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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 22, 2018

By not labeling China a "currency manipulator", the US is extending an olive branch to Beijing. But, things aren't as they seem. On every level, China is reaching—almost grasping—to save face.

This new artificial moon is honest and runs deep in Chinese culture. As part of being the center of the universe, Chinese culture arguably orbits the moon. The Lunar New Year is celebrated far more, in Chinese culture, than the Western calendar New Year. While the Western press tells of the man-made moon from China as a kind of narcissism, it's genuine and normal interest. The threat is US strategy.

While the US throws olive branch after olive branch, the forest yields other fruit than olives. China is losing money fast. Trump tariffs are gobbling up China's reserves behind the reserves. No matter how friendly China tries to play at this point, the US will continue to deliver one provocation after another until China retaliates with basic human instinct. It won't matter how many "encounter codes" China and the US agree to. The US has decided that China is an enemy and has determined to convince the world as much.

This is not the first military provocation campaign from the US. But, if China wins, it would be a first naval victory for China. Calculate the odds.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 8, 2018

China's political, socioeconomic worldview is that of a zero-sum game. It has played it's socioeconomic game that way for decades. Now, it must empty its reserve coffers to keep its zero-sum game strategy from sinking too fast. This means that it can't use those coffers if a military conflict arose. The United States knows this.

Don't be fooled. The US strategy is to provoke China into a conflict sooner than it wants. In the Western view, China has shown how it will behave by having shown how it has behaved more and more. This is enough to warrant preemptive agitation for the Western taxpayer. In China's view, the world has failed to bestow on China what China deserves; because China rightly deserves what it deserves, China can't lose.

Interpol has now gotten whatever international attention against China's favor that Hong Kong malcontents did not. With the disappearance of Interpol's president into China, whoever didn't care about so-called "Chinese aggression" does now. China's government thinks they sent a message to the world. They did, but the message received is probably not the message that was intended.

As the Pacific conflict escalates, the US-Taiwan aggravation strategy moves into more military cooperation. "Unprecedented" was the word of the week. And, everyone knows what it means just as much as everyone knows why.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 1, 2018

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQ769JqU3xs

When China cancelled a meeting in Washington, the Chinese thought they were sending a message; Washington thought they wouldn't be sending any more messages at all. The Chinese government wants mutual respect, trade that results in equal numbers, and that countries not be bullied into taking sides in a China-US disagreement. Though China lobbed this new policy in a complaint against the US, there have yet to be steps or specific commitments on how China will hold up its side of this new policy. It will be difficult to get clarification without communication.

US tariffs are unfair. It's so obvious that it doesn't need to be proven. China has a right, after all—and everyone should agree—to develop itself as a nation. China's right to have any and all resources given to it from everywhere in the world, to whatever extent is needed for development, is an entitlement China has by birth and is already universally accepted around the world. Those in the US who oppose this obvious consensus are a rogue fringe not deserving of academic mention.

But, Taiwan is being a big bully—a meanie-face. By not rebuking the US for considering a third of a billion dollar arms sale to Taiwan, the Taiwanese are spitting in Beijing's face once again. As if that bullying wasn't enough, Taiwan is also planning a new place to park its helicopters. Of all the audacity!

Hong Kong, however, stands no chance against the great and mighty China. By banning a pro-independence party, the Hong Kong government sure showed them! There's no possible hope for any kind of backlash or rise in sympathy, once the rightful leaders have made their all-powerful will known in the fully self-governed special administrative region of Hong Kong.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 24, 2018

Google has gone off the deep end. The level of insanity matches The Bridge over the River Kwai. Actually helping China spy—Are Google execs loopy? From a Chinese company inside China that would make sense. But, Google is American. As if helping a non-ally spy isn't enough, social media giants are already in trouble over censorship in the US. Google could be in bigger trouble with the White House than Wall Street is.

Taiwan hasn't wasted any time irritating China. Now, a temple that was bought seven years ago by a Taiwanese business man, which was then converted into a "shrine to Chinese communism", is having the lights and water turned off as the local government prepares to demolish the whole place. That won't wash over well for anyone hoping to court friendship with China.

China seems to be taking the hint and finally getting offended. Beijing cancelled a trip to talk trade with Washington after figuring out that tariffs were set by imbalance and retaliation rather than rhetoric. As for the two steering factors—imbalance and retaliation—China shows no indication of making concessions. But, it's not the tariffs or trade talks that deserve the headlines as much as the insults mounting against China.

