Cadence of Conflict: Asia, March 27, 2017

North Korea is ready to nuke, Hong Kong has a new CEO, and China is talking. In fact, China is talking with almost everyone, even Taiwan, as headlines would have us believe.

Hong Kong’s new CEO, Carrie Lam, is ostensibly favored by China’s Communist Party. But, all politicians in the special administrative region are vetted by Beijing. The western press is beside themselves with how much control Beijing exerts, regardless of how loyal Lam actually is. Nothing has been proven yet because she hasn’t had a chance to do anything yet. She was just elected. Of course, in the minds of the western press, Beijing is guilty until proven guilty.

Hong Kong is self-proclaimed as “Asia’s World City”. It is the doorstep of semi-closed China to the open West. What happens in Hong Kong is exactly what Beijing wants the world to see. What Beijing sees as an advertisement the West sees as “public relations”—for better or worse. Lam is Beijing’s choice as the new “poster girl”. While she didn’t get there by being incompetent, the true test of CEO Lam’s leadership will be whether she creates or prevents excuses for western headlines to make China look like a bully.

While the West villainizes Beijing, it is becoming more and more clear that China is doing what it thinks best for itself, but doesn’t understand PR with self-governing nations. All this outreach—Pakistan, New Zealand, India, Cambodia, the US, Taiwan—it’s going to backfire with stories like China not allowing a married Australian resident academic to return to Australia. In the mind of the West, the decision is what matters. In the mind of Beijing, the reasons are what matter.

China’s President Xi admitted last week, more or less, that China needed to play “tech catch-up” with the States. Now, China is investing in US startups to get military technology insight. Smart. The open, free enterprise, private, self-governed sector usually has the best tech.  The question Beijing should be concerned with is whether its researchers will hunger for the same inspiring freedom as the companies they seek to glean from. While Beijing hopes to acquire information, they may inadvertently acquire free market ideology. That can be quite unsettling, as if the Pacific doesn’t have enough “waves” already.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, March 6, 2017

China took the bait once again. Whether independence for Hong Kong and Taiwan would be better or worse, that independence becomes more likely every time the topic even comes up, no matter how much dissent the idea receives. Within China’s borders, the “all press is good press” principle may seem to work differently, but when China makes statements to the world beyond China’s press control, gravity and tides operate in a way that may seem foreign to Beijing. This week, China’s premiere stated the intention of having Taiwan return to Chinese control.

For better or worse, if China hopes to acquire Taiwan and keep Hong Kong, the most likely path to success is to never even mention, respond to, or otherwise acknowledge the subject in public—not ever. But, Chinese officials just can’t stop talking about it. So, for better or worse, while Taiwanese independence has seemed a likelihood with the US involved—and now all the more with Trump—the near impossibility of Hong Kong breaking away from China is being made less of an impossibility… for better or worse.

It’s not as if East Asia has a lack of problems. North Korea made its own headlines this week. It fired a missile into Japanese waters. Tokyo wasn’t happy. And, after Kim Jong-un’s half-brother was murdered at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, North Korea’s ambassador made some statements, Malaysia objected, and now the visa-exempt program with North Korea has been given the boot, along with North Korea’s ambassador.

The US aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is making a tour sail with some Philippines cabinet members. Though everyone and his cat claims this is not a show of force, a show of force would not be without arguable reason. The largest active military in the world, which has neither declared victory nor defeat in any war, will soon have two aircraft carries. As China’s second aircraft carrier nears completion, videos have been released diagramming its basic construction. From the video, this first Chinese-made carrier was seemingly “reverse engineered” from China’s Soviet-made diesel-powered Liaoning, initially purchased to become a “floating casino”. Irony often accompanies poetry.

