This week was incredibly calm in Asia. China has some non-defined goals of grandeur, though some voices in the Western press cast their usual doubts. China’s big obstacle with becoming a tech leader is two-fold: 1. lack of measurable methods and 2. social media.
Westerners use Facebook and Google to communicate with friends, family, and associates. By blocking Facebook, China is blocking Westerners as well as leading technology. By definition, “global” methods can’t merely involve competitor social media unique to China. Whether China has good reason to block the social media giants is a separate question altogether. If China wants to become a leader, it must have a measurable, defined way forward in its tech and trade ambitions, which must include how to involve people and markets that it has blocked by proxy.
Korea was also unusually quiet. The saber rattling took a hiatus over the holiday pre-week. On Christmas, North Korea was sure to puff its chest out, but that’s about all. It is entirely possible that the problems in Korea will magically and abruptly vanish, Korea will be united, and both the Communists and the Westerners will just go home. But, that would never have happened without the mounting pressure from both sides.
Whatever reconciliation comes at the end of this Korean “situation”, we will have both North Korea and the US military presence to thank for it. Should whatever new Korea emerges snub the US for providing the pressure to resolve a conflict no one else could, Korea’s best days would thus be in the past. Keeping friendship during times of peace is vital to keeping that peace. Lasting peace in Korea means lasting peace among Koreans as well as its friends and neighbors. Should there be a bloodless peace in Korea and America troops just up and leave, the US will probably beef-up its presence with Taiwan. That would be the other shift.
When Trump came home, the bleacher coaches had a thousand and one opinions. The press expected victory overnight. But, the success of a diplomacy trip is not found in what happens during the trip, but what comes in the weeks and months—and years—after.
Too many loud voices don’t know how to think long-term.
Artificial Intelligence has become a religion. Many might have guessed that with how many tech users and leaders idolize their own technology. But, it is becoming official. The attempt to create a computer smarter than humans—that seeks to obtain more civil liberties than humans—should be immediately regarded as an enemy of the state and the people.
While AI could be engineered to smartly serve the people, certain ventures seek to personify machines and revere them as sentient—a dark hope to make AI-oppressors of the sci fi movies become a dark reality. No one in right and wise mind would not call for an immediate dismantling of those projects that overtly seek to make humans lesser than the machines humans create.
Technological advances have not brought peace in America. No, America needs Jesus.
Conflict in China has become a tech problem. In the Koreas, it’s become an ideological time bomb.
They are all connected—technology, economy, communication, and ideology. These become a vicious cycle with no happy ending, at least none in sight.
Tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook take turns bossing around governments in the West. China wants nothing to do with that. Who can blame them? They simply ban them—along with the ability to do tech research with them.
Governments require sovereignty. Sovereignty requires resources. Resources require economics. Economics require research. Research requires communication. Communication requires, well, communication. Innovation is a state of mind that affects all of a person’s ideas, both in terms of technology and political values. If Chinese researchers want to improve their own technology, they will have to read papers written by pro-democracy experts from the West.
China’s ban on communication isn’t just about controlling political ideas among the masses; it’s about not letting Google boss around a country with 1.3 Billion people like it does with Europe. Sure, the challenges in China accompany the normal list of symptoms associated with any Communist State.
North Korea is a well-documents flash back to the 1950s. A returned defector hungers for the handouts she had in poverty rather than needing to and being able to work for her own living. The same happened when the iron curtain fell in Russia. Slaves love their chains.
Communist governments supply all their people’s needs, including food. Necessity is the mother of invention. People who grow up without need grow up without invention. That affects the economy. If government gives people food then they won’t have new ideas to fuel the economy.
Vietnam, though more and more free, doesn’t even think of an email address as a normal item on a business card. Communist countries close their doors and don’t progress. People learn to lie to survive. Soon, laws get ignored, including safety laws. Industrial accidents rise. People stop sharing information about anything, especially themselves. Governments don’t know which laws to make for the people because they don’t know what real people do because the people are punished for saying what they do.
The other option—Google takes over. Where is anyone to go?
Linkedin has a potential way forward while other social companies have failed. But, therein lies an inherant problem. Consider the word roots—”social” media is an affront to “Socialism” by etymological definition. Of course Communist China would never let Facebook in—never. The day Facebook enters China the Communist party falls. Apple is trying to enter the market that makes their phones, but Apple faces bigger problems than the closed doors of Communism; Apple is being defeated by both the Western economy and Linux.
