China has moved to enhance its ties with Afghanistan as regional powers seek to gain an economic foothold in the country. The Chinese president vowed that China would provide "selfless help" to its impoverished neighbor.
China's president has promised to step up trade, aid, investment and security investment to Afghanistan as Beijing strives to create closer links with its neighbor.
Hu Jintao told visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday in Beijing that China would "continue to provide sincere and selfless help to the Afghan side" as it entered " a critical transition period."
Hu and Karzai also signed a strategic partnership agreement in which China pledged to promote Chinese investment, help with infrastructure and provide 150 million yuan (18.8 million euros) in aid this year.
The two leaders met for one-to-one talks after Karzai earlier attended the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional security bloc comprising China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Afghanistan was granted observer status in the bloc on Thursday at the end of the summit, allowing it to attend meetings but not vote.
China is looking to undertake a larger role in Afghanistan as NATO-led forces prepare to withdraw from the war-torn country in 2014.
Chinese companies have already secured major oil and copper mining concessions in Afghanistan, as other states in the region, such as Russia, India, Iran and Pakistan, also jostle for influence in the country.
China shares a small border with Afghanistan's northeast. Two-way trade is still relatively small, totalling $234.4 million (187 million euros) in 2011, up 31 percent from the previous year.
tj/sej (Reuters, AP, AFP)