China has sought to establish and maintain open channels with the new Taliban government following the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
China’s officials have met with a Taliban delegation and offered to help build unfinished projects and even start new ones.
The China-Taliban bromance is an evergreen story that never gets outdated. And this is not a surprising thing, even as China emerged as the antithesis of the United States in the region by supporting the Taliban regime.
China Supporting Taliban, but Scared of Them at the Same Time
First, China does not wish to have its economic and diplomatic influence in the region challenged.
Second and most importantly, they are also looking to build good relations with the Taliban in order to avoid any outside influences in their country that may cause unrest, particularly in Xinjiang Province. The province is home to Uyghurs, the largest number of ethnic Turkic Muslims.
China has waged a counter-terrorism campaign against the Uyghurs and their separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) for many years.
Uyghurs have been inhabiting Xinjiang’s south province for centuries but now are currently either under detention or living in extreme conditions.
The situation in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has escalated substantially during the last two decades.
There has been a great deal of expansion of repressive measures directed at suppressing Uighur dissent since 2001, disguised as anti-terrorism measures.
The current situation of the Uyghurs began after the 9/11 attacks on America. When the United States invaded Afghanistan, it came and sat on the border of China.
The threat of extremism rose in China, as the perception prevailed that the Taliban could influence extremist ideologies within China.
This belief paved the way for China to launch a brutal crackdown against the Uyghur Muslims, which has consistently attracted backlash from various human rights organizations.
While the US continued its ambitions in Afghanistan in eliminating the Taliban, the social constructivism in China built up, which reinforced China’s belief that the Taliban’s ideology could penetrate mainland China.
US Helped China in Promoting War on Terror, Still Complaining about the Mess
Following 9/11, the United States declared a global “War on Terror,” which included assistance in dismantling terrorist organizations in other countries.
This declaration also aided China in escalating its false war on terror and launching anti-Uyghur campaigns.
The Chinese government supported the United Nations Security Council resolution against terrorism and pledged its support to the US War on Terror.
As a result of these events, China’s Communist Party (CCP) declared the Uyghur uprising a “terrorism” threat rather than a local matter of “separatism,” as it had previously done.
The US government reciprocated this gesture of cooperation in the summer of 2002 when they added ETIM to the Terrorism Exclusion List.
A group of 22 Uyghurs was also sent to Guantanamo Bay to be interrogated by the United States regarding terror-related activities.
However, the truth is that ETIM was a small band of separatist fighters without a real link to Jihadi organizations, as borne out in their testimonies.
Chinese Version of War on Terror is Inflicting Misery on Uyghur Muslims
Uyghurs have lived in the region of Xinjiang, formerly known as East Turkestan, for centuries.
Throughout the early 20th century, the province was part of China and was granted sovereignty by the CCP leader Mao Zedong in 1955.
As the region gained economic and material prosperity, its local citizens gained some advantages, but at a price. The increasing migration of Han people, who make up 90% of the country’s population, displaced Uyghurs from their ancestral lands and led to tensions.
Despite claims from Chinese authorities, Xinjiang has been the victim of a rebellion, not Jihadi fervor revealed by social dynamics.
Due to these differences, ethnic tensions in this province during the last two decades of the 20th century were fueled by issues of self-government, cultural preservation, educational opportunities, work, and health issues.
Inequities between Han immigrants and the indigenous people in the region contributed to separatist attitudes and movements.
The Uyghurs had valid concerns about their autonomy and rights, but they lacked the capacity to change things.
Movements calling for Uyghur independence were established in the 1990s, such as the World Uygur Youth Congress and the East Turkestan Information Center.
Local protests against government policies were frequently suppressed, with official violence increasing.
East Turkestan separatist movement was blamed for a spate of bombings in the Xinjian region in the late 1990s.
In 1997, the Communist Party of China initiated a “strike hard” campaign to suppress separatism, giving security forces permission to make mass arrests and execute alleged separatists quickly.
Because the world’s attention was focused on Afghanistan and then Iraq after the September 11 attacks, China’s crackdown on the Uyghurs remained unnoticed or ignored for a long time.
They were subjected to harsh repression, and the ETIM’s designation as a terrorist organization provided China with the legal authority to imprison people without any crime in the name of ETIM terrorism.
Racial tensions, rumors, and labor concerns have added fuel to the fire between the Han and Uyghur communities in the region.
Tensions and protests among the Uyghurs culminated in ethnic violence in 2009, which killed nearly 200 people.
Uyghurs have been experiencing unimaginable life since then. They are under intense surveillance in China, questioned by police, and not allowed to speak to anyone outside.
Families are separated from one another. Foreign journalists cannot roam freely in Xinjiang for ground reporting.
In 2016 and 2017, China added about 100,000 officers to the police force to oppress the minority Muslim community.
In addition, the Chinese government has built dozens of so-called kindergartens, where they put Uyghur children after removing them from their families.
In a similar way, adults are also placed in vocational institutions where they are re-educated and taught new skills as per authorities.
But, in actuality, they are actually concentration camps where China’s Communist Party is attempting to obliterate their social, cultural, and religious identities.
According to the UN, the crackdown resulted in the confinement of one million ethnic Uyghurs in huge, secret detention camps.
Uyghurs are afraid to talk to their family members abroad because of fear of getting arrested or sending them to a concentration camp.
By continuing to use the phrase “war on terror,” the CCP implies an attack on Uyghur dissent, their rights, and freedom and links all political activity among Muslims with terrorism.
It is China’s ultimate goal to eradicate all indigenous Uyghur culture and history, transforming Xinjiang into a Chinese province dominated by Han Chinese people and primarily speaking Mandarin.
This so-called war on terror is also one of the core reasons for the US-China tensions, where the US has often pledged to sanction China for its manhandling of the troubled people.