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China ready to deepen ties with Taliban as part of great game against West

China ready to deepen ties with Taliban as part of great game against West

China on Monday said it is ready to deepen "friendly and cooperative" relations with Afghanistan under the new Taliban leadership in what appears to be part of Beijing’s  great game to wield bigger geopolitical influence in the region.  

"The Taliban have repeatedly expressed their hope to develop good relations with China, and that they look forward to China's participation in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

"We welcome this. China respects the right of the Afghan people to independently determine their own destiny and is willing to continue to develop friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan."

Also read:  Taliban wraps up war in Afghanistan, head for full political control

The Chinese leadership’s English mouthpiece, Global Times, on Monday referred to the humiliation of the US in Afghanistan. The article also talked of China's interest in 'post-war' reconstruction of Afghanistan.

China shares a 76-kilometre border with Afghanistan, and has always harboured the fear that the country could be used as a staging point to support Muslim minority Uyghur separatists in Xinjiang.

A top-level Taliban delegation, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin last month, and gave the assurance that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militants.

Also read:  Who are the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and why are they giving Islamabad a big headache?

In exchange, China offered economic support and investment for Afghanistan's reconstruction. 

The Wakhan Corridor links China's restive Xinjiang province with Afghanistan's Badakshan province. Its location is crucial for the security and viability of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key part of China's larger Belt Road Initiative (BRI). The port of Gwadar in Pakistan is the beginning of this corridor and the Wakhan corridor marks the entry point for CPEC into China.

With the US and western powers pulling out of the region, China is keen to fill this gap and extend its influence in the region.

China also has long-term economic ambitions in Afghanistan as it is eyeing the large deposits of copper, lithium and rare earth mineral resources.

Various rare earth elements are used for crucial components in electric cars, fighter jets and electronic goods such as smartphones cameras, computer disks and TVs.

 Lithium is a key component in building the lithium-ion batteries that power everything from mobile phones to electric vehicles to new generations of submarines.

China has already emerged as the world’s leading player in rare earth metals and would like to consolidate its position further and prevent other countries from catching up as it is getting increasingly isolated worldwide.