Chinese media claims US will abandon Taiwan like Afghanistan

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Hundreds of people run alongside USAF C-17 transport plane as it moves down runway of Kabul airport on Aug. 16. Hundreds of people run alongside USAF C-17 transport plane as it moves down runway of Kabul airport on Aug. 16. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Chinese state-run media attempted to draw parallels between the U.S.’ relationship with Taiwan and Washington’s precipitous abandonment of Kabul in a series of op-eds on Monday (Aug. 16).

China’s state-operated mouthpiece the Global Times published a series of opinion pieces seeking to capitalize on the catastrophic capitulation of the Afghan government to Taliban guerillas and the chaotic evacuation of the Kabul airport. In one article, titled “Afghanistan today, Taiwan tomorrow? US treachery scares DPP,” the tabloid claimed that given America’s track record of abandoning allies, Taiwan cannot count on the U.S. in the event of an attack by China.

The newspaper cited an anonymous “internet user” in Taiwan as saying “Yesterday’s Saigon, today’s Afghanistan, and tomorrow’s Taiwan?” The authors interpreted this to mean that the “so-called alliance” between Taiwan and the U.S. is nothing but an empty promise that will eventually “leave the Taiwan people hurting alone.”

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University, was cited as saying that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is a “warning to the Taiwan secessionists, or, rather, a forecast.” Li asserted that if Taiwan, “misled by secessionists,” continues on a path to directly confront China, the U.S. “will cast Taiwan aside just as it has done with Vietnam, and now Afghanistan.”

The article cited “observers” as doubting the geopolitical value of Taiwan to the U.S. and raised doubts about the costs the Biden administration is willing to bear for the “interests of Taiwan secessionists” compared to the time and resources invested in Afghanistan.

Jin Canrong (金燦榮), associate dean of Renmin University of China’s School of International Studies, was quoted as saying that “Those who have a clear mind should understand that Taiwan residents can’t rely on the US,” and while conceding that the situation in Taiwan is different, Jin asserted: “there’s one thing in common — America’s empty promise.”

The authors cited “one media outlet in Taiwan” as saying that there are now doubts in Taiwan as to whether the U.S. will honor its commitments and use military force in the country’s defense. The unnamed outlet allegedly stated that the U.S. commitment is now “full of question marks” given Washington’s “blurry” policy toward Taipei and its “snap decision on Afghanistan.”

Political commentator and member of the People First Party, Lee Zheng-hao (李正皓), on his Facebook page on Monday, said that China is nervous because now that the U.S. has left behind 20 years of involvement in Afghanistan, it can concentrate its military power and resources on countering the communist country for the next 20 years. He described attempts by Chinese state-run media to compare Taiwan to Afghanistan as “too far from the facts” and stressed that he “can’t stand this kind of false statement.”

US conservatives claim China ’licking chops’ at Taiwan after fall of Kabul

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TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Conservative commentators in the U.S. are suggesting that the fall of the Afghan government following a precipitous retreat of U.S. forces from the country will embolden China to move forward with its plans to conquer Taiwan.

Even before the unconditional withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan ordered by President Joe Biden is complete, every major city across the country has fallen like dominoes to Taliban guerillas. By Sunday evening (Aug. 15), they were in control of the presidential palace.

The New York Times on Friday (Aug. 13) cited French defense analyst François Heisbourg as asserting that the U.S. abandonment of its ally will have long-term consequences: “the notion that you cannot count on the Americans will strike deeper roots because of Afghanistan.’’ The newspaper said U.S. hesitation toward long-term military commitments “will now be felt all the more strongly among countries in play in the world, like Taiwan, Ukraine, the Philippines and Indonesia, which can only please China and Russia.”

Conservative media and Republican officials have been quick to claim that the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan and fall of Kabul will embolden China to engage in aggressive military action against Taiwan. Politico correspondent Stuart Lau on Sunday evening took to Twitter to write, “Imagine Beijing watching US military “commitment” in Afghanistan while contemplating its next move on Taiwan.”

