The staging of the meeting said it all. In a huge room and in front of a mural of classical Chinese painting between marbles and red curtains, where two days ago the
of the US State Department, Wendy Sherman, had received this Wednesday the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi , was photographed smiling with a very bearded delegation of nine Afghan Taliban, chaired by one of the founders of that group, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The message was clear: China accepts this militia as a valid interlocutor and as part of the Afghanistan reconstruction process after the beginning of the US withdrawal.
The meeting in the city of Tianjin, the second known between Chinese authorities and the Taliban since 2019, was carried out with all the pomp that the coronavirus pandemic allows, and to the visible satisfaction of both parties.
The Afghan guerrillas, which already had excellent ties with Beijing during their time in power before the 9/11 attacks, gain crucial backing from China, whether they end up forming part of a coalition with the pro-US government - Beijing's choice. he claims to prefer - or he takes power alone.
The Xi Jinping Executive achieves, for his part, exactly what he wanted: the promise that, with the Taliban in power, Afghanistan will not lend its soil for operations by extremist groups against the neighboring country.
First defendant found guilty under Hong Kong's National Security law
Chinese and Indian troops meet again at the border
"The Taliban in Afghanistan represent a key political and military force, and will play an important role in the peace, reconciliation and reconstruction process," Wang said in a statement distributed by his ministry.
The Foreign Minister reiterated what Beijing expects from the Taliban: that they stop the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a radical Uighur group that China accuses of being active in the Xinjiang region and of wanting Perpetrate terrorist acts in order to achieve the independence of that territory, home to that ethnic minority of Muslim religion. The ETIM, the statement underlines, represents a "direct threat to China's national security."
Beijing received those guarantees.
"The delegation has assured China that it will not allow anyone to use Afghan territory against China," said Taliban spokesman Mohammed Naeem, quoted by Reuters.
"China has also reiterated its commitment to continue its assistance to Afghans and has said that it will not interfere in the affairs of Afghanistan, but will help resolve the problems and restore peace in the country."
Join EL PAÍS now to follow all the news and read without limits
The government of President Xi Jinping has followed the development of events with great interest since the United States began the process of withdrawing its troops from the neighboring country - on July 1, they left the Bagram base, on the outskirts of Kabul. . The Taliban have taken over the provinces of Kandahar and Badakhshan - where the narrow corridor of Wakhan is located, the Afghan border with Xinjiang - and already control almost half of the territory of Afghanistan, while US troops continue to support the forces of the Government.
Beijing's interest is twofold. A destabilized Afghanistan can serve as a refuge for radical Uighurs, as has happened in the past, and make it easier for terrorist groups to carry out attacks in Xinjiang, precisely when China considers that the success of its re-education campaign among the Muslim minority, which it has been carrying out since 2016, has allowed that acts of extremist violence are not detected in that region in the last five years. The attack earlier this month on a bus that killed nine Chinese engineers working on a dam in Pakistan has heightened those concerns.
On the other hand, an Afghanistan in peace and free of American troops not only confirms his thesis that the United States is supposedly an increasingly decadent power. It also allows you to protect and expand your economic interests in that nation, thirsty for investment and infrastructure. And it opens the doors for him to integrate that country into his New Silk Roads initiative, the gigantic network of infrastructures with which he intends to connect with the rest of the world. China, which is already building a highway there between Peshawar, on the Pakistani border, and Kandahar, could thus connect Kabul with the initiative's flagship project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and open an overland access route to markets such as Iran. Turkistan or Uzbekistan in Central Asia.
China has proposed a three-point peace plan for Afghanistan, and last week appointed a new special envoy for the negotiations, diplomat Yue Xiaoyong, in a sign that it seeks a greater role in the process.
The plan wants to avoid an escalation of the conflict in the Central Asian country, reestablish negotiations between the Afghan sides to achieve political reconciliation and prevent terrorist groups from taking advantage of the situation to establish themselves in their territory, as Al Qaeda did during the 1990s. .
Wang himself traveled to Tajikistan two weeks ago to participate in a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a forum for regional security cooperation, and to try to unite positions on Afghanistan with neighboring countries in Central Asia.
While in Tianjin Beijing and the Taliban approached positions, in New Delhi parallel geopolitical movements were registered. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his Indian counterpart, Subramanyan Jaishankar, to strengthen relations with a giant strategically located next to Afghanistan and China, at a time when Beijing and New Delhi are seeing their relations affected by border tensions. .