Young Chinese People Respond to Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan

By Siyuan Meng, August 24, 2021

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Chinese netizens are closely monitoring the latest developments in Afghanistan after the Taliban toppled the US-backed government and seized control of the nation’s capital, Kabul. 

As you might imagine, opinions on the subject are divided.

Some people have leaned into the rhetoric that the US has a history of hypocrisy regarding foreign policy, with nationalistic comments highlighting the US withdrawal as an America loss in US-China geopolitical competition.

Other netizens expressed their concerns about the living conditions of ordinary people in the aftermath of the upheaval. 

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Taliban fighters in Kabul on August 17. Image via Wikimedia

At the same time, some have shared their worries that Afghanistan could return to its oppressive past under the Taliban – with women’s rights potentially taking a significant hit.

“The points that I am most concerned about for the future of Afghanistan are women’s right to work, basic human rights, as well as women’s free access to education”

On Chinese microblogging platform Weibo, Afghanistan-related hashtags have climbed to the top of the trending list in recent days, including #Taliban arrives at the capital# and #The president of Afghanistan allegedly took away USD169 million#

The hashtag #Taliban fighters are playing bumper cars at the amusement park# had received more than 110 million views on the site at the time of writing.

“The reason why we support the Taliban is that it drained the US and chased the American army away, but it is not like we support the Taliban completely. After all, the Taliban is a very religious (even extreme) group,” reads one of the most liked comments under a related hashtag. 

The commentary continues, “How the Taliban will govern Afghanistan is their country’s internal affairs. What we care about is that Afghanistan should not export terrorists, refugees and drugs.” [The comment has since been deleted.]

Another Weibo user had a different perspective, writing, “Having expectations for terrorists is the most absurd thing,” a reference to the initial set of promises made by the Taliban. These promises included not manufacturing drugs and allowing women to work and receive an education.

“The points that I am most concerned about for the future of Afghanistan are women’s right to work, basic human rights, as well as women’s free access to education,” says a woman nicknamed Jin, a news reporter based in Shanghai. 

“I also hope they won’t support extremist terrorist groups such as the Eastern Turkistan Liberation Organization. In addition, if [the Taliban] ever becomes a legitimate governing body, I hope it can find a suitable development path for itself – then we can all develop together.”

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Female host Beheshta Arghand interviews Mawlawi Abdulhaq Hemad, a close member of the Taliban’s media team, about the latest developments in Kabul as well as house-to-house searches. Image via @TOLOnews/Twitter

As someone exposed to the news daily at work, Jin believes public opinion on the information out of Afghanistan might not be balanced. 

“Regarding the current Afghanistan news in China, I believe many people lack the necessary context. Overwhelmed by the extensive coverage and discussion online, some people are pretty lost,” adds Jin.

“Non-Afghan and external parties should avoid having strong opinions on this issue, as a country should always be governed by its own people”

Xie Jiezhong, 27, who works as an engineer in the South-Central Chinese city of Changsha, holds a more conservative view. 

She tells us, “Non-Afghan and external parties should avoid having strong opinions on this issue, as a country should always be governed by its own people.”

Xie’s opinion is shared by many others, likely due to the Chinese government’s official stance that it does not interfere with the internal affairs of other countries. 

In response to the collapse of the Afghan army, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, stated on August 16 that China “respects the will and choice of the people in Afghanistan.”

On July 29, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the political chief of the Taliban, generating enormous international speculation about how China will navigate the Taliban’s return.

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China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, stated on August 16 that China “respects the will and choice of the people in Afghanistan.” Image via Wikimedia

“I think the Taliban has secured support from most of the people [in Afghanistan],” says BruceWest (also a nickname), who will study software engineering as a sophomore student in the northwestern city of Lanzhou this autumn. 

“Think about it, why have the Taliban not been destroyed? Why did the Afghan government fail to resist? Maybe the Taliban can offer people something that the previous government could not give.”

“My impression of the Taliban was stuck in the past”

Xie and BruceWest told us that their primary sources of news are state media outlets and Weibo. Both of them listed fundamental human rights and women’s rights in Afghanistan as areas of concern.

Dan Chen, a Chinese international student who currently studies in California, tells us that he was shocked to hear about the Taliban’s victory. 

“My impression of the Taliban was stuck in the past.”

Regarding the nationalist narrative online, Chen believes people who only view this event as a failure of US foreign policy are missing the bigger picture. 

“They fail to see the pain of individual citizens. What happens in Afghanistan now is a very complicated issue that has rich historical context.”

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A US aircraft transporting 823 Afghans – including 183 children – from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul after the Taliban takeover. Image via Wikimedia

[Cover image via Wikimedia]

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