China worries and hopes US leaves Afghanistan
Like many countries, China is concerned about the risk of terrorism from a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Beijing has repeatedly told the Taliban that the country cannot become fertile ground for militants to launch attacks in Xinjiang, just as Osama bin Laden used it as a base to prepare for his 9/11 attacks on the United States. United.
A closer threat could be the spillover of activism into Pakistan and Central Asia, where China has invested heavily and sought to forge alliances.
“The Afghan Taliban have promised that they will separate themselves from the international terrorist forces, but we still haven’t seen how they will because they are not officially in power,” said Li Wei, an international security expert at the China Institute retirement. contemporary international relations.
The Taliban could be an incongruous partner for China because their religion-based philosophy is diametrically opposed to Beijing’s vision of an atheist regime under the Communist Party that places social stability and economic development above all else. That hasn’t stopped China’s ultimately pragmatic leaders from reaching out to them, however.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted a delegation led by Taliban political leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar late last month and emphasized China’s hopes for stability and an end to violence and terrorist threats.
Chinese officials and state media have criticized what they call the US “hasty” withdrawal from Afghanistan. “Swift Taliban Victory Embarrasses America, Shatters Image, Arrogance,” read the headline in the state newspaper Global Times.
Despite the rhetoric, Wang told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that China was prepared to work with the United States to promote a “soft landing” on the Afghan issue.
However, he added that “the United States cannot, on the one hand, deliberately slow down and suppress China to undermine China’s legitimate rights and interests, and on the other hand, rely on China to offer its support and coordination ”.
President Joe Biden has said leaving Afghanistan will prepare America to face larger potential threats, especially from China.
“Our real strategic competitors – China and Russia – would like nothing more than the United States to continue to channel billions of dollars, resources and attention to stabilize Afghanistan indefinitely,” he said. he said this week.
Yin Gang, a researcher in Middle Eastern studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the two countries share a common interest in a stable Afghanistan.
“If Afghanistan achieves stability, the United States will look good and China will be invited to participate in the reconstruction,” Yin said.
China has sued commercial ventures in Afghanistan, but the prospects for such projects do not seem any closer now than they were in the past 20 years of US presence.
A consortium led by China Metallurgical Group Corp. offered $ 3 billion to develop one of the world’s largest copper deposits at Mes Aynak, also promising to build a power plant, railroad and other infrastructure. Years later, work has yet to begin, largely due to insurgent activity in the surrounding province of Logar.
Chinese state-owned National Petroleum Corp. has suspended oil drilling in the Amu-Darya basin due to a delay in signing a transit agreement with Uzbekistan to allow the transport of crude oil to China. The Afghan government subsequently canceled the drilling agreement.
China has invested heavily in Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan, hoping to expand its Belt and Road initiative to expand China’s reach abroad by improving trade routes, but the Afghanistan seems far from ready to act as a link in this chain.
China’s vast economic interests in Pakistan and Central Asia could clearly be affected by any terrorist resurgence in Afghanistan, said Henry Storey, political risk analyst based in Melbourne, Australia,
“At the same time, China is reluctant to get involved in any presence on the ground because it does not want to repeat the mistakes of the United States – or be distracted from more pressing issues like Taiwan,” Storey said, saying reference to the island that China claims as its own and threatens to invade.
Chinese academics have echoed the government’s line that China will not get involved in Afghanistan’s internal affairs no matter how the situation develops. In a briefing this week, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China will provide assistance to Afghanistan within its means.
While the “hawkish” Chinese state media described the events in Afghanistan as a victory for Beijing and a loss for Washington, it reflects “a false sense of confidence,” said Meia Nouwens, China expert at the International Institute. strategic studies.
China might not be as interested in exploiting the US withdrawal as an opportunity to engage economically with Afghanistan as some have suggested, she said, noting that Beijing was slowing its foreign investment in infrastructure.
The question of how to protect the safety of Chinese investments and personnel also looms large.
“For now … Beijing will do the same as most other countries,” she said. “Wait and see how things develop in Afghanistan.”
Associated Press writer David Rising contributed to this story from Bangkok.