Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 5, 2018

Writing about China is difficult. On one side there is the Western push toward the false narrative that “all things China are bad”, then on the other side pulls gravity from an invisible black hole gobbling up the truth. China is a yeah-boo, more yeah and more boo than most other countries. Anyone expecting a narrative—West or East—while reading the truth about China might instinctively think that the truth supports “the other side”.

But, Symphony doesn’t take that stance. China is just China. It makes wise moves, it makes foolish moves, just like every other nation on Earth.

This week was a week of economics. China is cracking down on cryptocurrency—just as it cracks down on anything it can’t control with externally-applied force. The cryptocurrency market in China is fleeing from the crackdown. Yet, China is reaching out to Europe and Britain.

While the economy in Europe is big on China’s list, so is the Vatican. Now, the Vatican wants an unholy marriage with China similar to the one with Medieval Europe: Beijing and the Vatican choose Chinese bishops and the underground Church gets pulled out from underground. In other words, both Western and Eastern powers crush the little guy. This will actually cause the underground Church in China to grow even more.

Just how control is driving away cryptocurrency, so will Sino-Vatico control drive the underground farther underground. Like jell-o in the hand, tightening the grip makes them slip through the fingers. A better solution would have been, more or less, status quo: Let China keep doing whatever they want and let the Vatican excommunicate whomever they want. But, the Vatican knows that would be the better solution. Does China know that the Vatican knows?

Any kind of agreement between the Vatican and China is pointless since China doesn’t plan to ever compromise anyway, especially on the Vatican’s human rights agenda as well as Taiwan. In the end, Catholics worldwide will hate China more. China should avoid all talks with the Vatican because any Westerner can foresee that it will only reap ill will in the West. Perhaps that is the Vatican’s deeper agenda in “making a deal with the dragon”, as it were. If China is the tiger then the Vatican is the monkey; the tiger has been warned.

China making infrastructure and economic inroads to Europe, is a good thing, but not on most levels people consider. Firstly, it is an indication that China feels a squeeze from the US and is looking for new trading partners. Secondly, it will cause the Westernization of China more quickly. Europe and Britain don’t like dishonesty. Many of the dishonest practices Chinese businessmen are notorious for—which the Communists are cracking down on for the record—won’t be tolerated. In terms of “ethics”, China will have to Westernize in order to do business with the West. Perhaps that is why Beijing is pushing it—to help with the crackdown.

The second matter is more militarily strategic. To governments, all infrastructure is military infrastructure. If China has a roadway into Europe, that is a roadway that can be used by an army—in either direction. So, finances between China and Europe carry two approaching stigmas: 1. China’s power is morphing into economics and 2. China is laying-in wartime infrastructure.

Changing to an economic power will weaken China’s ability to use military force. Taiwan is making economic power moves of its own by positioning itself to become an AI development hub for the world—which China’s customers could likely be dependent on if they aren’t already. No one wants to drop bombs on customers, yet China is busily making both.

These economic relations will “tame the dragon”, as it were, which may not be what China wants. Secondly, Europe is inviting China to become a stronger military power in their own back yard. China is no traitor, but nor are the Chinese loyal to anyone but the Chinese. Russia should try to halt China’s relations with Europe for Russia’s own good. Believe it or not, China may hold Russia in check before this is all over. Making inroads for China might be Europe’s salvation in decades to come.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, January 29, 2018

It was a week of protests in both Hong Kong and South Korea. Neither side of any controversy rose above the fray. For the powers that be, it was PR gone bad. For the masses, it was spitting in the wind. When the governed don’t want the ambitions of the controlling few, the solution is not Delphi method, but re-evaluation at the fundamental level. When the disgruntled masses reject the powers that be, peaceful boycott can make more lasting changes than any message sent by heated protest.

No one forced students to attend Baptist University in Hong Kong. If 90% of the student body objects to the mandatory Mandarin classes then 90% of the student body would do better to simply find another school. If the leadership at the university believes Mandarin classes can help students, then one would think the students would volunteer for them. A better way would be to make the classes both optional and tuition free for students and alumni of up to four years. If leadership is correct that the most widely-spoken language in the world, right in Hong Kong’s back yard, would be useful for Hong Kongers—and classes with university credit were free for students and alumni—the university would see an influx of enrollment.

No one is forcing South Koreans to attend the Olympic Games. If South Koreans don’t want the Kim Dynasty to participate in the games, they can save themselves the expense and either save the time of going or replace that time with a public stand-in, carrying educational signs during the Olympics, whether on-sight or off. If the democratic South Korean government wants to promote a unified stance with North Korean athletes, they can use the abundance of Internet technology to poll the public on what would make the people happy to that end. Since South Korea’s new president is so popular, he should not have lacked feedback when asking his many supporters what they want to do.

Taiwan made it’s own—and likely most aggressive—move. By entering the world of AI development, Taiwan is entering the ring with other big players, such as China. Few will see it as the bold move that it is. The miracle of Taiwan’s AI venture was that the move did not insight protests.

The only positive communication seemed to be between China and Japan. They are communicating about communicating. That’s always a good thing.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, January 22, 2018

Outcry against China over the Marriott crime of using the survey words “country” and “like” in reference to Tibet, Taiwan, and Hong Kong is over-rated. China has been shutting down propaganda channels and imprisoning people over such crimes for decades. But now, all of a sudden, China’s routine becomes newsworthy? Something is amiss.

