Cadence of Conflict: Asia, August 13, 2018

China’s situation isn’t getting easier. Taiwan now has tested a new missile, boasting ability to fire within China’s mainland, being capable of destroying military targets on both land and sea. This is no laughing matter. On the economic front, Beijing has a hard-headed counterpart in the White House, Donald Trump. He shows no indication of backing down on any front, including Beijing. Now, China is going after Muslims.

While it can be politically incorrect for the West to pursue terrorists if they are Muslim, China doesn’t have that problem. Military states rarely do, which is one advantage China has over the West. Terror cells may be in hot water since China is on high alert in all directions. If Taiwan were to create trouble on its eastern coast, Beijing would not want more trouble from its western borders. So, any earlier preemptive action from Beijing is likely to be westward, toward Muslim nations. Those Muslim areas could be in greater danger than Taiwan.

Taiwanese have been busy, though. When anyone uses the “Taiwan, China” format, Taiwanese go berserk. That’s raising a lot of attention about a little island in the Pacific which now has missiles capable of attacking China. These are interesting times.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, June 25, 2018

China is facing money problems, as the Western press continues to document in detail. China’s economy is largely based on real estate. China’s unusual form of communism includes laws that govern economics—especially with real estate, of course—and these laws are unusual in much of the rest of the world. As a result, people in China need to borrow money for things they normally wouldn’t borrow money for. The repayment schedules are also strange.

The only way that a real estate business can stay afloat is if the prices of real estate keep rising. The more it rises, the more it needs to rise. Money doesn’t fall from trees, but in China it needs to keep falling from somewhere in order to keep this vicious cycle spinning faster and faster. Eventually, the speed of the spinning wheel will exceed the strength of the wheel and it will all fly apart.

Then, we have China’s strategy in the South Sea—also involving real estate. The man-made islands are complete. It all happened while the West watched closely and did nothing to stop it. They are heavily fortified and militarized.

Trump reminds the world that we aren’t out of the woods yet with North Korea, Democrats misinterpret that as a contradiction—as if one step of progress means it’s all over. Japan is ending its drills. The Korean problem is simmering down and Taiwan is escalating.

Now, we have the US strengthening its ties with Taiwan, the linchpin of the Pacific. Diplomats are visiting. Congressmen are calling for Taiwan’s membership in sovereign-state-only organizations such as the UN. And, the Taiwan “Independence Party” welcomes US military cooperation.

Why would the US make such a bold move to side with Taiwan? Consider the US president’s financial background: real estate. Trump understand’s the economic crisis brewing in China. No one has said so, but the pieces line up. The US is positioning Taiwan as the main frontal push against China while the “attack from behind”, as it were, is economics.

China is beefing up cyber attacks on Taiwan. US aircraft flying near the man-made islands are being hit by blinding flashes of light from the ground and from “fishing” boats, disrupting aviation. Using lasers such ways is illegal in war as both the US and China have signed agreements to.

China is also using drones that look like flying birds, but China wasn’t the first. This technology has been used before. Interestingly, China has maintained a policy that tech manufactured in China must be shared with China’s government. It would be even more interesting to see if any research surfaces on how many patent royalties China might owe for tech used to surveil its own people—surveillance only enabled by tech giants who caved into China’s demands. But, due to the Tump administration, all that’s coming to a grinding halt. If China wants better tech to spy on its own people, it’s going to need to develop that tech on its own.

Those man-made islands in the South Sea were allowed to be built for a reason. Could they have been intended all along to become “booty” that will be “owned” by the West as Hong Kong was after the Opium Wars? Hong Kong just might be included if China is forced into concessions, especially with all the “ra-ra” fuss among spoiled Hong Kong students. The US strategy indicates many lofty “hopefuls” in the queue, should the status quo shift—in what direction no one knows. It seems that the Trump administration has aims much higher than merely settling disputes in Korea.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 28, 2018

The US “disinvited” two countries this week, not only North Korea, but also China from the biannual naval exercises in Hawaii. Both “disinvitations” were a rescinding of a previous invitation after less than friendly saber rattling from the former invitee. Kim Jong Un’s loud mouth is widely known, so the North Korean “disinvitation” came as no surprise.

China, specifically, has been pressuring African countries to “dis-recognize” Taiwan in favor of Beijing policy. Additionally, China has been pressuring US companies to follow otherwise unrecognized Chinese maps placing Taiwan under China’s political sovereignty, as well as companies from other countries—which Taiwan is not currently under the control of. China sees the request as part of a grand goal of “reunification” and a nostalgic return to the rhapsodic geographical past as the keystone of a socioeconomic strengthening strategy.

