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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 19, 2018

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X49lNjezNgE

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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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 1, 2017

The news would have us think that China’s reverse-engineered copy of a Soviet-made diesel aircraft carrier is nuclear-powered and in full commission. It’s not. It’s simply being towed from one construction site to another. But, it is another milestone step in progress and the West needs to pay close attention. With all the excitement over Korean nukes, China obtaining its own aircraft carriers is a bigger step and a bigger threat to China’s neighbors. Heads are turning in Japan and India.

Trump’s “bromance” with China’s President Xi isn’t without precedent. The two are smart. Trump is less-controlled by the big political class. No matter how much Xi may want to resolve peace, any deal he makes with Trump must be pleasing to the Communist Party of China. Perhaps some success with Trump on the Kim dynasty in Korea will help Xi persuade the old boys club in China. But, that would be a first. Old school Chinese don’t like to learn new tricks.

Eventually, Korea will make major steps toward becoming one nation. Then, the US and China will change colors in the South Sea. Both sides will have gotten what they wanted: a stable Korean Peninsula. But, when the conflict in the West Pacific erupts, all bets will be off. It won’t be America who betrays first, the Chinese will make their move after they have their excuse. The ongoing US relationship with Taiwan may be that excuse. And, in the minds of the Chinese, the US will have been wrong.

Xi and Trump will become like old generals who know each other from battle field just as well as from the tea time table. No matter how much conflict they have, they will always be grateful for their cooperation in Korea. That’s what mature generals do. And, that is the current leadership at both ends of the Pacific.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 3, 2016

With the US continuing its shift to Asia from the Middle East, China faces a choice. Beijing knows that various and sundry forces in the Middle East are a growing threat—as well as in Malaysia and other paces Chinese have migrated to. From Obama’s arguably premature exit from Iraq, we can see the results of a military vacuum. But, the Pentagon has been announcing a shift away from the Middle East and toward Asia for quite some time, regardless of Obama’s or any other American president’s choice of timing.

Hostile groups in the Middle East are hostile both to the US and China. These are a kind of “shared enemy”. With the US no longer holding the China-US enemies in check, China becomes vulnerable, and more quickly so. The Middle East is much closer to Chinese “Far East” territory than the Western US on the opposite side of the world.

China has a choice: Continue to fortify to compel changes in the South Sea while remaining vulnerable to enemies in the back yard or else fortify where the US left, grow in strength where Beijing had not initially dreamed of, and maintain non-conflict at home. So far, it seems that China wants to wind history backward rather than forward; that means not only winding back the maps, but bringing all the conflict that came with them and more. But, we’ll see.

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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 22, 2016

There really isn’t much news this week in the Pacific. China and Russia practice war games in the disputed South Sea while the US and South Korea practice their war games near the Korean Peninsula. Taiwan’s government continues what is expected of the new regime: Status quo, strength, and corruption crackdowns—two of which don’t exactly please China.

Status quo is exactly what China will not accept. Taiwan and the US object to the objection to status quo. No big chances are coming from the countries China opposes. China is determined to break the mood. Beijing sees the West as “already having” upset status quo and want to revert to history—well, a specific part of history anyway. So, “status quo” has become a relative term, as has “perp”. We’ll have to leave conclusions in the hands of the people.

That conclusion may be soon as much as it may be well-informed. The world slowly becomes more and more aware of what is happening in the South Sea. When someone busts a move to make headlines, there won’t be any surprises.

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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, August 1, 2016

A pro-China policy has made a Hong Kong politician famous. The fuel was supplied to the press, then the press sold newspapers. National Party and pro-independence candidate Chan Ho-tin has received more international press in one day than almost any other politician in Hong Kong can hope for in an entire career. An individual in the Hong Kong government determined that Chan was not “sincere” enough in his pledge to uphold Hong Kong’s “Basic Law”, which defines Hong Kong as a part of China.

