Cadence of Conflict: Asia, August 14, 2017

A campaign is slowly mounting its ground swell against Philippine President Duterte concerning his past corruption. The Philippines is littered with classic “mafia-machine” style corruption, making it generally easy to find scandals on politicians. This has been building against the new Filipino president since about the same time the Philippines has needed aid from the US against ISIS, all while the Filipino president campaigns on a continued platform of moving away from the US so as not to be “dependent” on anyone, a normal sentiment in Filipino populism.

A similar media war is mounting against both China and North Korea. This week, they came together in a story about “Made in China” -labeled goods actually being made in North Korea. Also, an old story was rehashed about the Chinese using “scientific underwater drones” in the South Sea, which could be used for military purposes, if nothing more than to make underwater maps for the Chinese and to spot American submarines.

It’s not far-fetched or newsworthy to claim that the Chinese could use academic or scientific tools for the military. China wouldn’t be the first to perform military operations in the name of “science”. China’s diesel-powered aircraft carrier, the Soviet-made Liaoning, was purchased from Russia to be little more than a “floating museum”. Now, it has been reverse-engineered to model at least four more aircraft carriers from China. China’s underwater drones first made headlines not long after the Chinese captured a similar drone from the US.

There seems to be a trend that China’s tech is reverse-engineered, not invented. More interestingly is the role the US has played. Better said, how the US has played China. It wasn’t fair, but it was avoidable.

China wouldn’t have most of its tech or its money for these military aggressions if American tech companies weren’t outsourcing jobs to China. Companies only did that because Americans were obsessed with saving a few pennies on their goods. The country learned to copy those goods and took American money doing it, then got a big wallet, then got a big head. If the US had confronted “Shame” culture in its cultural exchanges—government, business, and otherwise—and educated whatever Chinese people they met in daily dealings and insisted on using the Biblical view of “repentance unto hope”, China’s government wouldn’t be trying to “save face” quite so much and might even be cleaning things up at home a bit more.

Then, we have foiled military operations, this week, a crash in Australia. A truly-gone-awry military operation won’t be so easily plastered across headlines. The West is trying to look weak in the eyes of the Chinese while mounting a press war against China and North Korea to stir popular support for action. That action is, indeed, becoming necessary, but only after unnecessary trade money and methods made it so.

The swelling conflict in the Pacific could have all been avoided if Americans had simply insisted on paying a few more pennies to buy American. But, it’s too late to turn back. Now, American taxpayers will have to pay for an expensive, otherwise unnecessary war against their manufacturer.

Everyone is accountable for their own choices, but the US knew better. Americans know the Bible’s teaching “to get one’s own life in order first” and to confront “Shame” by teaching the good news of “forgiveness”. But, the US didn’t do that with China, not in business and not even the Christians in dealing with Chinese churches in America. While it is all sad, the bigger victim is China.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, August 7, 2017

If North Korea heeds China’s urges to back down on its nuclear program, it would be a welcome first. China requested the US back down its military activity in South Korea. Russia does not want North Korea’s economy to become worse. Much has been claimed about the purported, will-be effectiveness of new UN sanctions against North Korea, but history provides little to no basis that North Korea heeds any warnings or follows any step toward deescalation.

Though historically bleak, this effort from the international community is the best well-mounted push for peace ever seen for the Korean situation. Even Taiwan is urging North Korea to back off. While this may set the stage for some kind of “breakthrough” in negotiations, the bigger and less-acknowledged stage being set is war. With the best-made good-will effort having been made to stop North Korea’s nuke program, one missile launch would prove all the yea-sayers wrong. That threat could wake up North Korea to climb down out of the tree—the hidden threat of war that every peaceful stance veils.

Any peace offering indeed doubles as a hidden war threat by definition. But, fools don’t believe in what they can’t see. So, we’ll see.

Remember, though, how fools surrender: in childlike tears.

If North Korea fires even one more missile, buckle up and grab the popcorn for an immanent Trump “it didn’t work, so now we will” speech. If that happens, not only will North Korea’s position be untenable, but so will it be for everyone who claimed that negotiations would stop the missile launches.

