A Taliban-led Afghanistan will receive money as part of China’s New Silk Road initiative, the group’s chief spokesman said Thursday.
“China is our most important partner and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us, because it is ready to invest and rebuild our country,” Zabihullah Mujahid told La Repubblica, according to an Al Jazeera translation. China is also expected to maintain its embassy in Kabul, and could become one of the first countries to recognize the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan. (RELATED: Chinese Foreign Minister Encouraged Secretary Of State Blinken To ‘Positively Guide’ Taliban)
Only Saudia Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates recognized the Taliban when it controlled Afghanistan from 1996-2001.
“China is our most important partner and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us,” the Taliban spokesperson said. “China is our pass to markets all over the world.” So much for that economic leverage strategy @PressSec. https://t.co/po8DhDKKMZ
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) September 2, 2021
Biden administration officials have repeatedly claimed leverage over the Taliban, asserting that if the group wants access to financial markets and the international community, it will have to respect the rights of women and allow Afghans to leave the country.
However, participation in the New Silk Road initiative would allow the Taliban to largely bypass American and European markets in favor of trade with China. More than 60 countries already participate in the initiative, and China could spend as much as $1.3 trillion on it by 2027, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
Describing China as “our pass to markets all over the world,” Mujahid added that Afghanistan’s “rich copper mines” could “be put back into operation and modernized… thanks to the Chinese.”
Afghanistan’s total mineral wealth could be worth more than $1 trillion, some geologists estimate. The country has some of the largest Lithium deposits in the world, and is believed to have major gold and iron caches as well.
Chinese government officials have telegraphed a relationship since the Taliban took Kabul on Aug. 15.
“China will continue to support peace [and] reconstruction in Afghanistan, and do our best to help it with economic [and] social development,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao said on Aug. 18.