The press is stirring dissent against China in anticipation of a US-China conflict once the Korean situation is resolved. Without the Kim Dynasty, people won’t be as panicked. Nothing will sell newspapers like a US-China war. Nothing helps a president get re-elected like a war supported by the public. To that end, everyone is playing their role perfectly.

The US-China conflict might be made possible merely because of Marriott’s cleverly-worded survey. Marriott knew what they were getting into when they entered China’s market. Marriott has lawyers and newspapers. Marriott should have known better. Management is lucky they are not being charged with attempting to appear as a public-stirring victim—like a Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, 9/11, Rosa Parks, or Trayvon Martin. The fact that China isn’t pursuing Marriott for committing the crime on purpose begs the question: Does China understand the subtlety of Western mind games? Maybe they don’t.

When the press remains free, authorities have to learn how to play more clever games, like Jackson, FDR, Reagan, Clinton, W. Bush, Obama, and Trump. When the press isn’t free, authorities never develop those skills at playing games with the press. Those governments just print what they want without having to manipulate the press into thinking it was their own idea. If Marriott wanted to start a war, they got the press in both China and the US to print exactly what they wanted as masterfully as Donald Trump does. Does China recognize that or not?

It almost seems as if China wants to pay the West the courtesy of a warning shot across the bow: Exit now. That’s the Western takeaway, anyhow. Everyone has their cultural DNA. Individual and societal culture can change, but slowly. When a person’s individual culture easily and greatly offends a certain group of people, that person will avoid those people rather than change. If that person does change his culture to appease an easily-offended group, he will probably lose his friends. Either way, offense builds walls more than bridges. China is known for all three.

In the West, being easily offended is a sign of weakness, not strength. China’s response will seem like an over-reaction in the US, thereby not only enraging Americans to support action against China, but emboldening them with the notion that the US would likely win—all on the grounds that Americans believe that easily-offended parties are weak. The strong don’t care enough to be offended at all, right?

China’s response, however, will embolden people within China. Any aggressive “power” assertion is seen by Chinese culture as a sign of strength and makes the masses gladly get in line. So, both the people of the US and China will be emboldened against each other—except of course for dissidents in both countries. US dissidents will hate the US, just as Chinese dissidents will hate China. That’s what dissidents do.

The big lesson this week: Conflict is coming and everyone knows it. That’s the only thing newsworthy. Reporting on the Chinese and Americans acting like Chinese and Americans is “news” so old, it’s timing is mere propaganda.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, January 15, 2018

Jeffery Lewis at the Daily Beast has finally found a solution to the problem with North Korea: Kim Jong Un’s port-a-potty. By bombing the dynastic successor’s port-a-potty, the US would demonstrate both precision and presence. This would be the proverbial “arrow” from Robin Hood, conveniently shooting its way into the Sheriff’s chamber.

Though the “papers” have not been “supplied” to top “brass” at press time, the premise has merit: showing that the US means business by “denying entry” for Kim to do his. While the “move” would surely cause an “emergency”, their could be new security concerns about “individual privacy”. The strategic proposal does not clarify whether or not to strike the “facility” while it is “occupied” by Kim “forces”.

As for other port-a-potties in the region, China and Taiwan are deep in their own “potty” match. China is unilaterally opening new flight routs, reportedly in violation of agreements under the International Civil Aviation Organization. New flight routs are “required” to be coordinated first, but these were not. China simply “activated” them. The routs are very close to Taiwan airspace and Taiwan has made quite the buzz about it.

The US further complicated matters with a unanimously-passed bill from the House: the Taiwan Travel Act, which allows for high-level diplomatic visits between the US and Taiwan “under respectful conditions”. The bill serves to support a shared “commitment to democracy”. The House also passed HR 3320, which directs the Secretary of State to strategize for Taiwan to regain “observer status” at the World Health Assembly, which Taiwan failed to obtain in years past.

China made its own moves, particularly with doubts on the continued purchase of US Treasury bonds. That sent tremors through the markets in multiple directions.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, January 8, 2018

The talks between South and North Korea are not at all what they are cracked up to be. While the world would love to believe that this is some grand exercise in “can’t we all just get along” diplomacy that always-only ever failed under Obama in any and every hemisphere, North-South talks are not what they seem. They are a distraction, a false pretense, an ostensible cover story, a smoke screen for something much, much deeper.

In all likelihood, the talks will include a very subtle Asian-style, excessively subtle (since it’s among Koreans) offer. Even bachelor’s degree students of business management study the science of talking to an employee in such a way that he doesn’t figure out he’s being fired until he gets home and takes his first bide of dinner. Leonardo explained the idea well in his movie Inception.

The meeting, capitalizing on participation in the Olympic games so strategically timed and placed, is more akin to the close of the series The Sopranos. A lieutenant of a rival family meets with the head of another family to plot the “offing” of his own boss in order to stop an ugly war that no one wanted, which started when that new boss came to power. The rival family “does in” their own boss at the gas station, the main character makes his hospitality rounds, and the story ends.

That’s what this seems like. The Trump administration is allowing it, taking partial credit in a preemptive expectation of due accolades, also reminding the Asian world that communication is a good thing. Symphony said the same two days before Trump sent his January 4 Tweet to the same effect: without pressure from the US there would be no talks.

If Kim Jong Un eventually disappears in the months ahead, remember that it all came from this meeting, purportedly about the Olympics. There wouldn’t be any moves in northern Korea without already having “certain assurances”.

But, don’t let that distract you. Taiwan is definitely playing its role in provocative and irksome “spitting matches” with China. As with the min-boss in The Godfather Part III, Taiwan wouldn’t do that without “backing”.

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