Any victory or defeat of China would be a first. So, logically, China’s stated ambition for change in the South Sea is, by definition, a gamble. Without history to calculate, with stepped-up rhetoric foreseeably backfiring, the Liaoning and its soon-to-be christened copy did become metaphoric casinos after all, for better or worse.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, January 16, 2017

China had so much going for it. Billions of US dollars had gone across the Pacific. The Olympics went to Beijing, where the world watched a one-hour history introduction about China leading into one world with one dream. Hong Kong was regained and prospering. But, like Captain Ahab determined to take revenge on the whale, China is about to lose everything over a few islands that either have never flown the Chinese flag or never existed until a few years ago.

Trump has out-smarted everyone he has come across. He knows more about China than China knows about him. When Trump had his ties made in China, he learned a lot about them and could stop giving them money any time he wanted—he had the power the whole time. If China defeats Trump, they will be the first. But, this Chinese government has never lost a battle because the only war they fought in—the Communist Revolution—they still haven’t declared victory over. They are just too new to the game.

This week, China rattled sabers around Taiwan, drawing out Taiwan’s defenses. And, Trump drew out China’s press statements in his defense of Taiwan. Normally, China can sing loud bravado and get things done wherever their flag flies. But, the rest of the world doesn’t dance to Beijing’s tune. The Chinese just don’t know that yet, but they seem determined to find out. And, it looks like they’re going to.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, January 9, 2017

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen (蔡英文) is in Houston, TX. Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) and a few lawmakers from Hong Kong are in Taiwan. A new wave of smog is in Beijing. And, more threats from Beijing to Trump are in the headlines.

Wong was a Hong Kong Umbrella Movement leader and is now secretary-general of the Hong Kong center-left pro-democracy party, Demosisto. The lawmakers accompanying Wong in Taiwan are Edward Yiu (姚松炎), Nathan Law (羅冠聰), and Eddie Chu (朱凱迪).

Senator Cruz gave a few educational remarks on democracy to Beijing over the Communists’ requests that US lawmakers not meet with Tsai. Tsai is on her way to Central America, but her connection in Texas brought lots of opportunity to discuss the strong and strengthening relationship between Taiwan and the US.

Back in Hong Kong, Wong and Law, elected but disqualified by the courts as a legislator, are facing charges for connection with protests that stormed a political office in Hong Kong in 2014. So continues the generational disputes. Establishments do what they will and the people, especially younger generations more willing to take action, never seem to find a way to lodge their objections in a way that is both effective and agreed to by the establishment. Perhaps, the objection to the protest was not its manner or location, but its political objective: Hong Kong Independence.

Asian news in early 2017 is back to the usual: Which territories ought to comply with China’s policies regardless of their will; and the smoke in Beijing, both environmental and political. And, of course, America is managing to remain in Asian headlines and Chinese talking points, as well as China’s backyard ocean.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, January 2, 2017

The recent UN Security Council vote against Israel won’t help China’s claim to Taiwan. Taiwan and Israel are poised to gain closer ties in light of last week’s “unintentional Antisemitism” that was heavily condemned and harshly responded to by Taiwan’s president. Now, with China having voted against Israel, and Israel breaking ties with Security Council members who voted, China’s “one country, two systems” policy won’t be as important in Jerusalem.

China spit into the wind once again with stepped-up rhetoric over dissidents in the Mainland and in Hong Kong. When Hong Kong left Britain, it’s economy flourished—something similar to how things went in the United States after the colonies left Britain. But, rather than piggy-backing history, Beijing seems determined to repeat it, namely angering the people with unilateral restrictions in policies that mildly resemble the Stamp and Tea Acts.

Beijing had inherited paradise. All the Communists had to do was keep their promise to leave it alone. Instead, they vetted Hong Kong legislators before elections rather than reviewing Hong Kong laws after they are passed. And, Beijing still doesn’t understand. Soon, the former British colony will echo the old, “No taxation without representation,” and insist that money never leave Hong Kong for Beijing.

It is sad. It has been sad. It will be sad. And, it is all without need.

Now, China has opponents on five fronts: Mongolia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Islam, and, as of this week, Israel.

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