While Chan had help becoming famous, Yeung Ke-cheong got himself disqualified from the same election all by himself, simply by not making the necessary pledge. Chan plans to appeal the decision. A politician from an opposing party put Chan in the same category as a terrorist, yet has not provided explanation for how terrorists usually have no problem with “sincerity” one way or another. After considering this, there appears to be no unified coordination coming from Hong Kong against pro-independence politicians. Moreover, there seems to be no concern from Beijing over how one individual’s decision in Hong Kong resulted in the international fame of their political opponent. Beijing might have been more pleased had Chan’s pledge been accepted, he been allowed to run, then been indited for perjury once there was sufficient evidence that his pledge had not been genuine, but now we won’t know.

Were it not for this incident, many Westerners might not even know that Hong Kong has even has a pro-independence movement. Now, the West does. Usually, one wants one’s enemies to receive as little press as possible. This all makes the opposition to the opposition look a little less organized, making the initial opposition seem less serious for opposing such a disorganized opposition to their opposition. And, that makes the whole thing seem somewhat absurd. In it all, the West was roused against Beijing once again by the international attention on Hong Kong, “Asia’s World City”.

Meanwhile, in the South Sea, Beijing has cited the 1986 incident, when the US refused Hague’s ruling to pay reparations to Nicaragua. However, there seemed to be no comment from Beijing on how many other countries Beijing is ignoring in its policy in the South Sea. Unfortunately, both the US and Beijing speak mainly of Hague where Hague rulings are concerned, rather than keeping the focus on international community. It seems that Hague is the big distraction for both the US and China. With Russia teaming up with China for a semi-routine naval exercise in the South Sea this coming September, the international community’s opinion is relevant, even though it does not see much limelight.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, July 18, 2016

The Hague ruling has stirred the waters and the ripples are bouncing. According to the tribunal, China has no basis for its claims concerning the nine-dash line. However, this also affects sovereign waters Taiwan has enjoyed, and it has implications for an islet Japan uses as a basis for a wide reaching aquatic claim.

Taiwan, still at war with China on the books, also rejected Hague’s decision through a legislative vote, based on over-lapping claims with China. Japan’s situation was not brought before the court.

The Chinese people would likely view Taiwan’s independence much the same as Americans might view a Texan succession from the Union. There is a complex mix of feelings and motives. Love knows when to let go; Asians rarely let go in family, let alone business and government.

China pointed out that there were no Asians ruling at the tribunal. Those involved couldn’t possibly understand—or could they? Asians have failed to resolve their disputes while Western nations, as evidenced in the last couple weeks, know how to part ways peacefully.

Some speculate that China and its neighbors will figure out a solution between themselves. However, if that were possible, it would have already happened and there would have been no excuse for the Hague tribunal in the first place. Unfortunately, Asia will likely play out the family feuds to see how many demands which party is too bloody to make, giving America the excuse it needs to continue to interfere. It’s hard to defend any party in the conflict.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, July 11, 2016

Abe’s landslide re-election in Japan, a US shield deployment in South Korea, and $2B USD pumping into Taiwan’s navy won’t exactly be sweet music to countries on the other side of the line. China isn’t in a position to make demands. Though, Beijing has denounced Hague’s coming trial often and loudly.

Beijing doesn’t know what and who they are dealing with. What is Washington’s motive for allowing China to continue to build islands? Why doesn’t Washington intervene if Washington objects? Bejing doesn’t seem to have considered the trend: America is outsourcing once again. These islands, “Made in China”, are the perfect place for the US to expand its naval presence.

Consider the scenario: Keep monitoring the construction under the guise of “intel gathering”. Once the islands are useful to the US, make the perfect “mistake” to provoke the bull. The bullfighter wins slowly, one cut at a time, three years later, all China’s man-made islands belong to the US at the “Chinese surrender”.

It’s not necessarily going to happen, but it could. And, for all arguments and responses coming from China, Beijing doesn’t seem to have considered that particular psychology of Washington, clearly available in the headlines of history.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, July 11, 2016

Abe’s landslide re-election in Japan, a US shield deployment in South Korea, and $2B USD pumping into Taiwan’s navy won’t exactly be sweet music to countries on the other side of the line. China isn’t in a position to make demands. Though, Beijing has denounced Hague’s coming trial often and loudly.

Beijing doesn’t know what and who they are dealing with. What is Washington’s motive for allowing China to continue to build islands? Why doesn’t Washington intervene if Washington objects? Bejing doesn’t seem to have considered the trend: America is outsourcing once again. These islands, “Made in China”, are the perfect place for the US to expand its naval presence.

