The Chinese regime’s warm portrayal of the Taliban, whitewashing its violent history and repression of women, is being met with domestic backlash.
As the Taliban quickly seized power in Afghanistan in mid-August, stunning U.S. forces who were due to withdraw by month’s end, Chinese officials and state-run media have embraced the militant group’s return to rule while seizing on the crisis to excoriate the United States.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokespersons in recent days have called the Taliban “the will and choice of the Afghan people” and have said that the regime would be “more clear-headed and rational than it was in power last time.”
State media also went into overdrive pushing propaganda supportive of the Taliban’s rise. But its efforts weren’t all successful.
People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, posted on Aug. 16 a brief video explaining the history of the Taliban without mentioning its ties to terrorism. The post was taken down within four hours after being heavily ridiculed by Chinese netizens.
The 60-second video, originally made by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, said the group was created during Afghanistan’s civil war and was formed mostly by “students from refugee camps.” Its expansion was “thanks to the support of Afghanistan’s poor.”
The video said that “the Sept. 11 event was the turning point for the Taliban regime,” with the United States overthrowing it from power and starting a 20-year war. It didn’t state the reason for the United States’ intervention.
Before its deletion, the post rose to number five in top searches on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, after drawing a fiery backlash from Chinese netizens. Some questioned why the video omitted the Taliban’s violent past, such as its destroying the famed Bamiyan Buddhas, its beheading of people on the street, and its severe restrictions regarding women.
The video also praised the Taliban as a “disciplined organization” and claimed that the poor in Afghanistan supported its anti-corruption and economic development policies. In response, some Chinese netizens criticized state-owned media’s whitewashing of the Taliban as amounting to “endorsing an anti-humanity regime.”
The Chinese regime hasn’t yet formally recognized the Taliban regime, but weeks before the Taliban’s rise, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Taliban political leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and other Taliban representatives in the Chinese port city of Tianjin.
During the meeting, Baradar assured Wang that the Taliban wouldn’t harbor Islamist militants that would launch attacks into northwest China’s Xinjiang region, a longtime concern for Beijing.
The Chinese regime is eyeing development opportunities in Afghanistan, should conditions in the country stabilize, according to experts.
Afghanistan may provide an opportunity for the expansion of the regime’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a massive infrastructure investment program that seeks to expand Beijing’s political and economic influence worldwide, according to Dong Siqi, director of the international affairs department of the Taiwan Think Tank.
“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wasn’t able to advance its BRI in Afghanistan due to the previous government’s corruption. So it remains to be seen whether the Taliban would have the execution power to work with the CCP,” Dong told The Epoch Times.
He noted that the CCP also is interested in Afghanistan’s rare earth resources. A 2010 U.S. government report estimated that the country contained about $1 trillion worth of metals and minerals, including rare earth metals that are vital for the manufacture of high-tech electronics and equipment.
Luo Ya contributed to this report.