The Chinese government seems to have defined terms and conditions to the Taliban for Beijing’s support in forming a new government in Afghanistan. Issues like human rights and women’s rights are not on China’s priority list. Even as Taliban fighters face resistance in the Panjshir Valley from the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, China is believed to have already communicated its expectations to the new Afghan government. On Sunday, August 23, the Taliban announced that it would soon form a new government in Afghanistan, one week after seizing control of the state capital Kabul.
China, which has been closely watching unfolding developments in Afghanistan, has made it clear to the Taliban that the protection of China’s national interests must remain paramount. China’s own interests must be the starting point for Beijing’s review of the ever-changing situation in Afghanistan. China has no interest in reforming Afghanistan, nor does it have the strength to do so.
Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for women cannot be primary conditions for developing relations with the new regime in Afghanistan. On August 23, the same day the Taliban announced that it would soon form a new government, the CCP’s mouthpiece the Global Times, reported in an op-ed that it would be “impulsive and irrational to decide whether to develop relations with the new regime in Afghanistan” based on these conditions alone.
In the op-ed, Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin suggests that “human rights diplomacy” is often used as a geopolitical lever by countries like the U.S. “Muslim-majority countries such as Iran and Syria are much more secular than Saudi Arabia. But the U.S. has never attacked human rights issues, including women’s rights issues, in Saudi Arabia. Yet the Americans have pointed their finger at similar problems in Iran and Syria as an excuse for U.S. intervention.”
Ironically, China has never cared about the rights of its own people. How can anyone expect the Chinese government to talk seriously about the rights of people in other countries? Last week, China’s national legislature formally endorsed the three-child policy proposed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in a major policy shift to prevent a steep decline in the birthrate of the world’s most populous country. The CCP had approved a relaxation of its strict two-child policy to allow all couples to have three children. As early as 2016, China permitted all couples to have two children, scrapping the draconian decades-old one-child policy, which policymakers blame for China’s current demographic crisis. The Chinese government did not consult women’s groups or women’s rights activists when replacing the one-child policy with the two-child policy and now the three-child policy. Reproductive rights should be the sole prerogative of women and not the government.
China has rarely attached importance to human rights issues. A recent study revealed that China’s popularity in developed countries had seen a major fall due to how the CCP has been mistreating minority groups and the excessive restrictions on freedom and human rights. According to the study conducted by the Pew Research Center, people have a negative outlook towards China because of the attitude of Xi Jinping’s regime towards the freedom and human rights of its citizens. Many survey respondents believe China has failed to provide and respect the freedom of its own people. They believe that China practices poor freedom and rights. In its latest report, Human Rights Watch accused the Chinese government of committing crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the northwest region of Xinjiang. According to the report, “the Chinese leadership is responsible for widespread and systematic policies of mass detention, torture, and cultural persecution, among other offenses. Coordinated international action is needed to sanction those responsible, advance accountability, and press the Chinese government to reverse course.”
China is believed to have asked the Taliban to maintain distance from the U.S. and other foreign forces. Beijing reportedly told the Taliban, in clear terms, that the new Afghan government “should refuse to act as a pawn for those forces and jeopardize China’s strategic interests.”
The Global Times op-ed stated that China was under no obligation to clean up the messy situation created by the United States’ failed Afghanistan policy. On the contrary, the communist newspaper said that Beijing would “observe the Taliban’s rule” and “should open up the channels of contacts with the Taliban and prepare for advancing China’s national interests in the future situation in Afghanistan.”
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that China, which has been secretly backing a brutal Taliban insurgency across Afghanistan in exchange for help in oppressing Uyghur insurgents, has left little choice for the Taliban but to act as a stooge of China in Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan and the rest of the world should remember this historical fact: There are countries that mistreat people of other countries while protecting their own citizens, but there is never a country that treats people of other countries well while mistreating its own citizens.
• Dr. Jianli Yang is founder and president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China and the author of For Us, The Living: A Journey to Shine the Light on Truth.