Hundreds of American diplomatic personnel and thousands of helpless, scared afghanis cram Kabul’s International Airport with the fleeting hopes that they will somehow abandon their country before they fall into Taliban hands. While Biden still tries to get a grip on his first major foreign policy failure, China has already sent clear messages about what will be the next major challenge to the embattled American president: Taiwan.
The Global Times, the Chinese Communist Party quasi-official media outlet, authored an incendiary editorial earlier today warning the democratic government of Taiwan that “once war breaks out in the Straits, the island’s defense will collapse in hours and the US won’t come to help” a chilling statement that signals how Beijing will use the disaster at Kabul as a talking point aimed at demoralizing America’s allies and signal their own strength.
The editorial piece asked the Taiwanese government if America’s rapid withdrawal and how it “abandoned” its afghan ally was an “omen” over the future of the island. The CCP-affiliated media argued that American assistance to Taiwan was only profit-based and that the US would not have the will to aid democratic Taiwan as it would make “Washington pay a high price rather than earn a profit”.
China is amping up its rhetoric against Taiwan
The stern article by the CCP propaganda outlet comes at a perilous time for both the United States and Taiwan. While the scenes in Kabul are a devastating blow to American prestige and morale, the Chinese government has made more open and aggressive moves against the Taipei government.
Just a couple of months ago, in June, Beijing sent a record number of 28 fighter jets to Taiwan’s airspace, a clear challenge and warmongering positioning against the independently governed island. This military provocation is not a new thing, as the Chinese government has repeatedly made sorties like this over the last couple of years on an almost daily basis.
Taiwan has been under independent control since the end of the Chinese Civil War when Chiang-Kai Shek’s nationalists fled to the island to escape Mao Zedong’s victorious communist armies. Since then, Beijing has stated that recapturing Taiwan is one of its core foreign policy objectives with Chinese Commuistleade Xi Jinping promising “reunification” between mainland China and Taiwan on the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Chinese Communist Party.
Taiwan is not the only area where China has developed an expansionist policy, with the People’s Liberation Army has constructed a large swath of artificial islands in the South Chian Sea and staffing them with military outposts, in a naked attempt of expanding its military and territorial claims in the key waterway.
China has also decided to break the international agreement signed with Britain in the late 1990s that ensured the autonomy of Hong Kong by passing a sweeping national security law in the city and quickly proceeding to imprison the city’s democratic activists and political leaders. While China has infamously maintained a repressive apparatus against the Muslim Uighur population in Xinjiang, a practice that the U.S has qualified as “genocide”.
Biden’s four foreign policy crises
President Biden has already faced at least four major foreign policy challenges: a rise in tensions between Russia and Ukraine earlier this year, violent exchanges between Israel and Hamas, massive protests in Cuba, and now a complete meltdown in America’s longest war.
The president solved the first question by meeting with Putin, ordering U.S military ships en route to the Black Sea to withdraw and abandon the long-lasting U.S policy against the building of the Nordstream 2 pipeline. In the Israeli conflict, he finally decided to provide assistance to the Tel-Aviv government after some days of delay and intra-party controversy. In Cuba, he made public statements supporting the Cuban people’s fight for freedom albeit he has yet to implement more harsh measures against the la Habana regime.
With Afghanisthan, the results are there for all to see: with a disastrous and hasty retreat leading the Taliban to completely overrun the country and with American troops struggling to get their own personnel out of falling Kabul while desperate afghans cling to military aircraft with some even fell to their deaths.
How will Biden then respond to a potential Chinese challenge on Taiwan? Will he accommodate Beijing as he has done with Putin? will he give only rhetorical lip service to the Taipei government? Will he coordinate a botched military operation like Afghanistan? or will he commit American resources to aid a strategically crucial ally?
Both the Taiwanese government and American allies in the region expect Biden would choose the latter if Beijing attempts anything to undermine the autonomy of Taiwan, however, Biden’s current track record on crisis management makes it difficult for anyone to think that the President will take this course of action.