The rapid withdrawal of the USA from Afghanistan has caused a geopolitical crash in the region, the effects of which have not yet been fully determined.

While this crash puts the countries such as China and Russia in a state of sharp vigilance, on the other hand, it contributes to the destabilization of the rimland line theorized by Spykman.

According to the theory developed by the US Nicholas J. Spykman (1893-1943), to dominate the World island, the area surrounding the Heartland must be controlled.

While Spykman’s theory revised Mackinder’s Heartland theory in a sense, it also became the basic roadmap of the USA, which applied a containment approach to the USSR after World War II.

In this article, I will try to address the complexity of China’s Afghanistan policy and thus the new containment policy of the USA through Spykman’s “edge belt theory”.

The unstable ‘edge belt’ as a strategic approach

In the past, the destabilization of the border belt countries in the containment policy applied to the USSR also prevented the said power’s exit to the south.

It is possible to see the traces of this strategy in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The USSR went down in history after the failure and retreat in the Afghanistan war.

Today, again Afghanistan stands at the very center of this historical chessboard. A possible chaos in the region after the US withdrawal may spread to the entire region and block China’s exit to the waterways by inactivating the Belt and Road or similar initiatives.

Seeing this danger, China and Russia preferred a moderate way in relations with the Taliban, while China showed its will to establish a stable Afghanistan as soon as possible.

For China, a government with or without the Taliban makes no difference. The important thing is to ensure regional stability and security.

So is it possible?

China’s role in Taliban state-building

The Taliban has been experiencing a serious “administration” crisis since its full takeover of Kabul in August. Trying to fend off the pressures to form an inclusive government with a masterful diplomacy, the Taliban are trying to protect their trump cards with strategic patience.

It is difficult to say that the Taliban, which has repeatedly made statements about international recognition, has yet to reach the desired position.

(9) billion dollars of financial assets located outside the country are frozen.

If humanitarian aid does not arrive, we estimate that there will be a major crisis in the country. Since the Taliban senses this danger, positive statements are constantly coming towards China.

For example, in an interview with the Chinese media, the Taliban spokesperson’s statement that “China is a friendly country and we welcome it to rebuild and develop Afghanistan ... If [Chinese] have investments, of course we will ensure their security” can be evaluated in this context.

It seems difficult to establish a healthy administration in Afghanistan unless there is Chinese aid, or more accurately, a flow of finance from China.

China’s anxiety and the possibility of geopolitical chaos

Beijing views US policy on Afghanistan as a failure and is eager to protect its interests as foreign troops withdraw.

But China has two major concerns.

The first is the infiltration of radical elements in the region into the Xinjiang Autonomous Region (East Turkestan) via the Wakhan corridor. Another concern is the disruption of the Belt and Road Initiative.

This concern is becoming increasingly clear, especially for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in Pakistan.

Although the Taliban have given “assurances that they will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a base to plot against another country,” it is unclear how the group will distance itself from radical groups.

China’s Afghanistan policy is based on three pillars. The first is to gain a geopolitical advantage in Asia. If we start from Spykman here, this border belt should not be unstable for China.

The second important issue is the security of the Xinjiang Region (East Turkestan). If a stable and committed country can fight these radical elements or keep them under control, this will mean a very important gain for China.

Third, that China has a say in using Afghanistan’s underground resources, which is claimed to be worth 1 trillion dollars from time to time, stands out as another important issue.

Note that there is a significant amount of “lithium” in Afghanistan.

We know China is planning to include Afghanistan in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is jointly conducted with Pakistan. Even rumors about it have circulated.

As a result, we see that there is an important geopolitical calculation in terms of the containment of China in the sudden withdrawal of the USA and the withdrawal of the region into a chaotic eddy.

At least within Spykman's theory, this makes sense.

However, since China sees this move, it will not leave Afghanistan in chaos in any way.

It will certainly not enter into chaotic wars in which the USSR and the USA are bogged down and trillions of dollars are spent.

China's most urgent priorities here can be summarized as avoiding the conflict in Afghanistan from turning into a civil war, ensuring that a stable government is established and functioning in Afghanistan as soon as possible, and preventing Afghanistan from becoming a shelter for terrorists again.