The vacuum created in Afghanistan now after the US withdrawal has allowed non-state actors like the Taliban to fill the power gap.
These non-state actors are supported by the likes of China, which has consistently endorsed them to maximize its own interests in the region.
As the Taliban are continuously heading and taking control of districts one after another across Afghanistan, China has sped up its contacts with them.
This bromance of China and the Taliban is worrying for the United States.
China has also assisted the peace talks in the past on its land, showing the interest it has in the conflict.
Bromance of China and the Taliban: Not Happening for the First Time
The bromance between China and the Taliban seems to be a compulsion for both sides. The Taliban sees China as a crucial player for its international legitimacy, along with getting consistent foreign and morale aid.
Meanwhile, China cannot afford a strong USA and India in the territories of the South Asian nation.
China knows that a strong coalition of the US and India in Asia could be an end to its hegemony.
So, China holds no policy option other than supporting the Taliban.
Currently, the biggest concern of China is over Xinjing and the Turkestan Islamic Movement (TIM), formerly known as East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).
This isn’t the first time that both parties have been in close connection over TIM’s matters.
In the 1990s, a Chinese diplomatic delegation visited Kabul, and with the assistance of Pakistan, they sought a meeting with the Taliban head, Mullah Omer.
The primary purpose of Chinese officials was to convince the Taliban not to shelter TIM militants in Afghanistan in exchange for the Chinese diplomatic support in the United Nations.
Afterward, throughout the period of Taliban occupation of Afghanistan, the TIM couldn’t carry out any significant attacks on China.
But soon after 9/11, the Taliban was orchestrated from Kabul, and the US arrival in Afghanistan completely changed the course of South Asian politics.
China and the Taliban: The Pursuit of Mutual Coexistence
According to analysts, the Taliban has become a more organized, well-structured, and politically wise party throughout the two decades.
Now they are looking to China as an important international power that could help them capture the whole of Afghanistan.
In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, in response to a question regarding the Uighur suppression, Taliban Spokesman Sohail Shaheen said that they are against any sort of suppression of Muslims or non-Muslims, whether that is in China, Myanmar, or Palestine. But he also added they would never interfere in the internal matters of China.
On the other hand, China also hasn’t released any condemnation notes over the Taliban’s recent fighting, killing of innocent people, and burning of homes in Afghanistan.
The truth is simple; the Taliban cannot afford to offend China at this crucial time when they have already locked their horns with the superpower United States.
Moreover, the Taliban fighters have also captured key border crossings, including Iran, Tajikistan, China, and Pakistan.
A stable Afghanistan is important for China as well, but it cannot afford to support the US-backed civilian government. The US-backed government is expected to safeguard the US interests instead of China, which is never an option for China.
So, China is currently seeking peace through the route of supporting the Taliban.
US-China Tussle in Afghanistan: The Pursuit of Scarce Resources
In a report published by “The Diplomat,” currently, China has two major concerns in Afghanistan, The TIM and the One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR).
In case the Taliban captures the entirety of Afghanistan, the region could become a safe haven for them.
China would be more than happy with the Taliban launching a crackdown against TIM. The Taliban would never mind neutralizing the TIM threat to pave their way to power.
Secondly, Afghanistan plays an imperative role in the success of the OBOR project. Afghanistan is usually called the heart of Asia due to its strategic location. Therefore, it is in China’s foremost interest to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan by hook or by crook.
According to reports, Afghanistan is one of the key routes for OBOR and its landmark project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
And if the situation in Afghanistan stabilizes, China will gain the shortest route to reach Central Asia and the EU.
Moreover, the third reason that China is eyeing Afghanistan is its minerals and natural resources, because China is the biggest importer of petroleum products, minerals, and other natural resources.
From 2004-2014, a team of scientists from the US Geological Survey (USGS) began inspecting the Afghan land.
US researchers carried airborne missions to conduct magnetic, gravity, and hyperspectral surveys over Afghanistan.
The results of the surveys were pretty shocking. According to the analysis of the researchers, Afghanistan may have minerals and rare earth resources worth a “trillion dollars.”
But according to the Afghan government, the reserves are worth much more than that, and they estimate the total worth more than $3 Trillion.
Therefore, China will not like to miss such a vast opportunity to fulfill its mineral requirements.
Currently, a Chinese mining enterprise, Metallurgical Group, has a 30-year, $3 billion contract with the Afghan government to exploit the Mes Aynak copper deposit in Logar province.
According to Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy to Afghanistan, these three reasons are more than enough for China to bring pro-Chinese groups to power. And the current Afghan government isn’t among those.
Currently, both China and the United States seem to be on the same page over Afghanistan’s matter.
Both countries want to bring peace and settlement to the country, but their methods are different from each other.
So, China and the Taliban are in pursuit of peaceful coexistence by sidelining the US and another emerging power, India.