Cadence of Conflict: Asia, January 28, 2019

The West ramped up rhetoric against China this past week. Even George “Socialist” Soros trashed the Chinese government, yet tried to court favor with the Chinese people. Such an attempt aims to divide government and people. Opinion pieces from renowned news outlets openly accuse China of aggression. We did not see such a harsh tone from the mainstream press in the West even one year ago. Today, it’s becoming commonplace to bash China.

The US sent two Naval vessels through the Taiwan Strait this week. Now, the US is preparing extradition of the Huawei executive currently in Canadian custody. With threats of turning the tariffs back on, it should be more apparent that the US never planned to grant China any of its ambitions in the first place. Not only has the US been playing China like a flute, the Chinese haven’t known—or have they?

Everyone seems to be biding time, both the US and China. China’s main focus has been readying government and military. The US focus seems to have been public sentiment against China. Perhaps both sides have been playing each other, but the US has been making a play of its own—that we can see.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, January 7, 2019

The US is working diligently to put Taiwan in the spotlight. It seems that Taiwan is being set up in the American public eye as the next Lusitania or Pearl Harbor—the punch that awakens the sleeping nation. It will be difficult, though, for an attack on foreign soil to provoke the public. That’s where China seems to be playing on cue.

By wanting to sink a US Navy vessel, China would make the final push. Beijing doesn’t understand American “exceptionalism”; it never has. Beijing doesn’t know what freedom does to people, how much it energizes a threatened people. Americans won’t respond as Chinese employees do to a boss who clears his throat; they will respond like William Wallace, just as they always do. But, when a nation isolates itself from Western free speech, that is difficult to know. We should expect China to not think that way.

Imagine China’s perspective: Large US Navy carriers trouncing around the backyard, intimidating to the point that provoked China to the point we see now. To them, sinking a US Navy ship would seem like a big “shock” action because those carriers are the biggest American structure China can see. But, to American voters and soldiers, those carriers are across an ocean and are nothing compared to the size of achievements and monuments Americans see every day. So, China thinks a provocation would be an intimidation.

While it may take a US battleship to take a hit—God forbid—Taiwan will certainly be involved because that’s the way the pieces are being set around the chessboard.

As for Xi Jinping and the Chinese, their resolve is absolute. Even pigs seem to be part of the attack on Taiwan.

A terminal disease specific to pigs seems to have swept Chinese pig farms. Taiwan has been going to great lengths to prevent Chinese pork from entering Taiwan for this very reason. This week, a dead pig with the disease floated ashore a Taiwanese island that sits just off China’s coast. Panic is starting to set in throughout Taiwan—that a pork crisis could crash Taiwan’s economy, cause the pro-US president to resign, making the perfect opportunity for China to invade. That’s how the theories go, anyway.

The concern among Taiwanese is exactly the kind of response China anticipates from a “shock and awe” action against America. But, Americans are different than that, having both the “Wallace Complex” and a Congress-backed law that would compel a retaliation. Taiwanese have tasted some level of freedom, making the Taiwanese response as unpredictable as Taiwanese politics.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 17, 2018

While China would attempt to send the US out of its backyard by shocking the US with an invasion of Taiwan, that motive in itself would not be enough to push China to war. Beijing believes that controlling more territory is the solution to current problems with its own territory. In urban terms, it would be like believing the reason you have problems in your home is because you don’t own the home nextdoor—you deserve to own it, after all; so take it, “by force if necessary.” That part of Chinese culture—needing to occupy more surroundings in order to solve problems at home, rather than after solving problems at home—is the part of the Beijing mindset that will actually push China to invade. The time of the invasion will come when Beijing believes that solving its problems at home—specifically with Western press and free speech—can wait no longer. Then, China will invade Taiwan while genuinely believing that all of China’s problems within its current borders will thus vanish over night.

But, the US doesn’t think the way Beijing thinks the US thinks. While many Americans will be surprised by China’s invasion of Taiwan, Beijing will be surprised even more by the American electorate’s response to support recompense against China.