Only Linkedin remains with a way forward because their service passes personal information publicly, through “profiles”. Making personal information public is not the kind of crackdown Communists tend to make. But, the problem there is social: People learn to conceal their true selves in a Communist State. Moreover, in a dynastic culture with thousands of years of “emperors”, publicly stating who your friends are indicates guilt. Who does that, anyway? In the milieu of laws shooting in the dark at problems they don’t understand, everyone is a criminal of some blue law, so declaring your friends is self-inditing through guilt by association. Making truth about oneself available to the public is near suicide in any closed country.
Linkedin’s path forward requires social change. They could do it. China shouldn’t object to running ads encouraging people to divulge information about themselves. But, the people will quickly start to feel entitled to free speech in order to do that. And, they will expect to not be indited for saying that they had noodles at a shop frequented by a mafia boss. Culture clash is coming if Linkedin even tries, but that never stopped the parent company Microsoft before.
Still, it will take time, probably too long for short-attention-spanned shareholders. Linkedin is too big to be patient long enough for any progress, but they might pave a way to a new business model for someone to come after them. While ideologies and technologies come and go, people as a whole push forward and overcome.
The West should thank China for being closed. They seem to be the only ones really sticking it to Google and Facebook. Apple also owes China a big thank you: when your irreplaceable mastermind dies, “blaming it on the Communists” always works in a quarterly review. While the Communist debate always remains, the Fascist debate can always rebound. Thanks to Communism holding big-money Fascism at bay, the need for new technology has been granted on a silver platter. Thanks to China’s unintended consequences, something new is on the way and it’s bigger than all of us.
All eyes on Korea means all eyes on China, which means all eyes on Trump. What’s at stake?—not nuclear war, not regional war, not freedom for northern Koreans, but a trade deal with China. At least, that’s the story if you ask the money channels.
China is a “gold mine for innovation”, the hope for breakthrough in the car crisis—in case you didn’t know there was a car crisis. Australia is partnering with—of all countries—China to address cyber theft. China is such a booming, excellent, most-happening place that Chinese investors have actually decided it’s a good idea to finally start reinvesting in their own country.
But, most importantly, Trump needs to be very, very careful in dealing with northern Korea. China even said so. They even made a phone call to say it.
Forget Japanese waters, headlines worry about North Korea and Hawaii. South Korea has their own two cents to add over the assassination of Kim Jong-un’s half brother at Kuala Lumpur International. China says that North Korea and the US are like two trains headed on a collision course. China has a kind of “plan” to bring the US and North Korea together, but the US won’t make concessions for obeying a UN resolution and there is no mention of China cutting off its supply. It seems China wants to be the “great reconciler”, but the rift is too far between East and West. Japan’s answer is to strike first.
Taiwan may be able to make its own response. This week, the US handed off two Perry-class frigates to Taiwan. Taiwanese naval officers will learn how to operate the frigates from the US Navy and the ships should set sail in May. This is a very interesting development since President-elect Trump received a phone call from President Tsai, and since the US still has yet to deliver on several military sales, especially F-16s, that closed during the terms of former Presidents Obama and Ma.
China’s response to events this week is two-fold. An editorial with a persuasive tone appeared in China’s state-run Global Times, arguing that India would help itself more if it cooperated with Chinese strategies rather than Japanese and US strategies. Xi Jinping also underlined and emphasized China’s great need to catch up on technology. This comes in the wake of the coming American Lockheed Martin F-35 “Lightning II” fighter jet and the US Navy’s new electromagnetically trajected railgun. China’s response is both telling and predicting.
While China has made advances, both in approaching Tomahawk cruise missile technology and in nearing the completion of its first home made aircraft carrier (reverse engineered from a Soviet era carrier), China still feels claustrophobic. Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and India, not to mention the distant-yet-present US are all naval forces too close to China’s back yard. Xi feels the “squeeze”. China is in a tight spot.
President Xi also revisited his long-standing mission of countering squander and corruption within the Communist Party. By underlining the points he did, he seems to be vying for equity and credit. Doesn’t China’s leader have enough credibility or does Xi know something the West doesn’t? Regardlessly, the greater wild card is India. China believes that India is on the fence and is open to persuasion—and China is correct. Soon, India will feel its own squeeze. The question, then, will be whether India feels inclined to side with China rather than forces farther to its east or if India will decide to reverse engineer Western technology write persuasive editorials of its own.