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Kabul's China Town bustles with activities

The Taliban, who are in desperate need of economic assistance, are banking on Chinese investments and aid

Friday October 1, 2021 3:09 PM, Mrityunjoy Kumar Jha, IANS

China Town

[Image for representation]

New Delhi: Chinese businessmen are back in Kabul, though China is yet to recognise the Taliban regime but that can wait. The China Town in Kabul is bustling with activities. It's not a Chinese township like Gwadar in Pakistan, but a conglomerate of Chinese enterprises in Afghanistan. It is a set of 10-storey buildings populated by steel traders, deal makers and textile merchants.

Now the China Town has become a bigger platform to facilitate Chinese businessmen in exploring investment opportunities in "reconstruction" of Afghanistan. It has set up an Afghanistan Institute, a group of Chinese experts to examine opportunities and pitfalls of investments in the war-torn country, reports the Chinese state affiliated media the Global Times. This will provide the Chinese investors services like personnel safety, government liaisoning, and bank exchange, tax and logistical services.

"We have made agreements with multiple domestic enterprises, university institutes and other organizations to co-build the platform, in order to serve organizations and enterprises in need," Gao, an employee of The ChinaTown told The Global Times.

The China Town was set up two years back in 2019 in the capital city of Kabul. It is a huge complex that houses dozens of factories producing shoes, clothes, textiles and cables and other items. This is like a mini town.

Most of the daily necessities in Afghanistan, such as plates, bowls, pots, pans, beds, carpets, etc. are made in China Town. Chinese products have almost no competition here.

During the Taliban's onslaught, it was closed for a few weeks but all Chinese working here did not leave the country. After Kabul fell to the Taliban, The China Town reopened.


"But we have strengthened security work, including body checks for all persons in and out of the town," Cassie, one of the employees, told the Global Times.

Now, Chinese nationals in Afghanistan are mostly safe and the China Town in Kabul is now under the protection of the Taliban. The Chinese ambassador to Afghanistan Wang Yu has assured the Chinese nationals that the new leadership of Taliban has vowed to protect Chinese investors, as "whoever stayed in the country is helping Afghans".

The Taliban, who are in desperate need of economic assistance, are banking on Chinese investments and aid. Beijing can offer what the Taliban need most: political recognition and economic investment, Afghanistan, in turn, has what China most prizes: opportunities in infrastructure and industry building and on the top the treasure trove of minerals worth trillions.

"China has decided to urgently provide 200 million yuan ($30.96 million) worth of grains, winter supplies, vaccines, and medicines to Afghanistan according to the needs of the Afghan people," State councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi said at a meeting but China is still wary of the major investments in the country.

"Graveyard of Empires"

China is well aware of the maxim that Afghanistan is the 'graveyard of empires', and will tread lightly for the time being. Increased investments in the country are still risky as the Taliban remains in conflict with rival militant groups.

Afghanistan is a formal member of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The two largest Chinese projects in Afghanistan are Mes Aynak copper mine, one of the world's largest, and another to develop an oil field in Amu Darya but Chinese promises of related infrastructure to support these investments never materialized because of the fights between the Taliban and the previous government.

However, experts warned that there are many lingering uncertainties, including international recognition, potential sanctioning measures and regional stability, and the Taliban ought to implement commitments that have been made before there can be large investment.

Besides the political stability of Afghanistan, China must be aware of local terrorism ahead of the establishment of diplomatic relations with the country says Chinese analysts.

(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

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