Afghanistan – Does Beijing disappoint the Taliban’s hopes?

After they came to power in Kabul, the militant Islamists rely on their big neighbor, who diplomatically upgraded the “warriors of God” as the country’s new rulers. “China is our most important partner and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us, because it is ready to invest and rebuild our country,” said its spokesman Sabiullah Mujahid of the Italian daily “La Repubblica”.

With China’s help, the Taliban are planning a comeback for the ailing Afghanistan. There are “rich copper mines in the country that, thanks to the Chinese, can be put back into operation and modernized,” said the spokesman. The value of natural resources in Afghanistan is actually estimated at $ 1 trillion. The only thing is that there is a lack of investment and infrastructure to recover the wealth – but above all there is a lack of the necessary security.

For the first time, Beijing is only promising humanitarian emergency aid and vaccines against the pandemic to the value of 200 million yuan, the equivalent of 26 million euros. China is diplomatically active in filling the power vacuum left by the US after its withdrawal. Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks to neighboring countries. Afghanistan is also an important topic at the Brics summit on Thursday with China’s head of state and party leader Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the other heads of state and government from India, Brazil and South Africa.

The Taliban’s expectations that China could play a key role in financing the reconstruction, however, seem unrealistic. For example, Beijing has already scaled down the billions in its infrastructure initiative of the “New Silk Road” (Belt and Road Initiative) to establish new trade routes. Experts in China also point to the poor security situation in Afghanistan and view the Taliban with suspicion.

Even earlier, before the outbreak of the pandemic, when the situation was comparatively stable, there was no major investment by China. Even then, two large Chinese projects in Afghanistan failed to get going. In 2008, for example, a company from China received an estimated three billion US dollars for the development of one of the world’s largest copper deposits in Mes Aynak. And in 2011 a Chinese company wanted to develop the oil fields on the northern border river Amu Darya. Nothing has happened.

“That is why I think that China will not invest a lot right now, when there is not only potential, but actual instability in almost all areas in Afghanistan,” says Professor Shi Yinhong of the Beijing People’s University. “Afghanistan has now gone through drastic changes,” says the expert. “There is neither adequate security, nor can one talk about proven and comparatively long-term, reasonable stability.”

Already in friendly Pakistan, where China has invested around 60 billion US dollars in infrastructure for the China-Pakistan economic corridor as part of the “Silk Road”, there are “hostile forces” that have attacked Chinese companies and personnel, the professor emphasizes. The Taliban itself is also “complex,” says Shi Yinhong when asked about rival groups.

Can China even trust the Taliban? “The Chinese government is hoping for it, but it is not naive,” says the professor. The new rulers in Kabul have promised not to allow anyone to endanger Chinese interests from the soil of Afghanistan. What is meant are extremists and independence forces that China fears in its neighboring region of Xinjiang – the former East Turkestan. There, the Chinese are taking action against Muslim Uyghurs and have put hundreds of thousands of them in re-education camps.

It is somewhat ironic: while China is fighting alleged extremists in Xinjiang, in Afghanistan it is standing alongside militant Islamists who praise the Chinese as their “friends”. But there is little sign of real trust in Beijing. “Without evidence or scrutiny over a considerable period of time, no one can believe that the Taliban, which were inextricably linked to the East Turkestan movement in the past, will so swiftly and definitely keep the promise they made to China’s government,” said Shi Yinhong.

But Beijing is pragmatic. Because it’s not just about Xinjiang, but also about the fact that Afghanistan could become a breeding ground for terrorism and a source of uncertainty for China’s interests throughout Central Asia and in Pakistan. Even if China is genuinely concerned about the Taliban’s willingness to keep its promises, the relationship and the potential benefit for Beijing are “just too important to be ignored,” says Rand Corporation security expert Derek Grossmann. “Equally important is the risk of angering the Taliban by belatedly giving them the recognition and legitimation they desire, which could jeopardize China’s security interests.”

While on other hand German nationals started evacuation for people living in Afghanistan

A second passenger flight operated by Qatar Airways also brought 45 German citizens with their families from the Afghan capital Kabul on Friday . This was announced by the Foreign Office in Berlin. A spokesman said that there was intensive work on further exit options. Affected people would be contacted. With the first civil evacuation flight, 15 Germans were flown from Afghanistan to the Arab emirate of Qatar on Thursday .

Since the end of the military evacuation mission in Kabul with the withdrawal of the last US soldiers, western countries have been trying to allow their nationals and former Afghan local staff to leave the country. Land routes and flights from neighboring countries are to be used increasingly for this purpose.

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