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Why did China Accredit an Ambassador from the Afghan Taliban?
Feb 22, 2024
10

Why did China Accredit an Ambassador from the Afghan Taliban?

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In late January, China accredited the ambassadors of several countries, including the Taliban-ruled “Islamic Emirate” of Afghanistan, Bilal Karimi. This made it the first country to implicitly recognize the Taliban regime, which returned to power in Afghanistan in 2021. The move came after Beijing sent its own ambassador Zhao Xing to Kabul in August 2023.

Karimi’s accreditation sparked criticism from exile Afghan opposition groups and from world powers, including the United States, which demanded that China clarify whether it now officially recognizes the Taliban government. The anti-Taliban National Resistance Front of Afghanistan described China’s decision as a “violation of international and diplomatic norms”, urging the international community to take a unified position against the Taliban and refrain from giving its representatives official recognition, on the grounds that it does not represent the Afghan people.

Although China has not officially recognized the ruling regime in Afghanistan, their exchange of ambassadors is a step towards full recognition. Ultimately, this is China’s goal as it seeks to fill the American vacuum in Afghanistan and to facilitate travel and investment there.

These diplomatic ties between China and the Taliban will now enable Kabul and Beijing to strengthen their trade relations. Since the Taliban seized back power 20 years after being overthrown in a U.S.-led invasion, Chinese companies have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of investment into the country. Chinese firms have begun submitting tenders to explore and mine for copper, cobalt, gold, iron and lithium, estimated to be worth about a trillion dollars. China also agreed in May 2023 to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, part of the Belt and Road Initiative, to incorporate Afghanistan too.

China appears to have further motives for moving to this level of diplomatic recognition, too. These include the current Afghan government making good on its promises not to allow Afghan territory to be used to threaten China’s interests. This explains the transfer of Turkestani Uyghur families and the Turkestan Islamic Party’s training camps from eastern Afghanistan to the central and western provinces, further from the Chinese border. Moreover, having official ties with the Taliban is in the interests of both parties. The Taliban regime benefits from being recognized as the de facto government of Afghanistan, while the arrangement facilitates dealings with China on matters of security, investment and other forms of bilateral cooperation.

It is possible that other countries, such as Russia and Iran, may soon follow in China’s footsteps by recognizing the Taliban regime and exchanging diplomatic missions with Afghanistan. This would help counter American influence in the region and make the most out of the fait accompli imposed by the Taliban. It would also place pressure on other countries to recognize the Taliban, and in turn, pressure the United Nations to hand Afghanistan’s seat to the new regime, finally bringing it the international recognition it craves.

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