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China seeking big returns from Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan

(TibetanReview.net, Aug17’21) – Eying lucrative contracts to build railways, roads, bridges, airports, hydroelectric power stations and what not, including under its Belt and Road Initiative, possibly topped with gifts of a new parliament building here, a stadium there, and school buildings elsewhere, China said Aug 16 that it was ready to deepen “friendly and cooperative” relations with Afghanistan under its new, Taliban masters. The Taliban completed the takeover of Afghanistan on Aug 15 with the capture of the capital Kabul.

More importantly, China, no doubt, hopes to buy the acquiescence of the new Taliban government, as it has of the existing Muslim world, towards its current policy in Xinjiang that is widely condemned as being nothing short of genocidal of the Uyghur Muslims. The question is whether even a fundamentalist Muslim Taliban government of Afghanistan, which shares just a 76-kilometre-long (47-mile) border with Chinese occupied Xinjiang, will bend to China’s will on this issue like the others.

Beijing sought to maintain unofficial ties with the Taliban throughout the US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, including with a visit to China last month of a top level delegation from the latter led by its political leader for a meeting with Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi.

The delegation was reported to have promised that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militants.

In exchange, China offered economic support and investment for Afghanistan’s reconstruction, reported the AFP Aug 16.

For Beijing, a stable and cooperative administration in Kabul would pave the way for an expansion of its Belt and Road Initiative into Afghanistan and through the Central Asian republics, the report cited analysts as saying.

And so, on Aug 16, China said it “welcomed” the chance to deepen ties with Afghanistan, a country that has for generations been coveted for its geo-strategic importance by bigger powers, the report noted.

“The Taliban have repeatedly expressed their hope to develop good relations with China, and that they look forward to China’s participation in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan,” China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying was quoted as having told reporters.

“We welcome this. China respects the right of the Afghan people to independently determine their own destiny and is willing to continue to develop… friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan.”

The ruling Communist Party of China obviously sees in the Taliban a version of itself in Afghanistan – a “people’s government” which exercises brute power and carries out merciless repression to enforce its legitimacy.

China has so far stopped short of officially recognizing the Taliban as the new leaders of Afghanistan, but Wang Yi called them a “decisive military and political force” during last month’s meeting in Tianjin, the report noted.

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