China is quickly moving to establish ties with the Taliban as the U.S. has nearly completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted nine members of the Taliban, including the group’s co-founder, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in the Chinese city of Tianjin. Taliban spokesman Mohammed Naeem said that the invitation from Chinese authorities showed that Beijing is recognizing the legitimacy of the Taliban.

During the meeting, Wang assured the Taliban that the Chinese government respects Afghanistan’s independence and territorial integrity, and promised not to interfere with Afghanistan’s internal concerns. 

Wang added the usual denouncement of the United States and its policies, “China has throughout adhered to non-interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs… [the withdrawal demonstrates] the failure of America’s policies and offers the Afghan people an important opportunity to stabilize and develop their own country,” the foreign minister said.

The Chinese government no doubt sees the U.S. withdrawal as an opportunity to promote its Belt and Road Initiative.

Taliban leaders are seeking international legitimacy as they fight to control Afghanistan while the U.S. withdraws. (AFP)

Wang called the Taliban “a pivotal military and political force in Afghanistan [who] are expected to play an important role in the process of peace, reconciliation, and reconstruction.”

China and Afghanistan share a narrow border in the Wakhan Valley.

In 2008, China signed a deal for copper mining rights in Afghanistan. Then, in 2011, it signed an oil deal with the former Afgan government covering drilling rights and the creation of a refinery in the northern provinces of Sar-e Pul and Faryab. Further, China and Afghanistan have also agreed on gas extraction rights. Nevertheless, at this point, the deals remain dormant.