The US is going after Russia for selling weapons to China. That's even more irritation. And, China is even more angry. If we were to analyze the events of the past few months, even years more subtly, it could seem that angering China was an accident. But, the recent past makes more sense, just as events are more easily anticipated, if we consider that the US is irritating China on purpose. Expect more insults from the US, along with Taiwan.

And, Korea. Yes, the two nations are getting along. That won't work well for any nation or pundit hoping to argue that Trump doesn't know how to make a difference in the region.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 17, 2018

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTzNYYL9Gg8

The US is not sending a contingency of Marines to Taiwan to protect it's envoy. This announcement came after reports that the US had such plans. After discussing the non-existence of the plans for deployment, the State Department also discussed that it does not discuss plans for security or other strategies. Perhaps the real strategy not being discussed is that the strategy is not being discussed.

At any rate, the announcement that an announcement has not been made about the discussion of not discussing security strategy and the non-discussion about Marines who will not be deployed should make heads in Beijing spin as they try to figure out just what the US is not doing about what it's not discussing. Fewer Marines in Taiwan would be more inviting for an invasion, if the discussion were under discussion, which it is not—reportedly.

One of the best kept secrets about the brewing trade war between the US and China is that US jobs departed to China. A trade war would move those jobs back to the US.

Consider a US company that set up shop in China. While the financial know-it-alls loose sleep over anything being less pleasant than an afternoon massage, including a US company in China being attacked hyena style as Chinese culture loves to do, the people in the US wouldn't care about that company. That's the company that forsook the American worker. In the mind of the average US working voter, the company that got in bed with China should stay around for the abusive marriage; so leave them to the hyenas! Any Americans who own shares in those companies would do well to keep that information secret from their working, voting neighbors.

The world doesn't work how so-called "financial experts" think it does. The trade war will not hurt the US economy because economies flourish from jobs, not consumption. Claiming that lower consumption of off-shore goods will harm a market would be to measure a farm's profitability based on how much the farming family eats other farmers' food. The real issue with the trade war is a real war.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 10, 2018

Right or wrong, the US-China tariff war was always coming. Stupid American companies flew into the campfire of Chinese manufacturing like moths into a flame. China was smart inasmuch as they did not become dependent on the outsourced labor, which was always going to ever-only be temporary. China has wasted no time, building infrastructure, such as the highway between Hong Kong and Macau and the silk road, now gaining income by the well marketed tourist attraction.

But, this tariff war was always coming. The political situation in the Pacific indicates that it's not about economics so much as it is about military. Pacific island nations grow more and more irritated by China. Little, small nations are speaking out, demanding China apologize for storming out of a PIF (Pacific Islands Forum) meeting when China's diplomatic representative was told to wait to speak until after heads of state from member nations had their turn. China is not a member, only an attendee. This is not any demonstration of leadership that the region will accept, no matter how much it may have been bestowed by the territorial gods at the universe's center, which is in China of course.

Then, there's Taiwan. If last week was a week of firing off blanks and papers across bows, this week, cannonballs started splashing. Taiwan introduced three different bills amending existing law, stiffening restrictions and penalties concerning anything that could even remotely be construed as interference between Taiwan and China. As if that wasn't enough, Taiwan is increasing its budget for both fighter jets and the navy. And, Taiwan's military even moved up an annual naval exercise to rehearse an attack from China at an earlier date than usual.

In all of this, the rain continues to fall in Taiwan, now flooding different parts of the island than saw torrents over three solid weeks of cloud cover. Not to worry, though. City governments are closely monitoring just how many millimeters of water can drain away how quickly, revamping any old sewer system that can't keep up. Taiwan just seems to have its hands full, as well as its rivers.

Then, there is the tsunami of US diplomacy. Trade wars often prelude military wars. While Taiwan's dwindling allies flip to support China, the US is breaking ties with any country that breaks ties with Taiwan, more or less. Solidarity with Taiwan seems to have bipartisan support in US Congress. With trade alliances shifting, when war breaks out, it will be a financial calculation as a convergence of China's revenue and US dependence on Chinese-made goods both bottom out.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 3, 2018

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPTZpYMBlKY

China is in trouble. We don't know why, but we know the indication: Trump will be absent from ASEAN. He was absent from a funeral this week and his support grew. He was absent from a Republican debate, then he won the Republican nomination. By not meeting Xi face to face, Xi won't be able to read his emotions. No one knows exactly what Trump has planned, only that he's spending a lot of time on the golf course—a luxury banned by China's Communist Party—a luxury that just so happens to be Trump's favorite place to mull things over and get new ideas.