Consider the scenario: Keep monitoring the construction under the guise of “intel gathering”. Once the islands are useful to the US, make the perfect “mistake” to provoke the bull. The bullfighter wins slowly, one cut at a time, three years later, all China’s man-made islands belong to the US at the “Chinese surrender”.

It’s not necessarily going to happen, but it could. And, for all arguments and responses coming from China, Beijing doesn’t seem to have considered that particular psychology of Washington, clearly available in the headlines of history.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, June 6, 2016

This week we see a new classroom game called “China Says”. China wants everyone to say that the South Sea is theirs. Manila wants Japan to say that Pacific nations should say otherwise. China says that no one else should say otherwise. The US says that China should be careful about what it says and does.

Taiwanese say that Tienanmen was a “massacre”, saying that Taiwan’s president is “disappointing” for saying Tienanmen was an “incident”.

John Kerry says that China should listen to what Hague says. China says that what Hague says doesn’t matter. Taiwan also says that what China says about the South Sea “Air Defense Zone” doesn’t matter. China says that there is no fear of trouble.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 30, 2016

China has reportedly announced that it has been outdone by US technology. This implication came from the statement that it can only respond to the US “freedom of navigation” exercises by sending nuclear subs to the South China Sea. While some claim that the reports from Beijing are “exaggerated”, either scenario shows Beijing revealing its position of weakness and needing to resort to drastic measures. The report seems to have come as a response to reports of the US Navy’s use of the new electromagnetic-powered hypersonic railgun.

An international tribunal on China’s claims, activities, and islands in the South China Sea is expected in the coming weeks. China has already announced to declare the ruling illegal and will not comply. There seems to be no word on whether “contempt of court” charges against China will be included in the tribunal, in lieu of the recent comments. Elementary power brokers strive to understand the concept that, in our day, law comes from the resolve of the masses and to change the law, one must first court the masses. We’ll see.

Then, there’s money. Concern is growing over an ENRON-style ingrowth and implosion in China’s economy. While wealth management portfolios formerly focused on deriving profits from bonds (AKA real, individual people), the swelling trend is to invest in other banking investments. This is an exceptionally large problem since many banking investments now get their money from wealth management. So, Chinese banks are making more of their money by getting money from each other, and less from actual people.

Then, there’s currency. China has set the value of its currency at a five-year low. This in the shadow of recent comments from the US Fed chair. The high seas are not the only battle front irritating the international community. And, currency value isn’t either, for that matter.

There’s also trade. Not only Taiwan, but now Europe is getting cold feet in trading with China. Taiwan won’t resume cross-straight talks until it gets some laws passed to make the playing ground even. And, some in China’s circles echo similar statements from front-running US presidential candidate, Trump.

Speaking of Taiwan, the newly elected president, Tsai, visited a Taiwanese Air Force base for the first time in her new presidency. She seems less shy of talking about her own the military than Obama is of his. While China may not notice the responses of the international community, China will notice Tsai. Perhaps that is why the nuke subs are on the way.

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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, May 16, 2016

China and the US rattled sabers over Taiwan. Arguably, they smacked sheathed sabers. A US Navy ship, USS William P. Lawrence, sailed past one of China’s military-stocked man-made islands with two Chinese jet escorts chasing it away. Chinese and Washington generals want to increase freedom of navigation and communication. Washington wants Taiwan to spend more on asymmetric military defense against China.

The US is concerned about China’s missiles preventing it from intervening should China invade Taiwan. Guam and Okinawa are supposedly at risk and could be denied access to Taiwan’s defense. This concern has activated a strong response from the US and Taiwan to prepare responses. The new US electromagnetic railgun is approaching its days or early deployment and already has active prototypes. It can travel 7 times the speed of sound, uses no explosive propellants, costs less money, allows transporters to carry more ammunition, can penetrate steel “like a hot knife through butter”, receives satellite and other guidance, and can be used as both an assault and anti-missile defense system.

So it would seem, just as China claims freedom of navigation in the South China Sea has given Beijing reason to erect islands, China has given the US the excuse it needs to deploy technology that blurs the lines between science and science fiction.

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