Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 15, 2017

Make no mistake; when the Chinese advocate “globalism”, they don’t envision a world with multiple governments nor do they envision a world government run by the West. They don’t talk about their end game, nor does anyone else. When China talks regional alliances, they envision choreographed unison along the path. Regional alliances would be a great end game and it is unlikely that any nation would be able to push past regional alliances any more than any nation could live without them.

Whether a nation’s goal is protectionism or a one-world government, regional alliances between individual sovereign nations are the only future that awaits us—at least before Christ descends from a wormhole in the clouds.

China has roads and bridges to build. Russia has a nation to rebuild. Militaries have hackers to train and break in. Anonymous hackers have kudos to earn, coup to count, and chests to thump. And, nations have computers to defend, even island nations across China’s east coast. Alliances are certainly in season—and for good reason.

But, right now all those plans halt at an impasse over a bridge with a brittle keystone. The Kim Dynasty can see it’s own defeat on the horizon; we all can. Japan will rise to action. The US will rally the world. China will endorse. Russia will sit quietly. Then, China will seize its opportunity for the shift in the balance as Russia finds its excuse for “retaliation”. Once Korea snaps, the first shot gets fired and no battle plan will survive.

And then, we’ll see.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, March 13, 2017

Forget Japanese waters, headlines worry about North Korea and Hawaii. South Korea has their own two cents to add over the assassination of Kim Jong-un’s half brother at Kuala Lumpur International. China says that North Korea and the US are like two trains headed on a collision course. China has a kind of “plan” to bring the US and North Korea together, but the US won’t make concessions for obeying a UN resolution and there is no mention of China cutting off its supply. It seems China wants to be the “great reconciler”, but the rift is too far between East and West. Japan’s answer is to strike first.

Taiwan may be able to make its own response. This week, the US handed off two Perry-class frigates to Taiwan. Taiwanese naval officers will learn how to operate the frigates from the US Navy and the ships should set sail in May. This is a very interesting development since President-elect Trump received a phone call from President Tsai, and since the US still has yet to deliver on several military sales, especially F-16s, that closed during the terms of former Presidents Obama and Ma.

China’s response to events this week is two-fold. An editorial with a persuasive tone appeared in China’s state-run Global Times, arguing that India would help itself more if it cooperated with Chinese strategies rather than Japanese and US strategies. Xi Jinping also underlined and emphasized China’s great need to catch up on technology. This comes in the wake of the coming American Lockheed Martin F-35 “Lightning II” fighter jet and the US Navy’s new electromagnetically trajected railgun. China’s response is both telling and predicting.

While China has made advances, both in approaching Tomahawk cruise missile technology and in nearing the completion of its first home made aircraft carrier (reverse engineered from a Soviet era carrier), China still feels claustrophobic. Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and India, not to mention the distant-yet-present US are all naval forces too close to China’s back yard. Xi feels the “squeeze”. China is in a tight spot.

President Xi also revisited his long-standing mission of countering squander and corruption within the Communist Party. By underlining the points he did, he seems to be vying for equity and credit. Doesn’t China’s leader have enough credibility or does Xi know something the West doesn’t? Regardlessly, the greater wild card is India. China believes that India is on the fence and is open to persuasion—and China is correct. Soon, India will feel its own squeeze. The question, then, will be whether India feels inclined to side with China rather than forces farther to its east or if India will decide to reverse engineer Western technology write persuasive editorials of its own.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 19, 2016

All eyes went to Taiwan this week. The Taipei Times shows an uptick in article views. China held no less than three military activities that made headlines in Taiwan’s backyard, and is reported to have broken its promise not to militarize it’s freshly-made islands. In one incident, the Japanese even responded.

The topic of Taiwan’s Independence is not going away anytime soon. The topic was formally debated in Taipei with careful scrutiny over the implications of Nixon’s (1972) and Carter’s (1979) policies involving Taiwan and China. The Taiwanese, reading the tealeaves as it were, suspect that they won’t be able to trust the current political party that just took power, and the new “Power” party is already on the rise with “Independence” as a “crucial” talking point.

