Cadence of Conflict: Asia, June 25, 2018

China is facing money problems, as the Western press continues to document in detail. China’s economy is largely based on real estate. China’s unusual form of communism includes laws that govern economics—especially with real estate, of course—and these laws are unusual in much of the rest of the world. As a result, people in China need to borrow money for things they normally wouldn’t borrow money for. The repayment schedules are also strange.

The only way that a real estate business can stay afloat is if the prices of real estate keep rising. The more it rises, the more it needs to rise. Money doesn’t fall from trees, but in China it needs to keep falling from somewhere in order to keep this vicious cycle spinning faster and faster. Eventually, the speed of the spinning wheel will exceed the strength of the wheel and it will all fly apart.

Then, we have China’s strategy in the South Sea—also involving real estate. The man-made islands are complete. It all happened while the West watched closely and did nothing to stop it. They are heavily fortified and militarized.

Trump reminds the world that we aren’t out of the woods yet with North Korea, Democrats misinterpret that as a contradiction—as if one step of progress means it’s all over. Japan is ending its drills. The Korean problem is simmering down and Taiwan is escalating.

Now, we have the US strengthening its ties with Taiwan, the linchpin of the Pacific. Diplomats are visiting. Congressmen are calling for Taiwan’s membership in sovereign-state-only organizations such as the UN. And, the Taiwan “Independence Party” welcomes US military cooperation.

Why would the US make such a bold move to side with Taiwan? Consider the US president’s financial background: real estate. Trump understand’s the economic crisis brewing in China. No one has said so, but the pieces line up. The US is positioning Taiwan as the main frontal push against China while the “attack from behind”, as it were, is economics.

China is beefing up cyber attacks on Taiwan. US aircraft flying near the man-made islands are being hit by blinding flashes of light from the ground and from “fishing” boats, disrupting aviation. Using lasers such ways is illegal in war as both the US and China have signed agreements to.

China is also using drones that look like flying birds, but China wasn’t the first. This technology has been used before. Interestingly, China has maintained a policy that tech manufactured in China must be shared with China’s government. It would be even more interesting to see if any research surfaces on how many patent royalties China might owe for tech used to surveil its own people—surveillance only enabled by tech giants who caved into China’s demands. But, due to the Tump administration, all that’s coming to a grinding halt. If China wants better tech to spy on its own people, it’s going to need to develop that tech on its own.

Those man-made islands in the South Sea were allowed to be built for a reason. Could they have been intended all along to become “booty” that will be “owned” by the West as Hong Kong was after the Opium Wars? Hong Kong just might be included if China is forced into concessions, especially with all the “ra-ra” fuss among spoiled Hong Kong students. The US strategy indicates many lofty “hopefuls” in the queue, should the status quo shift—in what direction no one knows. It seems that the Trump administration has aims much higher than merely settling disputes in Korea.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 28, 2018

The US “disinvited” two countries this week, not only North Korea, but also China from the biannual naval exercises in Hawaii. Both “disinvitations” were a rescinding of a previous invitation after less than friendly saber rattling from the former invitee. Kim Jong Un’s loud mouth is widely known, so the North Korean “disinvitation” came as no surprise.

China, specifically, has been pressuring African countries to “dis-recognize” Taiwan in favor of Beijing policy. Additionally, China has been pressuring US companies to follow otherwise unrecognized Chinese maps placing Taiwan under China’s political sovereignty, as well as companies from other countries—which Taiwan is not currently under the control of. China sees the request as part of a grand goal of “reunification” and a nostalgic return to the rhapsodic geographical past as the keystone of a socioeconomic strengthening strategy.

The problem from the Western corporate perspective is with the dictionary, not with ideology. China’s government does not decide the laws on Taiwan’s island currently, not in any way. So, listing Taiwan “under” China would create confusion for Western tourists. But, China is run by Communists who believe that logistics are to be dictated, not recognized. In the land of Communist-Chinese, if tourists would be confused, the solution is to simply make a new law this afternoon outlawing tourists who are confused. So, Beijing doesn’t believe the West has any legitimate problem with the policy, but that Western companies are only trying to spite Beijing.

Washington, however, does view the problem as ideological. It would be wrong for Washington to dictate the organizational nomenclature of the Bank of China or Sky News or Spotify. So would be any reciprocal resemblance. Under Trump, Washington is enforcing that ideology globally.

Then, there was yet another snafu among China’s man-made islands. The US can’t stop making news in Taiwan. A Senator makes an “unexpected” visit. US weapons developers are planning to set up shop in Taiwan. The US and Taiwan have decided that they can’t build Taiwanese submarines fast enough. And, the US has decided that Taiwan needs the absolutely best defense to respond to Chinese “saber rattling”, not only asymmetric defense. All of this is remarkably irritating and “disrespectful” to China.

