Taliban Takeover Wins Mixed Reviews, Backlash on China's Internet

Comments expressing support for the armed movement spark angry responses from other netizens.
By Qiao Long
2021.08.18
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Taliban Takeover Wins Mixed Reviews, Backlash on China's Internet A Taliban fighter holds RPG rocket propelled as he stands guard with others at an entrance gate outside the Interior Ministry in Kabul, Aug. 17, 2021.
AFP

The Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan has prompted mixed reactions on and offline in China, with some deploring attempts by online commentators to play down the Taliban's attitude to women, as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) tried to present the victorious armed movement as a potential ally for Beijing.

An anonymous post -- since deleted -- on the Twitter-like platform Sina Weibo described "very good feelings" about the Taliban, "although I know, I know ... that tens of millions of women and girls will now be deprived of the right to education."

Comments hit out at the post, with one user remarking sarcastically "I know they're inhumane, but I still support them," and another saying the poster was "full of infinite wishful thinking about the Taliban."

User @Aoki_momo said the post was likely the result of the government's recent cancelation of out-of-school tutoring. "It's done so much damage, not allowing catch-up classes during the summer vacation," the user said, while @Nuitinacheve4 advised "Just turn on the TV and watch the news."

@Actually, my name is Nicky just remarked: "What kind of bullshit is this? Nonsense."

Comments supporting the Taliban have become widespread on China's tightly controlled internet, garnering a new nickname, "Jingta," or "Taliban in spirit," with a vocal backlash against them also visible.

Maoist strategy credited

Other comments suggested similarities between the CCP victory in mainland China in 1949 and the current Taliban victory.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with a Taliban delegation in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin on July 28, 2021, where the head of the Taliban's political commission Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar told Wang that Taliban "will never allow any force to use the Afghan territory to engage in acts detrimental to China."

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Aug. 16 that China is maintaining contact and communication with the Taliban and playing "a constructive role" in a political settlement for Afghanistan.

She said the Taliban had also welcomed potential Chinese participation in Afghanistan's reconstruction and development.

The official CCP newspaper, the People's Daily, published an opinion piece on Aug. 17 suggesting that the Taliban had won by means of military tactics espoused by late supreme Chinese leader Mao Zedong, who recommended "surrounding the cities from the countryside."

"Aren't you going to mention their religious fundamentalism?" one commenter wrote underneath the People's Daily article. "How about the stonings, and the fact that women have to cover up apart from their eyes?"

"How about a feature showing us if women are no better than sex slaves under Taliban rule?"

'Talibanization of people's thinking'

Another comment referenced the Taliban's blowing up of the giant Buddha statues in Bamiyan in March 2001.

"A lot of my friends are comparing the Taliban's taking of Kabul to the victorious end to the Chinese revolution in 1949," an anonymous Chinese internet user told RFA. "There is a kind of Talibanization of people's thinking in China right now, which is new," the internet user said.

An online commentator surnamed Tian said there is a huge amount of variation in Chinese public opinion regarding recent events in Afghanistan.

"I might see it as the lesser of two evils, even if the Afghan people didn't really want this, but had it thrust upon them," Tian said. "That doesn't mean I support the Taliban's actions; they are definitely against universal values."

An independent scholar surnamed Kong said he doesn't believe the Taliban's promises of freedom for women and forgiveness for all.

"We can't yet tell whether these remarks from the Taliban ... are just rhetoric or represent a genuine change of course," Kong said. "But we can say that a political movement that wins control of a country by force is inevitably going to use force to maintain that power."

"Political power comes from the barrel of a gun," Kong said, quoting Mao Zedong. "So they will have to use guns to defend that power."

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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