Why China would want to wade into an Afghan morass may at first seem bewildering. To a certain extent, it has little choice, with the mess perched precariously on its western border and the Americans no longer around to do the job of maintaining security. But the U.S. withdrawal also presents Beijing’s leaders with an opportunity: to solidify their dominance in a region they consider their backyard and, even more, to play the role of hero by succeeding where Washington failed.
It’s a big unknown, however, whether China can, or will, aggressively seek to fill the void left by the United States. Doing so will force Beijing to get its hands dirtier than it usually prefers.