The Taliban is denying reports that it attended peace talks in China with Afghan officials.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the Chinese Communist Party held the peace talks on May 19 and 20 in Urumqi in northwest China.
The talks were allegedly facilitated by Pakistan’s Inter-Services (ISI) spy agency. It claimed a four-member delegation from the Taliban met with senior members of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council.
The Taliban, however, said the talks never happened.
“We strongly reject these rumors,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement emailed to Voice of America on the morning of May 25.
“The enemy wants to raise the spirits of its morale-lacking security personnel with such propaganda,” Mujahid said.
According to VOA, since April, the Taliban in Afghanistan has increased attacks throughout the country. It has also been ignoring Pakistan’s calls to cease the offensive.
If the statements from the Taliban are true, it suggests the Chinese regime is playing a familiar propaganda tune.
The Chinese regime likes to overplay conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq through its state-run media. It uses the information to claim U.S. peacekeeping operations deepen conflicts.
It’s likely the Chinese regime would falsify information about hosting peace talks in the region, since it would make the Chinese regime’s approaches to solving regional conflicts seem more effective.
The Chinese regime is particularly trying to instill the perception in Pakistan that it can create peace where the United States failed.
It’s in a unique position with its growing presence in the region. When violence erupts, the Chinese regime can blame it on the United States. When the situation improves, it can take credit.
Among the key initiatives of the Chinese regime in the region is the new Silk Road. It plans to connect China to Pakistan with roads, rails, and oil pipelines. It’s officially called the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor Silk Road.
The problem with the new Silk Road is it will go straight through Baluchistan Province, where Pakistan is facing Islamist extremists and a separatist insurgency.
By claiming it is hosting talks between the Taliban and Afghan officials, the Chinese regime could be playing a classic game of perception management. The perception of progress would help it win support in the region, while helping it undermine support for the approaches of the United States.