Diplomacy

China pledges money to Taliban amid crackdown across Afghanistan

By Salaam Times and AFP

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin takes a question in Beijing November 9. [Greg Baker/AFP]

BEIJING -- China on Wednesday (September 8) pledged $31 million in immediate aid to the interim Taliban government as the group continued to impose its harsh rule across Afghanistan.

"China attaches great importance to the announcement by the Taliban of the establishment of an interim government and some important personnel arrangements," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin at a news briefing.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi later said the money would go to food, winter supplies, three million vaccines and other medicines, but verification of that would be impossible to verify as the Taliban now control the country's financial resources.

The statements came as the militant group violently repressed growing protests across the country over their harsh style of rule and curtailing of freedoms and rights.

Rushing to court the Taliban

While much of the world has adopted a wait-and-see approach to engagement with the Taliban, China has said it is ready to build friendly relations with the group following their takeover.

Analysts have said a stable and co-operative administration in Kabul would open economic opportunities for China and allow for expansion of its massive overseas infrastructure drive, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

China is ready to deepen "friendly and co-operative" relations with the Taliban, a Chinese government spokeswoman said August 16.

"The Taliban have repeatedly expressed their hope to develop good relations with China, and that they look forward to China's participation in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

A co-operative administration in Kabul would pave the way for an expansion of the BRI into Afghanistan and through the Central Asian republics, analysts say.

Among other goals, the BRI is meant to facilitate the extraction and shipping of poorer countries' natural resources for Chinese benefit.

The Taliban meanwhile may consider China a crucial source of investment and economic support, either directly or via Pakistan, a close Beijing ally.

Alliance of convenience

In this alliance of convenience, the Taliban seem willing to overlook China's repression of millions of Muslims in Xinjiang, while Beijing is saying little of the Taliban's militant ideology and violent campaign to overthrow the Afghan government.

By signing deals with the Taliban, Beijing hopes it also will remain publicly neutral on the Uighur issue in Xinjiang, where Beijing has unleashed a slew of draconian policies in recent years aimed at subduing and surveilling the region's majority Muslim population under the auspices of "national security".

Certain crimes committed in Xinjiang by Chinese authorities have been particularly galling to Muslims around the world, including the arbitrary detention of more than 1,000 imams and religious figures in the region, the destruction of about 16,000 mosques, and the systematic rape of Muslim women.

The Taliban, who portray themselves as defenders of Islam, seem willing to overlook the slaughter and enslavement of Muslims -- for the right price.

The insurgents want to "have good relations with all countries of the world", Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told AFP in July.

"If any country wants to explore our mines, they are welcome to," he said. "We will provide a good opportunity for investment."

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