The relation between China and Afghanistan has been cordial since history. Both the countries have shared which dates back to the time of the Han dynasty. They have also been together as warriors in World War II. China’s military and economic support to Afghanistan during the Cold War period had led to significant development in the country. Both the nations have an amicable trade relation, despite interventions from countries like the USA.

Relations between China and Afghanistan date back to the Han Dynasty, Tang dynasty, the Mongol Empire, and the Qing dynasty. Afghanistan’s proximity to the Silk Road was another reason for China extending its support and developing a friendly relationship. For a long time, this silk trade was used for trading fruits and tea through caravans traveling from Xinjiang to the Wakhan border. Buddhism is also believed to be disseminated to Afghanistan with Chinese monks traveling through this route. In the 21st century, both China and Afghanistan plan to restore a New Silk Road with the Belt and Road initiative.

China and Afghanistan had teamed up during various wars. In World War II, Chinese Muslims and their bombardment by the Japanese were reported in newspapers of Syria, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon. The Kingdom of Afghanistan was the first one to recognize the People’s Republic of China in 1950. It then created diplomatic relations with the PRC in 1955. Premier Zhou Enlai and Vice Premier He Long visited Afghanistan in 1957, which was the first visit from the Chinese delegates. The two nations initiated talks, signed various trade pacts and non-aggression pacts.

The relation between China and Afghanistan saw a rift due to the Soviet Invasion in 1979. China believed the invasion to be a threat to its friendly connections with Afghanistan. It also announced not to accept the Karmal government, which was led under the influence of the Soviets. During this period, the Chinese embassy was reduced to the status of a representative office in Afghanistan. The relation between these two nations started to improvise after the Soviet withdrawal. China also lent its monetary and military support to Afghanistan during the Afghanistan War. Both the nations were declared as the Good Neighbourly States after there was agreement from both sides.

China has since then maintained a peaceful relation with Afghanistan. They have, along with Pakistan, established a solitary trilateral treaty and also revived the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s Contact Group on Afghanistan. This course of friendship is taking a significant shift after the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021 after a decade of war with the US to gain authority in the nation. While the world objects to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan due to their decayed way of thinking and dominance over the nation’s lives, it seems that nothing has shifted for China.

China continues to extend its support to the Taliban when so many countries worldwide object to its rule. According to BBC News, China had announced an aid of $31 million to the Taliban, ranging from food to vaccines, owing to the covid times now. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the announcement. Apart from the aid, China is also ready to maintain communication with the new Taliban government. It believes that the establishment of the Taliban government is an ideal way to restore order in Afghanistan. China has also urged countries and Afghanistan’s neighbours-Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, to support the new government, promising them aid for covid vaccines in return. Meanwhile, the Taliban in Afghanistan have called China their important partner and hope for investments and a good relationship in the future.

Even before the Taliban had taken over Afghanistan, Beijing had invited the group’s representatives in July. They had promised them economic support and urged that the group must not be categorized as terrorists. The Chinese have also termed their support to the Taliban, saying that both the nations need each other. Apart from this, it has also ensured that they will prevent the fighters of East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement from operating, who fled from Xinjiang to Afghanistan.

China has been active in its plan for economic expansion. This is why it is initiating relations with underdeveloped countries, having resources. Afghanistan has approximately mineral reserves, which account for a worth of $1 trillion. A healthy relationship with the Taliban now will help China to gain this resource. This is again possible because China has the technology to mine out minerals from the mountains. The Taliban are looking for revenues after the exploits.

China is also looking forward to fulfilling its political goals with an extension of relation with the Taliban. China has been held as the primary force for obstructing sanctions against the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar in the United Nations. By maintaining a good relationship with the Taliban, China aims to expand its pet project, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This will also give China an extended arm in Central and West Asia.

China is also eager to take the spot in Afghanistan, which its main rival US, had. After 20 years of war, the US decided to withdraw from Afghanistan. This opens the door for China to influence Afghanistan geopolitically, which will help it gain a kind of superiority in Asia.

China considers the Taliban to be the significant military troop in Afghanistan. The Foreign Minister of China, Wang Yi, in his visit to the Taliban troops in July, called the group to be a pivotal military and political force in Afghanistan. They expect to extend their support and get support in terms of politics and the military field.

The relation between China and the Taliban is a boon to both sides. China aims to develop itself as a superpower by 2040. It is trying its best to gain a relationship with underdeveloped countries. China has cordial relations with Pakistan too. Together, they are deciding to extend the construction of the Peshawar-Kabul road. China’s support to the Taliban might be a crucial benefit for the new government in Afghanistan. However, it might be only a new level or the next level for China to continue on its path to create supremacy over Asia and probably the world. In the words of Samuel Johnson, “Actions are visible, though motives are secret.”

– Saima Ahad

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