Robert Kaplan bet on The geography of Chinese power, article of Foreign Affairs published in 2010, due to the actuality of Mackinder’s old theses, centered on the formula that whoever controls the territorial heart of Eurasia will control the world. Being in a global axial enclave, he exposed, whoever dominates its center or heartland he will be able to exercise global supremacy. His estimation was not verified in the last century, and the thesis of John Spykman, who defended the strategic primacy of the coastlines because of their maritime orientation, seemed to replace it. Currently, China, with its regional interconnectivity project, the New Silk Road, is in the process of achieving the nuclear position to which Mackinder referred and, in this way, becoming a power capable of materializing the union of Europe and Asia, connecting it from Beijing to the Iberian Peninsula. If we add its status as a maritime power, with an oceanic facade of 14,000 kilometers of coastline in the Pacific, China’s influence capacity will not be equivalent: it will control the heart of Eurasia, its outer belt and the Pacific periphery. “The gift of heaven”, his fortunate geography, allows him to enhance both planes, continental and oceanic, which are not exclusive but complementary, as the theses of Mackinder and Spykman can be.
In this sense, Afghanistan, due to its bordering location with Central Asia, its proximity to Pakistan – a vector of the economic corridor that gives access to the Indian Ocean – and its mineral resources, cannot be ignored. If there is one thing Beijing needs to carry out its ambitious initiative, it is security and stability in transit countries. Stability to guarantee the movement of goods through the railways and roads networks. Security against the threat of separatism and extremism. Until August, the presence of the United States in Afghanistan as a gendarme in the fight against international terrorism covered that need. This is how Kaplan recognized it in the aforementioned article: “China’s strategic geography”, he stated, “would be improved if the US stabilizes Afghanistan.” What a need, therefore, to pave the way for Beijing to build its imperial routes. Despite good relations with the Taliban, the withdrawal from Afghanistan not only ends the prospect of a American pax profitable for China; the presence of a Taliban power will likely increase instability in the peripheral countries through which the New Silk Road runs. Former Iranian President Ahmadinejad expressed a daring foresight in a televised interview, proposing that the Taliban posed the greatest threat to the region and his country, and that those who applauded their return had fallen into the “American trap.”
Weighed decision or collateral benefit, the withdrawal of Afghanistan may alter China’s continental projection, while the signing of the Aukus defensive pact seeks to curb the oceanic one.