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Dr. Siti Mutiah Setiawati,MA*

China has always adhered to the Afghan policy of respecting the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and is willing to continue to develop good-neighborly relations of friendship and cooperation with Afghanistan.Under this situation and background, do you think the Taliban will make a clean break with international terrorism after taking power? Will this threaten the security and stability of the Chinese embassy and personnel in Afghanistan as well as the border areas of China? And do you think China and the Taliban can cooperate amicably?(China’s Dilemma Towards Taliban New Government in Afghanistan)

It is comprehensible for China to reacts cautiously as Taliban succeeded in seizing power over Afghanistan after about two decades of occupation by the US and its allies. This is due to the facts that during those periods much has been said that Taliban is a terrorist organization. Despite the peaceful takeover of Kabul, the international media, mostly western, basically labelled the Taliban as militant and insurgent and none have been said that they are freedom fighters, repossessing what is rightfully theirs. Earlier has been reported that it was Taliban who had assassinated Muhammad Najibullah, the former president of Afghanistan. As the report insinuated that it was an act of terrorism, no assessment was ever published that in Taliban’s defense he was just a Soviet’s puppet.

Apparently, China is in critical juncture of the implications of the Taliban takeover. Is the new Taliban Government a potential thread to China or is it a new hope? Beijing wishes to support the sovereignty of the new Taliban and moving toward establishing political and business relationship, however, on the other hand, they are discouraged with the fear of terrorism as internationally campaigned by the Western media.

I believe that Taliban’s victory generates opportunities for China. Capacity building is in order. China should take advantage of the situation as the two known Superpowers, the US and Soviet, had departed and they are no longer has influences over the territory. The economy of the country is now in a delicate condition. Politically they need to gain domestic as well as international trust. Their defense system required to be reorganized and empowered. With this in mind, China could easily step in to contribute and take role in the development of the country, which is now in necessity since foreign aid is required but obviously the country is being isolated from western investment nor any forms of interest with Taliban.

China’s concern that the country could plunge to mayhem is baseless. China should seeks enlightenment with the New Taliban leader, Maulawi Hibatullah Akundzada. He was the former leader who chooses to live in Kandahar after he was ousted in 2001. During his exile in Kandahar, Akhundzada always making his appearance as a cleric and he practices as religious leader rather than as a politician. Though time this becomes his belief that when he later had to lead the new Afghanistan, violence would not be his preferred solution. This is in accordance with the Taliban's promise made at a press conference after seizing the presidential palace. Representing the new Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, the spokesman, pledged on August 17, 2021 that the Government guarantees there will be no bloodshed during the transition period, that all foreigners will be protected from any abuses. He also assured that there will be no discrimination of treatment to women and that there will be no internal and international animosity. Under the above circumstances and guarantees, there should be no security issues in Afghanistan and it is within the interest of the new Taliban to protect the security of the existing and future embassy offices in Kabul.

Knowing that Afghanistan could easily accommodate to whatever China has to offer and considering that they are literally neighboring countries, collaborating with the present Afghanistan government seems to be a reasonable decision for China. While neighboring countries usually shared commons interest because of the same ethnicity, culture and/or religion, however it is not the case with these two neighbors. The ethnicity of Afghan is Caucasian while China is Mongolian. In terms of religion the majority of the Afghan people are Sunni Muslims while China tends to follow Confucianism. Therefore, it is understandable that the contrast raises concern for China that the Taliban's victory will encourage the rise of the Muslim minority in Xinjiang which has been the concern also of the international community. Nevertheless, China can turn this concern into something worth collaborating for. China can learn from Taliban on how to treat minorities in China. Although many will be skeptical with this idea because of the history of anti-Buddhism by the Taliban, when they destroyed a Buddha statue in the city of Kabul. Whatever and however the difference between the two countries I believe that this can be resolved through humanitarian diplomacy and mutual respect for human rights which is the basic principle of civilization since the 20th century.

Within the context of national building in Afghanistan, geographically China would be the most rational alternative for partnership. Financial wise, Afghanistan are convinced that China’s participation would be a significant value to build the new Taliban as they are no longer able to rely on Western donors. Even if the US and Soviet are interested it would be a mistake to consider either one, this is due to the fact that throughout their occupation they both had failed in building the country of Afghanistan.

For China, Afghanistan can be viewed as economic potential because of its natural resources, especially minerals. Over the years, China has invested in Afghanistan through the China Metallurgical Group to explore copper mines, build railroads, and other trade agreements. In the past China has been reluctant to develop trade with Afghanistan because of the fear of being unsuccessful due to a very conspicuous American presence in this country.

In conclusion, the presence of the New Taliban in Afghanistan is both an opportunity and a challenge for China. The development of infrastructure (Capacity Building) in Afghanistan is an opportunity for China while the concern that the influence of the Taliban as an Islamic organization will inspire minority groups in China would be the challenge that China has to encountered. This concern can be minimized through humanitarian diplomacy. From the experience of Iran and Lebanon, Islamic groups have become political forces which no longer uses violence as the country has achieved political stability. Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Islamic Revolution of Iran are example of proof that when the country is politically and economically stable, violence is never an option.

As the US and its coalition withdrew from Afghanistan what is being left behind are miseries and distress. Neither the occupiers and the people of Afghanistan in general gains any benefits after 20 years of occupation. There was no notable achievement. On the contrary more than 6 thousand soldiers of the occupiers died more than 100 thousand Afghan civilians were killed, yet the US failed to obtain what they came for. Their goal to reform Afghanistan and to eradicate Taliban, Al Qaida and terrorism is a complete failure, yet no countries in the world raised concerns that such led US invasion is a really a thread to the world peace.

Editor Assistant Research Fellow: Xianglin Gu

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