Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 19, 2018

Conveniently, Axios breaks a story from Trump's November visit to China. There was a scuffle and a tackle over the "nuclear football"—AKA the nuke code bag. At first, it seems like relations are breaking down between the US and China. At second glance, the timing of the report is outright suspicious. Stepping back and giving it a third thought, the scuffle almost seems prophetic and poetic about the American-Chinese situation. The Chinese didn't touch the "nuclear football", though there was an ignored or unreceived memo. The US entourage kept moving. The Chinese official in charge kindly apologized. And, it was all over in an instant and without incident. That seems to have a figurative application on a literary level.

China is expanding in science and other areas. Underwater drones capable of making military maps were told to be for science only. Mischief Reef's new missile-defense equipped naval-air bases were only for a fishermen's shelter. And, the first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was purchased from Russia to be nothing more than a floating museum. Those kinds of stories get drummed up by the West as reasons not to trust China.

The Philippines have effectively made peace with China on some level. China is capable of preserving peace if it wants to. But, the Western press often points to grandiose statements that rub Westerners the wrong way. President Xi referred to the belt road project as the "project of the century" and that it will "add splendor to human civilization". The West cares about taxpayer efficiency, freedom to have children, and welcome open dissent against their own government. Westerners value humility from leadership. The Chinese grandiose remarks from Xi Jinping command respect in China, but are off-putting to Westerners. Rather than seeking to reconcile the differences in rhetorical preference, press reports exploit the shock value and sell-out peaceful understanding for caustic sensationalism. The divide grows. Whether China should tone down its language is a Chinese-internal decision. So is the opinion and response by the West also a purely internal decision.

So, at the same time Axios reports a non-incident story of a conflict that didn't happen over a "football" last November. It is framed as a sign of shaky US-China relations. Others are reporting on the US, Japan, Australia, and India collaborating competition against China's infrastructure. There is also news of Trump buckling down on trade with China. Then, Quartz publishes a review of China's great threat as a rising military power, a collection of old news.

Truth or lie, propagandized or unbiased, the timing is a tell-all. The Western press is preparing the public for war.

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