In Chinese media, a Chinese Air Force colonel’s recommendation that PLA Navy ships ram US Navy ships is not an actual recommendation for strategy as much as it is an attempt at repulsive rhetoric. Chinese culture presumes that a public suggestion is an indirect warning with no intention of follow-through, and because it has no intention of follow-through, it is therefore a “powerful-polite” way of attempting to tell the US to leave. That is how cultural, indirect communication with the Chinese works. Though it is possible that the Chinese might become enraged enough to follow this action by ramming US ships at sea, it would take less rage for China to decide to invade Taiwan. From Beijing’s view, unlike retaking the well-deserved Taiwan, ramming a US ship would be an actual assault. If the Chinese-American war begins with a rammed ship, that would indicate a very angry China.

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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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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, March 26, 2018

China has out-shined. In the game of power, that’s an execution wish. With an aging population, an irritated neighborhood, a loudly whining generation of kids in Hong Kong drawing media attention, and the taste of freedom provided by trade with the outside world, China’s Communist party is trouble where the West is concerned.

China’s ruling party has not courted support from any territory either under its control or that it aspires to control. Some old school idealists in the retiring generation will support old empire methods, but they aren’t the muscle of the future. The gray-head Communists who dye their hair black don’t understand what a mess adult children can make when someone takes away their toys because that never happened in China before. Allowing their people to do business with the West injected those Western ideals and China can’t go back.

Now, with the massive assertions of power in China, those assertions are about to get stronger. Watch for greater power grabs by the Communist Party. But, even with the power grabs of recent weeks, the rest of the world—including Asia and the West—is on high alert. Russia’s only interest in China is to disrupt the rest of the West, not to have a new rival that changes as fast as Beijing does, in its own back yard of all places. These tariffs from the US and Trump signing a pro-military and otherwise Liberal omnibus spending bill from Congress indicate American resolve to halt China in its tracks—at least the Communists.

As for the ongoing “freedom of navigation” sail-bys in the poetically appropriately named Mischief Reef, Britain is also on board, as it were. The US just did another this week with the USS Mustin. China reacted in predictable anger as if on cue.

So, the assault against China’s Communism has begun. The West think they can win by using rage to control the “bull in the China shop”, as the saying goes. All it would take is one, small Western ship being disrupted by the Chinese and the fury of America’s democracy would stand up—with the greatest military budget in history already approved for the next two years.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 11, 2017

More smoke got blown this week. South Korea’s president is stepping-up efforts to talk to China about North Korea. Asian culture dictates that a country as big as China doesn’t give a rat’s synthetic tail about what a small country like South Korea thinks. All South Korea can expect is to be in China’s debt merely for listening since the diplomacy won’t affect outcomes whatsoever. China probably knows this. Whatever “deal” does or does not follow Moon’s efforts with the Chinese will be an indication of China’s greater intentions for the future. Don’t expect too many fireworks; it’s mostly politicians blowing smoke.

Things in Korea are stepping up, however. More sanctions are coming down. Secretary of State Tillerson commented about possible naval blockades, which sent a threat of “declared war” bouncing back from the North Koreans—more blown smoke from all sides. As for South Korea and Japan cooperating with the US—they will be “watching” missiles from North Korea. Usually, missiles have little to watch other than a trail of—well, a trail of smoke.

The big note to take about Moon is that his obsession with “talking” and “reconciliation” could prove very valuable after other players (the US, the UN, possibly China and others) do their parts to initiate reunification on the Korean Peninsula. When Korea becomes one country again, it might benefit from a leader like Moon who hungers for an opportunity to get opposite sides talking. But, we’ll see.

China’s state-run tabloid commented that a visit from the US Navy to a Taiwanese Naval port would activate a kind of “Anti-Secession” law in China and China’s PLA would invade Taiwan and immediately reclaim the territory. The statement came months after US Congress approved and planned such port visits between Taiwan and the US for 2018. Taiwan is responding by constricting and banning select visits from Chinese diplomats, usually surrounding topics of “Human Rights” and warlike rhetoric. Again, all sides blowing more smoke without a shot fired, yet.

Usually, boiler cars bellow more smoke, blow their whistles, and let off steam as buildup to a conflict mounts—or just before a train wreck. The smoke is not without meaning, but as of this week, smoke blown remains little more than blown smoke and neither the topics nor the players have changed.

In fact, every small development reported by news outlets seems to follow the format of new facts in the first few paragraphs followed by the same, long background story, whether the background is about a conflict between North and South Korea or between Taiwan and China. That’s what you call a clue: The press seems to feel that the public will need that background for the avalanche of news to come.

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