By Peter Zeihan on September 14, 2021
Speculation over Afghanistan’s potential mineral wealth is just that–speculation. What we do know about the hard reality of the country’s geography, infrastructure and development profile readily explains why we’re still talking about Afghan mineral wealth in the realm of potential trillions–it might certainly be there, but no one’s done the hard, serious work to find out for sure.
And China is certainly not going to be the one to do it. Chinese involvement in Afghanistan isn’t going to be fueled by a desire to do serious survey and exploration work, building out roads and rail lines, developing a meaningful power grid, and then getting into the serious work of mining. In a land-locked country. Is China then going to truck ores and minerals into Pakistan and/or Iran for shipment? Or up and over the Hindu Kush to its sparsely-inhabited Western frontier? While battling militants and tribal war lords all along the way? Very likely not.
America did not leave behind a golden goose in the mountains of Afghanistan for the Chinese–or anyone–to come along and scoop up. Instead, China’s interests in Afghanistan lie in the same bucket of all of the neighboring states’: security, limiting cross-border militancy, and working toward some hope of containing refugee and militant flows.