China has gone full-swing into testing it’s one-and-only operational aircraft carrier, the diesel-powered, Soviet-made Liaoning. The other carriers are still being assembled in the docks and aren’t scheduled for commission for a few years. But, China already has its own “unsinkable aircraft carriers”, man-made airport islets in the Spratly Islands.

With the Western and Eastern press in full-swing, with military events moving as they are, neither the West nor the East will be lacking, neither in force nor in press nor in public support for what’s been brewing in the South Sea.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 21, 2016

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 21, 2016

With TPP’s immanent floundering in the Pacific, China attempts to step into America’s shoes. But, those are big shoes to fill. As big of a deal as Asia thinks itself to be, any trade deal needs to include the Americas or it really isn’t worth writing headlines about—or even the agreement papers. China’s current proposal to replace TPP with a pure-Asia trade agreement is called “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)”—again, with an introspective worldview evident in the name, not identifying which “region” is involved because the region is presumed by those in it. RCEP won’t even make a dent in the ocean.

Instead, Trump still dominates the headlines. Japanese President, Shinzo Abe thinks Trump is “trustworthy”. He met with the president elect at Trump Tower.

Other than Trump and trade, the rest of the news reset itself to stories questioning China’s economy. Metal is up for suspicious reasons. Apple isn’t that great and wasn’t going to be that great anyway. And, China is already spying on us through their cell phones. It almost seems that newspapers agree with Trump about having more mobile phones made in the USA.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 31, 2016

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 31, 2016

Chinese President Xi has been hailed with a personality cult akin to support for Chairman Mao, at least in some circles. As if the Xi personality cult wasn’t enough, China also saw a bloodless victory in the Philippines. In an effort to seek their own so-called “independence”, Philippinos’ new choice of a president has thrown-off many ties with the US in exchange for more dependency on China. China still patrols disputed Philippine islands, but fishing boats don’t get harassed any more. It probably makes sense in the Philippines every bit as much as it made sense to France and Italy 80 years ago.

The Pacific resembles pre-WWII Europe with more and more likenesses every week. NPR reported that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will stop swearing as much. That headline probably made sense to NPR, given the situation. As for swearing and the Pacific, Hong Kong, with no military, is putting up the greatest fight against China. Lawmakers “swore” during their swearing-in, contrary to some stipulations that no Hong Kong lawmaker can object to Chinese rule.

The Philippino “switch” was always going to happen. Their desire for “independence from other countries” will eventually drive them to fly China’s flag above their own, just how China’s desire for respect provoked Beijing to provoke the West, just how “America and her interests” drove the US to fly its flag at military posts in countries across the globe thereby frustrating Beijing and Milan.

With Taiwanese public continuing strong objection to Chinese patrol expansionism (75:18%), with Hong Kong (under China) wanting out from China, with the Philippines shifting sides, and with Cambodia cozying up to Beijing, we could see more jersey swapping in the coming months. Japan and South Korea are standing against North Korea on nukes—by cooperating with the US. That coalition could very easily extend to Taiwan, as far as N Korea nukes are concerned. The islanders of Taiwan oppose nuclear “anything”, just like post-Fukushima Japan.

Taiwan also has a close cooperation with the US military, the kind of cooperation the Philippines just renounced. The Pentagon has yet to give an elaborate position on the Philippines’ wave-making. In war, if the Philippines violates any alliance agreements, the Pentagon could declare the Philippines as “rogue” and get the excuse they need to use force. Who knows what would happen then.

China’s “no-objection” policy for HK lawmakers has given Great Britain whatever excuse the Crown needs to anchor the Royal Navy in Hong Kong, much like Queen Victoria did against China via Taiwan. When Southeast Asian Islands start spitting at each other, Hong Kong could could get snatched-up in a Pacific-West coalition. Having no military could be the only reason Hong Kong can court sympathy from the West. Guarded by mountains between the New Territories and Shenzen, Hong Kong would be strategic. The West would then see Hong Kong as the “trump card” while China would come back with the Philippines as the “wild joker”.

The Philippines and Hong Kong don’t seem to have figured out that every island is just another pawn. The Pacific Daily Times Symphony Editorials take no sides, except the side of foresight: It was all predictable.

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