Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 14, 2018

Disassembling nuke sites prior to meeting Trump may seem like a “save of face” for Kim Jong-Un, but it’s actually a statement of Trump’s influence. If Trump wasn’t an influence, then Kim wouldn’t be doing what Trump has been demanding for a long time. No doubt, North Korea and its pro-Communist supporters in the Liberal media will twist this into “Trump not making a difference” from Trump getting what he wanted even before a meeting.

The comparison from history would be a feudal lord quickly accomplishing everything his king asked before his next royal visit. To say the king didn’t make a difference would be just plain ignorant. We should expect as much.

But, Trump wants it that way. The more Trump has his name on the Korean reunification, the more China’s desperate thirst for “respect” will sting. China wants everything to look like everything everywhere was China’s idea, or else throw a temper tantrum. Trump’s low-key silence will deny the “fight fix” and the semi-centennial tantrum will have to wait a little longer.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More