In the rainy season of August, Taiwan enjoyed almost three weeks of cloud cover. Whatever went on in Taiwan, it was difficult to see from above, and China never likes not being able to see from above. There's nothing like a little conveniently bad weather to irritate the away team. But, that wasn't the end.

The US is looking at a contingency of Marines to defend its unofficial embassy in Taipei and a former chief suggests simulating attacks on China's Soviet made, diesel powered aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, if it gets close enough to Taiwan. Such a statement is purely provocative and no chief, former or sitting, would make such provocation without sitting in counsel. This all compares to the Scottish flashing each other before a battle of the kilts. This week, the Taipei Times published numerous insulting and blatantly disrespectful stories from Taiwanese politics, spitting at China. Taiwan wouldn't do without backing.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, August 13, 2018

China's situation isn't getting easier. Taiwan now has tested a new missile, boasting ability to fire within China's mainland, being capable of destroying military targets on both land and sea. This is no laughing matter. On the economic front, Beijing has a hard-headed counterpart in the White House, Donald Trump. He shows no indication of backing down on any front, including Beijing. Now, China is going after Muslims.

While it can be politically incorrect for the West to pursue terrorists if they are Muslim, China doesn't have that problem. Military states rarely do, which is one advantage China has over the West. Terror cells may be in hot water since China is on high alert in all directions. If Taiwan were to create trouble on its eastern coast, Beijing would not want more trouble from its western borders. So, any earlier preemptive action from Beijing is likely to be westward, toward Muslim nations. Those Muslim areas could be in greater danger than Taiwan.

Taiwanese have been busy, though. When anyone uses the "Taiwan, China" format, Taiwanese go berserk. That's raising a lot of attention about a little island in the Pacific which now has missiles capable of attacking China. These are interesting times.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, Jun 25, 2018

China is facing money problems, as the Western press continues to document in detail. China's economy is largely based on real estate. China's unusual form of communism includes laws that govern economics—especially with real estate, of course—and these laws are unusual in much of the rest of the world. As a result, people in China need to borrow money for things they normally wouldn't borrow money for. The repayment schedules are also strange.

The only way that a real estate business can stay afloat is if the prices of real estate keep rising. The more it rises, the more it needs to rise. Money doesn't fall from trees, but in China it needs to keep falling from somewhere in order to keep this vicious cycle spinning faster and faster. Eventually, the speed of the spinning wheel will exceed the strength of the wheel and it will all fly apart.

Then, we have China's strategy in the South Sea—also involving real estate. The man-made islands are complete. It all happened while the West watched closely and did nothing to stop it. They are heavily fortified and militarized.

Trump reminds the world that we aren't out of the woods yet with North Korea, Democrats misinterpret that as a contradiction—as if one step of progress means it's all over. Japan is ending its drills. The Korean problem is simmering down and Taiwan is escalating.

Now, we have the US strengthening its ties with Taiwan, the linchpin of the Pacific. Diplomats are visiting. Congressmen are calling for Taiwan's membership in sovereign-state-only organizations such as the UN. And, the Taiwan "Independence Party" welcomes US military cooperation.

Why would the US make such a bold move to side with Taiwan? Consider the US president's financial background: real estate. Trump understand's the economic crisis brewing in China. No one has said so, but the pieces line up. The US is positioning Taiwan as the main frontal push against China while the "attack from behind", as it were, is economics.

China is beefing up cyber attacks on Taiwan. US aircraft flying near the man-made islands are being hit by blinding flashes of light from the ground and from "fishing" boats, disrupting aviation. Using lasers such ways is illegal in war as both the US and China have signed agreements to.

China is also using drones that look like flying birds, but China wasn't the first. This technology has been used before. Interestingly, China has maintained a policy that tech manufactured in China must be shared with China's government. It would be even more interesting to see if any research surfaces on how many patent royalties China might owe for tech used to surveil its own people—surveillance only enabled by tech giants who caved into China's demands. But, due to the Tump administration, all that's coming to a grinding halt. If China wants better tech to spy on its own people, it's going to need to develop that tech on its own.

