Exuberant after President Joe Biden’s spectacular defeat in Afghanistan, China’s state-run Global Times on Tuesday warned that if any American troops are present in Taiwan when Beijing decides to invade it by force, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will “crush them by force.”
The Global Times was responding indignantly to a tweet from Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) in which he listed U.S. troop deployments around the world. Cornyn incorrectly stated in this tweet that 30,000 American soldiers are stationed in Taiwan, roughly the same amount stationed in South Korea.
Cornyn was not making any particular argument about Taiwan; the point of his Twitter thread, as stated in its final entry, was that U.S. military deployments have “achieved stability with relatively small troop exposure, and a good track record without casualties.” He was speaking primarily about Afghanistan, where he noted there were no American fatalities in the “last 1.5 years” before troops were withdrawn.
No US deaths in Afghanistan in last 1.5 years (from news report today)
The numbers indicate we had achieved stability with relatively small troop exposure, and a good recent track record without casualties.
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) August 16, 2021
Media fact-checkers swiftly criticized Cornyn’s tweet about Taiwan, noting the U.S. never had more than 19,000 military personnel stationed in Taiwan and that high-water mark was in 1958. All American troops were withdrawn from Taiwan by 1979.
Cornyn deleted his tweet Tuesday, without comment from his office, but the Global Times had already responded, initially pretending Cornyn might have been letting some massive secret U.S. military deployment slip and vowing to invade Taiwan immediately if the senator’s claim was accurate:
If that is true, the Chinese government and the Chinese people will never accept it. It is believed that China will immediately put the Anti-Secession Law into use, destroy and expel US troops in Taiwan by military means, and at the same time realize reunification by force.
The US stationing troops in the Taiwan island severely violates the agreements signed when China and the US established their diplomatic ties as well as all political documents between the two countries. It also critically runs counter to international law and even US domestic law. It is equivalent to a military invasion and occupation of the Taiwan Province of China. It is an act of declaring war on the People’s Republic of China.
The tweet saying US is stationing “30,000 troops” in China’s Taiwan island could be a jaw-dropping mistake or hype from a “dotard” senator, but it is shocking enough to see how irresponsible American politicians are on crucial issue of Taiwan Straits. https://t.co/Kn5QwBKlzn
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) August 17, 2021
The Global Times demanded an “immediate explanation” from both the American and Taiwanese governments for Cornyn’s tweet, and threatened all-out war if the answers were not satisfactory:
If there truly are 30,000 US troops in Taiwan, or even fewer than that, it would be an extremely serious situation that crosses China’s red-line. Those US troops must withdraw from the island immediately and unconditionally, and both the US government and the Taiwan authorities should publicly apologize for this. Otherwise, we believe that an all-out war across the Taiwan Straits will break out quickly, and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will wipe out the US forces, liberate the island of Taiwan, and settle the Taiwan question once and for all.
The fulminating editors mentioned discussing the idea that “Cornyn’s tweet was possibly a deliberate act to try to test [China’s] reaction to a U.S. military presence in Taiwan” with an unnamed “Chinese scholar,” and declaring that Cornyn’s actions would also be “unacceptable” in that case.
Another fire-breathing Global Times editorial later on Tuesday exulted in Cornyn deleting his tweet after “wide controversy and media attention.”
After repeating its threats to kill every American in Taiwan, for the benefit of any reader who missed them the first time, and grousing that the U.S. government never responded to its demands for an explanation, the Global Times theorized that Cornyn’s “ridiculous and shocking” tweet was probably a result of “old age” that “makes him a dotard.”
The Chinese Communist paper then swerved back to taking Cornyn seriously, theorizing that he might have accidentally divulged something he heard about a planned future U.S. deployment of 30,000 troops to Taiwan.
The Global Times reiterated that if the U.S. “secretly stations” such a force in “China’s Taiwan island,” it would be considered an invasion and would “touch off a military conflict,” which America would surely lose.
“It is impossible for the U.S. to be silly enough to sacrifice itself to satisfy Taiwan separatists,” professor Li Haidong of the China Foreign Affairs University assured the Global Times.