China appoints Afghanistan special envoy as it prepares to play greater role after US troop withdraw

An Afghan militia fighter keeps a watch at an outpost against Taliban insurgents. China has said it wants to make contact with “all sides” in the conflict. Photo: AFP

China has appointed Yue Xiaoyong, a veteran diplomat with experience in the US and Middle East, as its new special envoy to Afghanistan.

Yue is replacing Liu Jian, who was only appointed to the post a year ago. Diplomatic observers said his appointment was a signal that Beijing was willing to play a greater role in the country following the US troop withdrawal

“China has always been proactively involved in and pushing for the Afghan peace process,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in Beijing on Wednesday.

“[Yue] is a seasoned diplomat … he will establish contacts with all sides as soon as possible.”

Yue Xiaoyong stepped down as ambassador to Ireland in 2019. Photo: Handout

Yue previously served as head of the political section of the Chinese embassy in Washington and as a deputy director of the foreign ministry’s planning department.