It didn't take long for Chinese state media to find grist for propaganda in America's chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
State-controlled media said the rapid U.S. pullout should serve as a warning to the people of Taiwan: They shouldn't rely on U.S. protection in their long-running dispute with China.
"After the fall of the Kabul regime, the Taiwan authorities must be trembling," Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the state-controlled Global Times, said on Twitter.
Another state-owned newspaper compared the U.S. retreat to a 2019 movie called "A Dog's Way Home," which, perhaps not coincidentally, was airing Monday on Chinese state television.
And China's official news agency, Xinhua, called the U.S. "the world's largest exporter of unrest," adding that "its hegemonic policy of 'only me, rather than the world' has caused too many human tragedies."
Randy Phillips, a former CIA officer who worked in China, said: "There is no doubt that the Afghanistan debacle represents a major hit to U.S. credibility and will only further strengthen the belief in the Chinese leadership that the U.S. is a declining power and a paper tiger. The risk of miscalculation in the South China Sea just went way up."
And Hu Xijin "loves to play the nationalist card and stick it to the U.S.," he added.
Indeed, Hu said on Twitter that "the power transition in Afghanistan is even more smooth than presidential transition in the US."
But much of his commentary focused on Taiwan, which runs its own affairs even as China insists that the island is part of the larger Chinese state. The U.S. has supplied Taiwan with weapons and has left it up in the air as to whether it would defend Taiwan with force in the event of a Chinese attack or invasion.
"Taipei officials need to quietly mail-order a Five-Star Red Flag from the Chinese mainland," he tweeted, with a smiley-face emoji. "It will be useful one day when they surrender" to the Chinese army.
An article in Hu's newspaper went into more depth, arguing that "the failure of the U.S. in Afghanistan should serve as a warning to the secessionists in the island, who have to understand that they cannot count on Washington, as Afghanistan is not the first place where the US abandoned its allies, nor will it be the last, experts warned."
A separate Global Times editorial included an illustration of a bald eagle ushering Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen into a hole in the ground while examining what editors identified as America's history of turning its back on allies, including France after the Revolutionary War.
"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," the editorial said. "Is this some kind of omen of Taiwan's future fate?"
As much as China may be enjoying the criticism heaped upon the Biden administration for leaving Afghanistan, the withdrawal poses some strategic problems for China, experts say.
"This development also represents a challenge to China," said Phillips, the former CIA officer, in that China has been "freeloading" while benefiting from U.S.-imposed security in a fundamentalist Islamist country in its backyard.
"They also always worry about having a Muslim fundamentalist state on their border once again," he said.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry told reporters in Beijing on Monday that the Chinese government has been in regular communication with the Taliban and has "been playing a constructive role in promoting a political settlement."
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