This week China became the second foreign destination for new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who had previously visited King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia. The trip is tied to the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, which involves meetings between China and 13 other Asian and European states. But it highlights the rising importance of neighboring China to Afghanistan's future, especially now that significant U.S. and allied military operations in Afghanistan are to wind down by the end of the year.
Ghani, who took office in September, received a special welcome from Chinese President Xi Jinping, who pledged to provide 2 billion yuan ($326 million) in aid through 2017. The visit, postponed due to election complications in Afghanistan, has been much anticipated by both sides. Ghani was accompanied by a number of acting ministers and by business leaders.