It’s hitting the fan. China is homing-up and the US is “posseing” up. CFIUS is expanding its scope and China just required Apple to send its iCloud encryption keys to servers on the mainland. Both moves are more about caution than provocation. The US is stepping up patrols to enforce the trade block on North Korea. China just started the process of amending its Constitution to remove terms limits on its President.
The change to China’s Constitution is often mis-portrayed. It affects both the President and Vice President. It does not install a President for life, but simply allows it. More importantly, the Constitution is being updated to include the “Xi Thought”, mainly that all ethic groups of China are equal and that helping the entire world is part of China’s responsibility.
Many in the West will jump to presume Xi is making a grab for power. While it does increase his power, the more accurate interpretation is that Xi’s plans go for the long term, specifically after Trump’s term. Without this change, Xi would leave office by 2023. China is thinking in terms of long-term, global strategy. That’s hardly a “grab”, but more of a “waltz”.
This is a significant change. Both the US and China clearly mean business. With a shift toward the long-term, and with China publishing its view that the whole world is part of its responsibility, we are in a different political atmosphere than in years past.
There are those who know Asia and those who don’t. There are those who know political gaming and those who don’t. Last week, Symphony said that China wouldn’t compromise in a “Sino-Vatico” deal. This week, a retired bishop in Hong Kong said basically the same thing: That if the pope vetoes Beijing too often, Beijing will tell the world the pope is unreasonable.
The pope is no fool. The Vatican knows to listen to a Hong Kong bishop concerning China. The deal is hotly debated in the Church and by no means unanimously supported as motherhood or apple pie. If the Vatican goes through with this controversial deal with China, then it indicates that the Vatican is counting on a popularity war against China, in which China loses respect, both among Catholics in China and everyone in every economy everywhere else in the world, except of course among Russians who always like a good fight.
If war breaks out between the West and China, and if China loses to a fierce West, China ought hold the Vatican partially responsible for playing the complex popularity mind game which is this deal. This agreement was always a cloaked plan to harm China. It seems that the retired bishop in Hong Kong hasn’t figured that out.
The Vatican would have us believe that they haven’t figured out China when they actually have things figured out all to well. That’s what makes the Vatican arguably the greatest danger to China. No wonder China is so concerned, but still not concerned enough.
Equally concerning, Taiwan is seriously talking about moving their Legislative Yuan and their Executive Yuan offices with it. The new location would be Taichung, the center of Taiwan. That would put the central government seat in two locations and the frequent target of democratic demonstrations between the ideologically conflicted north and south. While this is purported to help connect the central government more closely to local governments—and to provide large, open plazas so that demonstrations don’t interrupt local commerce—and to provide for an “earthquake” not disrupting the entire central government, that word “earthquake” carries symbolic meaning without mention. A change of cartography will also date any invasion rehearsals.
More than implicating an airborne “earthquake” from, say, China, promoting democracy demonstrations along with a united island of 23 million are the greater, yet more subtle, messages that may insult some offices on the other side of that Taiwan strait. Few in the West will understand how Taiwan’s central government creating a “second seat” could spark the war that the Vatican is already piping the popularity to fuel.
Just as much, there are those who do and do not understand North Korea. Every time the West is shown media coverage of North Korea, journalistic commentary doesn’t know what to say. Look at them, they all clap in unison. Doesn’t it look strange? They can’t be happy; after all they never stop smiling. It’s all fake. And, look at all of the crying at the Kim Jong Il funeral. That’s either fake or it’s radical support.
The press, wholly unqualified to explain events in Far East Asia, can’t help but flaunt their own ignorance.
North Koreans are part of a tightly-controlled, cult-like, nannied-and-mommied play script. They are neither happy nor sad. They are caught in a culture of mass group think. They cry at a Kim funeral because that’s what you do, much like taking your shoes off at the door. They cheer in choreographed unison at a sports arena because that’s what you do at sports arenas and, more importantly, all cheering is choreographed anyway, right?
They aren’t cheering from any obligation. They’re like a bunch of Sunday Morning micro-church minions parroting their microcosm lingo because that’s the only thing they have ever learned to do. A similar comparison would be to tone-lexical native language speakers—such as Cantonese and Mandarin—trying to use the free-form tone flow of Romance sentences, or asking someone who only reads sheet music to improvise for the first time ever. Singing spontaneously from the heart just isn’t something they have ever known. And, all the Western press can do is gawk, but not understand.
It just shows how far we still have to go to get to know each other.
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.
The talks between South and North Korea are not at all what they are cracked up to be. While the world would love to believe that this is some grand exercise in “can’t we all just get along” diplomacy that always-only ever failed under Obama in any and every hemisphere, North-South talks are not what they seem. They are a distraction, a false pretense, an ostensible cover story, a smoke screen for something much, much deeper.
In all likelihood, the talks will include a very subtle Asian-style, excessively subtle (since it’s among Koreans) offer. Even bachelor’s degree students of business management study the science of talking to an employee in such a way that he doesn’t figure out he’s being fired until he gets home and takes his first bide of dinner. Leonardo explained the idea well in his movie Inception.
The meeting, capitalizing on participation in the Olympic games so strategically timed and placed, is more akin to the close of the series The Sopranos. A lieutenant of a rival family meets with the head of another family to plot the “offing” of his own boss in order to stop an ugly war that no one wanted, which started when that new boss came to power. The rival family “does in” their own boss at the gas station, the main character makes his hospitality rounds, and the story ends.
That’s what this seems like. The Trump administration is allowing it, taking partial credit in a preemptive expectation of due accolades, also reminding the Asian world that communication is a good thing. Symphony said the same two days before Trump sent his January 4 Tweet to the same effect: without pressure from the US there would be no talks.
If Kim Jong Un eventually disappears in the months ahead, remember that it all came from this meeting, purportedly about the Olympics. There wouldn’t be any moves in northern Korea without already having “certain assurances”.
But, don’t let that distract you. Taiwan is definitely playing its role in provocative and irksome “spitting matches” with China. As with the min-boss in The Godfather Part III, Taiwan wouldn’t do that without “backing”.
China claims no part in the Hong Kong and Taiwan -related ships recently stopped by South Korean officials for illegally supplying oil to North Korea. China’s claim might be believable, but during the holiday week, China blocked a UN attempted to blacklist those very vessels caught in the act. By blocking the block of the “smoking gun” ships, as it were, China has defined itself as an accomplice. It’s a mere matter of fact and definition. There is no defense for China in regard to having some part to play with these two seized vessels.
Russia’s role, however, seems more dominant and should be more disconcerting. But, where does the attention from the press turn to blame but China. The press loves to make China the global scapegoat, but China’s responses don’t help its own disposition any.
Beijing made it clear that military exercises all around Taiwanese airspace are the “new normal” and Taiwan will just have to get used to it. Taiwan is re-focusing strategy for asymmetric warfare—politically correct military language for “fighting a bigger enemy”. Several Taiwanese companies are “rethinking” the presence of their factories in China after an entire zone was targeted for zone-wide shutdown. The catch to the zone shutdown story is that the entire zone is said to be targeted for a few blackout days because only some factories in the zone are polluting the environment too much. Factories that are within environmental regulations also have to shut down, argued to include Taiwanese-owned factories. Many factories in that zone are Taiwanese-owned. If China isn’t sending a message that Taiwanese aren’t welcome then Beijing could do a better job of not making it look that way.
Again, China’s actions indicate more and more that China is hostile toward democracies in the East Pacific, namely South Korea and Taiwan. From the perspective of Americans reading Western headlines, it is more difficult every day to come to China’s defense. That perspective among the masses is what the Pentagon is waiting for.