A new reality for Beijing in South and Central Asia

Reid Standish

The Taliban has tak-en over Afghanistan and for the first time in 20 years, there are no US forces in the country. But is this dramatic change in the region a big win for Beijing?

Finding Perspective: It’s not so straightforward, as I explained here in this article about how China views the current state of affairs in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has signaled that it is willing to play ball with Beijing, especially when it comes to monitoring and denying sanctuary to any Uyghur militant groups. But beyond that, China is treading cautiously. Multiple experts that I’ve spoken with from China, South Asia, and the West all see Beijing focused on limiting risks rather than chasing opportunities in Afghanistan.

This is partly because of the wave of uncertainty that has been released across the region. The Taliban toppled a fragile government in Kabul, but it too now faces the difficult task of governing Afghanistan. A major question is also how events in Afghanistan will ripple out elsewhere, especially when it comes to emboldening and providing a home base for militant and terrorist groups that also operate in Pakistan and Central Asia.

On August 20, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), a Pakistani militant group, launched an attack on Chinese transports in Gwadar. Reports diverge on the casualties figures, but the attack is the fourth high-profile incident this year targeting Chinese interests in Pakistan.

Why It Matters: All this shows that Beijing is n-ow preparing for a reshaped geopolitical map and a new era of security risks in South and Central Asia.

The pace of attacks against Chinese ventures in Pakistan has accelerated, pointing to how as China rises on the global stage, it attracts the focus of terrorist organizations.

How Beijing will navigate this new reality is an open question and one that Chinese policymakers are currently grappling with. China wants to project power, but there is an underlying fear of becoming sucked into the conflicts that Beijing watched the United States wrestle with for decades.

Leave a Comment