With trillions of dollars in rare earth minerals underground in Afghanistan, China is eager to start working with the country’s new government: the Taliban. When news broke out that the Taliban occupied Kabul, China was ready to welcome new neighbors. A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Beijing looks forward to “friendly cooperation with Afghanistan.”
Rare Earth Metals Worth Trillions
At a Monday press conference, spokeswoman Hua Chunying talked about their neighbor. She said that China respects the will of the people in Afghanistan. “On the basis of fully respecting the sovereignty of Afghanistan and the will of all factions in the country, China has maintained contact and communication with the Afghan Taliban and played a constructive role in promoting the political settlement of the Afghan issue,” she said.
Afghanistan is home to trillions of dollars worth of rare earth minerals. These include hard-to-find elements such as lanthanum, cerium, and neodymium.
Afghanistan also holds vast veins of aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury, and lithium. This is according to Ahmad Shah Katawazai, an ex-diplomat at the Afghan Embassy in Washington DC. These rare earth minerals are key materials in electronics. electric vehicles, satellites, and aircraft. Estimates place the value of these elements between $1 to $3 trillion dollars.
Afghanistan Fell Quickly Back To The Taliban’s Hands
Afghanistan quickly fell into Taliban control during the last weekend. This was far quicker than any intelligence service foresaw. While US troops are preparing for their withdrawal, the Taliban overran the countryside.
Meanwhile, the US-trained Afghan military hardly put up a fight. As a result, the Taliban will once again hold the reins in the country.
Last month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met a Taliban delegation led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. While Beijing previously engaged with the Taliban, this meeting generated unusual publicity.
Wang called the Taliban “an important military and political force” in Afghanistan. He also said that the group will play a big role in the country’s development. Meanwhile, Baradar replied that the Taliban looks forward to working with China.
He “hopes that China will be more involved in Afghanistan’s peace and reconciliation process,” he said. Baradar also said he hopes China will “play a bigger role in future reconstruction and economic development.”
‘Dangerous Proposition For The World’
Meanwhile, Shamaila Khan, director of emerging market debt at AllianceBernstein, said that the rare earth minerals found in the country will attract interest from many countries, including China.
With exploitable resources that are a “very dangerous proposition for the world,” the Taliban can create some unlikely alliances. Khan suggested that the international community apply pressure to China if it pushes through in creating an alliance with the Taliban.
“It should be an international initiative to make sure that if any country is agreeing to exploit its minerals on behalf of the Taliban, to only do it under strict humanitarian conditions where human rights and rights for women are preserved in the situation,” Khan said on CNBC last Tuesday. “So there should be pressure on China if they are going to do alliances with the Taliban in order to generate economic aid for them — that they do it on international terms,” Khan added.
China Leads The Rare Earth Metals Race
If China manages to get access to Afghanistan’s rare earth minerals, it can hold on to its dominance. In 2019, the US imported 80% of its rare earth minerals requirements from China. Similarly, the EU depended on China for about 80% of its rare earth minerals from China.
Watch the Financial Times video explaining why China’s control of rare earth matters:
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