China Bets on Trade with Taliban: Terrorists Will Show ‘Openness and Tolerance’

China's special envoy to Afghanistan, Yue Xiaoying, left, arrives for talks to see how to
AP Photo/Hussein Sayed

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with a Taliban delegation on Monday at a summit that resulted in several promises to expand trade with the terrorist group – now the de facto government of Afghanistan – and support the Taliban as it allegedly pursues “openness and tolerance.”

The Chinese Communist Party has fostered closer ties with the Taliban for months, investing more heavily in the bilateral relationship with the brutal jihadist organization after it launched an ultimately successful nationwide campaign to eradicate the now-former government of the country. The Taliban greatly increased its attacks on the former government after President Joe Biden violated an agreement the group had signed with the former administration of President Donald Trump to ensure American troops would leave the country by May 1, 2021. Biden extended the 20-year war in Afghanistan, a move that resulted in the Taliban seizing Kabul on August 15, after then-President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

The Taliban has struggled to obtain any formal recognition as a government since then. China itself has not officially announced it considers the Taliban a legitimate government, but treats it like one. Taliban spokesmen have routinely praised the Communist Party and expressed interest in joining the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a global infrastructure plan in which Beijing offers predatory loans to poor countries in an attempt to secure as much money and political power internationally as possible.

The Chinese state propaganda newspaper Global Times reported on the details of the meeting, featuring China’s top diplomat Wang and the Taliban “deputy prime minister,” Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and “foreign minister” Amir Khan Mottaki. Wang, according to the Times, “expressed hope that the Afghan Taliban will further demonstrate openness and tolerance” and “protect the rights and interests of women and children.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping, center right, and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, center left, attend the signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014 in Beijing, China. Afghanistan's new president is visiting Beijing to seek Chinese help in rebuilding his country and boosting regional stability. (AP Photo/Lintao Zhang, Pool)

Chinese President Xi Jinping, center right, and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, center left, attend the signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014 in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Lintao Zhang, Pool)

The Taliban used its first tenure in power, in the 1990s, to ban women from nearly all public spaces and force them to wear burqas, garments that completely cover the wearer, including her eyes. Since taking power in August, widespread reports of violence, including beheadings, of women considered to be violating sharia (Islamic) have surfaced. Taliban jihadists have regularly beaten women participating in human rights protests in the past month.

China, which is currently executing its own mass sterilization campaign against Muslim women, has abstained from criticizing the Taliban’s systematic violence against civilians. It has instead offered routine statements like Wang’s “hoping” that the Taliban’s terrorist members will adopt modern human rights norms without making any effort to persuade them to do so.

In remarks following the meeting – held at the Taliban’s former “political” headquarters in Doha, Qatar – Wang emphasized that the Communist Party expects the Taliban to “adopt a friendly policy toward its neighboring countries,” including helping China repress the ethnic Uyghur population on its border with Afghanistan. The Uyghurs are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group that China is currently committing genocide against; the Taliban has not objected to the mass killing and enslavement of fellow Muslims.

Ancient Buddha statues inside a temple in Mes Aynak, south of Kabul, Afghanistan. This archaeological site is located at the world’s second-largest unexploited copper mine in Logar province. The Chinese government-backed mining company, China Metallurgical Group Corp., which won the contract to exploit the site, has given archaeologists three years to finish the excavations. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

“He [Wang] said that he hopes and believes that the Afghan Taliban will make a clean break with the ETIM [the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, an alleged Uyghur jihadist group that does not exist] and other terrorist organizations, and take effective measures to resolutely crack down on them,” the Global Times reported.

Taliban spokesmen expressed pleasure at the results of the meeting on Tuesday. The jihadists revealed that they had successfully agreed on trade deals with China that require Beijing to purchase several Afghan imports including “medicinal plants, jellies, pistachios and other dried fruits,” Afghanistan’s Khaama Press reported. Khaama added that Taliban representatives also sought for China to allow Afghan students to study abroad under the communist system.

Bakhtar News Agency, a government outlet now under Taliban control, added that the Taliban had also convinced the Chinese to “help solve the problems of Afghan traders and provide necessary facilities for the export of Venex marble” as well as almonds and jalapeño peppers.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid published a video of Mottaqi presenting Wang with a gift box full of jalghoza, a type of Afghan pine nut. Afghan jalghoza growers have complained for years that they had no clear path to direct trade with China, allowing Pakistani buyers to purchase the nuts in bulk and resell them in China at a much higher price.

Mujahid and other Taliban representatives have told the press since their takeover of the country that they expected China to become one of Afghanistan’s largest trade partners, if not the single largest, once the country stabilizes.

“China is a neighbor and has a strong economy. We are trying to develop trade and economic relations with them,” Mujahid said in an interview with Voice of America (VOA) this month. “We have promised them security for their investment and assets.”

“We are ready to exchange views with China on how to forge ahead in terms of boosting our mutual relations, establishing peace in the region, and its assistance in the reconstruction of Afghanistan,” Suhail Shaheen, another Taliban spokesman, similarly said in August, adding the group “expected” China to “play its role” in the economy. Shaheen has led the Taliban’s efforts to demand the world invest financially in the terrorist organization and has expressed interest in the BRI. The BRI’s nominal goal is to complete a series of infrastructure projects that connect Beijing to Western Europe, making Afghanistan geographically pivotal to its success.
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