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Treading Lightly: China’s Footprint in a Taliban-led Afghanistan

Insights 2022/08_cover
Publisher: SIPRI
SIPRI, Stockholm:
November, 2022

This SIPRI Insights Paper provides a preliminary assessment of China’s attitudes to and policies on Afghanistan since the August 2021 Taliban takeover. It examines the scope of China’s security, economic and humanitarian interests, and the depth of its engagement so far. It finds that China’s footprint has been minimal due not only to China’s non-interference policy but also to a range of broader challenges: the militant extremist groups that continue to operate on Afghan soil, the risks of investing in a country where the government remains unrecognized by any member of the international community and a fragile stability that is far from conducive to long-term planning. While there may be prospects and opportunities for China to contribute to Afghan peace and development, particularly from a broader regional perspective, current realities mean that China’s overall approach to Afghanistan will remain cautious, pragmatic and limited.


I. Introduction

II. The China–Afghanistan relationship prior to August 2021

III. China’s interests and footprint under the current Taliban regime

IV. Chinese–Afghan relations: Prospects and challenges

V. Conclusions 


Dr Jiayi Zhou is a Researcher in the SIPRI Conflict, Peace and Security Programme.
Fei Su is a Researcher in the SIPRI China and Asia Security Programme.
Dr Jingdong Yuan is a Senior Researcher and Director of the SIPRI China and Asia Security Programme.