There will be far-reaching consequences of President Joe Biden’s decision to abruptly pull U.S. forces out of Afghanistan — and the ripple effects may already be reaching Taiwan.
According to The Guardian, China began conducting live-fire air and sea military exercises Tuesday near the southwest and southeast parts of the island nation supposedly spurred on by “external interference and provocations by Taiwan independence forces.”
The communist nation’s People’s Liberation Army directed aerial and naval resources to the area, including fighter jets, anti-submarine aircraft and warships, according to its spokesperson for the Eastern Theatre Command, Col. Shi Yi.
These exercises are part of an ongoing campaign that’s lasted two years and is meant to intimidate Taiwan as it asserts its own sovereignty over China’s claim of the island as a territory, Reuters reported.
In this most recent exercise, the PLA sent six J-16 fighter jets and two H-6K bombers — which are capable of delivering nuclear weapons — among the 11 Chinese planes that invaded Taiwan’s air defense zone.
The Taiwanese Defense Ministry claimed it had to scramble jets to chase the Chinese aircraft away, though it’s likely the close proximity is no accident.
“In addition to seeking air supremacy over Taiwan, they have also been conducting frequent electronic reconnaissance and electronic interference operations,” a senior official familiar with national security in Taiwan told the news outlet.
A statement from the PLA justified the military’s actions by claiming that Taiwan and the U.S. “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 U.S. has continued to ally with Taiwan, recently providing $750 million in howitzer artillery weapons — the same type now in the hands of the Taliban thanks to Biden’s hasty exit from Afghanistan.
Though these types of exercises have been ongoing, China’s state-run news outlet, the Global Times, directly linked the timing with the recent fall of Afghanistan and parlayed it into a cautionary tale for the Taiwanese Democratic Progressive Party.
“The US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan has led to the rapid demise of the Kabul government,” an editorial titled “Afghan abandonment a lesson for Taiwan’s DPP” began.
“The world has witnessed how the US evacuated its diplomats by helicopter while Taliban soldiers crowded into the presidential palace in Kabul. This has dealt a heavy blow to the credibility and reliability of the US,” the article pointed out.
The piece went on to compare aspects of the U.S. withdrawal from the Vietnam War to the recent desertion of Afghanistan, a point many have noted.
Despite promises from Biden that it wouldn’t happen, the aftermath in Kabul looked eerily similar to the evacuation of Saigon as diplomats were airlifted from the U.S. embassy, as seen in a side-by-side comparison tweet by journalist Stefan Simanowitz.
PHOTO 2: US diplomat evacuate US from embassy via helicopter as the PAVN & Viet Cong capture of Saigon, Vietnam (1975) pic.twitter.com/YamWmzjOay
— Stefan Simanowitz (@StefSimanowitz) August 15, 2021
The Global Times piece continued by asserting that Taiwan is strategically, militarily and economically less important to the U.S. than Afghanistan, thus making any aid from America even less likely should tension turn to war.
“Once a cross-Straits war breaks out while the mainland seizes the island with forces, the US would have to have a much greater determination than it had for Afghanistan,” the article continued.
“From what happened in Afghanistan, they should perceive that once a war breaks out in the Straits, the island’s defense will collapse in hours and the US military won’t come to help,” the communist nation’s media mouthpiece also said.
It’s hard to argue with the Chinese communist state-run media when the withdrawal has been an unmitigated disaster for the Middle Eastern nation while also humiliating the U.S. and breaking our allies’ trust — and now we’re left to contend with the Biden effect.
The world is in a precarious position now that the U.S., which functioned as a mostly benevolent superpower and a stabilizing force through our perceived and real military might, has shown itself to be a paper tiger.
No more can we assert that America’s philosophy is peace through strength when we look as weak as ever — and I suspect the trouble is only beginning with Kabul and Beijing.