The Taliban welcomed Zhao Sheng as China’s new ambassador to Afghanistan in a lavish ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul on Wednesday.
China is among a handful of countries, including Pakistan, Iran and Russia, that have maintained a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan since the Taliban regained control of the country in 2021.
At the palace ceremony, Taliban Prime Minister Mohammad Hasan Akhund shook Zhao’s hand and “accepted the credentials of the new Chinese ambassador,” the prime minister’s office said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“The honorable Prime Minister of the Islamic Emirate thanked the Chinese leadership for the appointment of Mr. Zhao Sheng as ambassador and expressed the hope that this appointment would elevate the diplomatic relations between the two countries to a higher level and open a new chapter. ” Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said in the statement.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Zhao said China was “a good neighbor of Afghanistan” and “fully respects Afghanistan’s independence, territorial integrity and independence in decision-making.”
Zhao added that China does not have a policy of interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs and does not want Afghanistan to “become its zone of influence.”
The Taliban prime minister said relations between the two countries were “at a good level” and “expressed his hope to take more steps to further strengthen bilateral relations”, according to Mujahid.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the appointment corresponded to “a normal rotation of the Chinese ambassador to Afghanistan” and that it “aims to continue to advance dialogue and cooperation” between the two countries. .
The ministry said: “China’s policy towards Afghanistan is clear and consistent.”
China, Afghanistan’s neighbor which is investing heavily in the region, has been cautious about the potential security challenges posed by the abrupt return of the Taliban after the US withdrawal in August 2021.
Since then, Chinese officials have focused on strengthening cooperation with Afghanistan, as well as other regional neighbors, on issues such as anti-terrorism cooperation, “economic collaboration” and strengthening “regional stability and development”.
In May, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan pledged to strengthen their trilateral security and counter-terrorism ties at a meeting of foreign ministers of the three countries in Islamabad.
Speaking at the meeting, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang said China attaches “great importance to friendship with Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
During the meeting, the three parties notably agreed to cooperate on China’s Belt and Road trade and infrastructure program, through which China has invested heavily in the region.
They also agreed to forge closer economic ties by extending the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan “to promote connectivity, improve cross-border trade, strengthen economic integration of the three countries and to achieve sustainable development.
CPEC is a $60 billion flagship Belt and Road project that connects China’s western Xinjiang region to Pakistan’s strategic port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea through a network of roads, paths iron, pipelines and power plants.