Odd that China has already begun to provide training and humanitarian assistance (here) (here).
Obama to press China on Afghanistan
By Geoff Dyer in Beijing
Published: November 12 2009 10:46 | Last updated: November 12 2009 11:22
As US President Barack Obama prepares to make a final decision on whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, his visit to Beijing next week will be an opportunity to press China to become more involved in the conflict.
Since the start of the year, the Obama administration has been quietly encouraging Beijing to become much more engaged in Afghanistan, according to diplomats, officials and academics briefed on the discussions, with possible options including greater humanitarian assistance and sending military police to help train the Afghan police force.
Although China is extremely reluctant to play any military role in Afghanistan, with which it shares a short border, the increased US lobbying comes at a time of growing realisation in Beijing that its interests would be considerably damaged by a US withdrawal and Taliban victory.
Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, visited Beijing in April to discuss the two countries with the Chinese and there have been a string of contacts since then. Some of Mr Holbrooke’s aides were in Beijing on Thursday, ahead of Mr Obama’s arrival in China on Sunday night.
The Obama administration, which has said it wants China to be a partner on many global issues, had hoped to organise an “inter-agency” meeting for Chinese officials in Washington before the president’s visit, where they would be briefed by all the different US government departments involved in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However this has yet to take place. The US also hopes Beijing will occasionally use its influence with Pakistan, a close ally, towards shared strategic goals.
“This is a golden opportunity for China to be seen by the west to be on the same side,” said David Shambaugh, a China expert at George Washington University, who said China should consider both civilian assistance, such as building infrastructure, and police training. “It is a test case of whether China will become a real partner.”
However, he acknowledged the high level of resistance, especially among the Chinese military, where there is deep scepticism about the conflict. He recalled a visit to China’s National Defence University in 2001 on the day US military operations began in Afghanistan when one Chinese general warned loudly: “You will never get out.”
Although some parts of the Chinese military and political elite are not unhappy to see the US struggling in Afghanistan, Beijing has grown increasingly concerned about the conflict because of fears that a strong Taliban will help radicalise its own Muslim population and that Pakistan is being progressively weakened.
Chinese companies have invested $3.5bn in a copper mine in Afghanistan, while Beijing is also wary of greater Indian involvement in the country.
However, the summer riots in Xinjiang have made Beijing more cautious about greater public involvement in Afghanistan, officials say, for fear that China will become a major terrorist target. Beijing also wants to learn more about Mr Obama’s real plans for the region.
“The expectations in the US that China will send armed police to Afghanistan, that is too much for China,” says Jin Canrong, professor of international relations at Renmin University. “It is possible that China will send more money, but armed men, no way.”
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