There really isn’t much news this week in the Pacific. China and Russia practice war games in the disputed South Sea while the US and South Korea practice their war games near the Korean Peninsula. Taiwan’s government continues what is expected of the new regime: Status quo, strength, and corruption crackdowns—two of which don’t exactly please China.
Status quo is exactly what China will not accept. Taiwan and the US object to the objection to status quo. No big changes are coming from the countries China opposes. China is determined to break the mood. Beijing sees the West as “already having” upset status quo and wants to revert to history—well, a specific part of history anyway. So, “status quo” has become a relative term, as has “perp”. We’ll have to leave conclusions in the hands of the people.
That conclusion may be soon as much as it may be well-informed. The world slowly becomes more and more aware of what is happening in the South Sea. When someone busts a move to make headlines, there won’t be any surprises.
Taiwan has a new Sheriff. Former President Ma, whose regime pursued secret talks with China, wanted to visit Hong Kong just after leaving office. Remember, on the books, Taiwan is still at war with China. Since 2003, former Taiwan presidents must file 20 days before international travel as a matter of national security. Ma filed 14 days before and cited a 2000 visit as an example of why the policy should not apply to him. The new president’s office, held by the other political party, denied Ma’s tardy request, citing lack of cross-straight and interpol cooperation—cooperation China has promised to diminish in recent weeks, since Taiwan’s new president took office. Accusations of democracy and grandeur flew in all directions.
The highly-coveted “blue crab” lives in some controversial waters. South Korean fishermen towed Chinese fishing boats from the South Korean waters to the South Korean authorities. A few days later, the South Korean military drove more Chinese fishing boats out of the same waters. North Korea claims the waters and referred to the incident as an “invasion”. The United Nations recognizes the South Korean map. Seoul asked Beijing to watch its own fishermen more carefully.
Germany also asked Beijing to ensure rule of law, this time over NGOs not being involved in politics. Human rights and abuse of new police authority over NGOs were mentioned. Historically, NGOs are a tool of human rights advocates, which China has been known to view as political.
Few policies in Europe create fewer problems than they invent, NGO governance in China being one example, European immigration being another. There seem to be many satellites orbiting the headline reasons for Britain’s immanent “brexit” from the EU. The “brexit” would have financial repercussions—sooner and smaller as opposed to later and larger, so the narrative goes.
Britain and Europe would not normally be mentioned in an editorial on Pacific-Asia, except for Britain’s continued agreement with China concerning Hong Kong—a territory that could lose its financial status in Asia and, interestingly also, a destination recently denied to a former and distrusted president of a US ally in the Pacific. Neither HSBC’s headquarters nor the former Taiwan president will be going to Hong Kong anytime in the foreseeable future.
Last week’s unreported US military exercises in Taiwan’s southern city of Kaohsiung, along with the neighboring indictment of the minority party’s legislative control through vote-buying, no doubt sends an unreported message to Beijing. What we see in the headlines more or less tells the same story. The Asian establishment feels threatened.
Every man’s defense is another man’s offense. If “we” own it, it’s a “missile defense” system. If “they” own it, it’s a “missile attack” system. If you ask the Chinese and Russians, the American people don’t like their government. If you ask the Americans, the Chinese and Russian people don’t like their governments. In “Boilerplateville” everyone is right.
China and Russia don’t want an early-stop anti-missile system close to the loose nuclear cannons in northern Korea. The United States sails anywhere and everywhere that anyone anywhere says is able to be sailed—violating nonunanimous claims of both foe and friend. No disputes are exempted. When it comes to allies in Asia Pacifica, Japan debates a lame duck in Taiwan over a fishing boat.
Historically, Socialism has been great until the State runs out of other people’s money. In the case of China, it will continue to be great until China’s banks run out of their own loans. China’s debt-driven “miracle” is a bubble expected to pop somewhere just over the horizon.
China doesn’t mean to burst Trump’s bubble, but when bubbles are bursting, the more the merrier. While the international spokesmen (AKA pundits and news writers) tell readers what they want the readers to know they should believe, China understands two things: 1. Trump’s ideas are unconventional, 2. US election rhetoric is usually “trumped” up. Economics will likely shift across the Pacific due to a plurality of causes. China says everything will remain more or less the same. So, everything remains more or less the same.
North Korea gears up for a fifth nuke test. The South sees it as more of a power move in lieu of Northern isolation. Russia and the US clashed sheathed sabres; China piped-in as was opportune. The Japanese had some of their own problems, though none them nuclear, which is more than can be said for Korea. Japan’s earthquake was the largest since 2011 and seemed to coincide with Ecuador’s broken record of 1900. This was definitely a week of shake-ups.
China was a major player in the Panama Papers scandal, including Hong Kong offices. British Prime Minister Cameron was involved. The British foreign secretary warned of threats to Hong Kong freedoms. Hong Kong’s CEO, Leung, hit back at calls for independence in the face of Hong Kong’s brand-new “National” party. China continues to crack down on corruption.
Japan send a sub and two destroyers to dock in Manila in the wake of the new Japan-Philipines defense pact. The US and Taiwan are drafting stronger ties affecting visitors. As Taiwan’s rising DPP political party gains popularity, the lame duck KMT-Nationalist party plays power against the DPP to the bitter end. North Korea tested a long-range nuclear missile engine to “guarantee” a strike on the continental US.
Friends and enemies are everywhere and everyone has a motive for everything.