Symphony

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, July 24, 2017

Conflict in China has become a tech problem. In the Koreas, it’s become an ideological time bomb.

They are all connected—technology, economy, communication, and ideology. These become a vicious cycle with no happy ending, at least none in sight.

Tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook take turns bossing around governments in the West. China wants nothing to do with that. Who can blame them? They simply ban them—along with the ability to do tech research with them.

Governments require sovereignty. Sovereignty requires resources. Resources require economics. Economics require research. Research requires communication. Communication requires, well, communication. Innovation is a state of mind that affects all of a person’s ideas, both in terms of technology and political values. If Chinese researchers want to improve their own technology, they will have to read papers written by pro-democracy experts from the West.

China’s ban on communication isn’t just about controlling political ideas among the masses; it’s about not letting Google boss around a country with 1.3 Billion people like it does with Europe. Sure, the challenges in China accompany the normal list of symptoms associated with any Communist State.

North Korea is a well-documents flash back to the 1950s.  A returned defector hungers for the handouts she had in poverty rather than needing to and being able to work for her own living. The same happened when the iron curtain fell in Russia. Slaves love their chains.

Communist governments supply all their people’s needs, including food. Necessity is the mother of invention. People who grow up without need grow up without invention. That affects the economy. If government gives people food then they won’t have new ideas to fuel the economy.

Vietnam, though more and more free, doesn’t even think of an email address as a normal item on a business card. Communist countries close their doors and don’t progress. People learn to lie to survive. Soon, laws get ignored, including safety laws. Industrial accidents rise. People stop sharing information about anything, especially themselves. Governments don’t know which laws to make for the people because they don’t know what real people do because the people are punished for saying what they do.

The other option—Google takes over. Where is anyone to go?

Linkedin has a potential way forward while other social companies have failed. But, therein lies an inherant problem. Consider the word roots—”social” media is an affront to “Socialism” by etymological definition. Of course Communist China would never let Facebook in—never. The day Facebook enters China the Communist party falls. Apple is trying to enter the market that makes their phones, but Apple faces bigger problems than the closed doors of Communism; Apple is being defeated by both the Western economy and Linux.

Only Linkedin remains with a way forward because their service passes personal information publicly, through “profiles”. Making personal information public is not the kind of crackdown Communists tend to make. But, the problem there is social: People learn to conceal their true selves in a Communist State. Moreover, in a dynastic culture with thousands of years of “emperors”, publicly stating who your friends are indicates guilt. Who does that, anyway? In the milieu of laws shooting in the dark at problems they don’t understand, everyone is a criminal of some blue law, so declaring your friends is self-inditing through guilt by association. Making truth about oneself available to the public is near suicide in any closed country.

Linkedin’s path forward requires social change. They could do it. China shouldn’t object to running ads encouraging people to divulge information about themselves. But, the people will quickly start to feel entitled to free speech in order to do that. And, they will expect to not be indited for saying that they had noodles at a shop frequented by a mafia boss. Culture clash is coming if Linkedin even tries, but that never stopped the parent company Microsoft before.

Still, it will take time, probably too long for short-attention-spanned shareholders. Linkedin is too big to be patient long enough for any progress, but they might pave a way to a new business model for someone to come after them. While ideologies and technologies come and go, people as a whole always push forward and overcome.

The West should thank China for being closed. They seem to be the only ones really sticking it to Google and Facebook. Apple also owes China a big thank you: when your irreplaceable mastermind dies, “blaming it on the Communists” always works in a quarterly review. While the Communist debate always remains, the Fascist debate can always rebound. Thanks to Communism holding big-money Fascism at bay, the need for new technology has been granted on a silver platter. Thanks to China’s unintended consequences, something new is on the way and it’s bigger than all of us.

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Symphony

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, April 24, 2017

All eyes on Korea means all eyes on China, which means all eyes on Trump. What’s at stake?—not nuclear war, not regional war, not freedom for northern Koreans, but a trade deal with China. At least, that’s the story if you ask the money channels.