Those man-made islands in the South Sea were allowed to be built for a reason. Could they have been intended all along to become "booty" that will be "owned" by the West as Hong Kong was after the Opium Wars? Hong Kong just might be included if China is forced into concessions, especially with all the "ra-ra" fuss among spoiled Hong Kong students. The US strategy indicates many lofty "hopefuls" in the queue, should the status quo shift—in what direction no one knows. It seems that the Trump administration has aims much higher than merely settling disputes in Korea.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 28, 2018

The US "disinvited" two countries this week, not only North Korea, but also China from the biannual naval exercises in Hawaii. Both "disinvitations" were a rescinding of a previous invitation after less than friendly saber rattling from the former invitee. Kim Jong Un's loud mouth is widely known, so the North Korean "disinvitation" came as no surprise.

China, specifically, has been pressuring African countries to "dis-recognize" Taiwan in favor of Beijing policy. Additionally, China has been pressuring US companies to follow otherwise unrecognized Chinese maps placing Taiwan under China's political sovereignty, as well as companies from other countries—which Taiwan is not currently under the control of. China sees the request as part of a grand goal of "reunification" and a nostalgic return to the rhapsodic geographical past as the keystone of a socioeconomic strengthening strategy.

The problem from the Western corporate perspective is with the dictionary, not with ideology. China's government does not decide the laws on Taiwan's island currently, not in any way. So, listing Taiwan "under" China would create confusion for Western tourists. But, China is run by Communists who believe that logistics are to be dictated, not recognized. In the land of Communist-Chinese, if tourists would be confused, the solution is to simply make a new law this afternoon outlawing tourists who are confused. So, Beijing doesn't believe the West has any legitimate problem with the policy, but that Western companies are only trying to spite Beijing.

Washington, however, does view the problem as ideological. It would be wrong for Washington to dictate the organizational nomenclature of the Bank of China or Sky News or Spotify. So would be any reciprocal resemblance. Under Trump, Washington is enforcing that ideology globally.

Then, there was yet another snafu among China's man-made islands. The US can't stop making news in Taiwan. A Senator makes an "unexpected" visit. US weapons developers are planning to set up shop in Taiwan. The US and Taiwan have decided that they can't build Taiwanese submarines fast enough. And, the US has decided that Taiwan needs the absolutely best defense to respond to Chinese "saber rattling", not only asymmetric defense. All of this is remarkably irritating and "disrespectful" to China.

China hates few things more than being disrespected.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 21, 2018

Talk only went so far this week. I looks as if North Korea might not be dismantling its nukes, but hiding them, then threatening to close talks when exposed for this, then threatening to cancel the summit for some other list of excuses.

The big question on Kim Jong-Un backing out on the talks relates to his recent visits to China. Not that China has made any wild promises, but he feels somewhat confident in getting lippy with the US.

The big lesson was about Moon's emphasis on diplomacy vs Trump's emphasis on teeth. Diplomacy made progress in terms of leading to more diplomacy. But, actual action is a measurement of its own. So far, Trump's action has led to China losing interest in any kind of trade war and Moon's favored diplomacy seems to be leading to an undiplomatic end to diplomacy.

Things aren't over nor have we seen the last surprise. The big news of the week is that China's on the bench. Moon and Trump will meet to discuss Kim having a discussion with them in Singapore. Where's China?—announcing its surrender on trade, reflecting on past meetings with Kim, another player that doesn't really matter.

If Kim doesn't show up, Moon's populist diplomacy will prove to have failed and Trump will have the "political currency" for action against North Korea. Maybe that's what China hopes for in allowing Kim to gain false hopes in something or other—to rationalize a little retaliatory action of its own. But, if military action was China's first preference, Beijing would have already taken it.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, July 31, 2017

Xi Jingping told his military the same thing China has been telling its people for decades: The world needs us, our military, our might, and our expansion, otherwise there can be no peace. This proves a static ethic. From this perspective, China wants the US to remain calm and not take action in North Korea.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s president wants the US to wait while he negotiates with the North for safety in the US. South Korean people want much the same thing Filipinos want: non-dependence. South Korea’s president, South Korea’s people, and China all want the US to “get out”. Interestingly, they share this sentiment with North Korea.

The world is full of political ideologies that claim half of one thing and do half of another. The best chance at victory is to simply stay home and do good work there. In that, the South Korean people stand the greatest chance of victory. Yet, the United States stands the greatest chance of taking action for two reasons: the US is being threatened more than any other and the US is willing to take action more than any other. If the US takes out the North, they can leave and the South Koreans will get what they want. But, things rarely happen as they should.

Only two things are foreseeable: conflict and Korean unification. All the rest is conjecture.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 22, 2017

The big question surrounding the time of North Korea’s end will be logistics. It won’t be about tactics or the “most diplomatic-surgical way” to end the volatile regime. While the scene is that of the super villain who has strapped himself into a chair, booby-trapped with trip wires and armed with explosives, even more important things are going on. Large-scale powers don’t think about micro-tactics, they think about logistics. And, logistics are shaping-up.

