border review | 6 January 2012

Afghan oil and Orientalism

On 25 December, Hakeem Naim published a long article on how Orientalist rhetoric is over and over recycled in Afghanistan: > The myths of Afghanistan perfectly reflect the ontological conception of today’s Orientalism. Afghanistan has been the exotic land of beauty, romance, courage, and unconquerable tribes. She is rich, resourceful, and “pretty promising.” She can be “modern”, “free”, and “democratic” as long as the “west” conquers her, controls her or is in bed with her. A day later, the Afghan cabinet agreed to let China’s National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) exploit natural gas and oil in country’s northeast. On 29 December, the deal was signed; according to CNTV it could earn Afghanistan $7 billion over the next 25 years.

American blogger Ron Beasly was quick to ask: “Is US blood and treasure making Afghanistan safe for Chinese exploitation?” His suggestion is that America should now withdraw and leave the problem of Afghan security to the Chinese. Pakistani analyst Syed Fazl-e-Haider (The National) writes that China is indeed working on a plan to defend its Afghan investments in resource projects (they are learning from their experience in Sudan).

Naim, Beasly, Fazl-e-Haider – three very different worlds of thought. I wonder if they read each other.