China continues Taliban balancing act after new ambassador arrives in Afghanistan

“China’s policy towards Afghanistan is clear and consistent,” the ministry added, according to Reuters.

China was among the first countries to welcome the Taliban’s return to power after the chaotic withdrawal of American troops two years ago and is one of only a handful to host a Taliban charge d’affaires.


In his first message posted on the Chinese embassy’s website on Friday, Zhao said: “Practical cooperation in the field will promote the sustained, healthy and stable development of China-Afghanistan relations, continue the traditional friendship between the two peoples, and enable China’s development results to better benefit Afghanistan.”

Although the Taliban has failed to ensure the internal security and stability it promised, and Chinese targets have been hit by a number of terrorist attacks in the country, Beijing has still pledged greater financial and economic help for the sanctions-hit country.

Afghanistan’s Taliban sign mining contracts worth US$6.5 billion

Zhao, also said China was committed to “deepening the cooperation between both sides under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative”, President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign investment and infrastructure project, into Afghanistan.

Last month both Afghan media and Bloomberg reported that the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei was working with the Taliban to install advanced surveillance systems in all provinces of Afghanistan.


In Kabul on Wednesday, Zhao’s car was escorted by a police convoy to the presidential palace, where he was greeted by uniformed troops and met the acting Taliban Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund and Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaqi.

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China’s new ambassador to Afghanistan Zhao Sheng says he wants to continue “the traditional friendly relations” between the two countries. Photo: AP

After presenting his credentials to Akhund, Zhao said he would work to strengthen relations with Afghanistan in “political, economic and other fields”, according to Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.


Muttaqi said the two countries had special ties and that Zhao’s nomination was a “significant step with a significant message”.

“It also signals to other countries to come forward and interact with the Islamic Emirate [of Afghanistan],” Mujahid told Associated Press.

“We should establish good relations as a result of good interactions and, with good relations, we can solve all the problems that are in front of us or coming in the future.”


Zhu Yongbiao, a professor at Lanzhou University’s school of politics and international relations, said Zhao’s appointment was a routine personnel reshuffle given his predecessor’s unusually long stint.

China’s previous envoy to Afghanistan Wang Yu took up the role in November 2019 and returned to Beijing last month.

‘Sightseeing not a must’: Taliban to stop Afghan women visiting national park

According to Zhu, it was highly unusual for a diplomat to spend nearly four years in a war zone.


“It’s quite reasonable to appoint a new envoy under such circumstances and it does not mean that China has moved ahead substantially towards recognising the Taliban,” he said.

Yan Wei, deputy director at the Institute of Middle Eastern studies at Northwest University in Xian, described the new ambassador’s appointment as a “positive signal” underlining China’s support for the Taliban amid the county’s ongoing humanitarian crisis.

“China believes that, under the current circumstances, it is necessary to maintain constructive contact and dialogue with the Taliban regime to better encourage and guide it in addressing the concerns of the international community, and that isolation and blockade are not conducive to solving the problems,” he said.

Yan said the Taliban wanted to break loose from diplomatic isolation, so it was understandable it might have read too much into the arrival of the new ambassador.

“The naming of a new envoy would be conducive to serving Chinese enterprises and conducting exchanges,” he said.

“It is also a showcase of China’s active diplomacy in promoting regional stability and alleviating Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis and economic difficulties without interfering in its internal affairs.”
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How 2 years of Taliban rule have transformed Afghanistan back to the past

How 2 years of Taliban rule have transformed Afghanistan back to the past

Zhu said Beijing had quickly switched its ambassador in Afghanistan but in India the post had been vacant for nearly a year, adding the contrast had “a lot to do with the status of bilateral ties”.

He said this was another sign of China’s good relations with the Taliban, while relations with New Delhi were still strained as a result of an ongoing border dispute and India’s strategic pivot towards the US.

Meanwhile, Zhang Jun, China’s top envoy to the United Nations, took a thinly veiled jab at the US on Thursday over the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

“A few countries, under the pretext of democracy and human rights, have all too easily cut or even suspended humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and other countries,” he told a Security Council debate.

“Such actions will only victimise innocent civilians, worsen the socio-economic crisis, and contravene the spirit of humanitarianism.”

His remarks were in line with a document released by China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday ahead of the opening of the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting, outlining its position on major global hotspots such as Ukraine and North Korea.

The section on Afghanistan urged the international community to maintain dialogue, provide aid and encourage the country to develop a more inclusive political framework.

It added that “relevant countries” need to “draw lessons” from what happened in Afghanistan, abandon double standards on combating terrorism, “unconditionally” return the country’s overseas assets and lift all the sanctions against the Taliban.


South China Morning Post

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