Is the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan a sign for Taiwan?

by Sami Burgaz
city skyline at night time
By Safiye ERGUN

The sudden withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan yielded China a propaganda backing regarding Taiwan. This discourse coincided with air and naval drills launched by the Chinese military, who sent fighter jets and warships to the vicinity of Taiwan in response to what it called the “repeated collusion in provocation” by Washington and Taipei.

The U.S. has been labelled as a fading global power in recent years by the Chinese Communist Party. In this respect, the withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan was in favour of China. The Chinese state-led news agency Xinhua shared in a commentary that:

“The fall of Kabul marks the collapse of the international image and credibility of the U.S. (…) Following the blows of the global financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, the decay of American hegemony has become an undisputed reality. Its failure in Afghanistan is another turning point in that spiral fall.”

On the other hand, the Global Times (GT) –another Chinese state-led news agency, characterized the events that unfolded in Kabul as the “unreliability of US commitment to its allies” and warned the Taiwanese of the possibility that Taiwan could face the same fate as Afghanistan one day.

An another analysis published in GT, expressed that,  “once a war breaks out in the Taiwan Straits, the island’s defence will collapse in hours and the U.S. military won’t come to help.

With these news and commentaries published by the Chinese side, the discussions spread in social media whether the U.S. would indeed come to the island’s defence in case a war erupts.

Hu Xijin – is a Chinese nationalist editor, tweeted:

He added that “if the US gets involved in a war over Taiwan, it has even less chance of success, and will involve bottomless costs. (…) Just think how many American soldiers’ lives would be spent on Taiwan and how many trillions of dollars.”

Lawrence Chung – a reporter at the South China Morning Post, stated that “The circumstances may differ, but some observers say that Washington will ultimately look after its own interest.” He highlighted the fact that “within weeks of American troops ending their mission in Afghanistan, the country has fallen to the Taliban.”

The comparison between Afghanistan and Taiwan is rejected by the Taiwanese authorities and some commentators as well. In a conference, the Taiwanese Premier; Su Tseng-Chang confronted the Chinese threats directly, stating that Taiwan’s leaders are “not afraid of being killed or imprisoned” by “powerful countries that want to swallow up Taiwan using force.

In addition, politicians in Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DDP) also dismissed attempts to draw parallels between Taiwan and Afghanistan, saying such comparisons are annoying. Wen Lii – a local ruling party official, stated:

“If we are going to make Afghan comparisons, Taiwan survived that moment 40+ years ago. US troops left Taiwan in 1979 after recognizing the PRC [People’s Republic of China]. (…) So no, Taiwan is not Afghanistan.”

 “The circumstances and national security priorities in Afghanistan and a Taiwan Strait contingency are so dissimilar,said Jessica Drun – a non-resident fellow at the U.S. based Project 2049 Institute.

As a result, Taiwan and Afghanistan are quite different in terms of both their political history and their position in international law in terms of legitimacy. Associating the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan with the Taiwan issue would be reductive against the developments in Afghanistan and would not fit the academic comparison method.

However, turning this issue into a propaganda tool has been an opportunity for China to once again declare its determination towards Taiwan.


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