‘Could Be a Major Battle’: Copley on Beijing’s Stake in Afghanistan

In this special episode, we sat down with Gregory Copley, president of the International Strategic Studies Association. He gave his take on the destabilization in Afghanistan, why the Chinese Communist Party is working with the Taliban, and how that will affect the geopolitical stage.

Once the United States leaves Afghanistan, who’s going to fill the void?

Copley said, “There are going to be many beneficiaries from this and many groups will attempt to fill the void. People’s Republic of China [PRC] is, of course, one of the major beneficiaries because it clears the United States away from Afghanistan and away from coordinated action, perhaps with India, and clears the way for the PRC to bolster its Eurasian position. The Trump administration had made enormous strides in gathering together the five Central Asian states and linking them potentially down through a communications transit zone, through [to] … Afghanistan and Pakistan in the Indian Ocean. This would have meant a great withdrawal, if you like, have a great block of Central Asia from [being] influenced by either Beijing or Moscow. So that alone is a great step forward for Beijing.”

As to what would happen if Beijing gets a stake in Afghanistan, Copley said, “Basically, what we’re seeing is that the fall of the U.S. influence today—and this week in Afghanistan, actually—is another risk for the Communist Party. But it’s not going to save the Communist Party. That’s the key to this: the Communist Party knows—at least at the level of Xi Jinping and those immediately around him, I call the super Maoists—that the opportunity to outgrow the United States has gone. And that even the reduction of U.S. capability and prestige and alliance effectiveness, that’s not going to save the PRC from its own dilemma, which is a declining economy of such a scale that it cannot sustain its growth or even sustain the aspirations of its population. It’s got … 20 percent of the world’s population, 7 percent of the world’s water. Most of that water is polluted. They’re having massive problem after problem. The population is aging and therefore expensive and less productive. The society is urbanized from something like 18 percent in the 1980s to over 60 percent today, which means that it’s hard to manage and more likely to become fractious.”

In regards to some of the issues Beijing is running into, Copley said, “The massive effort of the Communist Party has to be interpreting its population and rebuilding a new economic model. Now, we’re talking about internal circulation of, in other words, a closed-off society, for months. But the reality is that what Xi is trying to do is to keep the lines open to an expanded internal circulation—one which enables the PRC to trade effectively with Russia and the Central Asian states, down through Afghanistan into Iran, and possibly being a big Eurasian player—essentially isolated from the Western world, but not enabling the Communist Party to survive.”

Watch the full episode on EpochTV. 

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