Ian Johnson

A lot of speculations have marred the relations between Afghanistan’s Taliban and the outside world. For China for example the exploitation of rare earths shows up regularly, but China veteran Ian Johnson, a senior fellow at the CFR, explains why security in Xinjiang is key for China’s considerations, he tells in PRI.


Some powers in the region are quickly making their calculations based on their own interests. Russia and Iran, for example, have kept their embassies open. Pakistan has long had close relations with the Taliban and the Chinese are taking stock of the situation.

“China’s primary interest in Afghanistan is security,” said Ian Johnson, senior fellow for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It shares a small border with Afghanistan and is worried about the perceived threat of terrorism that could emanate from there.”

Johnson, who lived in China for 20 years, added that right now, Beijing is struggling to control a western part of China called Xinjiang. And it has implemented draconian policies on the population there, justifying it on the grounds of Islamist terrorism.

“They worry that this kind of extremism could come across the border from Afghanistan if the Taliban were to revert to its ways [of] the 1990s,” he said.

China also sees some potential economic benefits in Afghanistan — such as in mining and infrastructure. And Afghanistan could really use China’s help since aid from Western countries has dropped significantly, and Afghanistan is highly dependent on aid for its economy.

“So, if China can step in and, maybe not replace the West, but at least keep the coffers somewhat filled, then that would be really, really important,” Johnson said. “And I think among the countries that could do that, China is the main one. Russia would probably like to do something like that, but it lacks the financial, economic muscle to do that kind of thing.”

More in PRI.

Ian Johnson is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your (online) meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

Are you looking for more experts in managing your China risk at the China Speakers Bureau? Do check out this list.



Please follow and like us: