The Cognition of the National Image of Afghanistan

Huang Dekai & Li Hongxuan

In mid-November, Lanzhou University, an important place for Chinese research on Afghanistan, released the report on the National Image of Afghanistan (2019). It is China’s first research report on the national image of Afghanistan, and it is of great significance to understand the national image of Afghanistan and its position and views on the outside world. At the same time, it also highlights the rising diplomatic status of Afghanistan in China, as well as China’s urgent desire to further understand and understand Afghanistan.

National image is the combination of a country’s own cognition and that of other actors in the international system, which is dualistic, that is to say, self-recognition and others’ cognition. Because the national image has great influence and cohesion, it will affect the relationship between countries, the trend of policy and the cognition of the public. In fact, in the process of constructing the national image, the cognition of Afghanistan and other countries is asymmetric. That is to say, more attention is paid to other countries’ understanding of Afghanistan’s national image, while less attention is paid to Afghanistan’s own and Afghanistan’s recognition of other countries’ national image.
As the survey is based on the first think-tank report based on extensive field research in Afghanistan, the research area basically covers major regions and ethnic groups in Afghanistan. Including on the basis of investigations in Samangan, Balkh, Bamiyan, Nangarhar, Kunar, Rahman, Tahar, Badakhshan and Kabul provinces. It has certain representativeness and credibility.

National image is not only the comprehensive reflection of the public’s impression, view and evaluation of a country, but also the overall understanding and general evaluation of the political, economic, social and cultural situation of the public. In the eyes of the majority of the Afghan people, Afghanistan is a country that the Afghan people are proud of, full of confidence and friendly to other countries, and has made certain contributions to the maintenance of world peace. As an abstract construction, national image is based on objective existence and state. Although Afghanistan is in a country dominated by pluralistic political forces, the Afghan people have accepted the integrity of Afghanistan as a country and have full confidence in the post-war reconstruction and future development of the country; in addition, Afghanistan is optimistic about international relations and is willing to maintain good relations with any country, but also hopes that other countries will deal with Afghanistan in the same way. Our world is undergoing momentous changes unseen in a century, the international security situation is turbulent and complex, and traditional security and non-traditional security threats are intertwined. World peace is the common pursuit of all mankind, an important part of the community with a shared future for mankind, and the requirement of the development of the times. The Afghan people reveal world peace in their national image, which shows that Afghanistan is a staunch advocate and strong defender of world peace.

In the understanding of neighboring countries, the Afghan people regard China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as friendly neighbors, while Pakistan is the most aggressive country. Among them, China, Pakistan and Iran are the main regional leaders among their neighbors. In the understanding of the United States, the United States, as a global leader and the most aggressive country, plays the most important role and contribution to peace in Afghanistan, regional peace and world peace. In the eyes of the Afghan people, India, China, Uzbekistan, the United States and Iran are trusted countries. The understanding of the relations between the neighboring countries also reflects the image cognition of the Afghan people to the neighboring countries from the side.

Although Afghanistan is a country that has suffered from war for a long time, it is full of war, ethnic disputes, extremism, terror and dust. However, the Afghan people maintain their love for their country, have a strong sense of national consciousness, and are able to clearly recognize the quality of the relationship between neighboring countries and Afghanistan. In the cognition of the national image of the neighboring countries, on the one hand, it is the orientation of the image of the neighboring countries, positioning China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as friendly countries, while Pakistan as an aggressive country; on the other hand, it reflects its state behavior, that is, to maintain friendship and trust to friendly countries, while to remain hostile to invading countries. In addition, the understanding of the United States is contradictory. While affirming the contribution of the United States to international peace, it also points out that the United States is aggressive in nature. It shows that the Afghan people not only want the United States to withdraw its troops and return peace to Afghanistan, but also hope that the United States can help Afghanistan achieve the peace process.

Since the United States proposed to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the peace process in Afghanistan has been on the agenda. With the assistance of the international community, face-to-face negotiations have also been held between the Afghan Government and the Taliban to bring the dawn to a political end to the country’s nearly 20-year-old conflict. Among the cognitive factors of the Afghan people’s national image, there are strong characteristics of transformation. First, although there are different ruling forces in Afghanistan, it shows Afghanistan’s strong desire for a unified country as a whole; second, it affirms the status and role of neighboring countries in Afghanistan’s foreign relations, whether at present or in the future. The main direction of Afghanistan’s foreign relations is neighboring countries; third, in the context of profound and complex changes, peace remains the theme. Of course, the Afghan people have not evaded the current serious challenges, and the Afghan people hope to reach internal reconciliation on their own and achieve peace at an early date.

(Huang Dekai&Li Hongxuan,Both Scholars of Sichuan Police College)





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