Congressman Michael Waltz (R-FL), a former colonel and green beret who served multiple tours in Afghanistan, that same day tweeted: “If I were in Taiwan or Ukraine right now watching all this unfold, I would be terrified knowing this is how the United States will react under this administration.” Several conservatives, including Donald Trump Jr., portrayed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as “licking their chops” at Taiwan after witnessing the actions of a “weak U.S. administration.”

Political scientist Jasmin Mujanovic posted a tweet in which he stated that Afghanistan is a “warning to all vulnerable, emerging democracies; Ukraine, Taiwan, BiH, Kosovo etc.” He wrote that in worst-case scenarios, “great power promises mean nothing,” and that in the end only “hard power capacities & consolidated, formal alliances matter.”

Also on Sunday, the Weibo account for the Chinese state-run newspaper the Strait Herald posted a commentary in which it warned Taiwan: “don’t trust the United States too much, look at Afghanistan today.” The state-operated China Affairs alleged that after the U.S. abandonment of Afghanistan, Taiwanese netizens “believe that the U.S. will abandon Taiwan without hesitation once a war breaks out in the Taiwan Strait.”

If I were in Taiwan or Ukraine right now watching all this unfold, I would be terrified knowing this is how the United States will react under this administration. — Rep. Mike Waltz (@michaelgwaltz) August 15, 2021

Whatever China’s timeline was before on trying to seize Taiwan, we all know they’re licking their chops now knowing that there will never be a weaker US administration in power. This isn’t a partisan issue. We’ve got to get tough before things really escalate. — Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) August 16, 2021

How to ‘de-hyphenate’ Taiwan-India-China relations

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TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Recent years have seen steps taken to give a fillip to India-Taiwan cooperation across economic and strategic spheres.

While some analysts frame this as simply a result of deteriorating Sino-Indian ties in the aftermath of last year’s Galwan Valley standoff, some see a deeper trend playing out — a growing discourse in Delhi in favor of de-hyphenating the India-Taiwan-China relationship by going beyond Sinocentric considerations.

In a recent interview on the Policy People Podcast, Namrata Hasija, Research Associate at the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy, lifted the lid on the backstory behind this three-part diplomatic prism and laid out a roadmap for how to go beyond it so India-Taiwan bilateral ties may flourish.

This is easier said than done, and according to Hasija, it can only be done in an incremental fashion. However, this process is essential for India and Taiwan to reach their bilateral potential.

Historic mistakes

India has viewed relations with Taiwan through the China paradigm for decades. This has its roots in New Delhi’s adherence to the “one China policy” and the historic miscalculations India made in giving diplomatic recognition to communist China instead of Taiwan long before other countries.

Hasija said newly independent India, still reeling from the pains of partition and more concerned about Pakistan, desperately wanted to make a friend out of China. India was naive for taking Beijing at its word when it promised to revise claims over Indian territory at a later stage, which never happened, she added.

Hasija said the writing was on the wall back in 1951 when Chinese officials snubbed an invitation to visit Kashmir while in India: “Even back then, they were thinking about Ladakh [a part of Indian Kashmir], which they saw as their own.”

She described India’s acceptance of China’s claims to Tibet as one of its “biggest blunders.”

“We never stopped to analyze it at the time [that] if Tibet was not annexed by China, we’d never have a border with China,” she said, adding that Delhi did not foresee how China could gain access to its northern frontier, which it continues to threaten to this day.

“After China annexed Tibet, [in] hindsight we’ve always talked about Tibet,” Hasija said, “but we never talked about Taiwan in the same way.” Instead, she continued, India looks at Taiwan through the frame of the Chinese Civil War.

“Everyone expected India to support the ROC government over the PRC after it withdrew to Taiwan as Nehru and Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) shared a deep friendship,” said the scholar, who has studied diplomatic letters between the two.

However, an Indian diplomat visited China and Taiwan at the time and came back feeling certain the Kuomintang would never manage to reclaim China. This diplomat then managed to convince Nehru to overlook his personal relationship with Chiang and switch allegiance in 1950, years before other countries.

The early withdrawal of Indian support from the ROC created a deep gulf in relations at the time.

From that time onward, Taiwan was always referred to as “Formosa” and the Indian government said anything happening was an extension of the Chinese Civil War and that “we should not get involved.”

