China Considers Expanding Belt and Road Initiative to Afghanistan

China Considers Expanding Belt and Road Initiative to Afghanistan
Qin Gang, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and Amir Khan Muttaqi. (Pakistan Information Department)

The Lede: Beijing and the Taliban discussed including Afghanistan in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as China seeks to increase its investment in the country amid geopolitical tensions.

What we know:

  • As part of the China-Pakistan-Afghanistan trilateral foreign ministers' dialogue China's Foreign Minister Qin Gang met with Afghanistan's acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and his Pakistani counterpart Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. It marks the first time that foreign ministers from these three countries have engaged in dialogue since the Taliban's rise to power in 2021, two decades after being defeated by the U.S. military.
  • All three parties confirmed their determination to strengthen trilateral cooperation under the BRI, according to Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin. They also agreed to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan, explore ways to facilitate trade and the movement of people between the three countries, and enhance cooperation in areas such as agriculture, energy, trade, and capacity building.
  • Qin stated before the trilateral meeting that China and Pakistan were prepared to assist with the reconstruction of Afghanistan, but he stressed that the Taliban must honor their commitments at both regional and international levels to address concerns related to the increasing threat of terrorism, the Voice of America reported.

The background: China has had a long-standing interest in Afghanistan, primarily related to security concerns and economic interests. Afghanistan shares a border with China's Xinjiang province, which has a significant Muslim Uighur population. Beijing has been concerned about the presence of Uighur militants in Afghanistan and has sought to maintain security in the region.

In recent years, China has also been interested in Afghanistan's mineral resources, such as copper, iron, and rare earth minerals. The Chinese government has invested in various infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, including roads and a dam, but some of these initiatives didn’t go through because of instability in the country.

Since the Taliban's return to power, Afghanistan has experienced a severe economic crisis, which has been exacerbated by the withdrawal of financial aid from the U.S. and its allies. Therefore, the Taliban have been seeking investment from global powers, including China and Russia. The goal of using BRI as a platform is to connect Afghanistan with neighboring countries like Pakistan and attract more Chinese investment to reduce international isolation and tackle economic challenges.

In the midst of significant geopolitical upheaval, China and its longstanding ally Pakistan have been collaborating to enhance their trade relations. Beijing has already invested billions of dollars in Pakistan through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a vast network of transportation infrastructure that includes roads, trains, and ports, and is expected to be valued at up to $60 billion upon completion. And Pakistan has emerged as a prominent country in using RMB (Renminbi), also known as the Chinese yuan, for international trade, supporting Beijing’s efforts for de-dollarization.

Likely outcomes/Takeaway:

  • China's expansion of the BRI to Afghanistan is part of its broader strategy to increase its economic and geopolitical influence on a global scale. Afghanistan's location makes it a strategic gateway to Central Asia, the Middle East, and South Asia. China could further cement its position as a global economic power and enhance its geostrategic influence. The BRI is already one of the world's largest infrastructure projects and expanding it to include Afghanistan would demonstrate China's commitment to promoting economic development and connectivity in the region.
  • China would also be able to deepen its economic ties with the country and potentially gain access to Afghanistan's mineral resources. China is one of the world's largest consumers of minerals, such as copper, iron ore, and rare earth elements, which are critical for the manufacturing of high-tech products. However, the feasibility of this initiative has a big question mark and carries significant risks, such as instability in Afghanistan that has already undermined the success of some infrastructural projects.
  • The impact of expanding the BRI to Afghanistan would depend on the specific projects and initiatives that are implemented, as well as the ability of the Afghan government to effectively manage and regulate them.


  • “During the Dialogue, the three foreign ministers had candid and in-depth exchanges of views on issues of good neighborliness, mutual trust, security cooperation, counter-terrorism, connectivity, trade, and investment and reached a number of common understandings.” – Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin.
  • "China sympathizes with the suffering of the Afghan people and is willing to provide more assistance to Afghanistan's economic and social development and improvement of people's livelihoods." – China's Foreign Minister Qin Gang.

Good Reads:

China holds security and trade talks with Taliban (The Financial Times)

China Asks Afghanistan's Taliban to Address Terrorism Worries (The Voice of America)

Pakistan Emerges as a Leading Nation in Utilizing RMB for Global Trade (The China Paper)