China’s position with regard to the Taliban is marked by ambiguity and complexity. At the surface level, China maintains opposition to any group or movement with religious orientation. However, during the years when the Taliban conducted their suicide operations and instigated violence in Afghanistan, the Chinese government did not take substantial actions beyond expressing concerns about the escalating violence. China appeared to accept the challenges posed to NATO’s presence in the region in various forms. Furthermore, China seemed to view the emergence of a relatively weak regime in Afghanistan, backed by Pakistan, favorably, as it would facilitate access to the country’s abundant mineral and natural resources—a high-priority objective for China concerning Afghanistan. China also appeared content with the diminishing influence of India, Europe, and the United States in Afghanistan. In this context, the absence of a legitimate and lawful government in Afghanistan creates an opportune environment for the exploitation of the country’s resources, which is seen as a golden opportunity for Chinese enterprises.
Conversely, following the United States’ engagement in negotiations with the Taliban and the subsequent agreement reached, China began to harbor doubts about the group’s trustworthiness. There was a growing concern that the Taliban might align with whoever offered greater financial incentives. Additionally, China is mindful of the plight of its Uighur Muslim minority in the country, who have endured grave atrocities in this century, including the systematic erasure of their religious and cultural identity. This situation could potentially serve as a rallying point for jihadist groups targeting the Chinese government, thereby presenting security threats. Consequently, China has made the strategic decision to strengthen its ties with the Taliban and provide assurances that it stands alongside the group under all circumstances.
The appointment of an ambassador to the Taliban is one of China’s initiatives to demonstrate its sincerity and further bolster its relations with the group. By taking this step, Beijing intends to convey its stronger commitment to the Taliban compared to the United States and European countries, which have refrained from appointing ambassadors to the group. This move serves to elevate the regional and international standing of the Taliban and enhances their confidence in diplomatic circles.
China’s maneuvering within the Afghan context has generated strongly negative sentiments among the Afghan populace, who continue to endure the Taliban’s brutality, pervasive repression, and blatant discrimination. It conveys the message that, during Afghanistan’s challenging and tumultuous times, China is primarily focused on exploiting the neighboring country’s resources, rather than empathizing with the suffering of millions of people trapped in adversity and uncertainty. Furthermore, China is navigating a precarious path, as it perceives a threat from the East Turkestan group on one side while supporting and bolstering a group that shares ideological and strategic objectives on the other.
Although the realm of politics often witnesses the absence of ethical principles, with numerous governments acting in opposition to universal ethical values, China’s policy towards Afghanistan and the decision to appoint an ambassador to the Taliban stand out as conspicuous departures from ethical principles. This is likely to leave an exceedingly unfavorable impression of this neighboring nation in the minds of people and could have severe repercussions for the long-term future of both neighboring countries.