Cadence of Conflict: Asia, January 14, 2019

China is preparing for war. It has said so in public. It has demonstrated so with militarization of “Made in China” islands that didn’t exist a decade ago. It has shown intent by showing no sense of limits in cyber-warfare, technology acquisition, and oppression of the press. Facebook and Twitter users are only a “security threat” to those easily threatened.

Unlike China, the United States does not make a habit of announcing its newest military technology to the world. Whatever warfare breaks out between the US and China in the Western Pacific, China’s capabilities will have been known well in advance, but the US will likely employ weapons not yet known to the public. One needs no inside information to forecast as much, only a familiarity with the parts of history that tend to repeat.

But, we are not looking at WWIII, not yet. While the brewing conflict in the Western Pacific will likely involve many countries and islands, Russia is not yet ready for the big one. NATO’s presence in Europe is still too strong and Putin has not had enough time to amass his forces as he would like. Both Russia and the US would want things to quiet down rather quickly. Every effort from the White House to back away from conflicts with Russia suggests that a deal has already been struck with the Kremlin—that an expansionist campaign from China will not receive meaningful Russian help if squashed by the United States.

The question will concern how many Mainland China military supply installations Russia will allow the US to strike. But, if the US intervenes with Taiwan or razes the artificial islands on Mischief Reef, don’t expect China to receive backup from Russia. Moscow took Crimea with a favorable referendum and no bloodshed. The Kremlin would expect just as much success from Beijing in order to court respect and cooperation. Right now, things don’t look that way. 80% of Taiwanese rejecting reunification with China is a near flip to the support Russia received from Crimeans. Backroom Moscow secretly mocks Beijing, no matter how much money the Chinese pay them. Moscow would be fools if they didn’t.

In the supposed “Chinese invasion plans” for Taiwan, there are multiple phases, including opportunistic retaliation from India. But, those plans fail to anticipate retaliation from the insulted Vietnamese, who also hold a long-standing grudge against China. Then, there is the ancient ethnic spite between China and Japan. Mongolia also has border disputes. Tibet is not the only province that wants to break away. It is doubtful Sun Tzu would have advised an expansion campaign while surrounded by enemies, especially as a mere means of being respected.

It would take a miracle and a half to stay whatever makes the pluming smoke on the horizon of the last decade. But, it won’t last long. No one wants this to drag on. No, like “The Great War” (WWI) set the stage for WWII, the approaching war in the Pacific will set the stage for the big one that comes after.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 24, 2018

China detains two Canadians with remark and in the wake of a single Huawei executive’s arrest. Given the surfacing connections the executive’s family had to Mao, China likely views the value of arrested people as equally balanced; the West merely views China as having committed three criminal acts.

Huawei has gotten into more and more trouble the more it has been in the spotlight. Now, Europe even has its doubts. China’s sources of money and influences are drying up more and more.

But, an opinion article from Bloomberg invariably proves that some car makers managed to keep their technology out of the hands of China—mainly by keeping it out of China until it was out of date. Moreover, China has made proposals within its government to allow foreign companies to keep their technology secret. So, that should end any and every doubt about what a wonderful place China is for any and all manufacturing.

On the military side, China is announcing that it is finally pursuing the same quiet submarine technologies that the US, Russia, and India are also pursuing. So, that’s it. The West should give up because, after all, China is going to win.

The US, however, is in a different position. If China were to initiate a conflict with the US, say by attempting to assert control over Taiwan “by force if necessary”, China might not get as much help from its rumored spy partner, Russia. Taiwan is unlike Crimea, which held a referendum with overwhelming favor to return to Russia. And, with the US out of Russian-interested territories, like Syria and Afghanistan, there is little Russia would have to object to in the US following its own law to defend Taiwan, already on the books. A recessed Congress is certainly willing.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 22, 2018

By not labeling China a “currency manipulator”, the US is extending an olive branch to Beijing. But, things aren’t as they seem. On every level, China is reaching—almost grasping—to save face.

This new artificial moon is honest and runs deep in Chinese culture. As part of being the center of the universe, Chinese culture arguably orbits the moon. The Lunar New Year is celebrated far more, in Chinese culture, than the Western calendar New Year. While the Western press tells of the man-made moon from China as a kind of narcissism, it’s genuine and normal interest. The threat is US strategy.

