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Qingdao Summit Promotes China-Afghanistan Relationships

Liu Jinsong

Ambassador of China to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

On June 10th, H.E. President Ghani met with H.E. Mr. Xi Jinping, President of China, in Qingdao, China. I had the honor to attend the meeting and feel happy for two President’s deepening friendship year-by-year, and applauded for the consolidation and development of China-Afghanistan relations.

This is the fifth meeting between the two Presidents. Every time they talked happily just like close family members, and greatly promoted our bilateral relations. The two leaders are the steersmen of China-Afghanistan relations, injecting new energy to bilateral relations,and their focus and input in this regards can neither be replaced nor missed.

The Afghan people is the largest beneficiary of this meeting. Three hours ahead of the meeting, senior officials from China and Afghanistan signed the Protocol of Phytosanitary Requirements for the Export of Pine Nuts from Afghanistan to China, according to which Afghan high-quality pine nuts are eligible to be exported to China directly and conveniently. This is another important measure to benefit Afghan people’s livelihood since the signing of saffron export protocol between two countries. President Ghani appreciated this arrangement very much and believed this measure has a big significance and far reaching impact.

The Chinese side said that China would like to import more Afghan products, including marble stone, pomegranate, carpet and so on, through the direct cargo train and flight between two countries. This reflects the deep friendship of China towards Afghanistan, in the hope of increasing Afghan farmers income by granting better access to the Chinese market.

President Xi also welcomed Afghan side to participate in the 1st China International Import Expo which is to be held this November in Shanghai, and encouraged the Afghan side to promote its featured products export to China. The Chinese side promised to provide more convenience for the Afghan business community.

As Afghanistan’s largest neighbor, China has a 400 million middle-class population and a huge market with an annual consumption of nearly 6 trillion USD. The key to Afghanistan’s participation in the regional industry chain and value chain lies in how to effectively connect with the Chinese market. The Chinese government and the Embassy support Chinese enterprises to invest in Afghanistan on the basis of mutual benefit, win-win and equal cooperation. Of course, Afghanistan needs to provide a good business environment including security and etc.

President Ghani briefed the serious drought in Afghanistan and appreciated China’s large amount selfless donation over the years. President Xi said that China is implementing several donation projects including affordable housing scheme in Kabul and the National Institute of Vocational Training Center. China always supports Afghanistan’s reconstruction and livelihood of its people, bears in mind Afghanistan’s humanitarian assistance requirement and is willing to continue providing assistance within its capability. The two leaders tasked the working levels to step up its work, make detailed donation plans and implement programs.

The two leaders agreed to maintain the frequent high-level exchanges, strengthen communication between governmental departments, legislatures, political parties as well as the military at various levels. The provincial cooperation should also be promoted. They mentioned in particular that Bamyan Province of Afghanistan has established a sister-province relationship with Gansu Province of China, and Badakhshan province in Afghanistan has also signed an agreement of intent to establish sister-province(region) relationship with Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China. They hoped to further promote practical cooperation at provincial level.

The two leaders discussed with interest about how to promote people-to-people exchange and cultural exchanges. President Xi said that the National Museum of Afghanistan had successfully held exhibitions on its treasures in China since last year. The exhibitions were warmly welcomed by the Chinese, for it reminded people of the glory of ancient Silk Road. China hoped to further strengthen cooperation with the Afghan archaeological and cultural communities. President Ghani immediately responded that the Afghan paintings in the 16th century were deeply influenced by China and the two countries had a long history of artistic exchanges. He hoped to have more archaeological cooperation as well as the artist training and exchanges.

Just half a month ago, five Afghan artists were invited to attend an art tour in Guizhou and Beijing of China, and held exhibitions in Beijing, which aroused great interests in the Chinese artist circle. In March this year, the Chinese Dunhuang Research Academy delegation successfully visited Kabul and Bamyan, which is deemed as a breakthrough between the two countries’ archaeological cooperation. A few days ago, I presented the Afghan eminent persons some replicas of the Map of Silk Roads Landscape - Afghanistan’s Part. The map has a history of nearly five hundred years, depicts locations and shapes of several ancient Afghan cities. The Map is a witness of our two countries’ historical friendship along the ancient Silk Road.

