China willing to spend big on Afghan commerce


Aynak – former Al-AQaeda stronghold – soon to be copper mine

Behind an electrified fence, blast-resistant sandbags and 53 National Police outposts, the Afghan surge is well under way.

But the foot soldiers in a bowl-shaped valley about 20 miles southeast of Kabul are not fighting the Taliban, or even carrying guns. They are preparing to extract copper from one of the richest untapped deposits on earth. And they are Chinese, undertaking by far the largest foreign investment project in war-torn Afghanistan.

Two years ago, the China Metallurgical Group Corporation, a Chinese state-owned conglomerate, bid $3.4 billion — $1 billion more than any of its competitors from Canada, Europe, Russia, the United States and Kazakhstan — for the rights to mine deposits near the village of Aynak. Over the next 25 years, it plans to extract about 11 million tons of copper — an amount equal to one-third of all the known copper reserves in China.

While the United States spends hundreds of billions of dollars fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda here, China is securing raw material for its voracious economy. The world’s superpower is focused on security. Its fastest rising competitor concentrates on commerce…

Nice to hear someone raise that point besides me.

The Aynak investment underscores how China’s leaders, flush with money and in control of both the government and major industries, meld strategy, business and statecraft into a seamless whole. In a single move, Beijing strengthened its hold on a vital resource, engineered the single largest investment in Afghan history, promised to create thousands of new Afghan jobs and established itself as the Afghan government’s pre-eminent business partner and single largest source of tax payments…

China Metallurgical Group, often called M.C.C., will build a 400-megawatt generating plant to power both the copper mine and blackout-prone Kabul. M.C.C. will dig a new coal mine to feed the plant’s generators. It will build a smelter to refine copper ore, and a railroad to carry coal to the power plant and copper back to China. If the terms of its contract are to be believed, M.C.C. will also build schools, roads, even mosques for the Afghans…

But even if elements of the agreement fall through, the Chinese have already positioned themselves as generous, eager partners of the Afghan government and long-term players in the country’s future. All without firing a shot.

Of course, it’s a gamble. Any major play in 3rd World markets is more than a gamble – but, when you’re flush with cash, all you’re mostly risking is money not lives. And if it comes through at even a reasonable rate, they’ve come up with a benefit to their national economy.

RTFA. There’s nothing there any of our readers is shy of understanding.

2 thoughts on “China willing to spend big on Afghan commerce

  1. moss says:

    I think travelers have bought copper from that region back to the days of Alexander. When we finished subsidizing the mujahadeen in their war with the Soviets, there wasn’t anyone around smart enough in the US or UK to jump into the mining biz with the Afghans?

    I guess we all were still too confident about keeping South America as a private reserve.

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