Cadence of Conflict: Asia, April 30, 2018

One easy way to understand, at most “anticipate, but at least be unsurprised by developments in Korea and China is the “PDT Symphony Mad Asian Scientist Theorem”. This “Mad Scientist” theorem is not fact and likely untrue, but if applied, events somehow make sense. The theorem is as follows.

Let’s say there is a mad scientist somewhere in Asia who freely travels between China and North Korea. He studies a very specific niche: civilian control. Over the last sixty years or so, he would have easily observed in North Korea what happens to a society with absolute police state control over a comparatively small population completely isolated from the outside world. Propaganda and behavior are equally managed and controlled by the government there. This hypothetical “mad scientist” would have all the information he needs to understand an Orwellian society in full swing.

Then, let’s say, for whatever reason, North Korea is no longer a viable source for his societal studies and experiments—however he manages to implement them. He then goes to China, which seems to be following the same Orwellian methods, but on a population fifty times larger. That is the theorem.

As North Korea stops being the perfect place for the mythical “mad scientist”, China suddenly becomes the new laboratory. It’s not actually happening that way; it just seems to be. One small example of this is China’s new use of facial recognition; police wearing face-recognition glasses, face-recognition police robots looking for bad guys at train stations, and even cameras using face-recognition to crack down on the great threat of J-walking. No question, China is the world’s new North Korea, but with tech the Kim Dynasty never dreamed of.

Whatever is going on behind the scenes, this “peace deal” with North Korea is not all that it is purported or reported to be. South Koreans will be led to believe that the new peace will be the result of the new president Moon Jae-in’s emphasis on “diplomacy”. However much his diplomacy may have in fact helped, it’s not just any old kind of diplomacy. Obama also stressed diplomacy and we saw what happened there—or better said what didn’t happen. South Korea’s president had a special diplomacy, but he hasn’t said what made his so diplomatic methods get actual results.

Just as much, Trump’s embargo against North Korea also stepped up pressure, something obvious that receives some mention, but not much mention because it’s so obvious. The more likely Trump-effected factor in the North Korean deal is China. That you are likely to hear little about from Trump since people who make a difference rarely share all of their trade secrets. Trump is the great deal maker, after all. So, there is no way that we will know what all went on behind the scenes.

What most likely happened was a US implied threat made to China, a simple reveal of US military capability. “China, back off or you’re boiled toast, cooked, and well-done.” That’s what kind of message China must have gotten, one way or another. This is all the more obvious because of China’s response, grasping for friends.

Even with all this bravado about playing hardball with the US, China just opened up foreign investments at warp speed. Of course, China loves it when foreign money flows one-way into its markets. It’s working with an economic team from the US. And, China is also working on economics with its old, hard-earned enemy India—in the same “bromance” as Xi had with Trump.

The India deal won’t work because China always negotiates with a factor of “saving face”, an brittle value. If China really wanted India’s friendship, it would apologize for all past disputes—whether right or wrong—and permanently surrender all disputed land to India. But, it won’t because China isn’t demonstrating any change of heart, only a state of desperation.

For China’s sake, the decision makers in Beijing must be careful. India is no fool and “desperate” is exactly what India will see. India’s president will seek to exploit as much as he can from China, but India is by no means a friend of a nation that wants to be friendly and save face at the same time.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, April 23, 2018

The US is arming East Asia and disarming North Korea. China is a spectator in the Western game.

Reports and gossip about the latest North Korean promise to disarm ensnared many in the media. The South Korean Kumbaya singing President Moon Jae-in was quick to give his “peace in our time” report that North Korea has promised to disarm, with the connotatively-added meaning of “shortly after his election”. Trump Tweeted that disarming is great, “yuge” news, then the mainstream media ripped on Trump for an unverified report, particularly PBS. (Why does PBS still receive tax dollar money?) Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was more cautions about North Korean false promises, proving himself the most sober in the room.

