The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and the resulting chaos represents a “complicated situation” for China, a Cornell professor told CNBC.
“At one level, what is happening in Afghanistan could be seen as a victory for China because it suggests the US has many weaknesses in terms of its intelligence services … productive purposes,” said Eswar Prasad, a professor of trade policy at Cornell University in New York, opposite CNBC “Street Signs Asia” on Tuesday.
America’s “long and unproductive engagement” in Afghanistan has been a “black eye” for US foreign policy, said Prasad, who previously headed the International Monetary Fund’s China division.
“This is sure to knock the US down once or twice in the eyes of the rest of the world, though it is far from clear that the outcome in Afghanistan will by itself … drive every country deeper into China’s economic and political embrace. “He said in a separate email.
Afghanistan fell under Taliban control when the militant Islamist group captured the capital, Kabul, more than a week ago. The Taliban have made rapid progress across the country since the US began withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan before the August 31 deadline.
I think Beijing will probably be happy in the short term – but who knows, it could have some problems in the long run.
It was Prasad
Professor of Trade Policy, Cornell University
Concern in Beijing about resurgent Taliban
A takeover of the Taliban could also create problems of its own for China, said Prasad.
In Beijing, there are legitimate concerns about what a resurgence of the Taliban and other extremist groups could mean for the internal stability of China, as “it is hard to imagine that this does not extend beyond the border in one way or another,” he said.
Read more about developments in Afghanistan:
There are two possible scenarios with extreme possibilities, said Victor Gao, vice president of the Center on China and Globalization.
One is that the Taliban welcome reform and peace, and the other is that the Taliban are returning to their old ways – to what they were 20 years ago, Gao told CNBC on Tuesday.
“This will pose a great threat to the people in Afghanistan, but also to neighboring countries and regions such as China’s Xinjiang region, and will put many people in danger.”
Prasad added, “So I think Beijing will probably be happy in the short term – but who knows, in the long run it may have some problems.”
Chinese media have cast a negative light on the US withdrawal. The Chinese state media Global Times published an editorial on Monday blaming the withdrawal of US forces for the defeat of the Afghan government.
‘Void’ left by US deduction
The hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan also raises some questions, stressed Cornells Prasad.
“The question arises whether – even if the US makes a short-term commitment to a particular country or region – the commitment can be sustained or is credible in the longer term, and whether the commitment is in a very messy fashion, as we are currently seeing”, he said.
Meanwhile, there are questions about who will fill the vacuum that the “weak” American engagement has left in the region, said Prasad.
“The question is whether there is an alternate power that can fill the void that could arise from the exercise of weak American commitments or weak American ability to meet those commitments.”
– CNBC’s Abigail Ng and Natasha Turak contributed to this report.