Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 7, 2018

This was week of talk. A delegation from Washington went to talk with China. Trump talked about talking nice while talking. Economic talking heads are talking about the talks and everybody’s talking about it. Once the delegation that went to Beijing to talk gets back, they will talk with Trump. Warren Buffet even had some things to talk about.

Trump’s delegation to Beijing was indeed an olive branch. It spelled out “the line” in the sand, toured it, explained, it, discussed it, explored it, and made that line very, very clear. To quote Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox, “Mr. Wayne didn’t want you to think that he was deliberately wasting your time.” But, the line is not the least bit likely to be respected.

China will ignore everything the US delegation explained and forewarned, but they will never be surprised when Trump does exactly what the delegation said he would, though they may act like it. More importantly, the list of expectations shows how well Trump knows China and Chinese methods of doing “business”.

Words like “retaliate” and “oppose” often surface with disfavor, as well as the US clearly being wise to the tactic of unofficially using backdoor channels to unofficially impose other restrictions to get what one wants. And, the US maintains its position on the “301” trade notice that China is non-market economy, specifically that China is to drop the matter completely and withdraw its appeals on the matter with the WTO.

There is no wiggle room in the US demands and those demands strongly demonstrate that Trump knows exactly the kinds of things Chins is likely to do. In essence the list of demands forbids exactly what China is most likely to do in the near future.

By contrast, China’s demands are mainly that the US back off on its recent action; that’s all. Consider the argument going around from pro-China stories about the trade “imbalance”—especially that US’ service and consulting help to narrow the “trade deficit”. The list of Chinese demands don’t account for this or ask that they be calculated in the “trade deficit”.

The mere demands, in themselves, tell us that China does not know what is about to happen in Washington and that Trump knows all to well—probably better than any of his advisers in the White House—what will happen in Beijing. China is in great danger.

Surprises are coming, somewhere. That’s how history always plays out. No war ends without the unexpected and there’s always a joker or two hiding in the deck. The surprises will likely include special and disputed territories, such as Macau, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, as well as international public opinion and some sector of trade or international protocol not yet considered or discussed by anyone—they will surprise everyone. That “surprise sector” could include ocean boundaries or specific products often traded. It could also be an act of God, such as an earthquake, hurricane, or tsunami. But, we have no idea except that any intermediate history student should anticipate at least two surprises before the current cloud passes in the greater storm.

China looks at the US the way the poor working class looked at the aristocracy in Russia. Beijing thinks they are demanding “what is their right”. Remember, this is akin to “Opium War III”, started by a trade imbalance. China demands that the money and “tax payable by way of free technology” continue to flow net into China; the US demands things like “equal” and “fair” in the flow. That is rhetoric from the Opium War prelude. If that war resurfaces, the “English” speaking country won’t be Britain, though Britain still has a dog in the fight: Hong Kong is not to be changed for fifty years, yet this week Hong Kong military youth groups—comparable to Boy Scouts—rejected Chinese requests that they march according to PLA marching steps—meaning that China tried to make a change and Hong Kong could become a target for punitive action from China. Hence, Hong Kong is “fair play” in everyone’s opinion, including public opinion about everyone in the game.

If China had any kind of conflict with the West—whether militarily or over trade—the conclusion could require complete surrender of Hong Kong back to British rule—and Hong Kongers wouldn’t mind.

In the territorial disputes, Taiwan declaring independence would certainly rock the boat. Research says Taiwanese overwhelmingly view China as unfriendly. So, Taiwanese certainly wouldn’t mind making their contribution to making a few waves.

China is already on the bench with the Korean issue. Pyongyang just updated the North clocks to no longer be thirty minutes off, but back in time with the South. Where’s China?—exchanging trade demands with the country whose trade blockade preceded the Korean talks.

In all this, Warren Buffet’s advice is that China is a good place for the West to invest. We’ll see.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, August 3, 2015

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, August 3, 2015

Propaganda backfired this week. Beijing wants more Internet censorship, almost to create a “Chinanet” akin to another Great Schism not seen since the Orthodox Church split from the West. TPP failed. Students in Taiwan stormed government offices to keep out China-propaganda over “minor” changes to national curriculum. An Australia-India-Japan alliance plumed out of nowhere. Taiwan and Japan are kissing and making up. And some truth came through well-kept gates.

An 18-year-old got back from his year in North Korea. The North Koreans shower together like Americans and Romans. North Korean students are curious about mundane life in America. And, notably, North Koreans seem to agree with a Americans: Government is the problem, not the people.

Joshua Wang, Hong Kong, had an interview with the BBC and explained that the Umbrella Movement never really had a plan and never communicated a plan to the public. But they did succeed in raising public awareness.  · · · →

Prelude to Conflict: Asia, December 22

Prelude to Conflict: Asia, December 22

China made two well-crafted blunders which Beijing likely considers a success. China called for US arms sales to Taiwan to cease, then Xi went to Macau where democracy supporters could protest him more directly at the second inauguration of Macau’s CEO. Macau’s protest was reportedly led by Jason Chao (周庭希).

Japan removed the most at-risk fuel rods from Fukushima, a preventative measure. Jack Ma (马云), the Chinese businessman with an “American dream” who founded Alibaba, gave counter-intuitive wisdom to Taiwanese—the kind of ideas one would expect from Americans, but not from old guard Mandarin-speaking business owners.

Taiwan now has approval from Obama to purchase four US Perry-class frigates, sparking China’s formal complaint. Perhaps Beijing overlooked the fact that their complaint grants the US expanded permission to file future formal complaints with China. Taiwan is also building a lighthouse on the disputed “Itu Aba” Taiping Island (太平島) adjacent to a runway which is being engineered for military air support.  · · · →