In these tense times, China is making no new friends. Old border disputes with India are rehashing and ramping up. The VPN crackdown makes sense since no government should be circumvented, the most-ignored question is whether there should be a need in the first place. There are numerous reports of Chinese students being denied travel documents to study at universities in Taiwan. Of particular interest is National Cheng Kung University in Tainan. Tainan’s Mayor, William Lai is the most popular of any and in the same semi-pro-independence party, DPP, as Taiwan’s president. And, Tainan’s small airport was used by the US in the Vietnam war. Other than that, there’s little to explain why the third-top school seems to be a top target for denied travel from China.

With stronger rhetoric about military and not letting any China-claimed land go, with action concerning Taiwan, and militarized border crossings with India, it is clear that China intends to take a lead role in conflict on multiple fronts. All depending on how things develop in the Korea situation, China could face a clear third front.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, July 31, 2017

Xi Jingping told his military the same thing China has been telling its people for decades: The world needs us, our military, our might, and our expansion, otherwise there can be no peace. This proves a static ethic. From this perspective, China wants the US to remain calm and not take action in North Korea.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s president wants the US to wait while he negotiates with the North for safety in the US. South Korean people want much the same thing Filipinos want: non-dependence. South Korea’s president, South Korea’s people, and China all want the US to “get out”. Interestingly, they share this sentiment with North Korea.

The world is full of political ideologies that claim half of one thing and do half of another. The best chance at victory is to simply stay home and do good work there. In that, the South Korean people stand the greatest chance of victory. Yet, the United States stands the greatest chance of taking action for two reasons: the US is being threatened more than any other and the US is willing to take action more than any other. If the US takes out the North, they can leave and the South Koreans will get what they want. But, things rarely happen as they should.

Only two things are foreseeable: conflict and Korean unification. All the rest is conjecture.

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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 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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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, July 17, 2017

South Korea proposed to talk to North Korea this week. Much of the timing relates to anniversaries and upcoming holidays. Pyongyang is still angry about twelve waitresses who moved South and wants them back first. Seoul says the waitresses moved to the South of their own will. The US’ answer is a siege, including efforts to persuade Myanmar to curb their support for the North through arms purchases, as well as planned sanctions against Chinese banks that deal with the North.

Sanctions are a known form of pressure, but an invitation to talk is also a form of pressure because a rejection is bad press and raises public support for action from opposing countries. Pressure is mounting and North Korea will either deescalate quickly or else one wrong move will be the only excuse the US needs to yank the lynch pin.

China faces it’s own pressure, military, optics, and time, which is running out. Taiwan’s Navy is increasing cooperation with the US in a move included in the US military budget for 2018. Southern Taiwan is also beefing-up its naval base to handle both more traffic and more capacity. The upgrade should finish around 2025.

As for optics, Human Rights activists are managing to rally loads of bad international press against China. One activist died of a liver disease he acquired while serving an eleven-year term in China. Another was released after finishing a four-year prison sentence in China. A bookstore from Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay that was shut down will reopen in Taipei. The bookstore closed after its owners were arrested relating to activism about Human Rights and China.

While most international press paints China as the culprit, the more important matter is the surprise this is for the Chinese. In the West, bad press is countered with photo ops. In China, bad press is countered with imprisonment. A bookstore in Hong Kong was a way to spread ideas to Chinese nationals visiting Hong Kong from the mainland. China views itself as trying to help the people; criticism can’t be “constructive” by definition and must therefore be silenced. But, that method only works in one’s own territory.

Protests in Hong Kong gain attention from international press China does not control. By shutting down a bookstore in Hong Kong, that bookstore moved to a location farther from Beijing’s reach and where it can gain more international press, sacrificing its ability to spread propaganda into China. This is backfiring against China internationally, but not at home. Most international news analysis won’t include that China doesn’t expect it to happen that way. The Chinese genuinely believe that Xi Jinping’s “protestless” visit to Hong Kong is good press and the only press that matters.

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