Ian Williams, a former foreign correspondent in Britain and the US as well as the author of Every Breath You Take: China’s New Tyranny, wrote an article for The Spectator: ‘China’s Great Game in Afghanistan’, which the magazine posted on August 22.

Although China will have to deal with the Taliban, with whom they have been negotiating, Joe Biden’s withdrawal of troops will leave the door wide open for further expansion of the country’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The BRI would be able to extend from China through Afghanistan directly to a BRI country, Pakistan.

Furthermore, last week, I wrote about China’s plans for global expansion, with which a more established presence in Afghanistan will certainly help, especially with regard to minerals such as lithium and copper.

Ian Williams’s article explains what could happen with a volatile mix of China, Pakistan and the Taliban (emphases mine):

Neighbouring Pakistan is the biggest recipient of China’s BRI funds – it has received an estimated £45 billion splashed on roads, railways, ports and other infrastructure. Chinese diplomats talk of Afghanistan becoming an extension of this, with Pakistan also acting as a political conduit to the Taliban. Islamabad was the group’s main backer when they were last in power, from 1996 to 2001, and harboured its leaders when out of power. But Islamabad’s influence over the Taliban is often exaggerated, and Pakistan itself has been plagued by religious extremism and occasional violence. Last month, nine Chinese engineers working on a dam project were killed in a bus explosion in the Kohistan district of Pakistan.

Beijing fears instability on its doorstep more than anything else. Ironically, it has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the stabilising presence of the US and its allies. Chaos in Afghanistan will threaten its projects in Pakistan and other central Asian states. It also fears a spill-over of radicalism into Xinjiang province, which shares a narrow border with Afghanistan, and where the repression of the Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities has been labelled as genocide by the United States and many other western politicians. Beijing has reportedly sought assurances from the Taliban that they will cut ties with the East Turkistan Liberation Movement (ETLM), which Beijing blames for attacks in Xinjiang (which the Uyghurs call East Turkistan).

While Uyghur militants have appeared in Afghanistan, most independent observers believe their number and influence is exaggerated by Beijing, which uses a very wide definition of terrorism to justify its clampdown. That said, it is not unreasonable to assume the Taliban takeover will inspire opposition – even armed resistance – to oppressive Chinese rule in Xinjiang. After all, the Taliban are a bunch of militant Islamists, and Beijing’s actions across their shared border constitute an attempt to eradicate the culture and religion of an entire Muslim ethnic group and turn them into obedient Chinese citizens – the most comprehensive assault on Islam in the world today. Piles of BRI dollars have blinded Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan to that reality, but even the most pragmatic of Taliban might not so easily be bought off.

However, it would appear that China, whilst cautious, has a plan to counter potential terror, including:

a hastily arranged joint ‘anti-terrorism exercise’ in neighbouring Tajikistan, which shares an 835-mile border with Afghanistan. Chinese and Tajik forces took to the hills outside the capital Dushanbe, while in a letter to his Tajik counterpart China’s minster of public security said, ‘The current international situation is changing and the regional counterterrorism situation is not optimistic.’

Also:

it does raise the question of whether chaos in Afghanistan could lead to the involvement of Chinese security forces there and in the region more broadly. In some ways this is already happening – the Tajikistan exercises are the latest example of this. Beijing already deploys what have been described as private security contractors to protect projects in Pakistan, although these groups are far more closely linked to the state than is the case with western contractors.

One cannot help but think of last year’s reports on Joe and Hunter Biden’s previous involvement with China. Did that involvement inform Joe’s precipitous decision to withdraw from Afghanistan or was it just incompetence?

In any event, it could signal the decline of the United States as a superpower, just as the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 put paid to its superpower status. I truly hope that I am wrong with that assessment.