Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 19, 2018

Conveniently, Axios breaks a story from Trump’s November visit to China. There was a scuffle and a tackle over the “nuclear football”—AKA the nuke code bag. At first, it seems like relations are breaking down between the US and China. At second glance, the timing of the report is outright suspicious. Stepping back and giving it a third thought, the scuffle almost seems prophetic and poetic about the American-Chinese situation. The Chinese didn’t touch the “nuclear football”, though there was an ignored or unreceived memo. The US entourage kept moving. The Chinese official in charge kindly apologized. And, it was all over in an instant and without incident. That seems to have a figurative application on a literary level.

China is expanding in science and other areas. Underwater drones capable of making military maps were told to be for science only. Mischief Reef’s new missile-defense equipped naval-air bases were only for a fishermen’s shelter. And, the first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was purchased from Russia to be nothing more than a floating museum. Those kinds of stories get drummed up by the West as reasons not to trust China.

The Philippines have effectively made peace with China on some level. China is capable of preserving peace if it wants to. But, the Western press often points to grandiose statements that rub Westerners the wrong way. President Xi referred to the belt road project as the “project of the century” and that it will “add splendor to human civilization”. The West cares about taxpayer efficiency, freedom to have children, and welcome open dissent against their own government. Westerners value humility from leadership. The Chinese grandiose remarks from Xi Jinping command respect in China, but are off-putting to Westerners. Rather than seeking to reconcile the differences in rhetorical preference, press reports exploit the shock value and sell-out peaceful understanding for caustic sensationalism. The divide grows. Whether China should tone down its language is a Chinese-internal decision. So is the opinion and response by the West also a purely internal decision.

So, at the same time Axios reports a non-incident story of a conflict that didn’t happen over a “football” last November. It is framed as a sign of shaky US-China relations. Others are reporting on the US, Japan, Australia, and India collaborating competition against China’s infrastructure. There is also news of Trump buckling down on trade with China. Then, Quartz publishes a review of China’s great threat as a rising military power, a collection of old news.

Truth or lie, propagandized or unbiased, the timing is a tell-all. The Western press is preparing the public for war.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 1, 2017

The news would have us think that China’s reverse-engineered copy of a Soviet-made diesel aircraft carrier is nuclear-powered and in full commission. It’s not. It’s simply being towed from one construction site to another. But, it is another milestone step in progress and the West needs to pay close attention. With all the excitement over Korean nukes, China obtaining its own aircraft carriers is a bigger step and a bigger threat to China’s neighbors. Heads are turning in Japan and India.

Trump’s “bromance” with China’s President Xi isn’t without precedent. The two are smart. Trump is less-controlled by the big political class. No matter how much Xi may want to resolve peace, any deal he makes with Trump must be pleasing to the Communist Party of China. Perhaps some success with Trump on the Kim dynasty in Korea will help Xi persuade the old boys club in China. But, that would be a first. Old school Chinese don’t like to learn new tricks.

Eventually, Korea will make major steps toward becoming one nation. Then, the US and China will change colors in the South Sea. Both sides will have gotten what they wanted: a stable Korean Peninsula. But, when the conflict in the West Pacific erupts, all bets will be off. It won’t be America who betrays first, the Chinese will make their move after they have their excuse. The ongoing US relationship with Taiwan may be that excuse. And, in the minds of the Chinese, the US will have been wrong.

Xi and Trump will become like old generals who know each other from battle field just as well as from the tea time table. No matter how much conflict they have, they will always be grateful for their cooperation in Korea. That’s what mature generals do. And, that is the current leadership at both ends of the Pacific.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 3, 2016

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 3, 2016

With the US continuing its shift to Asia from the Middle East, China faces a choice. Beijing knows that various and sundry forces in the Middle East are a growing threat—as well as in Malaysia and other places Chinese have migrated to. From Obama’s arguably premature exit from Iraq, we can see the results of a military vacuum. But, the Pentagon has been announcing a shift away from the Middle East and toward Asia for quite some time, regardless of Obama’s or any other American president’s choice of timing.

