Chinese state-run tabloid the Global Times has warned that Taiwan could share the same fate as Afghanistan if it continues to depend on the US for “protection.” The editorial raised eyebrows over the parallels it appears to draw between Beijing and the Taliban, which is considered a radical terrorist organisation by much of the west.

Monday’s editorial came shortly after Taliban forces returned to power in Kabul, as the US withdrew its troops after two decades of war against the extremist group.

global times
Photo: Global Times, HKFP remix.

The collapse of the Afghan government and the arrival of Taliban forces prompted desperate scenes at Kabul airport, with video footage showing crowds attempting to board carrier planes to flee the country.

“The situation in Afghanistan suddenly saw a radical change after the country was abandoned by the US. And Washington just left despite the worsening situation in Kabul. Is this some kind of omen of Taiwan’s future fate?” the Global Times editorial read.

It also called into question the “credibility and reliability” of the US.

“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. As a result, the DPP authorities will quickly surrender, while some high-level officials may flee by plane,” it continued, in reference to the island’s Democratic Progressive Party leadership.

Beijing claims Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy, as a renegade province and has vowed to “unify” the island by whatever means necessary, including the use of force. The US, meanwhile, has adhered to a policy of ambiguity towards Taiwan’s status, maintaining unofficial relations and continuing arms sales to its government.

Taiwan US
Photo: Taiwan President Office, via Flickr.

The paper further warned Taiwan that it should distance itself from Washington to avoid war: “They should keep cross-Straits peace with political means, rather than acting as strategic pawns of the US and bear the bitter fruits of a war.”

Monday’s editorial was published alongside another article entitled “Afghanistan today, Taiwan tomorrow?,” quoting an op-ed from Taiwan news outlet United Daily News that questioned whether the US will “abandon” Taiwan after Kabul.

Beijing has frequently lashed out at unofficial US relations with Taiwan, which it considers an affront to its sovereignty. Tensions over Taiwan’s status have increased as relations between Beijing and Washington have soured over human rights concerns in China and the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Founded in 1993, the Global Times is a state-run tabloid under the Communist Party’s flagship paper the People’s Daily. The tabloid is known for its hard-line editorials. Some analysts say the paper does not necessarily represent Beijing’s official line.

‘Not Afghanistan’

The warning was met with raised eyebrows by some Taiwan watchers and politicians, as comparing Afghanistan and Taiwan may draw parallels between Beijing and the Taliban.

Taiwan Presidential Office Spokesperson Kolas Yotaka tweeted that “lazy comparisons between Taiwan and Afghanistan ignore the realities of both countries, and show little regard for the immense human suffering facing many in Afghanistan today.”

Meanwhile, Wen Lii, the Director of the Democratic Progressive Party’s Chapter in Lienchiang County, said parallels drawn between Taiwan and Kabul were “confusing.”

taiwan jet
Photo: PLA.

“If we’re going to make Afghan comparisons, Taiwan survived that moment 40+ years ago. US troops left Taiwan in 1979 after recognizing the [People’s Republic of China]… So no, Taiwan is not Afghanistan,” he tweeted.

He added that the phrase was a “profoundly confusing statement in itself, since the very people trying to suggest this would definitely refuse to compare China to the Taliban.”

Following the Taliban’s takeover on Monday, Beijing issued a statement saying it was ready to deepen “‘friendly and cooperative” relations with the group.

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Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.