China is poised to deepen “friendly and cooperative” relations with Afghanistan, a government spokeswoman said Monday after the Taliban took control of the country.
Beijing has attempted to maintain unofficial ties with the Taliban during the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, sparking a surge in Islamist hardliners across the country who saw them take the capital, Kabul, on Sunday.
China shares a rugged 76 kilometers (47 mi) border with Afghanistan.
Beijing has long feared that Afghanistan could become a staging post for Uyghur separatists from the Muslim minority in Xinjiang.
But a top Taliban delegation met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin last month, promising that Afghanistan will not be used as a base for militants.
In return, China offered economic support and investment for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
On Monday, China said it “welcomed” the opportunity to deepen ties with Afghanistan, a country coveted for generations by major powers for its geostrategic importance.
“The Taliban have repeatedly expressed their hopes of developing 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 determine their own destiny independently and is ready to continue developing…friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan.”
Hua called on the Taliban to “ensure a smooth transition” of power and fulfill its promises to negotiate the establishment of an “open and inclusive Islamic government” and ensure the safety of Afghans and foreign citizens.
The Chinese embassy in Kabul remains operational, Hua said, although Beijing began evacuating Chinese citizens from the country months ago amid the deteriorating security situation.
In a statement Monday, the embassy told Chinese citizens staying in Afghanistan to “pay close attention to the security situation” and stay indoors.
US President Joe Biden promised a complete withdrawal of US troops by September 11, ending two decades of war.
But Washington was shocked by the rapid collapse of the Afghan government and the sweeping advance of the Taliban.
The Taliban have tried to reassure the international community that the Afghans should not fear them and that they will not retaliate against those who support the US-backed alliance.
The United States previously released a statement in which more than 65 countries urged the Taliban to allow Afghans to leave the country, warning of responsibility for any abuse.