China Sends First Ambassador to Afghanistan Since Taliban Takeover

China formally presented its new ambassador to Afghanistan, Zhao Xing, to Taliban Prime Minister Mullah Hassan Akhund in the capital city of Kabul on September 13. This makes China the first country to send an ambassador to Afghanistan since the Taliban took power in 2021 after United States forces withdrew from the country.

“It is a place of honor for me to start my work as the Chinese ambassador to Afghanistan,” Zhao said. “I will try to strengthen China-Afghanistan relations and cooperation in politics, economy and other fields.” Zhao also said China fully respects Afghanistan’s independence and territorial integrity.

China’s interest: Afghanistan is in a key region for Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, a planned network of global infrastructure that connects the world to Beijing. China has taken advantage of the power vacuum caused by America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, investing in the nation’s natural resources, particularly its vast lithium deposits.

By being the first to name an ambassador post-takeover, China aims to position itself as an influential actor in the region—a possible diplomatic flexing of muscles, especially when many Western countries are still hesitant to engage with the Taliban.
–Farwa Aamer, director of South Asia Initiatives at Asia Society Policy Institute

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s chief spokesperson, said that the new appointment “signals to other countries to come forward and interact with the Islamic emirate.”

The Trumpet says: America’s shameful withdrawal from Afghanistan broadcast U.S. weakness to the world. And it opened the door for China and Russia to extend their influence in the region. In the October 2021 Philadelphia Trumpet, we wrote:

Who are the main victors of America’s chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal? At first glance, it may look like the Taliban came out on top. … But in the broader geopolitical picture, the even bigger winners are China and Russia. …

[T]he bottom line is that as a result of the United States’ chaotic withdrawal and the ineptitude demonstrated by the Biden administration, both countries are growing more influential in Afghanistan, and stand to become far more influential throughout Central Asia.

Learn more: Read “Why Russia and China Are Rejoicing.”