Cadence of Conflict: Asia, June 13, 2016

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, June 13, 2016

Taiwan has a new Sheriff. Former President Ma, whose regime pursued secret talks with China, wanted to visit Hong Kong just after leaving office. Remember, on the books, Taiwan is still at war with China. Since 2003, former Taiwan presidents must file 20 days before international travel as a matter of national security. Ma filed 14 days before and cited a 2000 visit as an example of why the policy should not apply to him. The new president’s office, held by the other political party, denied Ma’s tardy request, citing lack of cross-straight and interpol cooperation—cooperation China has promised to diminish in recent weeks, since Taiwan’s new president took office. Accusations of democracy and grandeur flew in all directions.

The highly-coveted “blue crab” lives in some controversial waters. South Korean fishermen towed Chinese fishing boats from the South Korean waters to the South Korean authorities. A few days later, the South Korean military drove more Chinese fishing boats out of the same waters. North Korea claims the waters and referred to the incident as an “invasion”. The United Nations recognizes the South Korean map. Seoul asked Beijing to watch its own fishermen more carefully.

Germany also asked Beijing to ensure rule of law, this time over NGOs not being involved in politics. Human rights and abuse of new police authority over NGOs were mentioned. Historically, NGOs are a tool of human rights advocates, which China has been known to view as political.

Few policies in Europe create fewer problems than they invent, NGO governance in China being one example, European immigration being another. There seem to be many satellites orbiting the headline reasons for Britain’s immanent “brexit” from the EU. The “brexit” would have financial repercussions—sooner and smaller as opposed to later and larger, so the narrative goes.

Britain and Europe would not normally be mentioned in an editorial on Pacific-Asia, except for Britain’s continued agreement with China concerning Hong Kong—a territory that could lose its financial status in Asia and, interestingly also, a destination recently denied to a former and distrusted president of a US ally in the Pacific. Neither HSBC’s headquarters nor the former Taiwan president will be going to Hong Kong anytime in the foreseeable future.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, June 6, 2016

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

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

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

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 of 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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