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China’s Diplomatic Gesture to Taliban Stirs International Debate

  • China's move to accept the Taliban ambassador's credentials is seen as a boost to the Taliban-led government, potentially influencing other regional countries.
  • A UN conference on Afghanistan is expected to address the issue of recognizing and engaging with the Taliban.
  • Afghanistan's decline in Transparency International's corruption rankings highlights ongoing challenges for the Taliban government in gaining legitimacy.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on January 30 formally accepted the credentials of the Taliban-appointed ambassador, becoming the first head of state to do so.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin clarified that the move did not mean Beijing officially recognized the Taliban government.

“Diplomatic recognition of the Afghan government will come naturally as the concerns of various parties are effectively addressed,” he said.

The Taliban, however, celebrated the move as a major diplomatic victory.

"China understands what the rest of the world needs to understand," chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, urging other countries to expand bilateral relations with his government.

Why It's Important: China’s move is a boost to the Taliban-led government, which has not been recognized by any country since the extremist group seized power in 2021.

Beijing’s expanding diplomatic ties with the Taliban government could prompt other countries in the region, including Iran and Russia, to follow suit.

Ibraheem Bahiss, an Afghanistan expert at the International Crisis Group, said Beijing’s decision suggested that the Taliban was making headway in its strategy to gain official recognition from regional countries.

Countries in the region are growing “more and more skeptical about the Western consensus that the Taliban should stay confined to pariah status on the world stage,” he wrote.

Najib Azad, an exiled former Afghan government official, said that without full diplomatic recognition from all five permanent United Nations Security Council members, Beijing’s move was meaningless.

“Until that time, it is only a PR opportunity for the Taliban to claim success,” he told Radio Azadi.

What's Next: A planned UN conference on Afghanistan later this month is expected to debate the question of Taliban recognition and engagement with the group.

The hard-line Islamist group faces major hurdles in gaining international recognition and legitimacy.

Many nations have tied recognition to the Taliban establishing an inclusive government, ensuring women’s rights, and breaking ties with extremist groups.

But the Taliban has refused to share power, severely eroded women's freedoms, and maintained links with extremist groups, according to experts.

What To Keep An Eye On

Afghanistan dropped 12 places in Transparency International’s global corruption rankings.

Afghanistan was ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in the 2023 Corruption Perception Index. Last year, the same index ranked it 150th. In 2021, under the Western-backed Afghan government, the country ranked 176th.

Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, attempted to downplay Afghanistan’s significant drop in the rankings.

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“The drop in ranking doesn’t mean that corruption has increased in Afghanistan,” he said. “But it is possible that other countries have become more transparent.”

Why It's Important: The ranking is a blow for the Taliban government, which has touted its fight against corruption as one of its major achievements.

But Afghanistan’s declining score suggests that corruption, which was endemic under the previous government, remains pervasive.

By RFE/RL 

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