Farzad Ramezani Bonesh
Senior Researcher and Analyst of International Affairs
Despite China’s previous support for the Rabbani government against the Taliban in the 1990s, negative look ahead to the Taliban and Lack of recognition of this group during their takeover of Kabul, Beijing’s look ahead to the Taliban has changed dramatically over the past two decades.
In fact, after the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the establishment of the Islamic Republic in the country, Beijing has tried to establish good relations with its neighbor by expanding its relations with Kabul. Meanwhile, in recent years, due to the increasing role of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the type of China’s relationship with the Taliban has always been important. The following article has paid attention to this issue and its future.
China’s current approach to the Taliban:
The geopolitical role and reducing the role of India and the United States in Afghanistan
China is trying to strengthen its military and defense position without further regional and global reactions, but it is not reluctant to strengthen its geopolitical presence in the region and neighboring countries. Meanwhile, China is not trying to replace the United States. However, according to Aziz Arianfar, former director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “China now opposes the continuation of permanent US bases on Afghan soil.”
China is also concerned about the continued NATO military presence in Afghanistan and considers it as a security threat; which means from a strategic point of view, China and the Taliban are opposed to the long-term presence of NATO and the United States in Afghanistan. In fact, Beijing tends to pay attention to anti-American aspect of Taliban rather than its Islamic extremism.
China is concerned about its strategic blockade by the United States and US military bases for security reasons. So Beijing intends to use the strengthening ties with the Taliban as a lever of power against the United States. In addition, strategy is affected by its strategic relationship with Pakistan. Therefore, Beijing by evaluating the cooperation between India and the United States and their increasing role in Afghanistan as harmful to its interests, is willing to increase its ties with the Taliban.
Military and security goals
Since al-Qaeda became active in Afghanistan and terrorist training centers have been set up, China has been concerned about al-Qaeda incitement in its Muslim areas. In fact, China is concerned about the influence of Xinjiang’s major separatist group (the East Turkestan Islamic Movement), and the (Uyghur World Congress), and also announcing the existence of ISIS through Afghanistan in cooperation with the Taliban. Therefore, China is trying to strengthen the potential for cooperation with the Taliban to eliminate the risk of the return of ISIS extremists through Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province and the country’s Wakhan Corridor to the Muslim province of Xinjiang in China.
“China intents to cut off the Taliban from al-Qaeda and,” said Pir Mohammad Molazehi, a regional and Afghan expert. “It wants to use further ties as a tool to further protect itself,” he added.
From the Chinese point of view, given the current confrontation between ISIL and the Taliban in Afghanistan, China can use the good relationship with the Taliban to eliminate the ISIL threat to it and establish peace on the Chinese border, and the risk of the return of ISIL and groups such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) to China. According to Arianfar, in the eyes of the Chinese, they can take advantage of this dispute for their own benefit.”
Chinese officials are also concerned that the continuation of instability in Afghanistan could lead to uncontrollable drug trafficking through Xinjiang to that country, so they have considered increasing ties with the Taliban.
Mediation in the Afghan peace process
From China’s point of view, the coubtry’s mediation approach and participation in the peace process and relations with the Taliban in Afghanistan is important. In fact, Beijing is trying to make sure that the Afghan Taliban will not act against China’s national interests. Therefore, China’s efforts to mediate between Kabul and the Taliban in multiple and bilateral forms can be of benefit to it.
It should also be noted that China and Pakistan have a strategic relationship with each other, and given Kabul’s desire for Chinese influence in Pakistan as a mean to bring the Taliban to peace, China can use its relationship with Pakistan and take steps to make peace.
Beijing now seems to believe that not only the Taliban is not an extremist religious group in Afghanistan, but a real political force that could be a viable element in Afghanistan’s political arena. From another dimension, China is trying to have a growing influence among the Taliban and its leaders and to use it at proper time to make its advantage. Pakistan invites Taliban and China to discuss peace in Afghanistan
Therefore, China wants the Afghan government and the Taliban to start negotiations for lasting peace and stability as soon as possible.
China’s economic presence in Afghanistan has been one of Beijing’s main foreign policy strategies. Aziz Arianfar, said that “China seeks to gain access to Afghanistan’s abundant underground resources in dialogue and partnership with the Taliban.”
Afghanistan can also be a good gateway for energy transfer and the establishment of energy transmission lines to China, so it can easily make large profits by reaching peace with the Taliban and investing in this area.
In fact, by considering Afghanistan joining the Silk Road Belt Project and its economic plans in Pakistan’s Gwadar port and other economic investments in Central and South Asia, China is trying to support the peace process with the Afghan Taliban.
The Taliban’s current approach to China
In economic terms, the Taliban has a positive and strategic view of strengthening Beijing’s economic incentives to increase investment in Afghanistan, and hopes to encourage more Chinese investment, aid, and loans in infrastructure, such as mining in Afghanistan. .
In addition, the Taliban are a good actor and do not have the obstacles that the Taliban did during Mullah Omar’s time. One of the reasons they are so close to China is to get weapons.
In fact, the Taliban seem to want to expand their relations with China in many areas of security, politics and defense, understanding the situation and China’s strength and Beijing’s strategic relationship with Islamabad, as well as its relationship with Pakistan.
In fact, if the Taliban increase their role and influence in Afghanistan, China will increase its ties with the group in the future. China will also both continue its efforts to protect its interests, in addition to paying attention to non-interference in Afghanistan’s affairs.
In fact, although China does not want to support the establishment of an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan, it also sees the Taliban’s political ideology as more flexible and willing to cooperate more with it.
The Taliban are returning to power in Afghanistan, therfore, the importance of the relationship and its strengthening is important and fundamental for China, and it may gain up to 50% of power in Afghanistan.
In fact, the Chinese seem to believe that if the Taliban are in power, they can coap with Xinjiang-affiliated extremist groups, or at least can control them in ways that do not pose a threat to the Chinese.
Aziz Arianfar, said: “It looks like the caretaker government will join the Taliban in the government for one period or more, so China is trying to to keep its relations with the Afghan government at high level.”