Lee Ran/Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images
BEIJING – America’s two-decade presence in Afghanistan has been a mixed bag for neighboring China.
“On the one hand, [China] I did not like the fact that there [were] US military bases are virtually on its border in Afghanistan,” says Raffaello Pantucci, a Colleague With the Royal United Services Institute, a UK security research centre. “On the other hand, you know, they thought, well, at least someone is dealing with the issues there. And we don’t have to.”
All of this has changed since the US withdrew and the Taliban seized power. China must now contend with a divided Afghanistan along its western border led by a radical Islamist group that has targeted civilians in attacks and provided sanctuary to al-Qaeda.
“America’s exit reduces strategic pressure on China,” says Zhou Yongbiao, an Afghanistan expert at China’s Lanzhou University. “The situation has its positives for China, but the negatives outweigh the positives. What China can gain is very modest.”
The rapid collapse of US-trained Afghan forces and the chaotic evacuation of Americans and their Afghan colleagues have given China an opportunity to highlight American failures.
Xinhua, the state news agency, She said The fall of Kabul was a sign of the collapse of America’s international image and credibility. On Twitter, Hu Xijin, editor of a nationalist national newspaper, said, Quote A joke circulating in China is that the Taliban’s takeover of power has been smoother than the US presidential transition.
But far away, the rapid US withdrawal and its ramifications present Beijing – which has kept its embassy in Kabul open and functioning – with a set of tough choices.
President Biden She said The US withdrawal in Afghanistan will allow the US to focus more on China’s external competition. And China must now work not only with the Taliban but also with it Pakistan Where have Chinese interests descended? periodic attackDespite the strong ties between Islamabad and Beijing – in order to maintain stability along its borders.
Security remains China’s main concern. Beijing is particularly concerned that Afghanistan could harbor a return East Turkistan Islamic Movement, or ETIM A name used by the United States and China to refer to a loose and scattered effort by Uyghurs outside China to establish an insurgency.
China alleges that the group encouraged Uyghurs inside China to engage in terrorist acts and trained fighters outside China. Since 2017, the Chinese authorities have building A sprawling network of internment camps and prisons in the Xinjiang region holds hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uyghurs, who Beijing claims are vulnerable to terrorism. United State He says The effort amounts to genocide.
Shawn Roberts, author of The war on the Uyghurs. “I think the biggest threat actually to China is the outside jihadist groups that may have begun to view China as an enemy of Islam.”
Security aside, China’s economic hopes for Afghanistan also look suspicious at the moment.
Haiyun Ma, of Frostburg State University in Maryland, says Chinese strategists have long taken an interest in Afghanistan as part of China’s massive infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative. Afghanistan offers China a potential route to Iran and Turkey that bypasses the Pacific Ocean, where America and its allies wield power. It also allows China to bypass Central Asian countries where Russia retains influence.
But instability in Afghanistan makes this strategy ambitious at best. “At this time, I don’t really see how China can implement this plan,” Ma says.
China is not a major economic player in Afghanistan yet. State-owned enterprises have attempted some investments, including in copper mining in Logar County. But security and other issues meant that he didn’t start mining at all.
China’s involvement and assistance to Afghanistan has been limited, and Beijing is vehemently resisting the idea of sending peacekeepers to Afghanistan to protect its commercial interests.
What Beijing has offered the Taliban so far is an open hand and a hint of legitimacy. In late July, China invited Some Taliban leaders are meeting with Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing. It was a major public gesture to show goodwill towards the rebel group. In return, Taliban leaders pledged to leave Chinese interests in Afghanistan alone and not harbor any anti-Chinese extremist groups.
This was not the first time that China had reached out to the Taliban. Roberts says that in the 1990s, Beijing often worked through Pakistani intermediaries with the Taliban, who then ruled the country, to monitor and monitor Uyghur fighters who tried to join al-Qaeda.
“The Chinese state is just as happy to work with democracy as it is with an autocracy, and in this case, perhaps with a theocracy,” says Roberts.
However, Beijing has not yet officially recognized the Taliban as the new leaders of Afghanistan. Until there is more stability and clarity about Afghanistan’s future, it seems likely that China will remain on the sidelines.