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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 30, 2017

In the daily governance of Hong Kong, China has proven itself as a competent overseer. Hong Kong's "Basic Law", a kind of mini-constitution imposed not by referendum, keeps the SAR autonomous. Hong Kongers have only two reasons for complaint, having not chosen the Basic Law for themselves and the gentrification of Chinese money re-defining native Hong Kongers as a new lower class living among some of the most expensive real estate in the world.

Crud hit the fan, however, when Beijing decided to "vet" Hong Kong politicians in advance. The Basic Law makes no direct provision for advanced-vetting, a statutory or policy decision heavily subject to interpretation. Youth are often quick to complain. In the minds of Hong Kong youth, Beijing's advanced-vetting policy is a violation of the Basic Law. Accordingly, Hong Kong youth have no interest in learning about the Basic Law from Beijing.

Now, Beijing has planned a Hong Kong -wide broadcast from a Mainlander—a Chinese speaking from Beijing's view—to educate Hong Kong students about the Basic Law. Schools are under no obligation to participate in Beijing's offer, so the public is led to understand. But, when your higher authority vets your politicians without a word-for-word clause to justify it, then invites your school to optionally learn how to follow the law, it is difficult not to feel some kind of pressure to "volunteer".

The best thing for China to earn good will is to rescind the advanced-vetting policy in favor of Hong Kong's local interpretation of the Basic Law and to allow only three schools to listen to the Basic Law address, applying with good reason. That's "basic law" of supply-and-demand economics. But, those ideas may be difficult for the Communist regime to quickly grasp.

So, it looks like China's path ahead will see plenty of conflict and strife. The student objections to the Basic Law seminar will by no means be the last, nor will it be Beijing's last attempt to educate Hong Kong's population.

The US has its own approach to PR. Notice how Korea made fewer Western headlines this week, though the situation is far from finished. Trump's planned visit, purportedly to include the Korean DMZ, is certainly a bold move to demonstrate courage from a leader and to eclipse North soldiers' respect for Kim Jong Un who wouldn't dare to get close. Don't be surprised if Trump walks right up to the border and speaks through a megaphone and says, "Where is Kim Jong Un? He can talk to me. Your leader is a coward. Don't trust him." Don't be surprised. Such a move befits Trump and would begin a cascade of implosion from within the Kim Dynastic ranks.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, March 27, 2017

North Korea is ready to nuke, Hong Kong has a new CEO, and China is talking. In fact, China is talking with almost everyone, even Taiwan, as headlines would have us believe.

Hong Kong’s new CEO, Carrie Lam, is ostensibly favored by China’s Communist Party. But, all politicians in the special administrative region are vetted by Beijing. The western press is beside themselves with how much control Beijing exerts, regardless of how loyal Lam actually is. Nothing has been proven yet because she hasn’t had a chance to do anything yet. She was just elected. Of course, in the minds of the western press, Beijing is guilty until proven guilty.

Hong Kong is self-proclaimed as “Asia’s World City”. It is the doorstep of semi-closed China to the open West. What happens in Hong Kong is exactly what Beijing wants the world to see. What Beijing sees as an advertisement the West sees as “public relations”—for better or worse. Lam is Beijing’s choice as the new “poster girl”. While she didn’t get there by being incompetent, the true test of CEO Lam’s leadership will be whether she creates or prevents excuses for western headlines to make China look like a bully.

While the West villainizes Beijing, it is becoming more and more clear that China is doing what it thinks best for itself, but doesn’t understand PR with self-governing nations. All this outreach—Pakistan, New Zealand, India, Cambodia, the US, Taiwan—it’s going to backfire with stories like China not allowing a married Australian resident academic to return to Australia. In the mind of the West, the decision is what matters. In the mind of Beijing, the reasons are what matter.

China’s President Xi admitted last week, more or less, that China needed to play “tech catch-up” with the States. Now, China is investing in US startups to get military technology insight. Smart. The open, free enterprise, private, self-governed sector usually has the best tech.  The question Beijing should be concerned with is whether its researchers will hunger for the same inspiring freedom as the companies they seek to glean from. While Beijing hopes to acquire information, they may inadvertently acquire free market ideology. That can be quite unsettling, as if the Pacific doesn’t have enough “waves” already.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 13, 2017

After three weeks, President Trump finally had his phone call with Chinese President Xi. The report is that Trump will uphold the United States’ long-standing “One China” policy, in which China proper and the island of Taiwan are one country and that country’s government seat is in Beijing. The effect is that the United States does not have an “embassy” with Taiwan, but the US has an “institute” and Taiwan an “economic and cultural” office; both are still considered envoys and consulates, offering passport and visa services. While self-important voices in news and politics view the phone call as a phone call, much more is happening beneath the surface, and Beijing may only be partially aware of what all is going on.

