China Holds Military Drills Near Taiwan as Biden Struggles With Afghanistan Withdrawal

Chinese aircraft, warships approach Taiwanese territory

Chinese fighter jets / Getty Images
August 17, 2021

China deployed warships and fighter jets near Taiwan on Tuesday, testing U.S. resolve as the Biden administration struggles to retrieve thousands of Americans who remain in Afghanistan.

Beijing conducted drills intended to advance Chinese "air supremacy" over Taiwan, according to a Taiwanese defense official. The drills included 11 Chinese aircraft, including advanced fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers. 

The People's Liberation Army said it conducted the drills to protect "China's sovereignty." The Chinese Communist Party claims Taiwan, an independent country, is a part of China.

"[The U.S. and Taiwan] repeatedly colluded in provocation and sent serious wrong signals, severely infringing upon China's sovereignty, and severely undermining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," the statement reads. "This exercise is a necessary action based on the current security situation across the Taiwan Strait and the need to safeguard national sovereignty. It is a solemn response to external interference and provocations by Taiwan independence forces."

The military exercises come after the United States approved a $750 million arms sale to Taiwan in August. In the wake of a bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan, however, questions have been raised about the Biden administration's ability to defend Taiwan from a potential Chinese invasion. The Washington Free Beacon reported on Monday that Chinese state media are celebrating the United States' "humiliation" in Afghanistan, saying the U.S. military "won't come to help" Taiwan if China attacks.

Richard Fontaine, the CEO of the Center for a New American Security and an adviser to the Vandenberg Coalition, said the Afghanistan withdrawal raises questions about American military competence in standing up to China.

"It will be a field day for the Chinese and Russians and everyone else to show what America has been unable to do," Fontaine said. "This is not our finest hour in terms of showing as a global leader what kind of competence we have."