Hostile groups in the Middle East are hostile both to the US and China. These are a kind of “shared enemy”. With the US no longer holding the China-US enemies in check, China becomes vulnerable, and more quickly so. The Middle East is much closer to Chinese “Far East” territory than the Western US on the opposite side of the world.

China has a choice: Continue to fortify to compel changes in the South Sea while remaining vulnerable to enemies in the back yard or else fortify where the US left, grow in strength where Beijing had not initially dreamed of, and maintain non-conflict at home. So far, it seems that China wants to wind history backward rather than forward; that means not only winding back the maps, but bringing all the conflict that came with them and more. But, we’ll see.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 19, 2016

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 19, 2016

The investment company of Taiwan’s former-controlling political party—because, yes, a political party owning investments is not yet illegal in Taiwan—is attempting to sell assets in Japan. This comes as the same party sent a delegation to China made up of business and local government officials from their shrinking minority of cities they still control. The main topic was said to be “tourism”. Apparently, since China slammed the door on talks after the “other party” won a landslide, Beijing and the old, failing guard in Taiwan miss each other, especially the “tourists”, thousands of which were reported missing in Taiwan in years past.

One would think that China would not want to slam the door on it’s best and most convenient way to insert spies into a country it is officially at war with. And, one would think that the unpopular Beijing friends in that country would have the decency to label their talks with some other, less suspicious topic. But, pride—especially the Asian varieties—tend to blind the very common sense necessary for whatever victory one seeks. In Chinese thought—which the failing party in Taiwan comes from—pride is a victory unto itself.

Few things illustrate the “dragon” in the East better than this. Beijing slammed the door on Taiwan. But, it welcomes nostalgic local governments who agree with it’s made-up tales of history, including the admitted-to-be made-up “1992 consensus”, which has a very interesting interpretation of “consensus”, extending to include ideas that run against popular opinion.

But, the enemy in this is not China. China’s choice to close the door was wise for both China and Taiwan. Fewer opportunities for spy exchanges is good. The enemy is the failed political party that is attempting to play both sides, like a double-agent spy hiding in plain sight.

This is an indication. Talks are coming to a close. Action will develop. With a new American president on the way—where both leading candidates have more experience with China than any candidate before—Beijing will no longer have panting dogs begging for food in the presidents’ offices of its adversaries. Get ready. November will not be as important as January.

In other news, China’s banking situation could be either good or bad, which made headlines once again. China did take the effort to criticize tourism in Taiwan, specifically the Dalai Lama’s. And,  Japan wants in on the party on China’s South Sea. Make sure you read Boolmberg’s well-republished article about Japan’s announcement, along with the article linked mid-way through that educates the Western public about what China has been doing, just in case anyone lives under a rock.

It’s funny, for the last several years, the Western Press has been obsessed with educating Western readers about the various complexities that exist within China’s “nine-dash-line”. Perhaps newswriters see something coming and hope that their readers will have to do less “catch-up” when the “EXTRA” editions appear in the streets once again.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, August 22, 2016

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, August 22, 2016

There really isn’t much news this week in the Pacific. China and Russia practice war games in the disputed South Sea while the US and South Korea practice their war games near the Korean Peninsula. Taiwan’s government continues what is expected of the new regime: Status quo, strength, and corruption crackdowns—two of which don’t exactly please China.

Status quo is exactly what China will not accept. Taiwan and the US object to the objection to status quo. No big changes are coming from the countries China opposes. China is determined to break the mood. Beijing sees the West as “already having” upset status quo and wants to revert to history—well, a specific part of history anyway. So, “status quo” has become a relative term, as has “perp”. We’ll have to leave conclusions in the hands of the people.

That conclusion may be soon as much as it may be well-informed. The world slowly becomes more and more aware of what is happening in the South Sea. When someone busts a move to make headlines, there won’t be any surprises.

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