In a controversial move, China has reached out to the Taliban to safeguard its investments in Afghanistan. From the country’s perspective, Afghanistan’s stability should be protected to secure the country’s stakes like copper mines and some oil blocks and $50billion worth of belt and road initiatives.

In 1996, when the Taliban first seized power in Afghanistan, China declined to acknowledge Taliban rule and evacuated their embassy. But now, Beijing has reached out and boosted the legitimacy of the Islam militants.

A new approach to the Taliban 

China’s approach shifted to a welcoming relationship when Wang Yi, China’s Foreign Minister, invited an official meeting with the Taliban group two weeks ago. Wang held the delegation in Tianjin after President Ashraf Ghani left Afghanistan last Sunday. Wang Yi regarded the Taliban as “legitimate political force” which boosted its pivotal role in the government of Afghanistan.

With China’s global economic boom across the years, it has more than enough reason to secure its investments in Afghanistan. China’s economy is now 17 times larger than what it was way back in 1996. Its broader belt in Afghanistan and road initiative stretches across Central 

Asia, which are huge assets that need to be secured.

Beijing worries about its Uyghur militants and wants the Taliban to promise not to harbor any Islamist militants against China.

These are why China appears to be the next prominent force with the power to secure Afghanistan’s stability. The shift in their approach with the Taliban attempts to avoid the previous mistakes of the US and the Soviet Union.

Shift in foreign policy

Yun Sun, the Director of China Program, at Stimson Center said: “Beijing was not recognized a global power ages ago and that Afghanistan’s affairs doesn’t have impact in their assets.” 

The difference today is that China is now a global power, and Uyghur militants and assets in Afghanistan will impact their investments.

With peace talks, China used the practical approach instead of the intervening ways of the West. 

“Beijing is still hoping that the Afghan, Taliban, ethnic and other political groups would still unite and join forces to achieve peace and order in the country,” said Hua Chunying, spokesperson of Foreign Ministry.

China once refused to recognize the Taliban before the conferences in 2013. But recently, when the Taliban seized Kabul, China has compared the scenario to Mao Zedong’s Chinese revolution in 1949. A commentary from Xinhua News Agency declared US troops’ withdrawal as “death resounds for refusing US leadership.”

China learned what to avoid when the US spent $840 billion on Afghanistan. Instead, they have used the practical approach to secure their assets and to further their economic interests. 

Fan Honda, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, said that China’s behavior towards the Taliban would rely on their policies and honor the pledge not to threaten China’s affairs.