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Date: 29 October 2021 Author: Patryk Szczotka
Security a Priority During Talks Between Wang Yi and the Taliban in Doha
The withdrawal of US military forces from Afghanistan has been widely commented around the world, and has also raised speculation about the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) deeper involvement in the region. Beijing maintains relations with the new Afghan government, but this should not be perceived as a sign of a major change in China’s approach towards the country. Ensuring stability in the region remains a priority.
The first meeting between the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the PRC and Taliban representatives took place in July this year. Then, the delegation led by Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the movement’s top leaders, arrived in the Chinese city of Tianjin from Afghanistan. At that time, the Taliban were making significant progress in subjugating more areas of the country, but had not gained full control of Afghanistan. Also then, Wang Yi pointed out that “the Afghan Taliban is an important military and political force in Afghanistan and is expected to play an important role in the country’s peace, reconciliation and reconstruction process,” while the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is recognized by the UN Security Council as an international terrorist organization that poses a threat to China’s territorial integrity. These declarations have become an important indication that the government in Beijing is carefully analyzing events in Afghanistan, primarily in terms of regional stability and security.
On October 25-26, 2021, in the Qatari city of Doha, Minister Wang Yi once again met in person with Taliban government officials when he held talks with Acting Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar and Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi. During the meeting, the plans of the Afghan interim government concerning domestic and foreign policies were discussed in detail. Minister Wang Yi put forward four expectations regarding the new leadership: “first, build a more open and inclusive political structure in which all ethnic groups and factions should participate and play a role; second, implement moderate and prudent domestic and foreign policies, including the protection of the legitimate rights and interests of women and children; third, make a clear break with all terrorist forces including the Islamic State and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and take measures to resolutely combat them; fourth, pursue a peaceful foreign policy and live in harmony with other countries, especially its neighbors.” Once again, the issue of separatist and terrorist movements was high on the agenda of the meeting, which indicates the importance of this matter to the administration in Beijing. China’s government-owned media outlet Global Times noted that the summit in Doha upholds the political objectives established in Tianjin and shows that China’s policy towards Afghanistan is now “clear and complete.”
The Doha meeting supports the assumption that the PRC’s current approach towards Afghanistan makes security a priority. Nevertheless, close contacts of the Chinese representatives with the interim government do not translate into support for all Taliban policies, which is confirmed by the expectations put forward by Minister Wang Yi. Given the past contacts of the new Afghan leadership with organizations regarded as a threat to stability in Xinjiang by Beijing, both meetings evidence China’s pragmatic outlook on the new situation in the region as well as its proactive approach to maintaining the status quo in the Uyghur Autonomous Region.
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