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Unsure China seeks US help to ‘guide’ Taliban in Afghanistan

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi with the visiting Taliban delegation led by head of the Afghan Taliban Political Commission Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Tianjin, last month (All images courtesy: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China)

China, which has praised the Afghan Taliban for being "more clear-headed and rational than it was in power last time", suddenly finds itself on shaky ground. A more circumspect Beijing is now urging "all parties", including the United States, to "make contact" with the new regime in Kabul and also "guide it actively".

China's State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in a phone conversation with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken – held "at the latter's request" according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry – on Sunday exchanged views on the situation in Afghanistan and also the China-US relations.

"Secretary of State Antony J Blinken spoke today with PRC State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi about the importance of the international community holding the Taliban accountable for the public commitments they have made regarding the safe passage and freedom to travel for Afghans and foreign nationals," said Ned Price, the US State Department spokesperson in a brief statement on the call.

However, China released more details of the phone conversation saying that Blinken expressed his understanding of and "respect for China's concerns" on the Afghanistan issue.

China Afghanistan Taliban

A file photo of Antony Blinken with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi

Blinken, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that at a critical moment when the withdrawal and evacuation of the US military from Afghanistan is nearing the end, the US believes that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) should speak in a clear and unified voice to show that the international community expects the Taliban to ensure the safe evacuation of foreign citizens and the Afghan people's access to humanitarian assistance, and guarantee that Afghan territory cannot become a hotbed of terrorist attacks or a safe haven for terrorism.

Wang Yi said that the situation in Afghanistan has undergone fundamental changes, and it is necessary for all parties to make contact with the Taliban and guide it actively. He said that the United States, in particular, needs to work with the international community to provide Afghanistan with urgently-needed economic, livelihood and humanitarian assistance, help the new Afghan political structure maintain normal operation of government institutions, maintain social security and stability, curb currency devaluation and inflation, and embark on the path of peaceful reconstruction at an early date.

The Chinese Foreign Minister stressed that facts have proved again that the Afghanistan war never achieved the goal of eliminating terrorist forces in Afghanistan and that the hasty withdrawal of the US and NATO troops is likely to offer an opportunity to various terrorist groups in Afghanistan to resurge.

"The United States, on the premise of respecting Afghanistan's sovereignty and independence, should take concrete actions to help Afghanistan combat terrorism and violence, rather than practicing double standards or selectively fighting terrorism," Wang Yi told Blinken.

Saying that the US side clearly knows the causes of the current chaotic situation in Afghanistan, the State Councilor added that any action to be taken by the UNSC "should contribute to easing tensions instead of exacerbating them" and contribute to a smooth transition of the situation in Afghanistan rather than a return to turmoil.

China Taliban

It is not for the first time that Beijing has spoken in support of the Taliban. A few days after the Taliban takeover of Kabul, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying had said that "China maintains contact and communication" with the Afghan Taliban.

Wang Yi also told Blinken that if the US side also hopes to bring bilateral relations back on the right track, it should stop blindly smearing and attacking China, and stop undermining China's sovereignty, security and development interests.

"Dialogue is better than confrontation, and cooperation is better than conflict. The Chinese side will consider how to engage with the United States based on its attitude towards China. The US side should take seriously the two lists China has put forward to the United States, as well as the three basic demands as bottom lines that China firmly upholds," he said.

Opposing the investigation report on Covid-19 origins tracing produced by the US intelligence community recently, the Chinese Foreign Minister said that politicizing origins tracing is "a political burden left by the former US government" and the sooner the US side "unloads this burden" the easier it will be to get out of the current predicament.

It also urged the United States to "stop politicizing" the Covid-19 origins tracing, "stop putting pressure on the World Health Organization", and "stop interfering with and undermining the international community's solidarity against the pandemic and the global scientific cooperation" on origins tracing.

"Blinken said the United States has no intention of blaming any country for the origins tracing of Covid-19. As major countries, both the United States and China have responsibilities to provide all necessary information, thoroughly investigate the origins of the virus and avoid the recurrence of a pandemic. The United States is willing to stay in touch with China in this regard," said Wang Yi's office.

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