Cadence of Conflict: Asia, July 3, 2017

China views Hong Kong as a doorstep between the world and largely otherwise closed China. This week, investment highways opened, allowing easier offshore investments in China’s bond market. At the same time, the world gets a glimpse into Chinese dealing through Hong Kong. Like the proverbial cat chasing the laser pointer dot—who never figures out what’s going on—Western culture’s action and interpretation will always confound the Chinese.

As the West believes, if you want to change the world map, you must ask the world’s permission first. It’s even the law China is bound to as a member of the UN. But, in Chinese culture, whoever makes an assertive move first will automatically scare everyone else in the room to ignore any other decorum, rules, or even laws, and accept the assertive party as the emperor of the room for the time being. Building artificial islands, installing military airport equipment, and telling everyone else to “GTFO” means the US should either be scared, or at least quickly attack. But, the calm, casual response of the US Navy, such as to have the lone destroyer USS Stethem conduct a “man overboard drill”, confuses and confounds the expected “cultural tidal gravity” of the Chinese.

The move wasn’t just provocative, as Beijing claims; it was an outright declaration of everything inches short of war.

Taiwan had its own waters incident. While the Chinese refurbished aircraft carrier—the Soviet era diesel-powered Ukraine-made carrier purchased by the Chinese to be no more than a “floating museum”—sailed through the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan-owned F-16s scrambled to shadow the voyage. But, parading a diesel aircraft carrier is not any show of strength in the mind of the US, but a show of unaware weakness yet also a show of progress and a “coming of age” psychology not to be ignored.

At least, that’s the perception.

South Korea’s new and moderate president met with Trump. What they met to talk about doesn’t matter as much as the fact that they met to talk. Moon thinks negotiation with Pyongyang is the answer. Reportedly, 77% of his people agree with him. He won’t back down on military, but he won’t expand it either. No one will accept status quo anymore.

So, money opened up this week in Asia and waking waters met more objection. The only reunification on the horizon is on a large peninsula just left of Japan.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 10, 2016

The tied rises and falls, but tensions only rise in the Pacific, week after week. This week, China and its old buddy, Russia, were seen in public together. And, it seems China has a new friend in the Philippines’ defense office. The tension is at such a point where the public has not only learned about it, but is getting “used to” it. The excessive education writers insert into their news articles, informing readers and re-informing readers about the history of China’s “nine-dash line” and the South Sea certainly helps move this from “news” to “mundane”.

But, who is the villain? Arguably, the US is the villain, but not for the conventional reasons. Had Trump had his way, the US never would have borrowed money from China to get involved in the Mid East in the first place. The US Navy could have then operated out of the red and more in the Pacific blue. Then, China’s “island-building” might never have happened and Beijing wouldn’t have been strong enough to vie for a fight that it seems to want so badly—at least by proxy of the changes in the maps Beijing insists on seeing printed globally. But, that’s all speculation.

As you watch headlines, note the trickle of economic articles on China. China didn’t get it’s money through innovation, policy invention, or good will; it got its money because the Western lower-middle class pinched pennies so much they would spend $1.50 in gasoline to drive across town where an item cost $0.75 less. That drove jobs to China—which capitalized on US penny-pinching and pinched their own dollars into pennies, another thing Trump has criticized the Chinese for. China won the lottery, a story which ends well for few.

So, like a 16 year old with the keys to the Porsche he bought with his rich uncle’s money, China tried to build islands in hopes of rewinding the pages of history to their nostalgic splendor. While the US abandoned the mess it made in the Mid East—creating an otherwise would-have-failed enemy in the process of going and leaving—China could capitalize on the vacuum left by the AWOL US. Had China known how to earn the money it ended up with, Beijing would have had the smarts to be where ISIS now stands. Had they the smarts to learn from loss, they would have beaten Putin to the punch and build their islands closer to the vacuum. But, like a jealous company set on “wants” instead of “needs”, China is building islands that the US can take over in 15 minutes.

In the end, China will have to sign some kind of truce, though probably not a full “surrender”; the man-made islands will go to the US or some puppet thereof; and the US presence will have done exactly what China didn’t want, thanks to China: expand. A stronger China in the Mid East with “status quo” in the South Sea might have been more profitable, for China most of all.

The irony of it all begs the question: Was the penny-pinching culture of the American lower-middle class some CIA plot from the beginning to boost China’s confidence beyond feasibility? Probably not. But, is might make a great thriller “espionage intel.” novel.

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