China’s rising influence in Afghanistan raises alarm bells for West
The Taliban has expressed a strong determination to protect the safety of Chinese citizens in their territory from the threats of terrorism, signaling a growing closeness between the two countries. However, this is also a concerning development for international observers.
China was the first major global power to reopen its embassy in Kabul in 2021 after the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, and Beijing has been expanding its trade and foundational ties with the Taliban government.
In recent months, after multiple attacks on Chinese workers in Afghanistan, Taliban's acting foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, stated that his government would not tolerate such activities. He emphasized that they consider security threats against China as a challenge.
He further stated that they would not allow any activity in Afghanistan that could jeopardize China's safety and stability. Muttaqi also offered "effective guarantees" for the safety of Chinese citizens in Afghanistan, but detailed information on this offer was not provided.
The meeting in Tibet, which is being viewed as the latest diplomatic effort by the Taliban, marked the first instance where the term "terrorism" was used in official communications with Chinese authorities.
In an official statement from China on Thursday, there is hope that Afghanistan will continue its fight against terrorism and eliminate the "terrorist" forces of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which China considers a threat to its security.
China's President Xi Jinping has expressed a desire to promote relations with Afghanistan's neighbors and enhance regional economic cooperation.
Last month, China became the first major country to appoint its ambassador to Afghanistan under the Taliban government, and its diplomats presented their official documents to Taliban leaders in Kabul during a ceremonial event, which was a rare and prestigious honor for any foreign representative.
Global experts are concerned that if China remains a strong ally of the Taliban, it may weaken Western diplomatic pressure on issues related to the rights of women, minorities, and human rights in Afghanistan.
After assuming power, the Taliban immediately imposed restrictions on girls' and women's education and removed them from many workplaces.
According to Professor Harsh V. Pant, an expert on international relations at King's College, London, "China is quick to position itself as an alternative in international affairs and its relationship with the Taliban is the latest example of its rapid maneuvering in international relations."