China - First In Line To Welcome The Taliban

China - First In Line To Welcome The Taliban

What's behind China's prompt welcome of the Taliban? A look at how Afghanistan’s troubles affect China and its hegemonic plans.

Anjali Krishnan

While Taliban fighters gained ground as the U.S. troop withdrew from Afghanistan, their leaders managed a diplomatic coup on the world stage. As the international community watched with bated breath to see the fate of the Afghans, the world watched in horror as the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stood shoulder to shoulder with a high profile Taliban delegation on Chinese soil in the city of Tianjin.

Beijing has been playing the long game. China has long understood the Taliban's sway on the country and its crucial role in establishing and maintaining peace on Afghan soil. Even as the U.S. and NATO prepare to engage the Taliban in the peace talks, China went ahead on its own. Placing little faith in the outcome of the peace talks, Beijing officially met with the Taliban leaders in 2019, raising many eyebrows.

Why is China wooing a radical Islamic group even as they fight to suppress the Muslim minorities in their own land? The answer to the question lies in China’s national security concerns and economic goals.

National Security

The two countries share a very short land border - just 47 miles. But where the boundary lies is what concerns China the most. At the end of the Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan abuts the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. The land of the Uyghur Muslims has been in the news for China's gross mistreatment and human rights violations of the minority Muslim population.

Though most analysts believe that Beijing exaggerates the threat posed by the 'terrorist' group, Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), made up of mostly Uyghur Muslims, the leadership does not want to see them gain support from any quarter.

Taliban are known to harbor and support terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda, ISIS, and similar outfits. China has claimed over 1100 km of disputed territory in Tajikistan, a Muslim country neighboring Afghanistan to the north.

Taliban is known to support opium trading and profit from drug trafficking. There have been alarming reports of the increase in drug deals and the volume of drugs coming out of the country in recent months. China would understandably want to maintain a close eye on the situation and ensure that its interests in the surrounding areas are not compromised.

Economic Concerns

China’s economic concerns regarding Afghanistan are convoluted or at least indirect in the current scenario. The desire to see a stable, peaceful Afghanistan is not so much about protecting its interests there.

China has very little direct investment in the country at present. Though Chinese companies pre-emptively won long-term bids to drill oil fields and extract copper in Afghanistan, no progress or investment has been made on the ground.

The current political climate and ground reality do not augur well for further investment. Analysts believe that China will not be foolish enough to pump millions into the region unless the situation on the ground improves by leaps and bounds over the next few months. For now, it’s likely to be just promises of future projects.

At the same time, China is heavily involved in the economies of Afghan's neighbors. It has invested heavily in Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is known to be porous. The Pakistani establishment is believed to be sympathetic to the Taliban. With dissent growing among Pakistanis against massive Chinese investments, China desperately wants the region to remain peaceful to profit long-term.

Another factor influencing China’s attitude towards the Taliban is the country’s minerals resources. China’s ambitions plans depend on a steady supply of raw materials from other nations. Afghanistan, as its former President Ashraf Ghani noted, “We are at risk of the curse of plenty, [the] curse of resources.”

A rough estimate of Afghanistan's resources puts them at around $1- 3 trillion. The country is said to hold vast reserves of gold, platinum, silver, copper, iron, chromite, lithium, uranium, and aluminum. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), there is roughly 60 million metric tons of copper, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements (REEs) such as lanthanum, cerium, neodymium, and veins of aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury, and lithium. There is even speculation that Afghan's REE resources may be among the largest on earth.

Minerals in Afghanistan

The Taliban already have a hand in the mining operations, either overtly or covertly. According to UN reports, mining is a significant source of income for the Taliban, besides drug trafficking. The prospect of large swathes of REE and other crucial minerals would indeed spur China to devise long-term strategies to tap into it.

Chinese Advantage

China is leveraging its unique advantages in these disturbing times. The Chinese had long left the country before the Taliban came to power in 1996. The two have never fought each other, unlike the U.S. and Russia. In that sense, China enjoys a clean slate.

China's overt high-profile interaction with the fundamental Islamic militant organization gives it the much-needed legitimacy and acceptance it seeks. Being recognized and aligned with the emerging superpower, the Taliban hopes will pressure other nations to come forward to do the same.

The Chinese are pragmatic. Beijing wants a stable Afghanistan and is least concerned about who is at its helm, as long as it would not impede Beijing's pursuit of its economic and hegemonic agenda.