Being a Socialist State, China’s government is itself in business, both cooperative and competitive. China’s Communist Party can directly compete with social companies like Facebook, news networks like CNN, web service companies like Google, almost any manufacturer, and, of course not in the least, construction. China’s former business associate and new “boss”, as it were, of America calls all the “important” countries in the world, except China. The delay itself is a message to China like a father telling the disobedient son to wait his turn while everyone else at the dinner table has first choice. To China’s “indirect-implication” culture, it was no less than a smack in the face, no matter how friendly and reportedly positive the phone call was. No doubt China feels this somewhat, though President Xi probably doesn’t take the snub as seriously as he should.

Even allowing State-controlled newspapers, such as Xinhua news, to let three weeks of silence be known merely by reporting the phone call shows that Trump knows how to cut through promulgated gate keeping. Knowing how his old trading partner thinks, Trump knew that Beijing would jump to report the phone call to give President Xi notoriety, forgetting the deeper implication that the phone call didn’t happen for three weeks into Trump’s term. Now, the Chinese people know that Trump didn’t talk to their president until three weeks after taking office, yet he received a phone call from Taipei only days after he was elected—Beijing made sure the people knew that. When trying to control information in one’s own country, that was an oversight. If Beijing were wise to the three-week snub, no newspaper in China would be allowed to report the phone call until two months later, with the comment, “Oh, they are presidents. They talk when it suits them.”

In social battles of implication and indirection, the Chinese have endurance and mastery, but the West has a less frequent and even more subtle way of implication that often eludes the East. It is difficult to recognize deep implication when implication is used on a daily basis for routine communication. Americans trust Trump with China more, now, knowing that he can snub them for three weeks and State-run Xinhua news will consider it a “good first step”.

There are other problems—not being able to quit while so far ahead and declare victory after 70 years of war on the books, the US selling weapons to Taiwan—but the three week snub “trumps” them all. American people have often asked themselves who China thinks they are fooling. After this three-week snub thoroughly reported under the title of a “phone call”, the American people, Democrats and Republicans alike, certainly know who is successfully fooling China.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 28, 2016

A government defining marriage only claims to be about marriage between humans, but it is actually about marriage between Church and State. By asking government to define human marriage, Americans have already returned to the Church of the Holy Government, which the pilgrims left in the early 1600’s.

Originally, both questions of marriage began in the West. Same-sex marriage is about to become legal in Taiwan. And, the Pope is about to strike a deal with Communist China.

A Bishop in Hong Kong, among others, objects to an agreement between the Chinese government and the Vatican because it would allow Beijing to vet Bishops how Beijing vets Hong Kong politicians. The results among Catholics might mirror the results among Hong Kongers. Interestingly, that bishop in Hong Kong already falls within the jurisdiction of both Beijing and the Vatican, just as much as he objects to both finding a union. Either he is incredibly insightful of both or incredibly foolish to make enemies with his unified superiors.

Bloomberg is focused on China’s military-based space expeditions. The thinkers think that China should teach Trump how to make America export again. Today, 10,000 people congregated outside Taiwan’s legislature in support of a law to recognize same-sex marriage, and the West barely noticed.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 14, 2016

The news in Asia is Trump. Having put their chips with Clinton, some governments in Asia are scrambling to guess what Trump’s next move will be. Japan didn’t interfere. So, things are “business as usual” in Tokyo. While Asian politicians scramble to clean up their attempt to chose America’s next president, they still might not learn from Japan’s example: It is generally best if one country does not interfere with the elections of another country.

That election-country boundary is somewhat askew where Beijing and Hong Kong are concerned. Beijing is not supposed to interfere at all, as per the condition of the H-Kexit from Britain in 1997. Beijing did, however slightly and defensibly and yet predictably objectionable, and now Beijing must intervene.

