China said Tuesday that the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan after a 20-year conflict was a signal that the country has “turned a new page” after Beijing criticized Washington’s chaotic exit.
China has repeatedly criticized what it sees as a hasty and ill-planned US withdrawal and has said it is ready to deepen “friendly and cooperative” relations with the Taliban after their takeover.
The United States completed its military withdrawal from Afghanistan on Monday, ending its longest war with cries of shame at home and celebratory gunfire in Kabul from the Taliban.
“Afghanistan has been able to free itself from foreign military occupation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular briefing.
“The Afghan people have ushered in a new beginning for national peace and reconstruction, and Afghanistan has turned a new page.”
The Chinese embassy in Kabul remains operational, although Beijing began evacuating Chinese citizens from the country months ago as security deteriorated.
But Beijing has not yet recognized the Taliban as the de facto government, and is wary of the terrorist group supporting Muslim minority Uyghur separatists seeking to infiltrate Xinjiang’s sensitive border area.
“We hope that Afghanistan will form an open, inclusive and broadly representative government… and act decisively against all types of terrorist forces,” Wang said.
A top Taliban delegation met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin last month and pledged that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for terrorists.
For Beijing, stable and cooperative governance in Kabul would pave the way for an expansion of its overseas infrastructure drive, analysts say.
Meanwhile, the Taliban may view China as a vital source of investment and economic support.
Chinese companies have also been monitoring Afghanistan’s massive copper and lithium mines, but experts say the dangerous security situation means an immediate influx of raw materials from investors is unlikely.