This article argues that China’s approach to Afghanistan since the end of the Cold War has been shaped by the desire both for security in Xinjiang and for geopolitical advantage in Central Asia. While Beijing’s Xinjiang calculus was ascendant from 1991 to 2001, since 2001 a broader geopolitical calculus has emerged. This latter factor has been encapsulated in President Xi Jinping’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy, which, at its core, is an outgrowth of Beijing’s decades-long agenda to integrate Xinjiang and utilise this region’s unique geopolitical position to facilitate a China-centric Eurasian geo-economic system. While China’s Xinjiang calculus determines that it shares an interest with the USA in combating radical Islamism in Afghanistan (and Central Asia more broadly), the geopolitical calculus of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy points to a fundamental incompatibility between US and Chinese interests.
Australian Journal of International Affairs
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