afghanistan is currently transitioning from a period of turbulence to relative stability under the Taliban.

West has failed in fulfilling its commitments to the country. Its decision to intervene militarily and enforce its conception of democracy is blamed for the crisis.

It criticises the U.S. for imposing unilateral sanctions and illegally freezing Afghanistan’s foreign reserves. China calls for a reversal of these actions.

Beijing commits to help Afghanistan move towards a more sustainable form of economy.

China urges the international community to view the Afghan issue in a comprehensive, balanced and objective manner.

China advocates using alternative regional groupings which do not include the U.S. and its allies, such as SCO, the Moscow Format Dialogue, the China-­Afghanistan-­Pakistan Trilateral for discussing the Afghan issue.

This will help Beijing in promoting an alternative model as opposed to the battered approach of the West. It will allow it to focus more on its priorities and form a consensus among Afghanistan’s neighbours.

It calls for a bilateral and multilateral approach to respond to the ‘Three Forces’ of terrorism, extremism and separatism.

China urges the Taliban, regional countries and the international community to crack down on terror groups, specifically the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. They should help Afghanistan in augmenting its counterterrorism capabilities.

The question of refugees and narcotics and their cross border trafficking are also highlighted.

What are reasons behind China focussing on Afghanistan?

China has framed its involvement in purely humanitarian terms, good neighbourliness and mutual respect for its neighbours. Thus, Beijing has avoided acknowledging its own interests in the country.

It blames the current turmoil in the world and presence of multiple crises for its proactive approach. As per China, countries are urging China to take charge as the U.S. has abdicated its responsibility.

China wants stability in Afghanistan. It is also important for Beijing to attain its own security and economic interests in the country and to present a counter to U.S. hegemony. For China, the threat of terrorism emanating from Afghanistan can harm Chinese interests.

Afghanistan is also economically very important for China due to its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and due to the presence of vast mineral resources.

Since the beginning of 2023, China has taken steps to project its image as a major country playing a crucial role in ensuring global governance and providing a ‘moderate and pluralistic environment’ for dialogue.

The release of the concept paper on the Global security initiative and the peace proposal on Ukraine signal Beijing’s quest to modify its image and solidify its role as a responsible mediator.

Its apparent success in bringing Iran and Saudi Arabia to the negotiating table and the visits by leaders from Europe are projected as an indicator of Beijing’s growing influence.

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