Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 11, 2017

The North Korean situation makes much more sense when seen from the perspective of a film director performing a social experiment. Film makers, directors, actors, screen writers—they love to do good “real life” research. If one was making a movie simulating culture in a story such as Orwell’s 1984, North Korea would be a perfect laboratory.

Looking at North Korea through this lens, some predictions could be made. What outside forces and events would be necessary to watch a “hermit kingdom” implode?

Another perspective could be from, say, China’s view. China rightly fears that it is surrounded by US allies—Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan… India is a “frenemy” of the US, but more of an “enemi-friend” from China’s view. Then, there is Korea. If the North were provoked to invade the South, that would be “plus one” ally for China and “minus one” ally for the United States, at least on China’s border. “Gain more land to win the war” is an old school strategy from Westpoint, a strategy that Grant had to put aside at Gettysburg.

So, the jockeying in the West Pacific could be more predictable by thinking of international policy for North Korea as Film Maker vs Westpoint China. One set of policies wants the North to be easily provoked into decimating the South to win a land war in Asia. The other set of policies initiates “outside force” to carefully study an implosion of the North—and that includes allowing the North to be provoked, but on a controlled terms.

This week, North Korea made even more threats. So, the theorem of Film Maker vs Westpoint China can be put to the test in weeks to come, watching international policies provoke the North to attack and pressure the North to implode. While that transpires, international support from common folk to see North Korea’s dynasty come to an end only grows, and the international press certainly doesn’t do anything to shift sentiment the other direction.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 27, 2017

Americans love flags. The over-sized flag, the “Star Spangled Banner”, was a strategic tool of Fort McHenry at the Battle of Baltimore and the US national anthem itself is named after the flag. If the United States ever truly intended to communicate that it believes Beijing seats the rightful government over the island of Taiwan, then Washington DC would have demanded that Taiwan fly the Chinese Communist flag over its own flag, like Hong Kong does. But, it didn’t and they didn’t ask. The test of what Donald Trump thinks about China is not a question of how many times he sees the word “China” on his globe at home, but what flags he accepts flown where.

Is China wise to what’s going on? Perhaps money is making all the difference. China’s PLA Navy is headed for an increased budget. If money was China’s answer, perhaps money tipped-off Beijing in the first place.

According to Obama Treasury rules, China is only 1/3 of a “currency manipulator”, exceeding a $20B trade deficit with the States. The other two rules relate inflation to GDP and official currency purchases to GDP—two things where China plays by a different set of rules than American economics. China “declares” its own currency value, it is not determined by the markets, making what the US refers to as “inflation” irrelevant to China. The second irrelevant Obama rule relates to “official” currency purchases. If only economics were only affected by “official” purchases, many other economic problems would be solved. But, economies are affected by “actual” purchasing, not merely whatever we happen to label as “official” this decade. The Chinese, especially, are experts at looking good “officially” while doing the bulk of their work under the table. Why else would Asians be so focused on cram schools and testing?

Then, there is the task of calculating “GDP” in a heavy back-and-forth trade economy. In 2011, the US slapped tariffs on China-made solar panels, which were made with materials imported from the US, which China also slapped a tariff on. Not only is actual “domestic” product difficult to measure in a “Venn diagram” of overlapping markets, there is also the problem that China’s government behaves like a company itself—benefiting from tariff revenue, thereby triggering another slew of investing and purchasing opportunities. If economics were a pair of glasses, China operates in ultraviolet light that no pair of US lenses can detect.

So, not only were the Obama Treasury “currency manipulator” rules an attempt to measure the light with a wind sensor, Trump gets what Trump wants. If China is destined for the “currency manipulator” list, it will get on that list one way or another, and there is a laundry list of ways that can happen.

But, then, there is North Korea.

While the “experts” lecture the world about how “trade wars” always backfire, China harbors its own trade war with the government in Northern Korea. Kim Jong Un isn’t happy with Beijing and Beijing wants to talk about it with the US.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 2, 2016

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 2, 2016

Last week’s unreported US military exercises in Taiwan’s southern city of Kaohsiung, along with the neighboring indictment of the minority party’s legislative control through vote-buying, no doubt sends an unreported message to Beijing. What we see in the headlines more or less tells the same story. The Asian establishment feels threatened.

Every man’s defense is another man’s offense. If “we” own it, it’s a “missile defense” system. If “they” own it, it’s a “missile attack” system. If you ask the Chinese and Russians, the American people don’t like their government. If you ask the Americans, the Chinese and Russian people don’t like their governments. In “Boilerplateville” everyone is right.

China and Russia don’t want an early-stop anti-missile system close to the loose nuclear cannons in northern Korea. The United States sails anywhere and everywhere that anyone anywhere says is able to be sailed—violating nonunanimous claims of both foe and friend. No disputes are exempted. When it comes to allies in Asia Pacifica, Japan debates a lame duck in Taiwan over a fishing boat.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, April 11, 2016

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, April 11, 2016

China was a major player in the Panama Papers scandal, including Hong Kong offices. British Prime Minister Cameron was involved. The British foreign secretary warned of threats to Hong Kong freedoms. Hong Kong’s CEO, Leung, hit back at calls for independence in the face of Hong Kong’s brand-new “National” party. China continues to crack down on corruption.

Japan send a sub and two destroyers to dock in Manila in the wake of the new Japan-Philipines defense pact. The US and Taiwan are drafting stronger ties affecting visitors. As Taiwan’s rising DPP political party gains popularity, the lame duck KMT-Nationalist party plays power against the DPP to the bitter end. North Korea tested a long-range nuclear missile engine to “guarantee” a strike on the continental US.

Friends and enemies are everywhere and everyone has a motive for everything.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 22, 2016

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 22, 2016

China is deploying weapons. The US is responding with pressure—mostly economic, some political, always involving alliances. Money and trade are atop the list.

China’s unusual manipulation of its money is documented and under more scrutiny than ever.

According to Chinese State-run media, China has weapons on disputed islands by right. According to the government, US concern over militarizing those islands is “hype”. Still, Asean is watching the Pacific and so is Bloomberg.

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