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Communist China Wants to Work With The Taliban On The Belt and Road Initiative

Prakash Gogoi
Prakash covers news and politics for Vision Times.
Published: September 4, 2021
Both Taliban and China wish to cooperate on the BRI infrastructure project.
Both Taliban and China wish to cooperate on the BRI infrastructure project. (Image: cegoh via Pixabay)

Ever since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, communist China has been very openly supportive of the regime, attempting to gain international legitimacy for the terrorist group. Communist China wants to cooperate with the Taliban in order to advance its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI is a multi-trillion-dollar global infrastructure project that aims to extend Beijing’s influence worldwide. Chinese businesses have also signaled their willingness to work with the Taliban. 

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said that they are willing to boost mutual relations with China and seek Beijing’s assistance in reconstruction efforts. “China, our great neighboring country, can have a constructive and positive role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and also in the economic development and prosperity of the people of Afghanistan. It is expected [that] China [will] play its role,” Shaheen said.

Another Taliban spokesperson, Zabiullah Mujahid, recently called communist China their “main partner” since they were willing to invest in the country. As international support wanes and the West withholds funding, the Taliban is likely to seek more Chinese support. Washington recently blocked the Taliban from accessing billions of dollars worth of Afghan assets held in American accounts. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has suspended funding to Afghanistan after the Taliban take-over.

In an interview with an Italian newspaper, Mujahid said that the Taliban is “very keen” on the BRI project. Though Afghanistan is formally a member of the initiative, communist China has not yet started any project in the country. Mujahid also said that China’s investment in Afghanistan’s copper mine sector is still dormant. “We also have rich copper mines that, thanks to the Chinese, will be able to come back to life and be modernized… [China] is our gateway to markets around the world,” Mujahid stated. 

Writing for The Diplomat, Sebastien Goulard, coordinator of OBOReurope, a platform that explains the Belt and Road Initiative to European companies, states that the Taliban might be more interested in the “hard” aspects of the BRI, like constructing roads and pipelines. “Soft” BRI projects like the Health Silk Road and Digital Silk Road would require cultural changes in Afghanistan that the Taliban would be averse to. 

Some believe that even if communist China invests in Afghanistan, it will likely avoid making huge investments to prevent the Taliban from using those investments as leverage in case the relationship between the two parties deteriorates. Communist China wants a stable Afghanistan that can be mined for resources and be a profitable part of its BRI project. Too much instability poses a risk to China, not only in investments but also to citizens.

An example would be Pakistan, where Beijing has been facing difficulties. On July 14, a blast killed nine Chinese engineers working on a dam. Earlier in April, the Pakistani Taliban carried out a suicide bombing at a hotel that accommodated the Chinese ambassador. 

“If China is unable to secure its projects in Pakistan, where the government is supportive of BRI and China enjoys strong influence, then it will have even more difficulty doing so in Afghanistan. China benefited from the security U.S. forces in Afghanistan provided, and now that the United States has withdrawn it will need to devote significant resources to securing any future projects,” a report by the Council on Foreign Relations states.

Speaking in an Epoch Times webinar, China expert Gordon Chang stated that Beijing has more to lose than gain in an Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban. Adding to the instability in Pakistan, the communist regime might find itself in a predicament. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan terrorist group is “very much opposed” to China. Similarly, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) of Pakistan sees communist China as a threat to its goal of setting up an independent Baloch nation.

“So China is right now in a very difficult situation… Yes, there are things that it can get from its relationship with the Taliban. But there’s also a lot that it can lose is the investments it has put into Pakistan… We can see the entire region go up in flames, in which case, China would be very much a target,” Chang said.