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, December 26, 2017

This week was incredibly calm in Asia. China has some non-defined goals of grandeur, though some voices in the Western press cast their usual doubts. China’s big obstacle with becoming a tech leader is two-fold: 1. lack of measurable methods and 2. social media.

Westerners use Facebook and Google to communicate with friends, family, and associates. By blocking Facebook, China is blocking Westerners as well as leading technology. By definition, “global” methods can’t merely involve competitor social media unique to China. Whether China has good reason to block the social media giants is a separate question altogether. If China wants to become a leader, it must have a measurable, defined way forward in its tech and trade ambitions, which must include how to involve people and markets that it has blocked by proxy.

Korea was also unusually quiet. The saber rattling took a hiatus over the holiday pre-week. On Christmas, North Korea was sure to puff its chest out, but that’s about all. It is entirely possible that the problems in Korea will magically and abruptly vanish, Korea will be united, and both the Communists and the Westerners will just go home. But, that would never have happened without the mounting pressure from both sides.

Whatever reconciliation comes at the end of this Korean “situation”, we will have both North Korea and the US military presence to thank for it. Should whatever new Korea emerges snub the US for providing the pressure to resolve a conflict no one else could, Korea’s best days would thus be in the past. Keeping friendship during times of peace is vital to keeping that peace. Lasting peace in Korea means lasting peace among Koreans as well as its friends and neighbors. Should there be a bloodless peace in Korea and America troops just up and leave, the US will probably beef-up its presence with Taiwan. That would be the other shift.

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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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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 16, 2017

It’s not quite there yet. Korea’s conflict escalates, but there’s still more mount to climb. Trump is increasing weapons sales to South Korea and Japan, based on a September 5 Tweet; North Korea called him a “strangler of peace” and a “war merchant”. Mattis told the Army to “Stand ready”. Hawaii is rehearsing for attacks.

Most of the talk is to get everyone psyched-up plenty of time in advance—soldiers, nations, and peoples. The timing, however, will come at a convergence of defenses being in place and opportunity being open. Then, the US will either strike with “just cause” or “strik-taliate” as it did with Pearl Harbor and the Lusitania.

In the meanwhile, expect the escalation to continue. Expect more Navy strike groups to be directed. Expect the USS Ford to replace the decommissioned USS Enterprise and the USS Reagan to replace the USS Vinson, somewhere in East Asia. Three aircraft carriers, two on their way in and one their way out is certainly a military peak. But, also keep an eye out for a shift in types of Korea-related headlines followed by a quiet from central command. Once the press release statements resemble a ship casting off, that’s what you call a clue. And, we haven’t been clued in quite yet.

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