Late last week, the Taliban – Afghanistan’s new de facto, if not yet de jure government, released a statement referring to China as “their trusted friends.” Excerpt:
Abdul Salam Hanafi, deputy director of the Taliban’s office in Doha, Qatar, said the terror group would “take effective measures” to protect Chinese institutions and personnel in Afghanistan and would allow China to continue its expansion of the Belt and Road Initiative.
“China has been a trustworthy friend of Afghanistan,” Hanafi said in a Thursday phone call with Chinese assistant foreign minister Wu Jianghao, according to a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. “The Afghan Taliban is willing to continue to promote friendly relations between Afghanistan and China and will never allow any force to use Afghan territory to threaten China’s interests.”
And while Chinese foreign minister Wang Webin would not directly answer questions at a press conference Friday about whether China will recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government in Afghanistan, he did say that the situation on the ground is being followed closely by the Chinese government.
Webin also pointed out that China’s embassy in Afghanistan plays an “important channel for China-Afghanistan exchanges” and is operating normally.
Through its partnership with the Taliban, China will be given access to Afghanistan’s natural resources such as copper and aluminum. (emphasis added by me.)
“The cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative advocated by China is conducive to the development and prosperity of Afghanistan and the region at large,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement following Thursday’s call.
Maybe the Taliban could ask some Chinese Uighurs about how conducive China was to their prosperity – but then, the Taliban would have to go find some Uighurs in one of China’s concentration camps to ask them.
Here’s the thing: Afghanistan was known as the Graveyard of Empires for centuries before President Biden(‘s handlers) catastrophic retreat. But China has a couple of things the Brits, the Soviets and the U.S. lacked: A population base measured in billions, and a callous disregard for the lives of that population base. The Brits and Soviets tried wars of conquest, the U.S. a war of pacification and “regime change.” However, it’s not unlikely that, were China to decide to simply annex Afghanistan to take advantage of their mineral wealth, that they would simply fight a war of extermination.
We left the Taliban a lot of military hardware, sure. But most of the vehicles and aircraft will be useless in a very few years without the complex maintenance structure that a Bronze-Age goatherding culture simply can’t provide. And China has, of late, been making a lot of noise about toughening up their population. What if China sent an army of 25 million into Afghanistan, supported by armor and aircraft, with orders to simply kill everyone they meet?
Would the U.S. go to war with China to stop them? Unlikely, I should think, especially given the invertebrate-like nature of the current administration. Would the Russians? Not if China makes a deal – say, to turn a blind eye if Russia continues annexing part of eastern Europe to ensure lebensraum for Russians.
Someone once said that war is armed robbery writ large. I’m sure not inclined to do the Taliban any favors, but if I were them, I’d look at China’s offers with a very jaded eye.