Chinese companies see major business opportunities in Afghanistan with the resumption of diplomatic and commercial relations, after Beijing announced its biggest-ever foreign aid deal to the war-torn country. The Chinese embassy in Kabul officially reopens tomorrow, at a ceremony to be presided over by Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Yi - although the staff will be unable to work in the damaged building and will use nearby rented offices. On January 24, in Beijing, President Jiang Zemin promised visiting leader of the provisional Afghan Government, Hamid Karzai, aid worth US$150 million, the largest amount China has ever given to a single country. Qin Shibao, a designer with the No 1 Engineering Co, told a Chinese newspaper: 'Chinese goods, from stationery, wash-basins and locks to bicycles and colour televisions are all over the markets of Afghanistan. 'We are still concerned by the erratic political stability in the country but the government has a big role to play.' Lu Boming, deputy general manager of Shanghai Forever Bicycle, forecast increased exports of bicycles this year of 30 per cent to 40 per cent and said Afghanistan would be one of the most important markets. A spokesman for Shenzhen Konka, one of China's biggest TV-makers, said it had been unable to export directly to Afghanistan in recent years but that the channels were now open. In the first 11 months of last year, China's exports to Afghanistan were worth US$17.24 million, with electrical machinery the largest contributor at US$8.73 million, followed by electrical and electronic appliances worth US$3.98 million, bicycles at US$1.7 million and US$1.52 million from motorcycles. The exports reached Afghanistan via three routes - the United Arab Emirates, where 100 Chinese businessmen from the Yiwu consumer goods market in Zhejiang are stationed, through Xinjiang and Pakistan as well as Iran, Iraq and India. Traders from Wenzhou, another centre of consumer goods, have set up an association in Xinjiang to facilitate trade. A member of the association, Jin Xiangdong, specialises in low-voltage electrical appliances. 'When I went in April 2000, I was put under house arrest for a time by the Taleban. Political stability is a pre-condition for trade. We hope the transitional government can control the political situation,' Mr Jin said. The businessmen hope to make use of their government's giant aid package and the good image China enjoys in Afghanistan, helped by the aid projects before the Soviet invasion in 1979, in irrigation, power and roads. One example is a 200-bed hospital in Kandahar, one of the largest in Afghanistan, built in the 1970s by China at a cost of US$2.3 million. us105 After their invasion, the Soviets renamed it the Soviet-Afghan Friendship Hospital but local people then and now call it the Chinese hospital. The aid package is driven by political as well as commercial motives. Beijing wants to stabilise the provisional government and end the use of bases to train Xinjiang separatist guerillas and the trade in heroin, some of which crosses the border into China.