The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban following the retreat of US forces has made headlines all over the world. In China, national propaganda has characterized the messy withdrawal and chaotic evacuation of troops and civilians as an embarrassment and further proof that US global leadership is in decline. Meanwhile, Chinese nationalists raised doubts over the United States’ reliability as a security ally and warned that Taiwan could be abandoned by the US just like Afghanistan.
The propaganda belies China’s anxiety over the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan. This is exemplified by the tightened control of online discussions. For example, censors deleted a Chinese translation of a letter by Afghan filmmaker Sahraa Karimi pleading to the international community to pay attention to the plight of women and girls in her country, and a Weibo post by People’s Daily was hastily removed after it was criticized for whitewashing the terrorist group.
China is keen to promote its foreign policy of non-interference in domestic politics and peaceful co-existence as the model going forward to engage with Afghanistan, while China’s state media attempts to rebrand the Taliban in a positive light. CGTN quoted China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi praising the Taliban for sending positive signals to the world and a former Chinese minister called the war-torn country a goldmine for Chinese developers and investors. Stock prices of Chinese construction firms rose on prospects of taking part in rebuilding Afghanistan.