Before the Taliban capitalized on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, swiftly taking control of every provincial capital and then Kabul in a matter of days, China was already worried about the deteriorating security situation in the country and region.
This article by Lucas Niewenhuis from New York based SupChina dated 16th August 2021 is a very important perspective on what is happening in Afghanistan
China is now trying to make the most of the situation, while urging a focus on political stability.
At the Tianjin meeting, Wang bashed the “failure of U.S. policy” in Afghanistan, and said that China hopes the Afghan people can “independently establish a broad and inclusive political structure that suits Afghanistan’s national realities.”
After the Taliban takeover, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said today (in English, Chinese) China hopes the Afghan Taliban follow through on their intention to “hold talks aimed at forming an open, inclusive Islamic government in Afghanistan.”
However, according to Andrew Small, an associate senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and an expert on China-Pakistan relations: “Whatever schadenfreude China may be experiencing around the way the withdrawal from Afghanistan has been handled by the U.S., this is not the outcome that China wanted.”
Another prominent analyst of Chinese foreign policy, Yun Sun, the director of the China Program at the Stimson Center, also wrote recently that China has only entered into a “reluctant embrace” with the Taliban.
There are at least four reasons why Small and Sun think that Beijing is not entirely happy with the new state of affairs in Afghanistan, even if the Americans are now much farther away on the western front:
· China doesn’t really trust the Taliban.
· Beijing worries about Uyghur militants in Afghanistan.
· China would have preferred the Taliban’s agenda to be moderated by political deals, rather than reigning supreme after a military takeover.
· Multiple recent attacks in neighboring Pakistan alarm Beijing.
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Illustration by Derek Zheng