China backs Taliban efforts to end opium production

The Taliban have long made use of the drug trade to finance their decades-long war with the United States.
An Afghan farmer in a poppy field

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday applauded efforts by the Taliban to eliminate the production of poppies in its territory.

“China appreciates the measures taken by the Afghan interim government [Taliban],” said Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian at a press conference, according to Afghanistan's TOLO News.

“We stand ready to further deepen counter-narcotics cooperation with Afghanistan and other regional countries to safeguard the healthy and tranquil life of all our peoples,” Zhao added. Afghanistan is the worldwide leader in producing opium poppies and opium.

The Taliban officially banned the production of opium poppies on Sunday as well as the "use, transport, trade, export and import of all types of narcotics." Any such crops found in the country "will be destroyed immediately and the violator will be treated according to the Sharia law," per Islamic Emirate authorities.

Zhao went on to deride the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, saying “[t]he two decades of US presence in Afghanistan is two decades of death and displacement of innocent Afghan civilians and two decades of unchecked local drug proliferation."

The Taliban meanwhile, have long made use of the drug trade to finance their decades-long war with the United States, according to Foreign Policy.

Farmers have expressed the economic need to keep up production of opium.

“There is no other business," said farmer Khan Mohmmad, per TOLO. "If this business is allowed, a lot of people will be working."

Chinese concerns about Afghan opium production are rooted in part from the country's devastating experience with the crop in the 19th Century during which Chinese efforts to curtail the drug's consumption and sale prompted major conflicts with western powers and spelled catastrophe for the Qing Empire ruling from Beijing.