Cadence of Conflict: Asia, April 10, 2017

Xi Jinping’s poker face waned. He’s not happy, though the reasons elude most Western readers. Though not democratic, Xi is a politician. He must balance wisdom with pleasing the veiled powers that overshadow the goings on of China. Those powers won’t hesitate to give the ax to any leader who fails to deliver on their expansionist ambitions. Xi has fought corruption and sought infrastructure. Xi was gaining momentum. Now, the US and Russia are rumbling in both of China’s back yards weeks after Xi announced that, where military tech is concerned, China needs to play “catch-up” or become “ketchup”. This can’t be good for Xi’s inside politics with Chinese elections approaching.

Trump certainly isn’t pulling any punches. Striking Syria while dining with China’s Chairman wasn’t unintentional. Remember, Trump has dealt with the Chinese on many occasion. Xi is difficult to read, except to say his rehearsed Asian smile is waning. A micron might as well be a mile in an Asian smile. In the weeks ahead, remember that Xi is half himself and half the hidden hand that controls all that goes on in China. That’s true of every Chinese president. In all this, Xi met with Trump and all went well. No matter when or how Xi’s career closes, no matter what his true ambitions were, China will go on and history will remember Chinese President Xi as the builder of bridges, inroads, aircraft carriers, and islands.

Xi wanted to remind the US of its Capitalist values: Don’t blame others for your problems. Yet, China clearly doesn’t share those values. Neither does North Korea, the stray dog that has adopted the doorstep at China’s northern back yard.

From China’s vantage point, North Korea is a nuisance and an excuse for an unwelcome US presence. Kim Dynasty narcissism has over-played and pushed the envelope with Beijing. Watch for Chinese heads of State to bark, then look the other way, much how the US does when Israel responds to Palestine.

So, why is the media announcing and discussing the possibilities of dealing with North Korea? True military tactics never make it on television—unless the reporter finds himself accused of a frivolous-like sexual crime and holes-up in an Ecuadoran Embassy to avoid extradition for espionage. It’s discussion on US military options like we saw over North Korea this week that makes it difficult for a US prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian “Espionage” Assange to seem believable from any angle. “Assassination, nuke-up, or surgical strike” are only media talking points to make the greater point: Knock it off or else.

Assassinations are illegal for the US according to the US’ own law, viz Executive Order 12333. It is doubtful, even in Trump’s stock-up on signing pens, that he plans to wipe out that order for North Korea alone—if he does, Assad is his next target and Kim was just an excuse. The US hopes to finish this situation in Korea before a nuclear buildup has time to grow moss. So does China. A “nuke-up” wouldn’t be grand strategy. An internal strike inside North Korea would illicit an avalanche. Anti-Iraq II Donald J. Trump won’t want to create another “vacuum”. A surgical strike would be an assist to something else. What’s really going on? Don’t think for one second that the media does know or that CIA doesn’t.

There’s joker in the North Korean deck and it is stacked to favor the West. We’ll just have to keep watching.

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Encore of Revival: America, April 10, 2017

Senate Democrats are now making noises about 60-vote cloture being removed for legislation. The cloture rule was removed 55-45 for Supreme Court nominees. Why Democrats have brought up the discussion for removing the cloture rule altogether remains a mystery, unless they expect to use fear as a preventative tactic in 2018. However, once an idea is introduced, even if by fear, the idea is up for valid discussion. Had Democrats hoped to retain cloture for legislation, they should have allowed Republicans to bring it up first. Now, elimination of the cloture rule altogether is inevitable.

The White House is in somewhat of a shakeup. Chief “Strategerist” Steve Bannon is getting shuffled, but no reasons seem to be valid. We may not find out the real reasons for at least two years, once the presses cool off, the stakes aren’t as high, and people aren’t so tight-lipped about inside baseball.

Trump ordered a 59-Tomahawk cruise missile strike on Syria after 80 were killed with nerve gas. The missiles targeted what was thought to be the base for the gas attack. Russia is also on the scene. The nerve gas was banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Putin responded with his usual worldview of nationalist, socialist victimhood. Whatever he and his crew resort to is necessary because of what the West took from them in the zero sum game. Putin is a true Hitler—gentle and endearing as a teddy bear who never raises his voice before his audience, compassionate, polite, never rude, never tough to critique directly, only strong to march behind, and everything he does is excused by what “they did to us”.

