China ready for ‘friendly relations’ with Taliban, welcomes Afghan development projects

China is ready to deepen “friendly and cooperative” relations with Afghanistan, a government spokeswoman said on Monday after the Taliban seized control of the country.

Beijing has sought to maintain unofficial ties with the Taliban during the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, spurring an advance by hardline Islamists across the country that saw them capture the capital Kabul on Sunday.

China shares a rugged 76-kilometer (47-mile) border with Afghanistan.

Beijing has long feared that Afghanistan could become a staging point for minority Uighur separatists in the sensitive Xinjiang border region.

But a high-level Taliban delegation met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin last month and vowed that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militants.

In return, China offered economic support and investment for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

On Monday, China said it “welcomed” the opportunity to deepen ties with Afghanistan, a country that for generations has been coveted for its geostrategic importance by major powers.

“The Taliban have repeatedly expressed their hope to develop good relations with China and look forward to China’s participation in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

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

Hua called on the Taliban to “ensure a smooth transition” of power and fulfill their promises to negotiate the establishment of an “open and inclusive Islamic government” and ensure the safety of Afghans and foreign citizens.

China’s embassy in Kabul remains operational, Hua said, although Beijing began evacuating Chinese citizens from the country months ago amid the deteriorating security situation.

In a statement Monday, the embassy told Chinese citizens remaining in Afghanistan to “pay close attention to the security situation” and stay indoors.

US President Joe Biden promised a complete withdrawal of US troops by September 11, marking the end of two decades of war.

But Washington was shocked by the rapid collapse of the Afghan government and the sweeping advance of the Taliban.

China has repeatedly criticized what it sees as America’s hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan as a leadership failure.

Stability and business

The takeover of the Taliban opens a strategic door for China fraught with risks and opportunities.

Maintaining stability after decades of war in its western neighbor will be Beijing’s top consideration as it seeks to secure its borders and strategic infrastructure investments in neighboring Pakistan, home to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

For Beijing, a stable and cooperative administration in Kabul would pave the way for an expansion of its Belt and Road Initiative in Afghanistan and across the Central Asian republics, analysts say.

Meanwhile, the Taliban may view China as a crucial source of investment and economic support, either directly or through Pakistan, the main regional sponsor of the insurgents and a close ally of Beijing.

So far, China has not officially recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan’s new leaders, but Wang Yi called them a “decisive military and political force” during last month’s meeting in Tianjin.

(AFP)

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