Every Wednesday there will be a direct flight between Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and Urumqi, the capital of the neighboring Chinese region of Xinjiang. According to media reports, this was announced by the Taliban Deputy Minister for Transport and Civil Aviation.
China joins countries like Russia, Iran, Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia, which have gradually resumed direct flights with Afghanistan since the fall of Kabul in August 2021. The Chinese state and party leadership has not yet officially recognized the Taliban government since taking power in 2021, but is getting closer.
Fear of losing control in the border region
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang has already met twice with Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in the past two months, once together with his counterpart from Pakistan. The three countries want to develop economic relations with each other and integrate Afghanistan into China’s New Silk Road infrastructure project.
According to observers, China fears instability in the border region with Afghanistan and is therefore interested in relations. Afghanistan and China share a 76-kilometer border in northwest China, bordering China’s Xinjiang region, home to the Uyghur Muslim minority.
From a Chinese perspective, the greatest threat to national security is the influx of radical Islamic terrorism from Afghanistan and support for an independence movement in Xinjiang. Fearing a loss of control, the Chinese state and party leadership has set up a massive surveillance apparatus in the Xinjiang border region in recent years. According to estimates, 1.5 million Uyghurs were temporarily locked away in re-education camps.