Ever since the Talban took control of Afghanistan, the regime has been trying to gain international recognition. China had indicated that it was interested in closely working with the Taliban and has been advocating for legitimizing the outfit’s rule over the country.
There has been speculation that China might become the first nation to recognize the Taliban government. However, Hu Shisheng, South Asian expert at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICR), the official think-tank of China’s national security apparatus, insists that this will not be the case.
“Things will be different when the four countries of China, Pakistan, Russia, and Iran arrive at a consensus on this. We will not be the first,” Hu said at a forum organized by a Chinese military think-tank.
Beijing is concerned that since the United States has now exited from Afghanistan, it could now redirect resources to focus on issues like the South China Sea, Korean peninsula, and Taiwan.
During its 20 year presence in Afghanistan, the U.S. poured in almost US$2 trillion to support its operations there. If Washington spends just $50 billion more in China’s backyard, Beijing will “feel a lot of pressure.”
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The increasing cooperation between the United States and India is also a source of worry for Beijing since a stronger India will thwart the Chinese regime’s plans to dominate the Indo-Pacific.
On Oct. 25 and 26, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi met with the Taliban’s interim Afghan government in Doha. Beijing called for Western nations to lift sanctions on Afghanistan and asked the international community to engage with the Taliban in a “rational and pragmatic” manner. The Chinese side expressed hope that Afghanistan will crack down on terror outfits like the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).
“The Afghan Taliban elaborated on the domestic and foreign policies of the interim government and made more positive remarks on relevant issues of China and the international community’s concern. The Afghan Taliban said it attaches great importance to China’s security concerns, will resolutely honor its promise and never allow anyone or any force to use the Afghan territory to harm China. The two sides agreed to set up a working liaison mechanism to discuss exchanges in the next stage,” foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in an Oct. 27 press conference.
Last month, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen had called China a “friendly country” and welcomed investments from Beijing, promising that the outfit will ensure its safety. The CCP has eyes on Afghanistan as the country is said to have vast amounts of mineral wealth, especially rare earths that are critical for the tech sector. Almost a trillion dollars’ worth of resources are locked in the Afghan mountains.
In an article at RAND, defense expert Derek Grossman notes that Beijing is actively pursuing the construction of a motorway that will link Afghanistan and Pakistan under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In addition, a major road through the Wakhan Corridor that connects China’s Xinjiang region with Afghanistan is also under construction.
“Once completed, these new thoroughfares should enable Beijing to pursue its goals of increased trade with the region and natural resource extraction in Afghanistan,” Grossman wrote.