China’s ‘Taliban’ rhetoric triggers a Taiwan backlash

Taipei warns Beijing that the island will not collapse like Afghanistan amid invasion fears

China’s Communist Party has been accused of trying to “emulate the Taliban” with threats to invade Taiwan.

In a stark assessment of Beijing’s ultimate aim, the island’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu has talked about a battle pitting “democracy” against “authoritarianism.”

President Xi Jinping’s regime has constantly acted as a playground bully, vowing to reunite democratic Taiwan with the “motherland” by force if necessary. 

Writing on Twitter in response to the US Department’s call for China to stop intimidating the island, Wu stressed what was at stake.

“They include democracy [and] freedom from communism, authoritarianism [and] crimes against humanity,” he said.

“China dreams of emulating the Taliban, but let me be blunt: We’ve got the will [and] means to defend ourselves,” Wu added, without elaborating further.

Last week, China’s state-run media warned that if the US can walk away from the crisis unfolding in Afghanistan, Washington can turn its back on Taiwan.

“Will the US abandon Taiwan? We believe that as long as the mainland’s strength continues to grow and has a firm will to unify, then there is no doubt the US is doomed to eventually abandon Taiwan,” Global Times, owned by the official Party newspaper, the People’s Daily, said in an editorial entitled Why the US will abandon the island of Taiwan.

What is at stake:

  • China claims more than 90% of the South China Sea by flouting international law.
  • The PLA Air Force and Navy have stepped up “exercises” around Taiwan this year.
  • Beijing has also increased operations in the Taiwan Strait and the broader South China Sea.
  • Taiwan has become a bastion of democracy.
  • It also has a high-tech economy, including a cutting-edge semiconductor or chip industry.
  • Public opinion has never favored unification.
  • But in the past 18 months, Taiwan’s population has grown more hostile towards Beijing.

Red menace: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has repeatedly warned the CCP against invading Taiwan. “It would be a serious mistake for anyone to try to change that status quo by force,” he said in an interview with the NBC network earlier this year.

Circling the battlewagons: The PLA Navy is now the largest in the world. In April, China commissioned three more state-of-the-art warships. They included a Type 055 destroyer and the country’s first Type 075 amphibious assault ship. The other vessel was a Type 09IV nuclear-powered strategic ballistic missile submarine.

Delve deeper: “Since 2019, Xi has rejected diplomatic flexibility in offering Taiwan a political deal. At the same time, his Communist Party regime has crushed Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and ripped up the “One Country, Two Systems” model. That decision has hardened pro-independence sentiment to historical highs on the island.

Big Picture: “The rapid fall of the US-backed Afghan government has sparked a heated debate in Taiwan about whether they could suffer the same fate to a Chinese invasion, while state media in China has said Kabul’s fate showed Taiwan it cannot trust Washington,” Reuters news agency reported at the weekend.

China Factor comment: The unthinkable is now being routinely discussed. China’s over-confident and increasingly nationalistic government might just decide the time is right to invade Taiwan. That scenario would have been dismissed as ridiculous a decade ago but not anymore. Back in March, Admiral Philip Davidson, the head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, told Congress that Xi appeared to be accelerating his plan to take Taiwan.