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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Encore of Revival: America, December 10, 2018

The theory presented on September 10 and November 19 proved useful enough to predict White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s departure. No one announces in advance that someone is leaving—before the departure, without also announcing a replacement. Nobody cares about a boss whose boss already announced would be leaving. That’s how to cripple any malevolent powers of an administrator that can’t be quickly unplugged, but needs to go—and do so without raising suspicion that the administrator did anything wrong. Even in his dismissal—not a “retirement”—Kelly fits the bill as the author of the “New York Times essay”, right down to getting tossed out in a way that no one would suspect a darned thing.

France is in trouble. The president who snubbed Trump has fallen into disfavor with his own people. This largely comes down to grandiose promises made by socialist agendas that everyone should have known could not deliver because of foresight rooted in hindsight. Socialism never delivers anything but what we see in France now. As for ado about Brexit, there’s no point in worrying so much since the queen can decide anyway, if she wants to. That’s what the British always tell Americans is so wonderful about the UK’s constitutional monarchy. But, acting like this is a problem helps keep the British press afloat.

A Trump campaign payment is now being compared to a situation with 2004 Democratic candidate John Edwards. But, that has three major holes in its boat: 1. The accusation encircles alleged campaign finance violations surrounding the Trump organization’s lawyer, Cohen, whose job it was to give legal advice; Trump is not a lawyer, Edwards was. Can a lawyer be witness against the client he advised, or secretly recorded? 2. The Mueller investigation sought to understand whether there was wrongful involvement with Russia and Trump. The Fourth Amendment limits the scope of search and seizure to a probable cause and any seized items must be specified by the warrant in advance. By starting with an investigation between Trump and Russia, but ending with a campaign finance accusation against a candidate accused by the lawyer who advised him, this has gone well beyond the scope that the Fourth Amendment was intended to limit. If courts allow this, it shows how much our legal justice system has wandered from the Constitution. 3. The electorate will want a good explanation for why Hillary wasn’t treated this way. The best reason so far would be that the courts have been usurped as a cudgel for political rivals. It’s not Trump who needs to be worried about an indictment; it’s the legal justice system itself that is about to go on trial.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 29, 2018

The Pacific Ocean has become a chess board of moving pawns, castling kings, bluffs, and propaganda. China offers the moon to small countries, the US warns that no “free” gift comes without strings attached. When Trump pulled out of the INF treaty for supposed Russian violations, Russia went on high alert at home and called it “preparing for war”. Russia being ready for war means China feeling more confident about busting a move.

Given regional instability, Japan and India are talking big. They want cooperative military exercises. They will also need passage through that section of the ocean—the South Sea—that China drew a nine-dash line around. America won’t be the only challenger to China’s new notion of “ocean ownership”. As China gets more and more assertive, even the British are on edge. Nothing happens in the Western Pacific unnoticed.

Is China strong enough to win a military conflict? A Chinese rocket failed at launch. In the news, it’s reported as a “private company”, but there is no such thing in China, by Western understanding of a “private company” anyhow. The reason it failed is probably rooted in the sister controversy to trade: reverse engineering and technology copying. China couldn’t launch the rocket, in all likelihood, because too much of the technology used by China wasn’t invented by China, but invented by someone else, made in China, and copied by China—but not understood by China. Such is the tech of this “private company” and the tech that made China so big as it is today and the tech it would use in battle. Russia would be wise to not depend on that tech. And, small countries would be wise to remember that the “great China” was made great by a tilted-trade, copied-tech cash cow that is no longer making milk.

China’s National Tourism Administration suspended group tours to one of China’s many coveted destinations in Taiwan. The delay is scheduled to last from early November into April. November is an election month for both the US and Taiwan. It’s a big month for expos in Taiwan, especially a flora expo in the city where tours were suspended, Taichung. November is also when a large group from the US Navy will make a show of force near China’s man-made islands.

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Encore of Revival: America, October 22, 2018

Saudi leadership is deeply entrenched in an attempt to make the world a better place. Just as Trump has his enemies, so do the Saudis. The Saudi Crowned Prince did not visit Turkey and personally dismember and murder a news reporter, no matter how many anti- fake news activists might have liked him to. There are many alibis in defense of the Saudi royal family, among them that they have many enemies who want violence to continue, who are even willing to engage in violence and blame it on the royal family to stir dissent against the royal family that wants to end violence.

Trump pulled out of the INF treaty, prohibiting medium-range ground-based nukes. Gorbachev doesn’t want Trump to pull out, but he hasn’t seemed so outspoken about Putin violating the treaty. Trump’s defense will be that the treaty has already ended, the US is merely jumping ship from the boat Russia has poked holes in for a long time. Putin’s argument is that missile defense in Europe violates attack missile treaties, though that argument needs further explaining before the American public will agree. By having argued that NATO defense violated treaties restricting attack protocols, Putin is more or less acknowledging that he already has a good excuse to violate the INF treaty, but Trump does not. Either way, Russia has nothing to complain about at this point because both parties seem to think the treaty no longer applies.

When your enemy argues that violating a treaty is fair, it’s stupid not to pull out of that treaty. Signed documents don’t cause missiles to freeze in mid air. Tension between the US rises and lowers based on how much the superpowers want to get along—and signed documents trail after the ebb and flow of the greater tide.

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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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