CM – ANALYSIS: For China, the return of the Taliban harbors more risks than opportunities

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Editor’s note: A version of this story appeared in CNN’s Meanwhile in China newsletter, an update updated three times a week that tells you what you need to know about the rise of the country and its impact on the world. Register here.

(CNN) – As China observes the chaotic scenes in the Afghan capital Kabul, it is likely seeing more immediate risks than opportunities.

Since US President Joe Biden a full withdrawal of American troops in April announced from Afghanistan, there is a lot of talk about how China could use the moment to fill the vacuum left by the US and to expand its presence and influence there.

Such arguments only became evident after the high-profile meeting between the Taliban Leaders and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi last month, at which Wang said the Taliban would « play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan ».

But for China, a neighbor of Afghanistan too significant investment in the region, the security challenges arising from the abrupt return of the Taliban are far more pressing a ls all strategic interests in the future.

« China does not tend to perceive Afghanistan through the prism of opportunity, it is almost exclusively about dealing with threats, » said Andrew Small, a fellow of the German Marshall Fund in Washington, in an interview with the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Beijing has long been suspicious of the American military presence in Afghanistan, which shares an 80-kilometer border with China’s western Xinjiang region at the end of the narrow Wakhan Corridor. But in reality, China has also benefited from the relative stability the US has brought over the past two decades.

China is particularly concerned that Afghanistan will become a base for terrorists and extremists campaigning for the independence of the mostly Muslim Fighting in the Xinjiang region – a priority Wang raised at her meeting with Taliban leaders last month. In response, the Taliban promised that they « would never allow violence to use Afghan territory to act to the detriment of China ».

But the security risks are not tied to China’s borders. In recent years, China has invested heavily in Central Asia through its belt and road trade and infrastructure program. A spillover effect of the rise of the Taliban to power on Islamist militants could potentially threaten the economic and strategic interests of China in the wider region. said Small. « The Chinese government fears the inspirational impact of its success in Afghanistan on militancy across the region, including the Pakistani Taliban. »

This security threat was underscored last month when nine Chinese workers were killed in a suicide bombing in Pakistan – one of the deadliest attacks on Chinese citizens abroad in recent years. Islamabad said the attack was « carried out by the Pakistani Taliban from Afghanistan ».

Beijing’s unease about the possible consequences in Afghanistan was reflected in statements by its State Department, which repeatedly criticized the US for being « in a hurry. » Withdrawal « acted » irresponsibly.

But Beijing has also signaled that it has no intention of sending troops to Afghanistan to fill the power vacuum left by the US, as some analysts have suggested. In an article on Sunday, the state-run Global Times quoted experts as saying that such speculation is « completely unfounded. » « The best China can do is evacuate Chinese nationals when a massive humanitarian crisis occurs. or contribute to post-war reconstruction and development and advance projects under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) when security and stability are restored.  » in the war-torn country « , the article reads.

Chinese state media have portrayed the situation in Afghanistan as a great » humiliation « for the US and thus for the superiority of China’s so-called » non-interference « in internal affairs other countries argued – part of their key foreign policy principles as laid down by former Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai in the 1950s.

« The drastic change in the situation in Afghanistan is undoubtedly a severe blow to the US. It has declared the utter failure of US intentions to reshape Afghanistan, « said the Global Times in an editorial published late Sunday evening. » This US defeat is a clearer demonstration of US impotence than the Vietnam War – the US is actually like a ‘paper tiger’. ”

Beijing is aware of the cost of being entangled in Afghanistan’s security situation – several state media analyzes have recently described the country as a » graveyard of empires « .

Instead of following in the footsteps of the United States China is likely to take a pragmatic approach to Afghanistan, and by making the Taliban delegation’s visit to China public last month, Beijing is sending a message that it is ready to recognize and deal with a Taliban government while it can Interests.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Monday it hopes the Taliban can keep their promises to ensure a « smooth transition » of the Afghan situation and « curb all kinds of terrorist and criminal acts ».

« The situation in Afghanistan has changed fundamentally, we respect the will and the choice of the Afghan people, » said the ministry spokesman Hua Chunying at a press conference.

Beijing’s trust in dealing with the Taliban is reflected on the ground in Kabul. While the US and its allies strive to evacuate embassies from Afghanistan, China – along with Russia – appears to be staying in place.

In a statement on Sunday, the Chinese embassy in Kabul said it had several Political parties in Afghanistan urged « to ensure the security of Chinese citizens, Chinese institutions and Chinese interests ». It said it had received no reports of injuries or accidents involving Chinese nationals and reminded them to « closely monitor the security situation, increase security and not go outside. » At the press conference on Monday, Hua confirmed announced that the Chinese embassy in Kabul was still operational, adding that it had previously evacuated the majority of Chinese nationals in Afghanistan.

This story was first published on CNN.com: « For China, the return of the Taliban more risks than opportunities. « 

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