China is a “gold mine for innovation”, the hope for breakthrough in the car crisis—in case you didn’t know there was a car crisis. Australia is partnering with—of all countries—China to address cyber theft. China is such a booming, excellent, most-happening place that Chinese investors have actually decided it’s a good idea to finally start reinvesting in their own country.

But, most importantly, Trump needs to be very, very careful in dealing with northern Korea. China even said so. They even made a phone call to say it.

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Symphony

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, March 13, 2017

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1WzbdlmQMM

Forget Japanese waters, headlines worry about North Korea and Hawaii. South Korea has their own two cents to add over the assassination of Kim Jong-un’s half brother at Kuala Lumpur International. China says that North Korea and the US are like two trains headed on a collision course. China has a kind of “plan” to bring the US and North Korea together, but the US won’t make concessions for obeying a UN resolution and there is no mention of China cutting off its supply. It seems China wants to be the “great reconciler”, but the rift is too far between East and West. Japan’s answer is to strike first.

Taiwan may be able to make its own response. This week, the US handed off two Perry-class frigates to Taiwan. Taiwanese naval officers will learn how to operate the frigates from the US Navy and the ships should set sail in May. This is a very interesting development since President-elect Trump received a phone call from President Tsai, and since the US still has yet to deliver on several military sales, especially F-16s, that closed during the terms of former Presidents Obama and Ma.

China’s response to events this week is two-fold. An editorial with a persuasive tone appeared in China’s state-run Global Times, arguing that India would help itself more if it cooperated with Chinese strategies rather than Japanese and US strategies. Xi Jinping also underlined and emphasized China’s great need to catch up on technology. This comes in the wake of the coming American Lockheed Martin F-35 “Lightning II” fighter jet and the US Navy’s new electromagnetically trajected railgun. China’s response is both telling and predicting.

While China has made advances, both in approaching Tomahawk cruise missile technology and in nearing the completion of its first home made aircraft carrier (reverse engineered from a Soviet era carrier), China still feels claustrophobic. Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and India, not to mention the distant-yet-present US are all naval forces too close to China’s back yard. Xi feels the “squeeze”. China is in a tight spot.

President Xi also revisited his long-standing mission of countering squander and corruption within the Communist Party. By underlining the points he did, he seems to be vying for equity and credit. Doesn’t China’s leader have enough credibility or does Xi know something the West doesn’t? Regardlessly, the greater wild card is India. China believes that India is on the fence and is open to persuasion—and China is correct. Soon, India will feel its own squeeze. The question, then, will be whether India feels inclined to side with China rather than forces farther to its east or if India will decide to reverse engineer Western technology write persuasive editorials of its own.

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Faux Report

Internet To Shut Down On April 2nd For Routine Maintenance

Congress Shoots Down Net Neutrality, Passes Internet Usage Tax

SAN FERNANDO VALLEY, California –

The entire internet throughout the entire world will be shut down for routine maintenance on April 2nd, for what officials say will be approximately 12 hours.

“This is the first time we’ve had to do this since the internet was created, but approximately every 30 years or so, we need to take the entire internet offline for awhile so that we can make routine updates to the servers, wires, and networks,” said White House Technology Staffer Joe Goldsmith. “The US Government is working closely with private agencies in this country to make sure that all internet and bandwith meet a certain standard. Similar measures will be taking place throughout the rest of the world at the same time.”

According to Goldsmith, all major internet carriers will send out their own workers to update, replace, and generally tend to any issues or “holes” in their network. The repairs will be handled on an individual company basis, but that the government will oversee the entire project.

“We are extremely sorry for the issues, but all internet will be offline for just about half a day,” said Goldsmith. “This includes tablets, cell phones, computers, smart watches – literally anything that connects to the internet will not be able to connect for approximately 12 hours on April 2nd. We apologize for the inconvenience, but this will not happen again until the year 2050.”

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Faux Report

I’ll Tell You Why China Hasn’t Produced a Steve Jobs

Robin LiBy Robin Li

Robin Li is the chairman and CEO of Baidu.