The problem from the Western corporate perspective is with the dictionary, not with ideology. China’s government does not decide the laws on Taiwan’s island currently, not in any way. So, listing Taiwan “under” China would create confusion for Western tourists. But, China is run by Communists who believe that logistics are to be dictated, not recognized. In the land of Communist-Chinese, if tourists would be confused, the solution is to simply make a new law this afternoon outlawing tourists who are confused. So, Beijing doesn’t believe the West has any legitimate problem with the policy, but that Western companies are only trying to spite Beijing.

Washington, however, does view the problem as ideological. It would be wrong for Washington to dictate the organizational nomenclature of the Bank of China or Sky News or Spotify. So would be any reciprocal resemblance. Under Trump, Washington is enforcing that ideology globally.

Then, there was yet another snafu among China’s man-made islands. The US can’t stop making news in Taiwan. A Senator makes an “unexpected” visit. US weapons developers are planning to set up shop in Taiwan. The US and Taiwan have decided that they can’t build Taiwanese submarines fast enough. And, the US has decided that Taiwan needs the absolutely best defense to respond to Chinese “saber rattling”, not only asymmetric defense. All of this is remarkably irritating and “disrespectful” to China.

China hates few things more than being disrespected.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 7, 2018

This was week of talk. A delegation from Washington went to talk with China. Trump talked about talking nice while talking. Economic talking heads are talking about the talks and everybody’s talking about it. Once the delegation that went to Beijing to talk gets back, they will talk with Trump. Warren Buffet even had some things to talk about.

Trump’s delegation to Beijing was indeed an olive branch. It spelled out “the line” in the sand, toured it, explained, it, discussed it, explored it, and made that line very, very clear. To quote Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox, “Mr. Wayne didn’t want you to think that he was deliberately wasting your time.” But, the line is not the least bit likely to be respected.

China will ignore everything the US delegation explained and forewarned, but they will never be surprised when Trump does exactly what the delegation said he would, though they may act like it. More importantly, the list of expectations shows how well Trump knows China and Chinese methods of doing “business”.

Words like “retaliate” and “oppose” often surface with disfavor, as well as the US clearly being wise to the tactic of unofficially using backdoor channels to unofficially impose other restrictions to get what one wants. And, the US maintains its position on the “301” trade notice that China is non-market economy, specifically that China is to drop the matter completely and withdraw its appeals on the matter with the WTO.

There is no wiggle room in the US demands and those demands strongly demonstrate that Trump knows exactly the kinds of things Chins is likely to do. In essence the list of demands forbids exactly what China is most likely to do in the near future.

By contrast, China’s demands are mainly that the US back off on its recent action; that’s all. Consider the argument going around from pro-China stories about the trade “imbalance”—especially that US’ service and consulting help to narrow the “trade deficit”. The list of Chinese demands don’t account for this or ask that they be calculated in the “trade deficit”.

The mere demands, in themselves, tell us that China does not know what is about to happen in Washington and that Trump knows all to well—probably better than any of his advisers in the White House—what will happen in Beijing. China is in great danger.

Surprises are coming, somewhere. That’s how history always plays out. No war ends without the unexpected and there’s always a joker or two hiding in the deck. The surprises will likely include special and disputed territories, such as Macau, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, as well as international public opinion and some sector of trade or international protocol not yet considered or discussed by anyone—they will surprise everyone. That “surprise sector” could include ocean boundaries or specific products often traded. It could also be an act of God, such as an earthquake, hurricane, or tsunami. But, we have no idea except that any intermediate history student should anticipate at least two surprises before the current cloud passes in the greater storm.

China looks at the US the way the poor working class looked at the aristocracy in Russia. Beijing thinks they are demanding “what is their right”. Remember, this is akin to “Opium War III”, started by a trade imbalance. China demands that the money and “tax payable by way of free technology” continue to flow net into China; the US demands things like “equal” and “fair” in the flow. That is rhetoric from the Opium War prelude. If that war resurfaces, the “English” speaking country won’t be Britain, though Britain still has a dog in the fight: Hong Kong is not to be changed for fifty years, yet this week Hong Kong military youth groups—comparable to Boy Scouts—rejected Chinese requests that they march according to PLA marching steps—meaning that China tried to make a change and Hong Kong could become a target for punitive action from China. Hence, Hong Kong is “fair play” in everyone’s opinion, including public opinion about everyone in the game.

If China had any kind of conflict with the West—whether militarily or over trade—the conclusion could require complete surrender of Hong Kong back to British rule—and Hong Kongers wouldn’t mind.

In the territorial disputes, Taiwan declaring independence would certainly rock the boat. Research says Taiwanese overwhelmingly view China as unfriendly. So, Taiwanese certainly wouldn’t mind making their contribution to making a few waves.

China is already on the bench with the Korean issue. Pyongyang just updated the North clocks to no longer be thirty minutes off, but back in time with the South. Where’s China?—exchanging trade demands with the country whose trade blockade preceded the Korean talks.

In all this, Warren Buffet’s advice is that China is a good place for the West to invest. We’ll see.

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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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