The jingoistic rhetoric coincided with air and naval drills launched Tuesday by the Chinese military, which sent fighter jets and warships near Taiwan in response to what it called the “repeated collusion in provocation” by Washington and Taipei.
“Following the blows of the global financial crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic, the decay of the American hegemony has become an undisputed reality. Its failure in Afghanistan is another turning point in that spiral fall,” it added.
Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately since the end of a civil war more than seven decades ago, in which the defeated Nationalists fled to Taipei. But the Chinese Communist Party views Taiwan — a democratic island of around 24 million people — as an inseparable part of its territory, despite having never controlled it.
Arthur Ding, an international relations professor at National Chengchi University in Taipei, called Beijing’s propaganda messaging on Afghanistan “cheap psychological warfare,” noting it was intended to convey the US’ alleged unreliability, especially to Taiwan’s more receptive opposition supporters who favor closer ties with Beijing.
For decades an uneasy status quo governed cross-strait relations. But under President Xi Jinping, China has increased military activity around the island, in response to what it considers to be growing calls for formal independence.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, discussions have broken out across Taiwanese social media in recent days as to how the government in Taipei would respond in the event of a Chinese invasion, and whether the US would indeed come to the island’s defense.
So much so, that on Tuesday, Taiwan’s premier publicly stressed the island would not collapse like Afghanistan if invaded. In a press conference, Premier Su Tseng-chang appeared to confront the Chinese threats directly, saying Taiwan’s leaders are “not afraid of being killed or imprisoned” by “powerful countries that want to swallow up Taiwan using force.”
Politicians in Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DDP) also dismissed attempts to draw parallels between Taiwan and Afghanistan, saying such comparisons are inherently fraught.
The State Department also announced in April that the agency had “issued new guidelines for US government interaction with Taiwan counterparts to encourage US government engagement with Taiwan that reflects our deepening unofficial relationship.”
On Tuesday, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted “joint fire assault and other drills using actual troops” off the southwest and southeast of Taiwan, according to a statement from the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command.
“Recently, the US and Taiwan have repeatedly colluded in provocation and sent serious wrong signals, severely infringing upon China’s sovereignty, and severely undermining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” the statement said. “It is a solemn response to external interference and provocations by Taiwan independence forces.”
Though many have speculated the abrupt announcement of the PLA drills was likely timed to accompany Beijing’s propaganda messaging on Afghanistan, Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, said the scale of the drills suggested some degree of prior planning, rather than being tied to a specific event.