While the US throws olive branch after olive branch, the forest yields other fruit than olives. China is losing money fast. Trump tariffs are gobbling up China’s reserves behind the reserves. No matter how friendly China tries to play at this point, the US will continue to deliver one provocation after another until China retaliates with basic human instinct. It won’t matter how many “encounter codes” China and the US agree to. The US has decided that China is an enemy and has determined to convince the world as much.

This is not the first military provocation campaign from the US. But, if China wins, it would be a first naval victory for China. Calculate the odds.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 8, 2018

China’s political, socioeconomic worldview is that of a zero-sum game. It has played its socioeconomic game that way for decades. Now, it must empty its reserve coffers to keep its zero-sum game strategy from sinking too fast. This means that it can’t use those coffers if a military conflict arose. The United States knows this.

Don’t be fooled. The US strategy is to provoke China into a conflict sooner than it wants. In the Western view, China has shown how it will behave by having shown how it has behaved more and more. This is enough to warrant preemptive agitation for the Western taxpayer. In China’s view, the world has failed to bestow on China what China deserves; because China rightly deserves what it deserves, China can’t lose.

Interpol has now gotten whatever international attention against China’s favor that Hong Kong malcontents did not. With the disappearance of Interpol’s president into China, whoever didn’t care about so-called “Chinese aggression” does now. China’s government thinks they sent a message to the world. They did, but the message received is probably not the message that was intended.

As the Pacific conflict escalates, the US-Taiwan aggravation strategy moves into more military cooperation. “Unprecedented” was the word of the week. And, everyone knows what it means just as much as everyone knows why.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 1, 2018

When China cancelled a meeting in Washington, the Chinese thought they were sending a message; Washington thought they wouldn’t be sending any more messages at all. The Chinese government wants mutual respect, trade that results in equal numbers, and that countries not be bullied into taking sides in a China-US disagreement. Though China lobbed this new policy in a complaint against the US, there have yet to be steps or specific commitments on how China will hold up its side of this new policy. It will be difficult to get clarification without communication.

US tariffs are unfair. It’s so obvious that it doesn’t need to be proven. China has a right, after all—and everyone should agree—to develop itself as a nation. China’s right to have any and all resources given to it from everywhere in the world, to whatever extent is needed for development, is an entitlement China has by birth and is already universally accepted around the world. Those in the US who oppose this obvious consensus are a rogue fringe not deserving of academic mention.

But, Taiwan is being a big bully—a meanie-face. By not rebuking the US for considering a third of a billion dollar arms sale to Taiwan, the Taiwanese are spitting in Beijing’s face once again. As if that bullying wasn’t enough, Taiwan is also planning a new place to park its helicopters. Of all the audacity!

Hong Kong, however, stands no chance against the great and mighty China. By banning a pro-independence party, the Hong Kong government sure showed them! There’s no possible hope for any kind of backlash or rise in sympathy, once the rightful leaders have made their all-powerful will known in the fully self-governed special administrative region of Hong Kong.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 24, 2018

Google has gone off the deep end. The level of insanity matches The Bridge over the River Kwai. Actually helping China spy—Are Google execs loopy? From a Chinese company inside China that would make sense. But, Google is American. As if helping a non-ally spy isn’t enough, social media giants are already in trouble over censorship in the US. Google could be in bigger trouble with the White House than Wall Street is.

Taiwan hasn’t wasted any time irritating China. Now, a temple that was bought seven years ago by a Taiwanese business man, which was then converted into a “shrine to Chinese communism”, is having the lights and water turned off as the local government prepares to demolish the whole place. That won’t wash over well for anyone hoping to court friendship with China.

China seems to be taking the hint and finally getting offended. Beijing cancelled a trip to talk trade with Washington after figuring out that tariffs were set by imbalance and retaliation rather than rhetoric. As for the two steering factors—imbalance and retaliation—China shows no indication of making concessions. But, it’s not the tariffs or trade talks that deserve the headlines as much as the insults mounting against China.

The US is going after Russia for selling weapons to China. That’s even more irritation. And, China is even more angry. If we were to analyze the events of the past few months, even years more subtly, it could seem that angering China was an accident. But, the recent past makes more sense, just as events are more easily anticipated, if we consider that the US is irritating China on purpose. Expect more insults from the US, along with Taiwan.

And, Korea. Yes, the two nations are getting along. That won’t work well for any nation or pundit hoping to argue that Trump doesn’t know how to make a difference in the region.

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