Chinese President Xi Jinping first proposed the “Silk Road Economic Belt” during his speech at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan. In the background of the implementation of “One Belt and One Road” Initiative and the stable political relations between China and its neighbouring countries, China and its neighbouring countries will enter a new era through economic integration, political mutual trust and cultural inclusiveness.

Photo: Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong with Afghanistan King Mohammed Zahir Shah in 1964.

Afghanistan is one of the most significant neighbouring countries of China. The two countries have been sharing friendly bilateral relations for a long time. Afghanistan is a landlocked country suffering civil war for many years. Recently, Afghanistan has ended the civil war and started its reconstruction process. By virtue of the bountiful natural resource and particular geographical position, Afghanistan displays huge potential in economic development.

Meanwhile along with the implementation of the“One Belt and One Road” Initiative, China and Afghanistan will achieve further development in economic and trade cooperation. In the new era, economic cooperation between China and Afghanistan is faced with new opportunities and challenges.

The special geographical position of Afghanistan endows it with a special identity. It is the pivot between the east and the west as well as the place where nomads migrate and soldiers fight for. Naturally, it is also one of the most important country along the ancient east-west trade routes. The economic and trade exchange between China and Afghanistan have a long history which can be traced back to the ancient silk road in the Han Dynasty.

Historically, China and Afghanistan enjoy stable and friendly bilateral relations. Given Afghanistan’s special geographical location and complementary resources in both countries, the two countries enjoy great potential and broad prospects for economic and trade cooperation. At present, the economic and trade cooperation between China and Afghanistan mainly involves in energy and mineral resources, infrastructure construction assistance, light industrial products and agricultural products, etc.

However, the trade between China and Afghanistan has reached a certain amount and scale, the current scale of economic and trade cooperation is far from enough to match the domestic economic development speed of Afghanistan and domestic demand of the two countries.

Advisor Hamdullah Mohib & FM Wang Yi
Photo: (January 10, 2019) Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Zhongnanhai Leadership Compound in Beijing – China.

Therefore, there are still a series of problems in economic and trade cooperation between the two countries, such as small trade scale, concentrated investment fields, single structure and single investment subject. Moreover, the security situation in Afghanistan fluctuates greatly, which erects a bad influence on the economic and trade cooperation. These factors lead the current economic and trade cooperation do not match the sound political relations between China and Afghanistan.

The economic and trade cooperation between Afghanistan and China bears a bright future. Hence, both sides need to seek proper settlement of these issues. With the proposal and implementation of the “One Belt And One Road” strategy, economic and trade cooperation faces new historical opportunities in the new era.

In order to further deepen China-Afghanistan economic and trade cooperation, both sides need to make joint efforts to make economic and trade cooperation develop in a healthy, stable and fast direction. China and Afghanistan should deepen strategic cooperative partnership, consolidate political foundation, increase cooperation scale and expand cooperation areas.

Besides, China and Afghanistan should make good use of China-Afghanistan economic community, China-South Asia Expo and other platforms and mechanisms to raise the popularity and number of transactions of competitive Afghan products in China. Corresponding measures should be taken to lower the threshold of access of Afghan featured agricultural products to China’s market. China and Afghanistan both need promote trade facilitation.

In addition, China and Afghanistan should increase special freight trains. Moreover, the trade freight routes can be extended to southern China, eastern China and other coastal areas. At the same time, China and Afghanistan can promote the construction of China-Afghanistan free trade zones in Xinjiang province and Yunnan province and reduce non-tariff barriers and investment restrictions.

Both sides should strengthen exchanges and cooperation in culture, education, health and media and conduct various forms of cultural and people-to-people exchanges to further enhance the understanding and friendship among people. In the new era, there is still a long way to go in the development of bilateral economic and trade cooperation. It requires the joint efforts of the people and the governments. It will lay a solid foundation for raising the level of economic development of the two countries and improving the living standards of people in both countries.

Editor’s note: The article reflects the author’s opinion only, and not necessarily the views of editorial opinion of Belt & Road News.