Pro-Independence lawmakers inserted a byword for China in their oaths, which legally alters the oath. In doing so, they relegated their oaths’ legitimacy to the determination of higher courts in Beijing. If they couldn’t figure out how not to invite intervention, how could they keep domestic peace as lawmakers? If they didn’t know the legal meaning of words, how could they craft laws with proper wording in Hong Kong? Though unanswered at this time, these are questions their actions begged, making their argument for the second H-Kexit less credible, but, nonetheless more infamous and more famous, depending on who is asked. Infamy and fame gain equal press. “Press” is the battle HK Independence advocates win every time, which is why some in Hong Kong argue that “press” is all they want. But, there is always more going on.

In answering the metaphoric question of whether to be the dead lion or the victorious fox, the Hong Kong Umbrella students chose to be dead foxes. Some call them “martyrs”. Others call them “dinner”. The weakness and failings of disrespect aren’t limited to Hong Kong. The rest of the world is demonstrating the same toward Donald J. Trump, who did get elected after all. Now, Asia must figure out how to deal with the decision in the US while Trump figures out how to deal with the indecision of Asia. Unlike fame and infamy, decision and indecision fair differently.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 31, 2016

Chinese President Xi has been hailed with a personality cult akin to support for Chairman Mao, at least in some circles. As if the Xi personality cult wasn’t enough, China also saw a bloodless victory in the Philippines. In an effort to seek their own so-called “independence”, Philippinos’ new choice of a president has thrown-off many ties with the US in exchange for more dependency on China. China still patrols disputed Philippine islands, but fishing boats don’t get harassed any more. It probably makes sense in the Philippines every bit as much as it made sense to France and Italy 80 years ago.

The Pacific resembles pre-WWII Europe with more and more likenesses every week. NPR reported that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will stop swearing as much. That headline probably made sense to NPR, given the situation. As for swearing and the Pacific, Hong Kong, with no military, is putting up the greatest fight against China. Lawmakers “swore” during their swearing-in, contrary to some stipulations that no Hong Kong lawmaker can object to Chinese rule.

The Philippino “switch” was always going to happen. Their desire for “independence from other countries” will eventually drive them to fly China’s flag above their own, just how China’s desire for respect provoked Beijing to provoke the West, just how “America and her interests” drove the US to fly its flag at military posts in countries across the globe thereby frustrating Beijing and Milan.

With Taiwanese public continuing strong objection to Chinese patrol expansionism (75:18%), with Hong Kong (under China) wanting out from China, with the Philippines shifting sides, and with Cambodia cozying up to Beijing, we could see more jersey swapping in the coming months. Japan and South Korea are standing against North Korea on nukes—by cooperating with the US. That coalition could very easily extend to Taiwan, as far as N Korea nukes are concerned. The islanders of Taiwan oppose nuclear “anything”, just like post-Fukushima Japan.

Taiwan also has a close cooperation with the US military, the kind of cooperation the Philippines just renounced. The Pentagon has yet to give an elaborate position on the Philippines’ wave-making. In war, if the Philippines violates any alliance agreements, the Pentagon could declare the Philippines as “rogue” and get the excuse they need to use force. Who knows what would happen then.

China’s “no-objection” policy for HK lawmakers has given Great Britain whatever excuse the Crown needs to anchor the Royal Navy in Hong Kong, much like Queen Victoria did against China via Taiwan. When Southeast Asian Islands start spitting at each other, Hong Kong could could get snatched-up in a Pacific-West coalition. Having no military could be the only reason Hong Kong can court sympathy from the West. Guarded by mountains between the New Territories and Shenzen, Hong Kong would be strategic. The West would then see Hong Kong as the “trump card” while China would come back with the Philippines as the “wild joker”.

The Philippines and Hong Kong don’t seem to have figured out that every island is just another pawn. The Pacific Daily Times Symphony Editorials take no sides, except the side of foresight: It was all predictable.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 19, 2016

The investment company of Taiwan’s former-controlling political party—because, yes, a political party owning investments is not yet illegal in Taiwan—is attempting to sell assets in Japan. This comes as the same party sent a delegation to China made up of business and local government officials from their shrinking minority of cities they still control. The main topic was said to be “tourism”. Apparently, since China slammed the door on talks after the “other party” won a landslide, Beijing and the old, failing guard in Taiwan miss each other, especially the “tourists”, thousands of which were reported missing in Taiwan in years past.

One would think that China would not want to slam the door on it’s best and most convenient way to insert spies into a country it is officially at war with. And, one would think that the unpopular Beijing friends in that country would have the decency to label their talks with some other, less suspicious topic. But, pride—especially the Asian varieties—tend to blind the very common sense necessary for whatever victory one seeks. In Chinese thought—which the failing party in Taiwan comes from—pride is a victory unto itself.

