“If the U.S. cannot even secure a victory in a rivalry with small countries, how much better could it do in a major power game with China?” asked the Communist Party’s Global Times on Monday, hours after the Taliban captured Kabul. The semi-official tabloid also stated this, referring to America: “It cannot win a war anymore.”
China’s regime this year has highlighted themes intended to intimidate others into submission, and Beijing doubled down on this approach in the wake of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan. The risk is that Beijing will now press the advantage, taking on what it says is a weak America.
“His bigger intention is to focus on China, pooling as many U.S. military forces as possible into the Indo-Pacific region,” the Global Times reported, referring to President Joe Biden. “The grand strategy seemed flawless and inspiring for Washington, until the U.S.’s epic defeat and chaotic retreat in Afghanistan mirrored how shaky it is.” The tabloid then quoted Lu Xiang of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing: “A little bit more troops, relocated from Afghanistan to China’s periphery, do not make much difference for China.”
Where will China strike next? Taiwan is now a main focus of Beijing propaganda. In an editorial on Monday, the Global Times analyzed in depth American security commitments to the island republic, which Beijing claims as its own.
“The DPP authorities,” a reference to Taiwan’s governing Democratic Progressive Party, “need to keep a sober head, and the secessionist forces should reserve the ability to wake up from their dreams,” the editorial stated. “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 U.S. military won’t come to help.”
Deterrence is obviously breaking down, something demonstrated in the middle of March when China’s top two diplomats, Yang Jiechi, and subordinate Foreign Minister Wang Yi, traveled to Anchorage, Alaska to meet Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.