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China Desires to Reach Afghanistan: Is it a Controversial Wakhan; or a Stable Central Asia?

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China, which wants to reach various markets within the scope of the Belt-Road Project, is trying to create alternative corridors and routes. Today, there are very few countries where China cannot establish relations or establish corridors in the Asian continent. In this context, one of the most important goals of China, which has developed close relations with various states within the framework of mutual respect and win-win approach, is to reach Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has been grappling with various social, economic, political and humanitarian crises since the US withdrawal. It is also known that some terrorist organizations have a presence in Afghanistan.

This situation weakens the authority of the Taliban administration and makes it difficult to ensure its internal legitimacy. Despite this, China aims to increase its gains through the relations it has established by acting from a pragmatist framework with its policy of not interfering in the internal affairs of the countries. At this point Afghanistan is also one of China’s toughest tests.

As it will be remembered, at the time when the US would withdraw from Afghanistan, it was discussed that China should include this country in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) together with Pakistan.[1]

Later, one of the allegations made was that China wanted to reach Afghanistan via the Wakhan Corridor. However, the region in question does not seem to be a healthy choice due to the presence of various terrorist organizations in the region, the difficulty of the geographical structure and the potential for instability in South Asia to affect China and other regional countries.

In addition, recent political events in Pakistan strengthen the perceptions that importance of the Wakhan Corridor has decreased. On the other hand, attacks on Chinese workers in the region and the fact that regional tensions do not decrease also increase Beijing’s concerns.[2] In addition to all these, it is seen that the pressure on Afghanistan for the establishment of a line between Pakistan and Tajikistan by crossing the Wakhan Corridor in the north-south direction has increased the tension in the region. This destabilizes the Wakhan Corridor.[3]

Due to all these developments, it can be said that China is heading towards a more stable and safer route. Because it is known that several agreements have been made and feasibility studies have been carried out for the completion of the missing part of the China-Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan line.[4]

Currently, Kyrgyzstan is the most important transport hub between Uzbekistan and China. However, lack of railway infrastructure in this country made it difficult to establish a strong bond. For this reason, three states have taken steps to eliminate the deficiency in Kyrgyzstan. The construction process of the railway in question also means the completion of the missing part of the Middle Line.

On the other hand, it is known that Uzbekistan has long wanted to open up to Pakistan via Afghanistan.[5] At this point, Beijing administration is trying to reach Afghanistan by being involved in projects that the regional actors want to develop on their own initiative and by using these transportation lines.

To summarize briefly, it can be said that China wants to reach Afghanistan without any problems. Moreover, with the elimination of the deficiency in Kyrgyzstan, China, not only to Uzbekistan; it can also reach Afghanistan. In this context, the first railway transportation was carried out on the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan-Afghanistan line, although the Kyrgyzstan part was carried out by road.[6]

As it can be understood, after the Kyrgyzstan part of the aforementioned line is completed, China will be able to reach Afghanistan via Central Asia, which is a more stable, safer and less costly route compared to other regions. Thus, Central Asia will be one of the main hubs for China to reach both Europe and South Asia.

The route of the mentioned line is Kashgar/China-Osh/Kyrgyzstan-Tashkent/Uzbekistan-Mazar-i Sharif/Afghanistan. Efforts to extend the route towards the inner parts of Afghanistan will also increase the gains of this country. Because long routes built within a country mean a railway line that will pass through more cities. This will positively affect the trade in the relevant cities. While all these increase Afghanistan’s gains; it will also facilitate access to the economic resources needed to get out of the social, economic, political and humanitarian crisis.

At this point, it can be stated that the policies of countries such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan towards Afghanistan are in line with China’s policies. In particular, ensuring stability in Afghanistan and adopting a win-win approach within the framework of pragmatic policies; Tashkent is the common point of Bishkek and Beijing’s Afghanistan policies. In this way, the Beijing administration will also eliminate the possibility of destabilizing regional projects and corridors by third actors.

As a result, there are various alternatives for China to reach Afghanistan. However, most of these corridors are quite risky. Because the events in Pakistan, which is known as one of the countries closest to China in Asia, have brought about the current situation and future of even CPEC. At this point, instead of creating alternative corridors in China’s foreign policy; it can be said that an attitude towards reaching reliable, stable and less costly corridors has come forward. Because, in a period when both the Chinese economy and the world economy are negatively affected, the security of the goods sent and infrastructure investments and the sustainability of regional projects gain importance. For this reason, Central Asia and the Central Corridor stand out as the most risk-free and lowest cost route from China to Afghanistan. Therefore, instead of Beijing’s controversial Wakhan Corridor; it can be said that it prefers stable Central Asia.


[1] Charlotte Greenfield, “Pakistan Discussing Expansion of CPEC to Afghanistan-Ambassador”, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/pakistan-discussing-expansion-cpec-afghanistan-ambassador-2021-09-27/, (Date of Accession: 21.09.2022).

[2] Saikiran Kannan, “Wakhan: The Corridor of Complication between Taliban, Pakistan and China”, India Today, https://www.indiatoday.in/news-analysis/story/wakhan-the-corridor-of-complication-between-taliban-pakistan-and-china-1982403-2022-08-01, (Date of Accession: 21.09.2022).

[3] Abdul Raqeeb Sail, “Did Pakistan talk to Afghanistan on Wakhan? To What Extent the Corridor is Important”, Pajhwok Afghan News, https://pajhwok.com/2022/07/27/no-talks-with-pakistan-on-wakhan-transit-road-iea/, (Date of Accession: 21.09.2022).

[4] Emrah Kaya, “Orta Hat’tın ve Kuşak-Yol’un Eksik Halkası: Kırgızistan”, ANKASAM, https://www.ankasam.org/orta-hattin-ve-kusak-yolun-eksik-halkasi-kirgizistan/, (Date of Accession: 21.09.2022).

[5] Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, “Yeni Özbekistan ve Trans-Afgan Koridoru”, ANKASAM, https://www.ankasam.org/yeni-ozbekistan-ve-trans-afgan-koridoru/, (Date of Accession: 21.09.2022).

[6] “Запущен первый поезд по новому транспортному коридору “Китай-Кыргызстан-Узбекистан-Афганистан””, Podrobn.uz, https://podrobno.uz/cat/uzbekistan-i-kitay-klyuchi-ot-budushchego/zapushchen-pervyy-poezd-po-novomu-transportnomu-koridoru-kitay-kyrgyzstan-uzbekistan-afganistan/, (Date of Accession: 21.09.2022).

Dr. Emrah KAYA
ANKASAM Dış Politika Uzmanı Dr. Emrah Kaya, Akdeniz Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezundur. Yüksek lisans derecesini 2014 yılında Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nde hazırladığı “Latin Amerika'da Sol Liderlerin Yükselişi ve Uluslararası Politikaya Etkisi: Venezuela-Bolivya Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Kaya, doktora derecesini de 2022 yılında aynı üniversitede hazırladığı "Terörle Mücadelede Müzakere Yöntemi: ETA-FARC-LTTE-PKK" başlıklı teziyle elde etmiştir. İyi derecede İngilizce bilen Kaya'nın başlıca çalışma alanları; Orta Asya, Latin Amerika, terörizm ve barış süreçleridir.