The two leaders emphasized that “Close contacts between the people hold the key to a sound state-to-state relation”, and agreed to strengthen cooperation in the fields of Chinese language teaching, university, think tank and etc. These are the earnest expectations of our two peoples and will further consolidate the cooperation foundation of peoples.

People-to-people bonds play an important part in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The two leaders talked freely about their vision towards jointly building BRI and reached a lot of consensuses on policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds. President Ghani firmly supported the BRI and the SCO's connectivity plan. Afghanistan has joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and is coordinating with the Bank on project financing cooperation. The significant improvement in the Afghanistan-Pakistan relations and the trans-border connectivity cooperation projects discussed between Afghanistan and Pakistan also provide more options for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s extension to Afghanistan.

The two leaders talked about security and political issues in depth. President Ghani emphasized that peace is of utmost importance to the Afghan people. Only when the peace is achieved can Afghanistan behave its geographical advantage as the premise of development. China’s support in this regard was of great help to Afghanistan and would be more crucial in the future. President Xi expressed the hope of Chinese people for the early realization of peace and reconciliation, and wished lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan, hoped that Afghanistan could become a platform for cooperation among all countries. President Xi said the premise of economic development is a stable environment at home and neighboring countries. China supports the peace initiative proposed by the National Unity Government of Afghanistan, commended the temporary ceasefire announced by Afghan government and Taliban, insisted on a political settlement for the Afghan Issue, and welcomed Afghanistan and Pakistan to enhance mutual trust and solve problems through new dialogue and cooperation mechanisms. China would like to positively support Afghanistan’s peace and reconciliation process and establish good-neighborly relations through bilateral, trilateral and multilateral channels.

President Ghani warmly congratulated China on the successful hosting of SCO Qingdao Summit and helping SCO achieving fruitful outcomes, expressed Afghanistan’s positive wish to further participate in SCO activities. The Chinese side appreciated Afghanistan’s support to China’s role of rotating president and expressed its willingness to promote SCO to make more contributions to the Afghan peace and reconstruction.

Last month, the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group meeting at deputy foreign ministerial level was held in Beijing and achieved fruitful results. All parties unanimously supported strengthening this mechanism. The discussion on the Qingdao Summit as well as the Qingdao Declaration mentioned Afghan issue in a very constructive way. Afghanistan signed relevant documents with SCO Secretariat.

The two leaders also agreed to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation at various levels, as terrorism, extremism, and separatism are common threats to both countries and the international community at large.

Both leaders said affectionately that China and Afghanistan are traditional friendly neighbors, as well as strategic cooperative partners. The two countries have always shared mutual understanding, trust and support with each other. Consolidating the China-Afghanistan relations is the steadfast national policy for the two governments. China supports Afghanistan to take advantage of geographical location and participate in BRI, to accelerate the construction of regional connectivity.

President Ghani once visited Qingdao in 1996 when he was working for the World Bank. Therefore, he is one of the very few foreign leaders who could understand the vast contrast between Qingdao’s present and past. He highly praised the developments and changes of Qingdao during the past 20 years, believed these are the epitome of China’s great success of last 40 years’ reform and opening-up. President Xi responded that the dramatic changes in Qingdao all lies in stability, reform and opening up.

The two leaders were both smile and in good spirits when they shook hands to farewell. Both of them said that the talk was a great one and made each other further understand mutual concerns. They determined to achieve new and greater progresses on some key issues.

At that night, I went to the airport to see off President Ghani and his delegation. President Ghani received a special gift - an album of all the photos of himself during his stay in Qingdao. He once again praised the “China Speed” and “China Passion”.

The Qingdao Summit showed world the “Shanghai Spirit”, which features mutual trust, equality, mutual benefit, equal rights, mutual consultations, respect for the diversity of cultures, and pursuit of common development. The spirit is a reflection of the present China-Afghanistan relations. We do hope that the speed and passion set by our two leaders, along with the “Shanghai Spirit”, will contribute to the construction of the community of a shared future of China and Afghanistan.

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