Q&A: Afghan Weibo Blogger Targeted by China’s Taliban Trolls
(Bloomberg) -- As an Afghan who blogs in Chinese on Weibo, Jalal Bazwan has recently been attacked by nationalist trolls in China for his critiques of the Taliban.
The 29-year-old doctorate candidate at China’s Zhejiang University talked to Bloomberg News from Kabul about the Chinese view of Afghanistan, as Beijing prepares to embrace the new regime partly to prevent terrorism at home.
When did you start on writing on Weibo?
I began around 2014, but I really only started to post regularly when during the pandemic I got stuck in Kabul after leaving China to visit my family. My goal was to educate Chinese people about Afghanistan. A very small number of people in China know about Afghanistan. Chinese people regularly asked me: “Is it in Africa? Are you a terrorist? Why is Afghanistan a terrorist haven?”
Why were Chinese trolls so angry when you posted about the Taliban?
Chinese people strongly believe in the conventional wisdom that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” So they think Taliban are enemy of America and America is out there harming China, so why would somebody come and talk against Taliban. But they don’t know the complex relations of America and the Taliban.
Some Chinese threatened me that if I come back to China they we will beat me. I’m not scared of anyone like that. Those reactions didn’t impact my love for the people that have been buddies to me in China.
Were you surprised by Chinese impressions of Afghanistan?
Once when I was in Nanjing University, I was talking to a professor over lunch. He told me that the Afghanistan issue will be solved if Sharia law is applied in Afghanistan. I was shocked, and I looked at him, and asked: “If you love that Sharia law so much, why you don’t let the Xinjiang people apply Sharia law? He was shocked, and said: “This is Communist China.”
I replied: “This moderate Afghanistan.” The Afghans of 1990s and the Afghans of 2000s are totally different. Nobody wants Sharia in this country.
Do you think a more moderate Taliban is likely -- and can they honor their promises made to China?
I am looking forward to them proving that they change and moderate. But for the moment there is a lot of problems with the Taliban because when their spokesman comes to press conferences and says: “Yes, we’re trying to make an inclusive government and we’re talking to all parties so that every Afghan could see themselves in this government.”
But then another leader comes and says: “No, we’re establishing a sole emirate and we’re not going to make anything like a Republic of Afghanistan, or give power to some people.”
I think the reason why the Taliban will fulfill their promises is that they’re in dire need of legitimacy and recognition. But I will let time decide.
Do you foresee terror attacks coming over China’s border with Afghanistan?
Maybe for three or four years there’ll be peace in Afghanistan, but that won’t be everlasting. If the Taliban fail in making an inclusive government and bringing security forces back to their jobs and regaining the trust of the people, then again Afghanistan is going to be the safe haven of the global jihadists. Thousands of ISIS prisoners have been released, but it will take time for them to reemerge.
Do you think China should play a bigger role in Afghanistan’s future?
Afghanistan has witnessed so many great powers, they keep coming here. So maybe the people already know that China someday will also step up and come here. But everybody wishes that this should not be in the same way the American, the Soviet Union, the British came. It should be based on mutual relations and direct investment.
Any words of advice for China in Afghanistan?
Afghanistan is a quagmire. You should give full attention to that. From learning and talking to the Chinese, they think the Afghan issue is so simple. But I don’t think so. Afghanistan is not that simple. It’s not so superficial as the Taliban came to power and everything will be fine and prosperous. It will never be like that.
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