October 4, 2011 / 12:09 PM / 6 years ago

Factbox: Relations between Afghanistan and China

(Reuters) - Below are some key facts about the relationship between Afghanistan and China.

TIES

* The current Afghanistan government and China established a formal diplomatic relationship in late 2001 shortly after the collapse of the Taliban regime, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited China for the first time in 2002.

* Karzai has made another three official visits to China since then, the most recent in March 2010. Former Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai visited Afghanistan in 1957, but no state leader has made the journey to Kabul since then.

* Contact between China and Afghanistan is recorded as early as the 7th Century AD when Chinese monk Xuan Zang visited the then-Buddhist valley of Bamiyan and admired the two giant Buddhas which the Taliban destroyed in 2001.

* The two countries have had diplomatic ties since 1955, making Afghanistan one of the earlier countries to recognize the Communist regime of Mao Zedong instead of Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist government.

* China did not recognize the Taliban government that held Kabul from 1996 to 2001, but had indirect channels of communication through Taliban ally Pakistan.

* The Sino-Afghan relationship has long been strongly influenced by the powerful bonds that tie Beijing and Islamabad. China supplies finance and weapons to Pakistan; the two are also bound by mistrust and fear of neighboring India.

BORDER

* The two share a border but it is only 76 km (47 miles) long, and its lowest point, the Wakhjir Pass, is still 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) above sea level. There are no roads leading to the border on either side.

* The pass is closed by snow for a large portion of the year, but has been used sporadically for centuries, with Marco Polo supposed to have been one traveler along this route.

* More recently, China has been concerned about drugs, and militants seeking independence for its restive western Xinjiang region, potentially slipping across the border.

* The two nations agreed in 2009 to study opening a road, though the height of the pass and the remoteness of the area means it is unlikely ever to become a major trade route.

MILITARY

* China has no troops on the ground in Afghanistan, and no interest in sending any to join a conflict in which it feels it has only a limited immediate stake.

* Beijing is wary about the U.S. military presence in neighboring and nearby countries from South Korea to Kyrgyzstan, and analysts say it is not unhappy to see U.S. and NATO troops bogged down in Afghanistan.

* It has been moving slowly on its only large, committed investment, the Aynak copper mine, and so does not have major financial interests to protect.

* Officials with a wary eye on China’s restive Muslim-majority northwest do not want to see their neighbor descend into civil war, or run by a regime friendly to or tolerant of Uighur groups fighting for independence for Xinjiang. But they are unlikely to use troops to support their aims.

TRADE

* Bilateral trade between China and Afghanistan is tiny, and mostly involves Afghan purchases of Chinese goods. Turnover was $114.9 million in the first seven months of 2011, compared with turnover of $13.6 billion with Kazakhstan in the same period, or $5.7 billion with Pakistan and $900 million with Tajikistan.

* China exported $112.2 million worth of products to Afghanistan in the year to July, up one fifth from a year earlier, and bought $2.7 million of Afghan goods, according to the figures from China’s General Administration of Customs.

* Many of the goods sold in Afghanistan are made in Chinese factories, and there is a steadily growing stream of business travelers between the two nations.

INVESTMENT

* Afghanistan, which relies on foreign aid for around 90 percent of its budget, hopes that its vast reserves of mineral wealth could make it self-sufficient. China’s insatiable appetite for resources, and willingness to expand mining in Afghanistan, makes it a natural partner.

* China’s largest copper producer, Jiangxi Copper, and the state-owned Metallurgical Corp of China, won a contract in 2008 to develop the vast Aynak copper mine in south of Kabul.

* Work began in 2009 on the $4.4 billion project, the largest foreign investment project in Afghanistan, but it is progressing more slowly than originally expected.

* China is studying the possibility of building a railway line from northern Pakistan through Kabul to southern Uzbekistan, at a cost of up to $7 billion.

* The Afghan government has chosen state-owned China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) as preferred bidder for an oil field in north Afghanistan, and a final deal is expected soon.

* Chinese telecom equipment makers ZTE and Huawei Technologies are helping Afghanistan telecom operators to develop communication networks.

Reporting by Zhou Xin; Editing by Daniel Magnowski

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