Will China squarely fill in America’s shoes after Taliban takeover of Af?

Americas hasty departure from Afghanistan has created new geo-political dynamics as world over, nations are still deliberating their foreign policy and whether the notorious Taliban can be extended support.

China though moved past all this and was one of the first nations to jump the gun and extend its strong support to the Taliban, thus legitimising their rule in Afghanistan.

China’s recognition to the autocratic Taliban regime will ensure that the terror group now gains a foothold in Asian geo-politics, something that other Asian countries are still wary of.

India, for instance, is yet to clarify its stance and foreign policy on Afghanistan as its External Affairs Ministry is rushing to pull out its citizens from Kabul amid chaos.

The Taliban experiment will be interesting to see unfold, with China joining hands with the regime and looking to fill the role that America was playing so well for the last 20 years until the Joe Biden administration’s plan to pull out all military troops by August 31.

This gives China space to dictate policy in Afghanistan while Beijing pours money and resources into Afghanistan to gain a stronger foothold, which invariable bolsters the Belt and Road Initiative.

However, China is navigating uncharted waters as far as the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan is concerned, as the security net that the US provided no longer exists, something that Beijing will have to account for.

The absence of US cover implies heavy military spending that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may have to undertake if it wishes to play ball with the Taliban.

China clearly undermines the importance of the 20-year US military presence in Afghanistan. One superpower’s exit may not necessarily be an opportunity for the upcoming other.

For now, Beijing will play the wait and watch game and provide outside support to the Talibani regime by way of allowing Chinese companies to build highways, set up telecom infrastructure and support other projects which will allow China to have a say in Afghanistan’s policy with minimal military intervention.

Another major reason for China to look at Afghanistan with renewed interest is the BRI project. The BRI is one of the most coveted projects of Xi Jinping that requires active support of the South Asian countries, including Afghanistan.

China’s $282 billion investment as part of the BRI in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe is therefore now sitting at a precipice as the unhinged Taliban have once again taken over Afghanistan, which poses a major threat to the BRI project.

Beijing will have to cast its net carefully if it is to see any benefit in supporting a violent and erratic regime like the Taliban who are largely unstable as a group with little regard for foreign investments, treaties or foreign pacts.

China will see this new partnership with Afghanistan as a simple business transaction looking to expand its investments while asserting a more stronger geo-political push in Asia.

However, the incarceration of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang could possibly become a thorn between the two countries as they go ahead in forging new ties. The Taliban regime could harbour Uyghur Muslims who leave China and direct their ire towards Beijing.

So far, the Taliban have been welcoming of all nations willing to support and legitimise their regime, and China’s support is all-important to them to have access to regular financial support.

Beijing’s problem will be dealing with the more extremist groups within the Taliban, which lean towards radical Islamic ideologies and way of thinking, spelling trouble for Chinese diplomats and the government in dealing with the new Afghan regime effectively with minimal damage.