As Taliban prepare to yet again, a quarter of a century later, take over Afghanistan, an olive branch is extended to China. China is a “friend,” says Taliban spokesman in Qatar, Suhail Shaheen, and Taliban are keen to discuss their participation in the Belt and Road initiative “as soon as possible”: “We have been to China many times, and we have good relations with them. China is a friendly country, and we welcome it for reconstruction and developing Afghanistan.”
To that end, no obstacles – such as the fate of their fellow Muslims – will be allowed to stand in the way. Shaheen again: “We care about the oppression of Muslims, be it in Palestine, in Myanmar, or in China, and we care about the oppression of non-Muslims anywhere in the world. But what we are not going to do is interfere in China’s internal affairs.”
Support for China is nothing new for Taliban. Five years ago, for example, they committed themselves to protecting – who from? themselves? – China’s $3 billion investment in the massive Mes Aynak copper mine: “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan directs all its Mujahideen to help in the security of all national projects that are in the higher interest of Islam and the country.” Taliban’s fathers had once fought the godless Russian communists out of their country; now the sons are guarding the godless Chinese communists’ extractive operations.
That birds of feather stick together is not a surprise. After all, both the Afghan Islamists and the Chinese communists hate democracy, freedom, human rights and America. On the other hand, despite the whole “enemy of my enemy” thing going on, one party are religious extremists and the other atheistic infidels. The latter’s persecution of its 10-million Muslim minority is well known and well documented. And yet… Taliban “care” but they’re not going to “interfere in China’s internal affairs.” Their cowardice is hardly unique; there’s been barely a squeak from the Muslim ummah about what’s happening to their coreligionists in Xinjiang. You just don’t mess with China when there is a lot of money at stake. Taliban’s position, so moderate for a bunch of extremists, is yet another reflection on the sad truth that Muslims give a shit about other Muslims only if the United States or Israel are responsible for mistreatment. Imagine the collective apoplexy and the rush to jihad if the Americans or the Jews were keeping one million Muslims in concentration camps and engaging in a cultural and demographic genocide against their Muslim minority? But China is not the Great Satan, or even the Little Satan, so it’s just an “internal affair”. Move on, nothing to see; look at this magnificent Belt and Road instead.
As far as China is concerned, the Party in any case prefers to deal with fellow autocrats who aren’t constrained by such liberal concept as accountability and legality. To the extent that Afghanistan, just like Taliban’s patron, Pakistan, straddles the Silk Road, the economic and strategic involvement in an Islamist Afghanistan makes sense. That there are trillions of dollars’ worth of minerals, including some much in-demand rare metals, waiting to be dug out, the proposition makes even more sense. And that China’s presence in Afghanistan extends its influence right up to the Middle East, while also providing a FU to America, is a sheer bonus.
It’s not that the relationship between the Leninist ultra-modernists and the Islamic neo-medievalists is going to be necessarily very smooth. The fact of the great commonality between the two – both Taliban and the Chinese Communist Party, after all, are in the business of oppressing Muslims – will always be a double-edged scimitar. But with so much at stake, watch out for the Taliban hypocrisy to reach stratospheric heights in the future. Islamic barbarians aided in their totalitarian work by Chinese technology and know-how is a bizarre concept to contemplate. Then again, we live in increasingly bizarre times.