Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 19, 2018

In Taiwanese politics, a mayor candidate’s comments about his own benefits from drinking honey-lemonade sparked retribution from the medical community. After a lump under his eye went away, apparently from a vegetarian and honey-lemonade diet, he actually said so. A professional from a hospital was quick to weigh in. It’s understandable. If people learned that honey could cure disease, hospital profits would plunge. More importantly, Taiwanese political debates would become outright boring without the ability to, as the saying goes, make lemonade from political debates.

But, lemonade really is important. Google search results even saw a spike after this essential talk of Taiwanese politics made news.

Meanwhile, at the ASEAN summit in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for nations to come together at a time when Southeast Asian stability was under threat. In anticipation of APEC after ASEAN, Mike Pence started talking tough, wanting results and genuine action from China concerning an even-flow of trade. He elaborated, that the US has a quarter of a billion dollars in tariffs and isn’t afraid to go twice as high as well as take more “diplomatic” action. It was a strong “they know that we know that they know what we think” remark, the kind that precedes otherwise objectionable action to make the action unobjectionable.

Later, at APEC, Pence warned of returning to a “cold war” while making plans for a US-Australian naval base in Papua New Guinea. Rather than dropping its tilted tariffs on goods, China has been openly gearing up for all out war three weeks. APEC ended without a written agreement between member nations for the first time ever because of the disagreements between the US and China.

This past weekend, Taiwan did something that China despises every bit as much as it cannot identify with: Taiwan hosted democratic election campaigns. With all the strong rhetoric concerning Taiwan, independence, and China’s loudly and often-spoken determination to invade Taiwan, there shouldn’t be any question where China’s war-in-preparation will start and why America will easily get involved.

America is already involved in Taiwan to quite an extent. AIT, the unofficial yet de facto US embassy in Taiwan, had an interview scheduled for release with a large TV network in Taiwan. But, after the interview, the TV network, TVBS, scrapped the interview. So, AIT shared the interview in its Facebook page, rather than relying on TVBS.

With the history lessons about Taiwan in almost every Taiwan-related story in the Western press, Americans will take an advancement against Taiwan as an advancement against themselves. China would be perceived as an aggressor and rightly so. Everything the US has done to provoke and irritate China would have only worked if China possessed the old school “Asian Pride” that Sun Tzu warned against, a pride that can’t be permitted in a world’s superpower because such pride is easily provoked just as much as it is easily shattered. Hardened pride makes for brittle peace. That’s something that the entire West won’t allow, the US notwithstanding.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 13, 2017

At the APEC summit in Vietnam, Putin told Trump that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 election. Putin was sincere. At the same time, Taiwan is beefing-up cybersecurity, ostensibly to counter “daily” and “Russian style” attacks originating in China. If everyone’s rhetoric holds true, that means that there aren’t any threats at all.

Trump offered to help settle disputes in the South Sea. The Philippines’ finance minister complemented Trump on knowing “the art of the deal”. The Filipino president does not want any problems in the South Sea. China would rather settle disputes one-to-one. Will everyone get what they want? We’ll have to see. This is a chance for China also┬áto earn compliments about negotiation skill from Filipino leadership.

Trump was very friendly in China. He underscored the importance of cooperation between the US and China. It was one of the kindest things he ever said. He publicly conducted himself in some of the kindest ways he ever has since running for office. China received him with respect and his public appearances went smoothly. If there ever was a good chance for peace, now is the best chance there has been for a long while and is probably the best chance there will yet be for a long while.

Will things go peacefully? We’ll see.

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