China has extended a hand of ‘friendly relations’ to the Taliban in Afghanistan following the fall of Kabul, the AFP News Agency reports.

This will make China the first country to recognize the Taliban-led government barely 24 hours after it took control of the country’s capital Kabul in quickened advance by the Islamist hardliners across the country since the US started withdrawing its troops from the two-decades-long war.

Afghanistan has long been coveted generations after generations by world big powers for its geo-strategic importance and China being the top rival of the US in this era is seeming to build a bug interest.

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Since the US troops’ withdrawal started earlier this year, Beijing has sought to maintain unofficial ties with the Taliban. This is as Beijing long feared Afghanistan could become a staging point for minority Uyghur separatists in the sensitive border region of Xinjiang.

China shares a rugged 76-kilometre (47-mile) border with Afghanistan.

Last month, a top official of the Taliban met with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin, assuring that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militants.

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In exchange, China offered economic support and investment for Afghanistan’s reconstruction.

Welcoming the new development on Monday, China said it wants the chance to deepen ties with Afghanistan.

“The Taliban have repeatedly expressed their hope to develop good relations with China, and that they look forward to China’s participation in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

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“We welcome this. China respects the right of the Afghan people to independently determine their own destiny and is willing to continue to develop… friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan.”

Hua called on the Taliban to “ensure a smooth transition” of power and keep its promises to negotiate the establishment of an “open and inclusive Islamic government” and ensure the safety of Afghans and foreign citizens.

China’s embassy remains operational in Kabul.

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