Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political chief of Afghanistan’s Taliban, in Tianjin, China on July 28, 2021. (Li Ran/Xinhua via Reuters) Asia & Pacific
State-run newspapers, broadcasters, and Chinese diplomats have launched a propaganda offensive not dissimilar to the regime’s ongoing efforts to deflect blame around the origins of the pandemic.
The propaganda includes touting the prospective Chinese friendship with the Taliban insurgents, who have taken over Afghanistan at a sweeping pace in the past week, mocking the U.S. “defeat,” and threatening Taiwan by questioning U.S. commitment in the Asian region.
Put together, the narrative put forward by the communist regime was: the United States has failed Afghanistan, and Beijing is ready to offer an olive branch.
“Wherever the U.S. sets foot in, be it Iraq, Syria, or Afghanistan, we see turbulence, division, broken families, deaths, and other scars in the mess it has left. The U.S. power and role is destructive rather than constructive,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying in an Aug. 17 press briefing. She had told reporters a day prior that the changes in Afghanistan were a result of “the will and choice of the Afghan people.”
In late July, about a month before the scheduled U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Chinese regime was among the first countries to signal its support for the Islamist militants when Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted a delegation of Taliban representatives in the port city of Tianjin.
‘The Enemy’s Enemy Is a Friend’
Images and videos showed thousands of Afghan civilians thronging Kabul airport in a desperate bid to escape the war-torn country, fearful of a revival of the past harsh practices—including public stoning, whipping, and hanging—under Islamic militants’ rule two decades ago. In the Taliban-captured cities, many residents have chosen to lie low and stay indoors, while shops, supermarkets, and government offices remain shuttered.
China and Russia are among a handful of countries that have chosen to keep their embassies open, as the United States and its allies evacuated diplomats by helicopter. Meanwhile, Chinese state media were painting a welcoming picture of the Taliban’s victory, with one article dated Aug. 17 headlined “normalcy returns to Afghan capital.”
State-run news agency Xinhua, in an Aug. 16 article, found similarity in the Talibans’ military strategy and how the Chinese Communist Party won the Chinese Civil War against the Kuomintang during the 1940s, calling the Taliban takeover a case of “the weak overcoming the strong” through rural guerrilla warfare.
It claimed that the “public sentiments in Afghanistan were very different from Western portrayals” and that Afghan cities were surrendering to the Taliban because the militants had “popular support.”
Hu Xijin, editor of the hawkish state-run tabloid Global Times, suggested on Twitter that “the power transition in Afghanistan is even more smooth than presidential transition in the U.S.,” adding, in a separate tweet, that the regime’s “principle of non-interference” has enabled it to “maintain the confidence that it need not close its embassy.”
“No matter who is in power, we’re ready to be Afghanistan’s friend,” he wrote on Aug. 15.
Feng Chongyi, a professor on China studies at the University of Technology Sydney, said the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) support for the Taliban was strategic.
The regime “supports the Taliban because they and the United States are on the opposite sides,” Feng told The Epoch Times.
“The CCP’s idea,” he said, “is that the enemy’s enemy is a friend.”
While ideologically, the atheist Chinese regime is not compatible with the Taliban, they could support the group and through this, “create trouble for America,” according to China affairs commentator Tang Jingyuan.
“By diverting U.S. attention, it would ease the CCP’s pressure in a direct confrontation,” he told The Epoch Times.
President Joe Biden said that by pulling out its forces from Afghanistan, the United States would be able to refocus its energy on China.
“Our true strategic competitors—China and Russia—would love nothing more than the United States to continue to funnel billions of dollars in resources and attention into stabilizing Afghanistan indefinitely,” he said at a press briefing on Monday.
Besides mocking the United States with descriptors such as “humiliating,” “deleterious,” and “a death knell to the falling U.S. hegemony,” Chinese propaganda also capitalized on the U.S. troop withdrawal to undermine the United States’ reliability on the world stage.
Taking aim at Taiwan, a Global Times editorial on Monday claimed that the “Afghan abandonment” served a lesson for the democratically-ruled island, which has relied on U.S. support as it navigates the aggravating pressure from Beijing to reclaim the country as its own.
While Taiwan’s ruling administration has not weighed in on the Afghan situation, they “must have known better in secret that the U.S. is not reliable,” read the Global Times article.
The White House on Tuesday pushed back on the Chinese propaganda.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stressed that the U.S. commitment to Taiwan “remains as strong as it’s ever been,” telling reporters that, “when it comes to Taiwan, it is a fundamentally different question in a different context.”
Press Secretary Jen Psaki also rebuffed the Chinese claims that “the U.S. won’t come to help if war breaks out.”
“Our message is very clear: We stand by, as is outlined in the Taiwan Relations Agreement, individuals in Taiwan. We stand by partners around the world who are subject to this kind of propaganda that Russia and China are projecting, and we’re going to continue to deliver on those words with actions,” she said at the same press briefing.
The Chinese regime carried out assault drills near Taiwan on Tuesday, showing off warships and anti-submarine aircraft near the southwest and southeast of the island in response to what Beijing characterized as “provocations by Taiwan.”
Hoping to sow division between the United States and its Asian allies, the Chinese regime is trying to weaken the U.S.-centered freedom-loving world order and promote one of its own, said Tang.
From a geopolitical standpoint, he said, Washington could not afford to give up Taiwan.
Yu Tsung-chi, a former associate dean of the Political Warfare Cadres Academy at Taipei-based National Defense University, echoed Tang’s views.
The United States has been making efforts to strengthen ties with Taiwan, “not because Taiwan relies on America, rather, more because America needs Taiwan,” he told The Epoch Times.
A Chinese invasion of Taiwan would have a direct effect on Japan, South Korea, and even Australia, Yu said, adding that the need to prevent Taiwan’s advanced microchip manufacturing industry from being controlled by Beijing would compel the United States to step in if the regime makes military moves on the island.
Luo Ya contributed to this report. Eva FuChina Reporter Eva Fu is a New York-based writer for The Epoch Times focusing on U.S.-China, religious freedom, and human rights.