Few things illustrate the “dragon” in the East better than this. Beijing slammed the door on Taiwan. But, it welcomes nostalgic local governments who agree with it’s made-up tales of history, including the admitted-to-be made-up “1992 consensus”, which has a very interesting interpretation of “consensus”, extending to include ideas that run against popular opinion.

But, the enemy in this is not China. China’s choice to close the door was wise for both China and Taiwan. Fewer opportunities for spy exchanges is good. The enemy is the failed political party that is attempting to play both sides, like a double-agent spy hiding in plain sight.

This is an indication. Talks are coming to a close. Action will develop. With a new American president on the way—where both leading candidates have more experience with China than any candidate before—Beijing will no longer have panting dogs begging for food in the presidents’ offices of its adversaries. Get ready. November will not be as important as January.

In other news, China’s banking situation could be either good or bad, which made headlines once again. China did take the effort to criticize tourism in Taiwan, specifically the Dalai Lama’s. And,  Japan wants in on the party on China’s South Sea. Make sure you read Boolmberg’s well-republished article about Japan’s announcement, along with the article linked mid-way through that educates the Western public about what China has been doing, just in case anyone lives under a rock.

It’s funny, for the last several years, the Western Press has been obsessed with educating Western readers about the various complexities that exist within China’s “nine-dash-line”. Perhaps newswriters see something coming and hope that their readers will have to do less “catch-up” when the “EXTRA” editions appear in the streets once again.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, August 15, 2016

While Taiwan accepts yet another slow-delivery weapons deal, one of the slowest to date, China continues to build on the ocean to face off against the United States. It’s pure war strategy, East to West.

The argument goes that China carefully times its strategic “stepping on toes”. The next purported toe will be the site of the next man-made islet, deep within Philippine water and economic defense zone. China, according to reports of anonymous sources, plans that these toe steps occur after G20 and before the US election. This is where Beijing’s miscalculation shows.

Supposedly, during the US election season, Americans will be distracted with Trump v Clinton headlines and won’t have the time to worry about what China does in the Philippine’s back yard pool. However, this overlooks the topics surrounding Trump and Clinton, specifically the long history that both have with China and that opinion about either candidate is largely shaped by China’s actions.

If and when China steps in it in the Philippines, that “when” would serve China’s shrewdness better if postponed until after the election, lest China give American’s the excuse they need to elect the candidate most outspoken against China. Beijing’s timing would be more respected from one adversary to another if the Philippine islet reclaiming began after the US election and before the inauguration—after it’s too late for the American people to change their minds. But, once again, Beijing is likely to demonstrate that, while it has the courage to stand up to the US, it doesn’t have the listening ability to know the very enemies it chooses.

Beijing wants a deal with the Philippines. They know how to make a deal when they want to. What transpires over the coming months will be as foreseeable as it is by choice for all involved.

In times when China wants to dominate the water, Michael Phelps proved otherwise, for the third time in a row.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 23, 2016

Taiwan has a new president. Security is a hot topic. New leaders bring change. Change can be unstable.

As a general rule, web and program developers don’t like software “updates” because they can cause other dependent software to crash. In general, admirals and generals don’t like map updates either, and for good reason. Constantly changing political maps, territorial claims, and which flags rightly fly over which pieces of dirt and puddles of water can cause planes and boats to crash. Frequent updates are not good for “stability”, even “security” updates—whether software or political.

Beijing concerns itself with the “1992 consensus”, yet China’s attempt to update the world’s maps—without prior consensus—prioritizes its own “security” over its own “stability”. In this, the world clearly sees that neither “consensus” nor “stability” are Beijing’s ongoing concerns, only sometimes.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, April 25, 2016

Northern Korea launched a missile that travelled 1/10 the distance it needs to. Pyongyang considered it a “success”.

China has come to a consensus about it’s activity in the South China Sea. The consensus did not include all ASEAN nations. And, the US continues to disagree with the consensus.