As a successful tech entrepreneur, people are constantly asking me why China hasn’t produced a Steve Jobs.

Many have offered their theories on this vital question. Some blame China’s emphasis on rote learning; others, the culture of imitation and lack of intellectual property protection. Some even point the finger at the Communist Party for stifling freedom of thought and expression.

While I love a good theory, none of these captures exactly why China hasn’t produced a Steve Jobs. But I’ve figured out the answer. And here I am, going on record, to share this with the world so we can finally put this question to rest.

Steve Jobs was born in 1955 to a Syrian father and a Swiss-American mother who met while both were enrolled at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. A complicated family situation with his biological parents led him to be adopted at birth by the Jobs family, and was raised in a highly academic environment in California.

In 1972, Jobs enrolled at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, but dropped out after six months though he continued to sit in on creative classes. Involvement with the developer of hit game Pong led him to a job with Atari, via a soul-searching soujourn to India.

In 1976, he co-founded the Apple Computer Company, was removed from power in 1985, but returned in 1996 to oversee a complete overhaul of its creative philosophy. Many credit Jobs with the invention of the iPod, the iPad, the iPhone and, by extension, the tablet device. At the time of his death in 2011 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, he was among the world’s most influential people.

So why, you may ask, hasn’t China produced a Steve Jobs?

Today’s China is a dynamic business environment, with huge investments in education and the tech sector—both key factors in Jobs’ success. Young Chinese are exposed to a broader cultural environment than any previous generation, and are developing opinions, vision and principles independently of the rigid school system, much like Jobs in his youth.

Many Chinese billionaires, myself included, come from humble backgrounds and built their companies through a unique comprehension of the marketplace combined with a shrewd approach to business.

So far, so Steve Jobs, you might think.

But there’s one key element that, while perhaps trivial to the untrained eye, means everything when explaining why China has not produced a Steve Jobs.

It is this: the chances of the precise DNA combination that resulted in Steve Jobs’ conception are minuscule.

While there is a 100% probability that Jobs himself was born, the chances of creating a genetically, culturally and intellectually identical human being with all the characteristics of the original, down to the Issey Miyake turtleneck sweater, are so close to zero they are statistically meaningless.

When applied to China, a political construct on the other side of the world from California, the odds become even more remote.

According to a Baidu search, of the ethnically Syrian men known to be living in China, none of them has a Swiss-American spouse. Even if we expand our search to include couples who might potentially move to China in the future, there are only three known Syrian-and-Swiss-American couples worldwide. Only two of these involve a Syrian man and a Swiss-American woman, and none of these individuals share the same genetic material as Jobs’ biological parents.

You see where this is going, right?

As CEO of Baidu, my fidelity is always to the data first and the hypotheses second. Before we even get into the probability of the biological child of some theoretical mixed-race couple being adopted by another couple surnamed Jobs, we can see the numbers just don’t add up.

Combine this with the fact that there are no Chinese couples with the surname Jobs, or even a close Chinese equivalent, we can deduce that, even if we selected a Chinese child with the same genetic material as the man himself, put him through an identical childhood in California and then through the same college experience, at the end of the day, even if he went on to found the next tech revolution, he would still not be Steve Jobs.

And here, my friends, is the final, insurmountable stumbling block. Until a Chinese national formally changes their name to Steve Jobs, and has said change recognized by the state, China will never produce a Steve Jobs. Ma Yun? Sure. Li Yanhong? Sure. But Steven Paul Jobs? Not likely.

How intriguing that everyone in China, male and female, has the power to become a Steve Jobs and yet, at the same time, none of us has taken the step to actually become a Steve Jobs. And perhaps nobody ever will.

My critics will say that this was a reductive answer to a reductive question. But this brand of logical yet out-of-the-box thinking is how I got to where I am today.

Even so, I am left to face the irrefutable fact that, even if more Chinese thought the way I do, we’d still be no closer to an actual Steve Jobs.

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