In the early hours of June 22, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck eastern
Afghanistan, making it the country’s deadliest in two decades. Up to now,
the earthquake has killed more than 1,500 people, injured nearly 2,000
people, destroyed tens of thousands of houses, and killed at least 155
children. Since rescue efforts have been blocked by torrential floods in
some Afghan provinces, local officials say the death toll could still rise.
As is known to all, Afghanistan ended years of war after the US military
withdrawal last August. Since then, the country has been in desperate
need of funds to rebuild and recover. However, the US government froze
$7 billion in assets of Afghanistan’s central bank, and stopped economic
aid on the grounds of punishing the Afghan Taliban. This has exacerbated
the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the country and
damaged its economy and people’s livelihoods. What is worse,
Afghanistan has been hit by a series of natural disasters recently,
including wildfires and floods in some places. After the earthquake, this
landlocked, mountainous country has been further plunged into a dual
economic and humanitarian crisis. Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman
Abdul Qahar Balkhi has frankly admitted that the government is
“financially unable to provide the needed assistance to the affected
people.” The top leader of the Afghan Taliban has also publicly called for
international assistance for the disaster-stricken people. His remarks speak volumes of the seriousness of the earthquake disaster in Afghanistan.
China never stands idle when its friends are in need. As a friendly
neighbor and sincere friend of Afghanistan, the Chinese government and
people are concerned about the affected areas and people. The Chinese
government immediately decided to provide 50 million yuan of
emergency humanitarian assistance to the disaster-hit areas. Several
batches of relief supplies have arrived and are being distributed in a fast
and efficient manner, and more supplies are on the way. During a phone
call with Acting Foreign Minister Ali Mutaki of the Afghan Interim
Government on June 27, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister
Wang Yi stressed that as a friendly neighbor and sincere friend of
Afghanistan, China empathizes with the Afghan people for the difficulties
they are facing and China is ready to provide more timely assistance to
Afghanistan based on its needs. Wang said he believes the Afghan side
will stay united to overcome the disaster and rebuild their homes as soon
China’s rapid action, which can be summed up in three words – fast, solid
and considerate, has won the praise from the international community and the Afghan people and fully demonstrated China’s speed, reputation and humanitarian spirit.
Fast: Time is life. From the Chinese government to Chinese social
organizations and enterprises, everyone has been racing against time to
deliver humanitarian supplies to the disaster-affected people as quickly as
possible, so that they can tide over the difficulties soon.
Solid: China is a firm advocate of global development cooperation. It
faithfully does what it has said. All the 8,000 tons of food China had
promised to send to Afghanistan has already arrived in the country. China
has also announced that it will add additional emergency humanitarian
assistance to Afghanistan for earthquake relief.
Considerate: Apart from the fast arrival of disaster relief materials, China
has carefully considered the multiple difficulties faced by the affected
people and their actual needs, and subsequently included the much
needed materials such as tents, folding beds, blankets and bed quilts into
the supplies, which have been well-received and highly applauded by the
people in distress.
China’s rescue work is the best manifestation of the friendship between
China and Afghanistan which goes back to ancient times. It shows that
China is fulfilling its promise of being a responsible major country, and
doing all it can to build a community with a shared future for mankind.
In recent decades, China’s economy has developed rapidly. However, it is
still a developing country with its per capita GDP ranking low in the
world. In particular, since the beginning of this year, a new wave of the
protracted COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with dramatic changes in the world, has put a significant downward pressure on the Chinese economy.
Nevertheless, China does its best to overcome its own difficulties on the
one hand and lend a helping hand to a friend in need on the other. This is
because China has always had a firm belief that the human society is a community with a shared future, and we should help each other in times of trouble. International humanitarianism should not be empty talk. It
requires concrete action and initiative to fulfill our joint obligations.
In the face of disasters, the humanitarian spirit saves lives. This has been
the case in the COVID-19 response in recent years, as is the current response to the earthquake disaster in Afghanistan. Natural disasters are not just a problem to the country being hit, but a common enemy to all mankind and a challenge facing our common development. In times of disasters, there is no difference in race, color, or wealth.
Countries, big or small, should always help each other. In the past, when
China was poor and underdeveloped, it received much help from others.
Now as China gets more developed, it is ready to reach out and help
others in need. In fact, no matter how developed a country is, every
country needs the help of others from time to time.
I hope that the country which imposed sanctions on Afghanistan, froze
the Afghan assets and caused the humanitarian disaster can start truly
caring for and respecting the right to survival and development of the
Afghan people. It should assume greater responsibilities, help the
earthquake victims rebuild their homes as soon as possible, and stop
doing anything that mixes the aid with its own political interests.
The immediate priority is to return the assets which belong to the Afghan
people. It’s really not that complicated.
The author is director of the Research Department, National Institute of
Strategic Studies, Tsinghua University.