Netizen Voices: Hu Xijin’s Taliban Friendship Comments Criticized

A spokesperson’s claim that China is a “friend” incited an online furore after nationalist Chinese media figures shared the statement approvingly. “We have been to China many times and we have good relations with them,” the Taliban spokesperson said, adding that “China is a friendly country that we welcome for reconstruction and developing Afghanistan.” Guancha, a nationalist website financed by the venture capitalist Eric X. Li, published a report on the spokesperson’s statements. Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of Global Times, shared Guancha’s article on Weibo as an example of China’s diplomatic prowess: “China’s line has made us Kabul’s friend, while the Taliban also take us for friends. The most important thing is we will forever be Afghanistan’s friends.” A number of Weibo users reacted to Hu’s post with disgust, interpreting it as an endorsement of friendly relations with the Taliban. One compared the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas to Red Guards’ destruction of the Qufu Confucius Temple during the Cultural Revolution.

@Chlrone: Friends of terrorists?

@陆晚晚晚晚: Whoever torments their own is my friend.

@伊布拿起一块布: These guys says the Taliban is their old friend, yet their wife and kids are all in the West

@风一样的沙龙: We’re doomed! Even internationally-recognized terrorists claim we’re their old friends.

@韭莱开花割了高: One likes to destroy Confucian temples, the other likes to Buddhas. Who says they have nothing in common? You better believe they were made for each other. [Chinese]

A number of Muslim-majority countries have remained conspicuously silent on China’s persecution of Uyghurs—a dynamic highlighted in a recent interview of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan—in exchange for Chinese investment. The Taliban seems to have adopted a similar strategy vis-à-vis Uyghur rights. Yaroslav Trofimov and Chao Deng at The Wall Street Journal looked at the Taliban’s pledge to remain silent on Uyghur persecution in the hope of securing more investment:

With the American withdrawal nearly complete, China’s clout in the region is growing, in part through Beijing’s strategic relationship with the Taliban’s main backer, Pakistan. China is also becoming increasingly influential in the Central Asian states that border Afghanistan to the north. Aware of Beijing’s sensibilities, all these countries have long steered clear of condemning the mass incarceration of fellow Muslims in Xinjiang and other human-rights abuses there.

[…] “The Taliban want to show China good will,” said Qian Feng, head of research at the National Strategy Institute of University in Beijing. “They hope that China can play a more important role, especially after America pulls out its troops.”

[…] “We care about the oppression of Muslims, be it in Palestine, in Myanmar, or in China, and we care about the oppression of non-Muslims anywhere in the world. But what we are not going to do is interfere in China’s internal affairs,” said a senior Taliban official in Doha, Qatar, where the group’s political office is based. [Source]

The Financial Times’ Stephanie Findlay, Christian Shepherd, and James Kynge reported on talks held between Chinese authorities and the Taliban:

Beijing has held talks with the Taliban and although details of the discussions have been kept secret, government officials, diplomats and analysts from Afghanistan, India, China and the US said that crucial aspects of a broad strategy were taking shape.

An Indian government official said China’s approach was to try to rebuild Afghanistan’s shattered infrastructure in co-operation with the Taliban by channelling funds through Pakistan, one of Beijing’s firmest allies in the region.

[…] Another diplomat in the region said: “China at the request of Pakistan will support the Taliban.” [Source]

A Global Times opinion piece claimed the Wall Street Journal piece was an attempt to “sow discord between Beijing and the Taliban” as the two groups consider rapprochement. Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told Global Times, “Obviously, the Western media was attempting to stir up troubles between the Taliban and Beijing, but the Taliban won’t easily fall into the trap.”

Translation by Anne Henochowicz

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