Cadence of Conflict: Asia, April 1, 2019

China is being overwhelmed—Huawei to the west, British probes to the south, Kim to the north, but the prospect of trade to the east. The weakness is in the Chinese-cultural paradigm of negotiation. Chinese culture wants to sign a contract first, then negotiate the terms after. That’s a polite way of explaining “psychopathic negotiation”.

China labels Hong Kong as an “internal”, national security matter. It’s not; it’s a “joint” matter. According to the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, China can’t govern Hong Kong as its own until 2047—a mandate for Hong Kong being under Beijing’s leadership. By telling Britain to “face reality”, London will see the reality as Beijing reneging on the deal. It’s not that China wants to be malicious, but that China doesn’t understand what a promise really entails.

That could be why the Chinese offer such sweeping concessions to get better trade with America. They might not understand that promises about those concessions will actually have to be kept. But, there’s more that sails over Beijing’s brightest heads.

America shows no indication of backing down on Taiwan. By cozying up on trade, Beijing probably hopes America will receive an indirect message about Taiwan. But, if Taiwan isn’t discussed, then it’s not part of the trade agreement—or any agreement with the US. Beijing, probably laden with more wishful thinking than savvy, won’t understand. They just won’t understand.

That’s the Korean problem to the north. Trump knew exactly what he was doing by telling Kim exactly what “de-nuking” looked like. They had talked before. Kim had taken a three day journey to talk again. Now Kim knows reality: a free economy prospers, North with nukes has neither in the end. That won’t go over well with a culture more prideful than the Chinese. Trump knows this.

Now, Kim is a loose canon to China’s north and the only thing Trump did was unleash the obvious. We’ll see how long it takes for China to understand, if ever.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 30, 2017

In the daily governance of Hong Kong, China has proven itself as a competent overseer. Hong Kong’s “Basic Law”, a kind of mini-constitution imposed not by referendum, keeps the SAR autonomous. Hong Kongers have only two reasons for complaint, having not chosen the Basic Law for themselves and the gentrification of Chinese money re-defining native Hong Kongers as a new lower class living among some of the most expensive real estate in the world.

Crud hit the fan, however, when Beijing decided to “vet” Hong Kong politicians in advance. The Basic Law makes no direct provision for advanced-vetting, a statutory or policy decision heavily subject to interpretation. Youth are often quick to complain. In the minds of Hong Kong youth, Beijing’s advanced-vetting policy is a violation of the Basic Law. Accordingly, Hong Kong youth have no interest in learning about the Basic Law from Beijing.

Now, Beijing has planned a Hong Kong -wide broadcast from a Mainlander—a Chinese speaking from Beijing’s view—to educate Hong Kong students about the Basic Law. Schools are under no obligation to participate in Beijing’s offer, so the public is led to understand. But, when your higher authority vets your politicians without a word-for-word clause to justify it, then invites your school to optionally learn how to follow the law, it is difficult not to feel some kind of pressure to “volunteer”.

The best thing for China to earn good will is to rescind the advanced-vetting policy in favor of Hong Kong’s local interpretation of the Basic Law and to allow only three schools to listen to the Basic Law address, applying with good reason. That’s “basic law” of supply-and-demand economics. But, those ideas may be difficult for the Communist regime to quickly grasp.

So, it looks like China’s path ahead will see plenty of conflict and strife. The student objections to the Basic Law seminar will by no means be the last, nor will it be Beijing’s last attempt to educate Hong Kong’s population.

The US has its own approach to PR. Notice how Korea made fewer Western headlines this week, though the situation is far from finished. Trump’s planned visit, purportedly to include the Korean DMZ, is certainly a bold move to demonstrate courage from a leader and to eclipse North soldiers’ respect for Kim Jong Un who wouldn’t dare to get close. Don’t be surprised if Trump walks right up to the border and speaks through a megaphone and says, “Where is Kim Jong Un? He can talk to me. Your leader is a coward. Don’t trust him.” Don’t be surprised. Such a move befits Trump and would begin a cascade of implosion from within the Kim Dynastic ranks.

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