And herein lies the danger. Though fundamentally different, there are many prominent, disturbing similarities in how China and the Taliban operate. Both believe in establishing control over their people, if necessary, by force. Human rights and civilian freedom are low on the agenda. Neither wants to be questioned or scrutinized over what goes on under their regime, within their territories. While the PRC does so to propagate its political ideology, the Taliban does so for religious reasons.

The 'live and let live' approach adopted by China, by ignoring internal affairs of others and demanding the same for itself, will find resonance with the repressive fundamentalist organization like the Taliban, well known for its dismal human rights record.

By offering a hand, promises of future collaborations, and providing legitimacy on the world stage, China is stepping into the diplomacy vacuum created by the U.S. exit. Even as Afghans grapple with an uncertain future under the Taliban, Afghanistan's advantageous geographical position and rich mineral resources have caught the eye of the emerging superpower.


TIPP Takes

Tensions Rise As Iranian Dams Cut Off Iraqi Water Supplies

Agriculture suffers from drought in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq
Agriculture suffers from drought in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq

Drought in Iran is sparking protests, but its strategy of building dams to conserve water has devastating consequences across the border in Iraq.

Iraq is highly dependent on water resources originating beyond its borders. Like the Diyala, which begins in Zagros mountains in eastern Iran — where it is called the Sirvan — and runs along the border between the two countries before crossing into Iraq to join the Tigris in Baghdad.

But 17 miles upstream, inside Iranian territory, the 169-meter (555-foot) Daryan Dam cuts the river's flow. It is the largest dam in an even larger national project. Iran's ongoing Tropical Water Project includes 14 dams with a capacity of 1.9 billion cubic meters and 150 kilometers of underground tunnels diverting waterways to rural areas in southern Iran.

With no power over what Iran does across the border, one strategy the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) can employ is, ironically, to build more dams.


China Economy Stalls As Factory Output, Retail Sales Growth Slow

China manufacturing

New COVID-19 outbreaks and floods disrupted business operations, adding to signs the economic recovery is losing momentum.

Industrial production in the world's second-largest economy increased 6.4% year-on-year in July, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed. Analysts had expected output to rise 7.8% after growing 8.3% in June.

China Economy Stalls As Factory Output, Retail Sales Growth Slow
China Economy Stalls As Factory Output, Retail Sales Growth Slow

Retail sales increased 8.5% in July from a year earlier, far lower than the forecast 11.5% rise and June's 12.1% uptick. China's economy has rebounded to its pre-pandemic growth levels, but the expansion is losing steam as businesses grapple with higher costs and supply bottlenecks.

Fu Linghui, an NBS spokesperson, said that China's recovery remains uneven due to sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks and natural disasters.


Russia Says Kabul Seems Safer Under Taliban Than It Was Under Ghani

Russia Says Kabul Seems Safer Under Taliban Than It Was Under Ghani

Russia wants to ensure that the instability in Afghanistan does not spill over into Central Asia, part of the former Soviet Union it regards as its backyard.

Russia's ambassador to Afghanistan praised the Taliban's conduct and said the group, still officially designated a terrorist organization in Russia, had made Kabul safer.

Ambassador Dmitry Zhirnov's comments reflect an undisguised effort by Russia to deepen its well-established ties with the Taliban while stopping short, for now, of recognizing the hardline Islamist group as the legitimate rulers.

In line with earlier agreements, the Taliban had promised to protect Russian diplomats, he said, saying Western fears about their behavior had so far not been borne out.


New Island Discovered South Of Tokyo After Submarine Volcano Erupts

New Island Discovered South Of Tokyo After Submarine Volcano Erupts

A new island has been discovered near Iwoto Island, located around 1,200 kilometers south of Tokyo.

The new island is C-shaped, with a diameter of approximately 1 kilometer. It was discovered after the volcano some 50 km south of Iwoto in the Ogasawara Islands in the Pacific Ocean started erupting a few days ago.

New islands have been confirmed in the area in 1904, 1914, and 1986, with all of them having submerged due to erosion by waves and currents.

The one found in 1986 sank after about two months, according to the coast guard.

As the submarine volcano is located near Minami Iwoto Island, the southernmost islet in the island chain, any new island in the area could be added to Japan's territory.

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