Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 10, 2016

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 10, 2016

The tied rises and falls, but tensions only rise in the Pacific, week after week. This week, China and its old buddy, Russia, were seen in public together. And, it seems China has a new friend in the Philippines’ defense office. The tension is at such a point where the public has not only learned about it, but is getting “used to” it. The excessive education writers insert into their news articles, informing readers and re-informing readers about the history of China’s “nine-dash line” and the South Sea certainly helps move this from “news” to “mundane”.

But, who is the villain? Arguably, the US is the villain, but not for the conventional reasons. Had Trump had his way, the US never would have borrowed money from China to get involved in the Mid East in the first place. The US Navy could have then operated out of the red and more in the Pacific blue. Then, China’s “island-building” might never have happened and Beijing wouldn’t have been strong enough to vie for a fight that it seems to want so badly—at least by proxy of the changes in the maps Beijing insists on seeing printed globally. But, that’s all speculation.

As you watch headlines, note the trickle of economic articles on China. China didn’t get it’s money through innovation, policy invention, or good will; it got its money because the Western lower-middle class pinched pennies so much they would spend $1.50 in gasoline to drive across town where an item cost $0.75 less. That drove jobs to China—which capitalized on US penny-pinching and pinched their own dollars into pennies, another thing Trump has criticized the Chinese for. China won the lottery, a story which ends well for few.

So, like a 16 year old with the keys to the Porsche he bought with his rich uncle’s money, China tried to build islands in hopes of rewinding the pages of history to their nostalgic splendor. While the US abandoned the mess it made in the Mid East—creating an otherwise would-have-failed enemy in the process of going and leaving—China could capitalize on the vacuum left by the AWOL US. Had China known how to earn the money it ended up with, Beijing would have had the smarts to be where ISIS now stands. Had they the smarts to learn from loss, they would have beaten Putin to the punch and build their islands closer to the vacuum. But, like a jealous company set on “wants” instead of “needs”, China is building islands that the US can take over in 15 minutes.

In the end, China will have to sign some kind of truce, though probably not a full “surrender”; the man-made islands will go to the US or some puppet thereof; and the US presence will have done exactly what China didn’t want, thanks to China: expand. A stronger China in the Mid East with “status quo” in the South Sea might have been more profitable, for China most of all.

The irony of it all begs the question: Was the penny-pinching culture of the American lower-middle class some CIA plot from the beginning to boost China’s confidence beyond feasibility? Probably not. But, is might make a great thriller “espionage intel.” novel.

Read More

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 26, 2016

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 26, 2016

The iPhone 7 is why Taiwan’s market jumped last week. The US presidential debate is why the Asian market dipped Monday. At least, that’s what the “experts” say.

The US and Philippine militaries will practice, especially since the Philippine president thinks he needs more US troops in his back yard pool. China flew no small number of jets past Japan in their own rehearsals—for something. China is also investigating North Korea’s banking connection to their nukes. South Korea won’t help with relief from the devastating Tumen river flood in North Korea for concern that Kim would take the credit and bolster his power. And, the headline news from Taiwan is typhoon Magi, the approaching storm.

Two things are for sure: There is more than one storm brewing in the Eastern Pacific and money is involved in all of them.

Read More

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 12, 2016

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 12, 2016

North Korea launched “another” nuke test. The announcement made sure that the North Koreans knew that it didn’t harm the environment. The Philippines released photos proving that China was doing what it had already been found guilty of and yet didn’t care.

Obama and China pointed fingers at each other this week. Reportedly, yet unconfirmed, China had a few more fingers to point than Obama. And, none of this is news, yet it continues to get reported week after week.

Instead, the news has quite a different tone:

A young woman walked a young man like a dog in Fuzhou before he stood up and they entered a shopping center together. China has finished the world’s “tallest” bridge, yet we won’t be able to cross it for several months. Research shows that about 20% of Taipei has been built on unstable ground and the Taipei mayor cares about the report of the ground as much as China cares about the verdict at sea. And, the most interesting news of all is that, while democracy ideologies have not found their way into North Korea, Green Peace’s ideologies have.

Read More

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, August 15, 2016

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, August 15, 2016

While Taiwan accepts yet another slow-delivery weapons deal, one of the slowest to date, China continues to build on the ocean to face off against the United States. It’s pure war strategy, East to West.

The argument goes that China carefully times its strategic “stepping on toes”. The next purported toe will be the site of the next man-made islet, deep within Philippine water and economic defense zone. China, according to reports of anonymous sources, plans that these toe steps occur after G20 and before the US election. This is where Beijing’s miscalculation shows.

Supposedly, during the US election season, Americans will be distracted with Trump v Clinton headlines and won’t have the time to worry about what China does in the Philippine’s back yard pool. However, this overlooks the topics surrounding Trump and Clinton, specifically the long history that both have with China and that opinion about either candidate is largely shaped by China’s actions.

If and when China steps in it in the Philippines, that “when” would serve China’s shrewdness better if postponed until after the election, lest China give American’s the excuse they need to elect the candidate most outspoken against China. Beijing’s timing would be more respected from one adversary to another if the Philippine islet reclaiming began after the US election and before the inauguration—after it’s too late for the American people to change their minds. But, once again, Beijing is likely to demonstrate that, while it has the courage to stand up to the US, it doesn’t have the listening ability to know the very enemies it chooses.

Beijing wants a deal with the Philippines. They know how to make a deal when they want to. What transpires over the coming months will be as foreseeable as it is by choice for all involved.

In times when China wants to dominate the water, Michael Phelps proved otherwise, for the third time in a row.

Read More

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, June 20, 2016

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, June 20, 2016

Last week, Taiwan’s president forgot the law that his own political party created as a means of controlling the other political party, that won in a landslide. The Japanese seem to have a better memory. Abuse of international agreements has irritated Okinawans for over half of a century. A recent murder committed by US personnel at the base in Japan initiated more protests and more are anticipated.

The US and Taiwan Navies also anticipate responses from China. Taiwan announced 12 new vessels, pushing the program with large amounts of PR. There will even be an open house in Kaohsiung where the public can learn all about the beefing-up of Taiwan’s Navy. The US rescheduled a Stennis-Reagan sail-by off the Philippines, hoping to make waves, weeks before Hague rules on China’s nine-dash line. The US made no attempt to hide that the exercise was rescheduled early, just to make a point.

Hong Kong’s booksellers also remember. A recently detained and released seller led protests in Hong Kong. Unlike all other territories with public displays this week, Hong Kong does not supply its own military and there seems to be little-to-no effort from Hong Kongers to request any changes to this. It will be interesting to contrast any results between the protests in Hong Kong with the protests in Japan.

Read More