At a moment China’s military is holding extensive drills that include submarines, aircraft, and warship maneuvers near Taiwan – and as the world beholds this week’s chaos unfold in the wake of a botched US evacuation from Kabul – the White House has been prompted by shaken allies in Taipei to address its “commitments” in the region.
A Tuesday statement vowing unwavering support to Taiwan’s autonomy and democracy also comes as Chinese state media and officials essentially gloat over America’s Afghan failure and subsequent retreat. “We believe that our commitments to our allies and partners are sacrosanct and always have been,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told a press briefing.
He referenced US backing of Israel in the Middle East as well: “We believe our commitment to Taiwan and to Israel remains as strong as it’s ever been,” he said. In a reference to east Asia tensions he asserted that “it’s a fundamentally different kind of situation.”
Additionally White House press secretary Jen Psaki addressed the topic and critics of America’s “standing” in the world after the Afghan debacle: “Our message is very clear,” she said. “We stand by partners around the world who are subject to this kind of propaganda that Russia and China are projecting. And we’re going to continue to deliver on those words with actions.”
Chinese state media especially has been on the assault, calling Washington’s Afghan adventure a precursor to what Taiwan can expect, saying that it too will be “abandoned” by the Americans. For example early this week state-run English language Global Times featured an op-ed which included this opening:
Abandonment by an imperialist US: It is quite natural for a gambler to quit and cut their losses when bets and investments go sour. So it was with colonialism, and so it goes again with modern American expeditions as both were and are still fueled by opportunism, not necessity. Using factual history as a guide, will the fate of Taiwan island be any different?
A number of former diplomats and analysts in the region believe China will now get more aggressive in “testing” how far it can go in provocative military maneuvers near Taiwan and muscle-flexing in general.
Very revealing question from White House press corps, asking what US withdrawal from Afghanistan means for people in Taiwan and Israel
— Anya Parampil (@anyaparampil) August 17, 2021
Likely this is also what’s driving the major PLA military drills in waters off Taiwan this week, something which the Pentagon is said to be monitoring closely.
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Rabobank observes that “The international hit to the US image is palpable.”…
Meanwhile, the geopolitical backdrop remains very much in the foreground. The US, and many other countries, still have tens of thousands of citizens and visa-holders trying to get out of Afghanistan against a Taliban-imposed deadline of 9/11 for the US troops keeping an semblance of order to leave. The White House appears unsure if it can get all US citizens out in time and what will happen if it cannot. President Biden may be back on holiday.
The international hit to the US image is palpable. Politico reports shock in the EU, where Angela Merkel’s likely replacement is calling it “The greatest debacle that NATO has experienced since its foundation”. A former advisor to the UK Prime Minister also tweets “…it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee…The lesson for Europeans is clear: whoever is President, the US is unlikely to offer the same support that it used to in parts of the world where its vital interests are not involved.” Which, as noted yesterday, is only one of two ‘Biden Conditions’, the second being “Will you fight with the US?”