Japan is looking into a stealthy F-22 F-35 hybrid from Lockheed Martin, in order to deter impedance from “Chinese” and “Russian” jets in its air defense zone. Taiwan is also looking at Patriot missile defense systems. The increased military talk in China’s backyard, particularly about China,  surmounts to the dogs fighting over who gets to eat the pheasant.

China is making so many flybys around Taiwan that scrambling jets over air defense zone approaches is a strain on the Taiwanese military budget. Taiwan might end up sending China a bill, likely by way of military money from the US and US tariffs on not yet mentioned Chinese goods. Also look for new Taiwan-favored trade deficits with the US in amounts similar to the cost of scrambling jets every few days.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, March 5, 2018

China’s changes include finances as well as politics. As the US unrelentingly inches toward absolute denuclearization of North Korea—one way or another—China delays solidarity at the UN. China has no lack of mixed messages in other areas, such as Taiwan.

Stepping up military drills near Taiwan while becoming more economically friendly to Taiwanese isn’t exactly something that causes democratic voters to fall in love with a nation without elected official term limits. Some Taiwanese will take advantage of the economic favoritism, but those will probably be the kind of companies run by bosses who have a moderately high turnover rate coupled with complaints about overbearing, old school Asian leadership style. When China suddenly changes colors again, they could lose their companies, all depending on what Chinese “national security interest” needs arise with the sun. That will become an unanticipated economic edge to “isolationist” companies that remain in Taiwan and prefer a “flattened-out” administrative structure. Notwithstanding, experts claim it could all backfire.

Then there is Korea and Vietnam. China won’t need to worry about US intervention stealing its customers in North Korea much longer since that customer will soon cease to exist. Calling off a potential meeting between Pyongyang and Washington officials at the Winter Games involved Kim Jong Un’s sister being present. It indicates paranoia; Un is evidently concerned about a coup. He should be. Many of his officials had just jumped decades forward in time travel, also called “crossing the border”, when they saw the life, joy, happiness, technology, and pleasures of the modern world. Top North Korean brass will pine to return and Un’s sister knew they would. Calling off the meeting only alerted the world to Pyongyang feeling threatened.

So much said in a denial. US Congress unanimously passes the “Taiwan Travel Act”, essentially allowing every diplomat even up to Trump and Tsai to meet face-to-face, in public, in celebratory AKA “respectful” conditions. But, the US media—always asking for bipartisanship—doesn’t care to report the passage of the unanimous bill. That means that the bill may actually accomplish something, and that is why China is furious, depending on the occasion of course.

The US sending 5,000 troops to stop in Vietnam for the first time in 40 years should be more disconcerting to China that the passage of any bill or the blockage of any trade ships with North Korea. Of course, China says that they have no interest disturbing the international status quo and they respect other countries, albiet the “Xi Thought” includes, more importantly than removal of term limits, that the entire world is China’s responsibility.

While the West would paint China as a villain, nothing could be farther from the truth. After all, a police officer didn’t even need permission to catch a girl falling from the forth floor. Her grandmother had locked herself outside of her own apartment and the key smith scared the girl into climbing out the window. The police officer caught the girl, both were hospitalized. And, of course, ruling party officials from China made sure to visit and congratulate the officer for such quick thinking.

Then, we have Google and Apple courting more favor with China. Maps and Translate are back, with a China-controlled remix, of course. National security is vital. But, therein lies a cloaked warning. China is already under attack by the West. Soon-to-be non-Communist and united Korea, US-Friendly Vietnam, soldiers waiting to flex their muscles in India, diplomatic visits to Taiwan, not to mention the ever pro-US Japan—China is surrounded.

This is dangerous. All that needs to happen is for China to send out its military like King John’s Crusade, then Apple and Google will have no opposition re-educating China’s population, without soldiers to protect what’s happening at home. It would be best for China to refortify and give Apple and Google the boot, but who is the West to give China any suggestion. The West has money and power, so they clearly don’t understand.

We live in historic times.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 26, 2018

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.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 12, 2018

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.

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