BEIJING — China reassured visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday that it won't be joining the chorus of disapproval at home and abroad over corruption, cronyism and electoral fraud plaguing his government.
In a meeting in Beijing, top lawmaker Wu Bangguo told Karzai that Beijing didn't see anything to criticize in Afghan politics – a reflection of China's policy of ignoring the affairs of neighboring states as long as they don't infringe on Chinese interests.
"I don't see any differences between us on political issues," Wu, the Communist Party's second-highest ranking official, told Karzai at the start of their meeting at the Great Hall of the People.
"We have made good progress in our practical cooperation. I'm sure your visit will give a great boost to the bilateral relationship," Wu said.
In a joint statement issued at the conclusion of Karzai's visit on Thursday, China further reaffirmed "the principle of non-interference into other countries' internal affairs, its respect for Afghanistan's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, its respect for the Afghan people's choice of a development road suited to their national conditions."
Chinese leaders themselves oversee a one-party communist state that brooks no internal dissent or outside criticism.
While China has no troops in Afghanistan – where Karzai relies on U.S. and NATO forces to prop up his weak government against the Taliban – its proximity and booming economy make it a valuable partner for the war-battered country.
China is already a major source of consumer goods for the country and while two-way trade totaled just $155 million in 2008, according to Chinese figures, it appears to be growing quickly.
In the joint statement, China pledged to continue assistance to Afghanistan and encourage Chinese companies to take part in construction and development projects in the country.
It said the sides agreed to expand trade, investment, economic cooperation, and technology transfer, focusing on transportation, basic infrastructure, agriculture, irrigation, and mining.
A Chinese company has already pledged $3 billion to tap one of the world's largest unexploited copper reserves at Aynak in Afghanistan, and is favored to win the rights to iron deposits at Hajigak when bids are considered this year.
Karzai, traveling with a delegation of Cabinet officials and business figures, on Wednesday oversaw the signing of three agreements boosting economic ties.
The trip to Beijing also allows Karzai to further establish himself as a regional political figure with stature and independence.
Karzai has participated as an observer in summits of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a grouping of Central Asian nations dominated by China and Russia that aims to challenge U.S. dominance. He has also cemented ties with India to balance the influence of neighboring Pakistan, with which Afghanistan has an acrimonious relationship.
And earlier this month, Karzai hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who used his brief visit to lob insults at the United States and argue that international forces in Afghanistan would only lead to more civilian deaths.
Karzai called Iran – with which Afghanistan shares a long land border – "our brother nation" with whom it had excellent relations.