After decades of failed U.S. nation-building in Afghanistan, the country is ripe to fall into China’s lap. And with it, nearly $1 trillion in mineral wealth.
In 2010, U.S. military officials discovered nearly vast mineral deposits in Afghanistan, including vast supplies of iron, copper and gold and rare earth minerals.
This also included some of the largest reserves of lithium in the world. Lithium is a critical component of electric vehicles, and a key resource for the “green economy.”
Officials estimated that the discovered mineral deposits have a combined worth of nearly $1 trillion.
However, much of that capacity remained underdeveloped during the U.S. occupation.
Afghanistan itself lacked the capital required to develop its mining industry, and the U.S. was reluctant to help.
State Department: Democracy More Important Than Natural Resources
State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley stated at the time that “developing effective institutions” should take precedent over natural resources. (Story continues below.)
“We’re very mindful of the fact that around the world, you have a number of countries that are blessed with natural resources that may become a source of conflict and corruption,” Crowley said.
Remember, these statements are from 2010. Now that the Taliban have overrun the country, they read like a joke.
“We want to be sure that we have helped Afghanistan develop effective institutions of government so that it’s able to develop its mining sector, that it’s generating revenue that can be turned into greater prosperity and shared opportunity for the Afghan people,” State Department spokesman said at the time.
Taliban Are Cash-Strapped
China is not likely to be as concerned with “building effective institutions” and the “greater prosperity” of the Afghan people.
The Taliban are in a difficult economic predicament. More than 75% of the government spending of Afghanistan is financed by foreign aid.
Much of that aid comes from the United States. The U.S. also holds the majority of Afghan international reserves.
Without their reserves and foreign funding, Afghanistan is facing a currency crisis.
This worries the Taliban. A major economic crisis could destabilize the new regime.
That is unless China comes to the rescue. That’s why the Taliban have already made overtures to China.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told the Chinese media that China is “welcome to contribute” to the rebuilding of Afghanistan.
“China is a big country with a huge economy and capacity – I think they can play a very big role in the rebuilding, rehabilitation, reconstruction of Afghanistan,” Shaheen said.
And China is likely to oblige.
China Doesn’t Care About Civil Rights Of Afghans
Unlike the West, China has far fewer scruples when it comes to civil rights.
Afghanistan borders China’s Xingjiang province, a volatile region that’s home to the oppressed Uygur Muslim minority.
Xinjiang’s 12 million Uygurs are suffering what many are calling genocide.
China is reportedly using forced sterilizations, brainwashing techniques and concentration and reeducation camps to control this population.
There is also a mass resettlement drive of Han Chinese to the region. The policies are designed to change the ethnic composition of the region and to strengthen China’s control.
With its record on human rights, China is unlikely to care about what the Taliban are doing to their own people.
Gwadar Route And The New Silk Road
The efforts for increasing control in Xingjiang also point to its geopolitical importance.
Currently, more than 80% of China’s oil imports pass through the Strait of Malacca, a critical chokepoint.
China is concerned that the U.S. (or India) could easily block off the strait in the event of a conflict.
The Gwadar route bypasses the straits completely. It passes from Xingjiang province through Pakistan to the Indian Ocean.
Afghanistan is in close proximity to the Gwadar route. That’s another reason why China wants to secure a favorable Taliban regime.
That’s another reason why the hasty withdrawal of U.S. troops was a major geopolitical win for China.
Investors should beware. These developments could mean that Chinese authoritarians could have an even greater impact on the global economy.
Seeing how China deals with foreign investors, this is bad news for most.
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