“So we’ve never looked at Taiwan as a different entity,” she said, and this has handicapped New Delhi’s engagement with Taipei to this day.

When asked if New Delhi is ready to ditch the “one China policy,” Hasija said the devil is in the details.

“How you define the ‘one China’ policy is very different [between countries],” she explained.

“We can always say that we follow the ‘one China’ policy but Taiwan is not part of China,” she went on, mentioning how the U.S. has its own way of maneuvering through this. Whatever India does, its government has to consider things carefully, as unlike with the U.S., China is India’s neighbor.

“Due to our proximity, India’s ‘one China policy’ has to be very nuanced and consider a lot of factors,” she said.

Changes to official policy will not happen overnight, but in the meantime, Taiwanese and Indian people need to develop more linkages across various sectors.

Media buzz

Hasija said Taiwanese and Indians are still very unfamiliar with one another’s countries, though things have been improving in recent years.

“There are now discussions about Taiwan in our think tanks, TV programs, and online forums, which is very promising,“ Hasija said.

“I’ve been working on India-Taiwan for over ten years, and now I see people who’ve never paid any attention to this space are now writing articles about Taiwan,” she said.

She emphasized that this trend should be seized upon and recommended establishing online portals for journalists in Taiwan and India to connect with one another and lift the quality of reporting about each other’s countries. She added that the media rely on third-party sources in their reporting, which leads to distortions and does not foster the authentic understanding that comes through original reporting.

Pandemic partners

The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought India and Taiwan closer together. During the first wave of the virus in 2020, Taiwan provided India with facemasks, part of the 1 million it provided New Southbound Policy countries that year.

In May this year as India battled its second wave, Taiwan sent 150 oxygen concentrators. India also helped Taiwan’s ally Paraguay get 100,000 vaccines in April as the country dealt with diplomatic pressure from Beijing.

There is hope for deepening this cooperation as the pandemic continues. For example, another charity organized by Indians living in Taiwan donated 180,000 masks, among other medical supplies, just last month.

Trade and FDI

Bilateral trade between Taiwan and India reached NT$155.61 billion (US$5.7 billion) in 2020, which is well below its potential, but there is a strong yearning for bolstering economic linkages.

Taiwan has pushed for greater investment as part of its New Southbound Policy, but there needs to be greater interaction between more Indian state governments and Taiwan’s private sector, which has until now been weak.

Taiwan’s Foxconn has set up plants in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, while Winstron, a chipmaker, has a plant in Karnataka. More FDI projects could be realized by creating more robust channels of communication for India’s state governments to plan investments with firms.

Tourism and education

Hasija also believes tourism is an industry with clear untapped potential. She said Taiwan’s scenic sites, such as the mountain tops of Nantou or the beaches of Taitung, are perfect for filming romantic scenes for Bollywood movies. This would help bring a boost from “Bollywood tourism,” a phenomenon where Indian travelers flock to overseas filming locations from various movies.

The greatest recipient of this has been Switzerland, a country that has enjoyed a sustained boon to its tourism industry for decades after it provided the backdrops for timeless Bollywood classics like Dilwale Dulhania Me Jayenge.

“If we can have an Indian movie shot in Taiwan… trust me, [Indian] people will come,” she said.

“Indians are among the highest spenders when it comes to tourism,” she added, explaining that if only a fraction of these ‘Bollywood tourists’ come to Taiwan, it will boost revenue for businesses and create much deeper people-to-people ties between the countries.

There is nothing quite like tourism for elevating understanding between countries, she said.

Education has an important role to play too. In recent years, there has been a rise in the number of Indian students pursuing higher education in Taiwan. Taiwan has also increased scholarship opportunities for students, and there have been moves to ease work visa requirements for professionals, which will in turn attract more students.

There remains much work to be done across other areas, Hasija said, hinting that military collaboration could be furthered down the line. De-hyphenation is a long-term goal and to get there Taiwan and India have to make use of Joseph Nye’s famed concept of “Smart Power” — the clever mix of hard and soft power resources — to strengthen their ties into the future.