Reviews | How Afghanistan Changed Taiwan’s Reckoning of China


US policy towards Taiwan is “strategic ambiguity” – there is no explicit promise to defend it against Chinese attack. In this tense environment, American policymakers and experts are feverishly considering how to make the United States commitment in Taiwan more credible and strengthen comprehensive military deterrence against China. A recent $ 750 Million Weapons Sale Proposal in Taiwan is part of these efforts, just as we talk about attractive Taiwan at a summit on democracy, which would undoubtedly provoke Beijing’s ire.

Some argued that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan undermines efforts to signal US support for Taiwan. At first glance, it may seem that the US withdrawal would be a good thing for China’s prospects in what it calls “armed reunification”. Indeed, this is the message of the Chinese nationalist newspaper The Global Times. peddles: The United States will put Taiwan aside just like it did with Vietnam, and now Afghanistan.

However, the American departure from Afghanistan creates security concerns in China’s backyard that could distract it from its competition with the United States. Beijing’s strategy to protect its global interests is a combination of host country security forces and private security contractors and free-riding the military presence of other countries. Analysts concluded that China is less likely than the United States to rely on its military to protect its interests abroad. Beijing seems determined to avoid making the same mistakes as Washington, namely overdependence on military intervention abroad to advance foreign policy goals.

Henceforth, there will be no reliable security presence in Afghanistan and undoubtedly greater instability in a region with important economic and commercial interests for China. Chinese leaders also fear that the conflict in Afghanistan could spill over the border in neighboring Xinjiang, where Beijing’s repressive tactics have already been the cause of much international stigma.

The reality is that the United States has been in Afghanistan much longer than expected. This upsets China’s calculations of what the United States would do in the event of a crisis in Taiwan, since conventional wisdom in Beijing had been that the painful legacy of Somalia Would deter Washington from coming to Taipei’s aid.

But US interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq have challenged these assumptions. Taiwan, with its proportionately large economy and semiconductor industry, is strategically important to the United States. The power and influence of the United States in East Asia depends on its allies and military bases in the region and on America’s larger role as a security partner of choice. If Taiwan were to succumb to Chinese aggression, many countries, including allies of the United States, would see it as a sign of the advent of a Chinese world order. By comparison, Afghanistan is less strategically important, yet the United States remained there for 20 years.

This does not bode well for any plans Beijing may have for Taiwan.

It is true that China would have an advantage at home given the proximity to Taiwan, and that Beijing’s arsenal is far away. higher than that of Taiwan. China, too, would likely enjoy more domestic public support for any conflict than the United States would for any other intervention.


Darcy J. Skinner

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