Social energy is one important logistic. The people of nations involved must see a viable path to support certain action. Navies in the region are burning up tax dollars, something that can’t continue forever. Taiwan is itching for recognition in the world and the world itches for Taiwan to be recognized—and Taiwan is making much more progress than in years past. Then, there is trust.

From a PR perspective, China is failing. But, from a spying perspective, China has turf to defend. China’s isolationist policies may seem anti-free speech to the West, but China sees spies to catch and leaks to plug. Trump doesn’t like leaks either. Spies are dangerous. China is willing to kill them while Americans publicly oppose executions while secretly wishing the deaths of their daily enemies. China’s execution and imprisonment of CIA spies caught during the Obama years is very understandable. But, the American public won’t see it that way.

This week, a huge ramp went up to alert the public to “news” that is anything but. China caught and executed CIA spies long ago. It didn’t matter until now, when social support is an important calculation with logistics of war. That explains the Pentagon statements and the newspaper trends in America as well as Europe and Australia. The Western public is being rallied against China. That is significant.

Then, there is China’s image with the Koreas. China won’t be too hard on North Korea. China is banning South Korean travel because it doesn’t like the US presence in South Korea. That’s understandable, but not to the pop star fans in South Korea or the United States. When South Korean pop stars tour the US, more young people in the US will become aware of the issues. China could have stopped it, but Beijing still struggles to understand the Western mind. The Korean pop star fans in China might start struggling to understand Beijing’s mind, at least more than in the past. When you turn people away, they don’t just go home, the go elsewhere. That’s not easy to comprehend when you’ve always gotten what you want and always been told what to want to hear. Whatever China’s problems are or are not, the travel bans make China look worse than it deserves.

The real crime was the Shakespearian “fatal flaw”: China didn’t understand the West well enough. In a world of growing alliances between sovereign nations, that is an unforgivable sin as far as gravity is concerned. And, with gravity, mercy is too lacking and pain always greater than it should be.

But, all is fair in love and in war.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 22, 2017

The big question surrounding the time of North Korea’s end will be logistics. It won’t be about tactics or the “most diplomatic-surgical way” to end the volatile regime. While the scene is that of the super villain who has strapped himself into a chair, booby-trapped with trip wires and armed with explosives, even more important things are going on. Large-scale powers don’t think about micro-tactics, they think about logistics. And, logistics are shaping-up.

Social energy is one important logistic. The people of nations involved must see a viable path to support certain action. Navies in the region are burning up tax dollars, something that can’t continue forever. Taiwan is itching for recognition in the world and the world itches for Taiwan to be recognized—and Taiwan is making much more progress than in years past. Then, there is trust.

From a PR perspective, China is failing. But, from a spying perspective, China has turf to defend. China’s isolationist policies may seem anti-free speech to the West, but China sees spies to catch and leaks to plug. Trump doesn’t like leaks either. Spies are dangerous. China is willing to kill them while Americans publicly oppose executions while secretly wishing the deaths of their daily enemies. China’s execution and imprisonment of CIA spies caught during the Obama years is very understandable. But, the American public won’t see it that way.

This week, a huge ramp went up to alert the public to “news” that is anything but. China caught and executed CIA spies long ago. It didn’t matter until now, when social support is an important calculation with logistics of war. That explains the Pentagon statements and the newspaper trends in America as well as Europe and Australia. The Western public is being rallied against China. That is significant.

Then, there is China’s image with the Koreas. China won’t be too hard on North Korea. China is banning South Korean travel because it doesn’t like the US presence in South Korea. That’s understandable, but not to the pop star fans in South Korea or the United States. When South Korean pop stars tour the US, more young people in the US will become aware of the issues. China could have stopped it, but Beijing still struggles to understand the Western mind. The Korean pop star fans in China might start struggling to understand Beijing’s mind, at least more than in the past. When you turn people away, they don’t just go home, the go elsewhere. That’s not easy to comprehend when you’ve always gotten what you want and always been told what to want to hear. Whatever China’s problems are or are not, the travel bans make China look worse than it deserves.

The real crime was the Shakespearian “fatal flaw”: China didn’t understand the West well enough. In a world of growing alliances between sovereign nations, that is an unforgivable sin as far as gravity is concerned. And, with gravity, mercy is too lacking and pain always greater than it should be.

But, all is fair in love and in war.

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