China has pounced on the United States’ botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, using it to threaten the island of Taiwan.
The Taliban has swept aside the US-backed government in Afghanistan, and now controls the capital, Kabul, along with most major provincial cities.
The past 24 hours have been marked by disturbing scenes at Kabul International Airport, where thousands of Afghans have swarmed the tarmac in a desperate attempt to flee. Seven of them have died, including people who tried to cling onto US planes and fell from the sky.
The Global Times, a state-affiliated tabloid newspaper, is published by the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, The People’s Daily.
In an editorial published today, The Global Times suggested America’s abandonment of Afghanistan after 20 years was an “omen” for Taiwan’s “future fate”.
China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province, and has vowed to “unify” it with the mainland. The territory’s democratically elected leaders say it’s a sovereign state.
Officially, the US considers Taiwan’s status undetermined, but is opposed to any attempt by China to force it into unification. It has sold defensive military equipment to Taiwan and established an “American Institute”, an embassy in all but name, on the island.
The editorial argued that the situation in Afghanistan had “dealt a heavy blow to the credibility and reliability” of the US.
“How Washington abandoned the Kabul regime particularly shocked some in Asia, including the island of Taiwan,” it wrote.
“Taiwan is the region that relies on the protection of the US the most in Asia, and the island’s Democratic Progressive Party authorities have made Taiwan go further and further down this abnormal path.
“The situation in Afghanistan suddenly saw a radical change after the country was abandoned by the US. And Washington just left despite the worsening situation in Kabul. Is this some kind of omen for Taiwan’s future fate?
“(DPP politicians) must have been nervous and felt an ominous presentiment. They must have known better, in secret, that the US is not reliable.”
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From that point onwards The Global Times became even less subtle, talking openly about the prospect of a war breaking out across the Taiwan Strait.
“Once a cross-strait war breaks out as the mainland seizes the island with force, the US would have to have a much greater determination than it had for Afghanistan, Syria and Vietnam if it wants to interfere,” the paper said.
“A military intervention of the US will be a move to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, and this will make Washington pay a huge price rather than earn profit.
“Some people on the island of Taiwan hype that the island is different from Afghanistan, and that the US wouldn’t leave them alone. Indeed, the island is different from Afghanistan. But the difference is the deeper hopelessness of a US victory if it gets itself involved in a cross-strait war.
”In the past two decades, the Kabul government cost over 2000 US soldiers, $US2 trillion, and the majesty of the US against the ‘bandits’. But how many lives of US troops and how many dollars would the US sacrifice for the island of Taiwan?
“Will the US get more moral support from within and from the West if it fights for the secession of Taiwan than it did during the Afghan War?
“The DPP authorities need to keep a sober head, and the secessionist forces should reserve the ability to wake up from their dreams. From what happened in Afghanistan, they should see that once a war breaks out in the strait, the island’s defence will collapse in hours and the US military won’t come to help.
“As a result, the DPP authorities will quickly surrender, while some high-level officials may flee by plane.”
That last bit is presumably an allusion to the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled Afghanistan shortly before the Taliban overran Kabul.
“The best choice for the DPP authorities is to avoid pushing the situation to that position,” said The Global Times.
“They need to change their course of bonding themselves to the anti-Chinese mainland chariot of the US. They should keep cross-straits peace with political means instead of acting as strategic pawns of the US and bearing the bitter fruits of a war.”
The editorial was among a series of pieces the Chinese tabloid has published in the past 48 hours delighting in the Taliban’s victory.
“Defeat in Afghanistan is a complete humiliation for the US,” said one column.
“The defeat will have major implications across the world. It brings into question the competence of its political and military leadership, its willingness to engage in further military entanglements, and its reliability and commitment as an ally.
“If it can make such a huge miscalculation and suffer such a catastrophe in Afghanistan, then who is going to trust its judgment in East Asia or the South China Sea?”
You get the picture.