China hates few things more than being disrespected.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 21, 2018

Talk only went so far this week. I looks as if North Korea might not be dismantling its nukes, but hiding them, then threatening to close talks when exposed for this, then threatening to cancel the summit for some other list of excuses.

The big question on Kim Jong-Un backing out on the talks relates to his recent visits to China. Not that China has made any wild promises, but he feels somewhat confident in getting lippy with the US.

The big lesson was about Moon’s emphasis on diplomacy vs Trump’s emphasis on teeth. Diplomacy made progress in terms of leading to more diplomacy. But, actual action is a measurement of its own. So far, Trump’s action has led to China losing interest in any kind of trade war and Moon’s favored diplomacy seems to be leading to an undiplomatic end to diplomacy.

Things aren’t over nor have we seen the last surprise. The big news of the week is that China’s on the bench. Moon and Trump will meet to discuss Kim having a discussion with them in Singapore. Where’s China?—announcing its surrender on trade, reflecting on past meetings with Kim, another player that doesn’t really matter.

If Kim doesn’t show up, Moon’s populist diplomacy will prove to have failed and Trump will have the “political currency” for action against North Korea. Maybe that’s what China hopes for in allowing Kim to gain false hopes in something or other—to rationalize a little retaliatory action of its own. But, if military action was China’s first preference, Beijing would have already taken it.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, July 31, 2017

Xi Jingping told his military the same thing China has been telling its people for decades: The world needs us, our military, our might, and our expansion, otherwise there can be no peace. This proves a static ethic. From this perspective, China wants the US to remain calm and not take action in North Korea.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s president wants the US to wait while he negotiates with the North for safety in the US. South Korean people want much the same thing Filipinos want: non-dependence. South Korea’s president, South Korea’s people, and China all want the US to “get out”. Interestingly, they share this sentiment with North Korea.

The world is full of political ideologies that claim half of one thing and do half of another. The best chance at victory is to simply stay home and do good work there. In that, the South Korean people stand the greatest chance of victory. Yet, the United States stands the greatest chance of taking action for two reasons: the US is being threatened more than any other and the US is willing to take action more than any other. If the US takes out the North, they can leave and the South Koreans will get what they want. But, things rarely happen as they should.

Only two things are foreseeable: conflict and Korean unification. All the rest is conjecture.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 22, 2017

The big question surrounding the time of North Korea’s end will be logistics. It won’t be about tactics or the “most diplomatic-surgical way” to end the volatile regime. While the scene is that of the super villain who has strapped himself into a chair, booby-trapped with trip wires and armed with explosives, even more important things are going on. Large-scale powers don’t think about micro-tactics, they think about logistics. And, logistics are shaping-up.

Social energy is one important logistic. The people of nations involved must see a viable path to support certain action. Navies in the region are burning up tax dollars, something that can’t continue forever. Taiwan is itching for recognition in the world and the world itches for Taiwan to be recognized—and Taiwan is making much more progress than in years past. Then, there is trust.

From a PR perspective, China is failing. But, from a spying perspective, China has turf to defend. China’s isolationist policies may seem anti-free speech to the West, but China sees spies to catch and leaks to plug. Trump doesn’t like leaks either. Spies are dangerous. China is willing to kill them while Americans publicly oppose executions while secretly wishing the deaths of their daily enemies. China’s execution and imprisonment of CIA spies caught during the Obama years is very understandable. But, the American public won’t see it that way.

This week, a huge ramp went up to alert the public to “news” that is anything but. China caught and executed CIA spies long ago. It didn’t matter until now, when social support is an important calculation with logistics of war. That explains the Pentagon statements and the newspaper trends in America as well as Europe and Australia. The Western public is being rallied against China. That is significant.

Then, there is China’s image with the Koreas. China won’t be too hard on North Korea. China is banning South Korean travel because it doesn’t like the US presence in South Korea. That’s understandable, but not to the pop star fans in South Korea or the United States. When South Korean pop stars tour the US, more young people in the US will become aware of the issues. China could have stopped it, but Beijing still struggles to understand the Western mind. The Korean pop star fans in China might start struggling to understand Beijing’s mind, at least more than in the past. When you turn people away, they don’t just go home, the go elsewhere. That’s not easy to comprehend when you’ve always gotten what you want and always been told what to want to hear. Whatever China’s problems are or are not, the travel bans make China look worse than it deserves.

The real crime was the Shakespearian “fatal flaw”: China didn’t understand the West well enough. In a world of growing alliances between sovereign nations, that is an unforgivable sin as far as gravity is concerned. And, with gravity, mercy is too lacking and pain always greater than it should be.

But, all is fair in love and in war.

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