The day the US left Afghanistan and the Taliban took over began, Global Times of China, its official English mouthpiece, did an editorial aimed at Taiwan. The message was very simple. Look at the US as it scampers away leaving everyone in a mess. Its allies in Afghanistan are abandoned because the US can’t afford to fight an endless war. It’s just too expensive to run such a military project.
Global Times went on to add that Taiwan should learn the message that once things get hot the US will run away from Taiwan too because the cost and practicality of permanently defending Taiwan is too high. The human costs aside, it’s not militarily realistic. So instead of running anti-mainland China propaganda, Taiwan should accept China as its reality. Of course its claim has always been to embody the real China - its official name is the Republic of China - ever since Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintant were forced to retreat to the island as the Communists swept through the mainland and founded the People's Republic of China in 1949. Now more than seven decades on, logic dictates it must merge into the mainland. It shouldn't be too difficult. In the long term it is inevitable.
That however is not the end of the story and nor is the US distanced from this reality. Observers have said that one of the reasons why the US abandoned Afghanistan is its far greater stake in the South seas than South Asia. Afghanistan had become an expensive burden without any end. All war reconstruction campaigns breed corruption and Kabul was no different. The US’s project to “construct a state” was not over ambitious but absurd and was doomed to failure. However, this went on for two decades which shows that the US has plenty of money even if it lacks strategic sense. The humiliating departure could have been handled much better.
If the exit was planned hastily due to the emerging priority of Taiwan, one hopes the reality is understood by both parties at war here. It’s in China’s backyard and far away from Washington so defending Taiwan, in case China does something like a mass invasion is not going to be easy. And there are costs to be paid which one wonders can be sustained or not.
Does China have a quality claim? Possibly, Taiwan was made “independent “ at the wish of the West when China couldn’t say much. But the fact is it has never formally declared independence, even as it has enjoyed the status of a de facto independent state. If this arrangement can be made to sustain, accommodating the grey area without belligerence, all the better. However, China has no intention of discussing what they consider their internal affairs. It’s a bit like Kashmir and the problems of 1947. The colonial powers had no idea they were planting their own problems even as they were physically departing. And now this crisis has arrived.
The US doesn’t care about Taiwan, it wants to contain China. It’s an economic war that has taken a proxy military face. And neither one can bow under pressure. However, unless nuclear weapons are used, China has overwhelming superiority in the region.
It doesn’t seem that there can be any understanding soon so the world will have to live with the ticking bomb caused by China and US’s economic rivalry. For the moment, uncertainty rages on.