The City Council Speaker of a southern Taiwan city, Tainan, was found guilty of “vote buying”. This was the second guilty verdict. He was relieved of his speakership the next day, placing control of City Council back in the hands of the majority party, same as the popular Mayor William Lai. Former Speaker Lee is a member of the KMT, which recently lost the national elections for the legislature and the presidency. With Lee removed from the Speakership, Mayor Lai will no longer protest City Council meetings, removing over a year of city-wide gridlock.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 29, 2016

A Chinese official, Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅), has become the first to recognize Taiwan’s Constitution. He says that the president elect, Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), should “abide by it”. Tsai has promised to declassify documents about the 228 Massacre, which the Taiwanese observed in memory this past weekend. The three day weekend of Feb 28 (2/28) stands as a blight on the face of Chiang Kai-shek, who founded the recently defeated KMT-Nationalist party and slaughtered 10,000 to 30,000 people in Taiwan during the time of his flight from the revolting Communists. Statues of the “Hitler of Taiwan” were defaced throughout Taiwan over the weekend. Officials are “not yet” pressing charges.

While Taiwan exposes more truth and topples statues of tyrants, China is finding vengeance on booksellers. The times are ripe with contrast. Nations in the region see anything but peace in our time.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 15, 2016

Ri Yong-gil was said to be executed in Korea. He wasn’t seen in his usual place in public with Great Successor Un. This just after the satellite launch, which led to more sanctions approved by the Senate.

Hong Kong cracked down on some unlicensed food vendors in the streets of Mong Kok. People responded by throwing and burning things. Their view is clear, as is the view of Hong Kong’s government. China remarked about “terrorist tendencies”. Hong Kong’s finance minister, Tsang (曾俊華), implied the Biblical story of Solomon’s judgment of two women in writing, “A mother who truly loves her son would not saw him in half and would never themselves be the executioner.” It is good to see that China did not rebuke a government leader for studying the Bible.

China is losing money. It also lost a bank. But, so what. China is oblivious to its own past with which it haunts itself. HSBC has reviewed Hong Kong again, for a possible location. HQ-ing in HK could save $14B. But, again, no. Tienanmen scared them too much. Even after 25 years, old fears don’t die easily, especially when they don’t have a reason to.

It’s somewhat ironic, though. Asia is responsible for much of HSBC’s revenue. Or, maybe it’s not ironic since that “is” seems to be changing into more of a “was”. Asia “was” responsible for much of HSBC’s revenue. It seems that the West has profited and, now, has picked up, packed up, and isn’t coming back. And, what should that tell us?

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 1, 2016

Age of provocation. China warned everyone, this week. Soros had better not declare war on Chinese currency—or else. Taiwan had better not do a lot of things. The US had better not do a lot of things. Basically, the world “had better not”.

The Pacific conflict is reaching the point where China expects a Wold v China scenario. Whatever China is doing to make enemies is so powerful that not even Obama can stay low key—whether he wants to or not. Beijing’s “magnetic” personality is drawing all guns to point east.

Taiwan is beginning its political transition, not without its own rumors. The DPP opposition took the legislature today. The new president won’t be sworn in for a few months. But with the vast majority already in power in the legislature and local governments, the lame duck, Ma, is strung up by his webbing. All anyone can do about Taiwan is quack; the president, president-elect, and even Beijing.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, January 19, 2016

Victory! Taiwan finally defeated the old enemy of the East that the Chinese Communists could not. The KMT-Nationalist party has rarely faced such a stunning defeat. The enemy of the revolution, murderer of Taiwanese and thieves of Asia’s greatest assets, the witch of the East met her end at the hands, not of soldiers and explosives, but of democracy.

Beijing would have worldwide respect in declaring victory and normalizing relations. But the land of Sun Tzu seems to have forgotten the basics of war: If one government controls an entire region, then an enemy only need take-out the central government for the entire land to fall. If Taiwan were a Chinese province, China would be less safe. As an ally that China itself could not take—an attack against China would be unwise for any adversary. But, again, Beijing seems more bent on delusions of pride than real safety. The best kept secret about respect is not that it must be earned and not bestowed, but that those who state their respect rarely mean it. Having respect of others and having others show respect are entirely different things. This is a lesson the KMT-Nationalists still haven’t seemed to learn.

China had it’s own streak this week. More than one teary-eyed apology cross the air-waves. The world continues to see China for what it is while Beijing counts more ill will an indication of progress. Perhaps Beijing is right.

Taiwan’s confidence in voting overwhelmingly for a political party that will not cow-tow to China’s hostile takeover agenda sends a message to China. While the messengers in Beijing may not deliver, the people of China read it loud and clear, perhaps for the first time: A single government can have a new political party and the people do not need to bend to the dictates of the old establishment.

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