Syria’s use of banned chemical weapons could have been a ploy all along, by the Russians and their allies, to draw Trump’s action to justify escalation. Though it may have been bait from the Russian’s view, it might have been brilliant for Trump to tell the world that the US isn’t pantie-whipped anymore and to draw Russia’s attention to the Middle East while the USS Carl Vinson carrier group goes to North Korea.

Nearly 100k jobs were created in March alone, over 200k in February. An accurate presidential poll—Investor’s Business Daily—ranked Trump at 34% approval. Since Trump took office, Americans have only seen two results: a boom in jobs and an onslaught from the news industry. The people haven’t heard much from Trump directly because he is too busy keeping promises, no matter how politically controversial those promises are.

With good and bad news, people’s political opinions haven’t changed; they have only strengthened. And, that strengthening is just now getting started.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, April 3, 2017

China continues an uphill battle with the Western media. Sunflower students were cleared of all charges in their occupation of their nation’s legislature three years ago, almost to the day. Joined by leaders Lin and Chen, Joshua Wong from Hong Kong’s Umbrella movement urged the release of a Taiwanese college instructor, Lee Ming-che, from China’s custody. Lee is an advocate for human rights and is being held for matters of “national security”.

The best way to understand the Hong Kong Umbrella movement’s end game is regime change in China. Hong Kong has no military and pro-independence Hong Kongers don’t seem to be advocating mandatory military draft enrollment for all Hong Kong males. Taiwanese males not only have mandatory draft enrollment, but have a minimum compulsory service time after finishing school. Taiwan’s student movement interrupted secret government talks between the US adversary China and the US ally Taiwan. Taiwan purchases military equipment from the US, including Apache gunships and F-16 fighters, though trade was the primary concern of the Taiwanese protest. Both military and trade are China-related talking points from President Trump, especially this week. No such talking points related to the Hong Kong protests.

The Taiwanese movement was led by young men who would serve in their nation’s military, disrupted the government’s legislature for three weeks, and resulted in change. The Hong Kong protests were led by young men forbidden by their government from serving in their military, occupied public streets for three months, and only led to international attention. The only way to gauge the Hong Kong protests as a success is if the goal was to stir international attention in the media to raise sentiment against China—enough sentiment that China’s government changes enough to grant Hong Kong independence. That is quite a significant change, enough for China to consider the matter one of national security.

So, then, viewing activism as a matter of “national security” in China makes sense. Hong Kong’s status with China and human rights are topics Western media readers are interested in. By detaining people who live outside of China inside of China, activists such as Joshua Wong are receiving all the ammunition they need, courtesy of China.

China truly is in a war against the Western newspapers. That is probably why economics are Beijing’s primary tool against North Korea, while Donald Trump seems to have a different strategy in mind.

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Encore of Revival: America, April 3, 2017

Federal interference and wielded “power of the purse” miraculously became unethical in Seattle when Trump took the helm from Obama. Nearly everything the new president does is bad, not because it is bad in principle, but because it is done by the president whom the media didn’t predict would win the election.

The “Freedom Caucus” in the US House of Representatives will gain power. By defeating a half-baked “repeal and replace”—a bill that reaffirmed the power for a US Secretary to create whatever related policy he willed—the Freedom Caucus proved that it was not only powerful enough to defeat a bill that it’s own voting bloc presidential candidate sought, but that their defeat was so powerful that they provoked him into giving them credit for wielding such power.

But, an understanding of President Donald J. Trump suggests much more. This is a mere game of “catch” with a hardball. Trump didn’t get what he wanted, he negotiated hard line, so did the Freedom Caucus. In the end, he will surely make an awesome deal. Republican party unity will increase. Paul Ryan will object every bit as much as he takes public credit for “party unity”. And, a bitter few will seethe in smoke-filled back rooms while the Republican party feigns unity through Trump’s tenure. After that, the Freedom Caucus will have to find a new home.

The big news this week is that third party politics already had its cornerstone laid, and that nobody noticed.

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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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