Cadence of Conflict: Asia, June 4, 2018

North Korea inches further and further toward talks with the US. China fears this. If Kim Jong-Un get in the same room as the man who wrote The Art of the Deal, North Korea could become a stronger ally to the US than even South Korea overnight. That would likely lead to a quick reunification of the Korean Peninsula, as well as other shifts in power, even before any alliance might be formalized. But, Trump’s deal-making reputation should bring no shocks to what is about to transpire in the Singapore Summit.

Then, there’s China, about to be left behind. The hardline crackdown on free speech throughout China won’t be without consequence. Symphony has been saying so for years; Albert Ho effectively said the same, quoted in a Bloomberg article dated June 4. Party power is getting brittle. But, the consequences of brutal brittality are rarely explored. So, here goes.

Hong Kong won’t shut up anytime soon. The whining, whimpering bratty students of Hong Kong may be wrong to demand rights when freedom was largely handed to them by the British. But, those bratty students sure are drawing a press load of attention to China. That alone should be a heavy factor in logistics calculation. Hong Kong is a megaphone for any anti-China sentiment because the world reads about Hong Kong every day. After all, Hong Kong is “Asia’s World City”.

But, then there’s the problem of cracking down within “China proper”, the Mainland governed directly by Beijing, not a SAR like Hong Kong or Macau. If China considers friendly sarcasm to be a threat within China—that means tech companies and hardware manufacturers won’t have candid conversations about quality control and competitive design. Once free speech becomes a minefield, people will divert mental resources away from fee and open brainstorming toward making sure that they don’t say anything offensive. The key to good brainstorm sessions and innovation is that nothing is off the table and no one is allowed to take offense at anything whatsoever. That’s can’t happen in China anymore. Bye-bye Western manufacturing paradise. It’s only a matter of time before Western outsourcing brands figure it out. One little story, like an innovator being locked up for a tech suggestion because it was interpreted as “opposing to the Party”, might plunge Chinese factory stocks into the void below.

“Single-Party Rule” is the key topic now, at least according to Western papers. That’s the protest mantra in Hong Kong. It’s the talking point of headlines and marches. It is the so-called “problem” as is being presented to the world. The Western press is on a path for reporting a narrative that stirs sentiment for two-party rule in China. Whether it’s a typhoon, an earthquake, a solar flare, or some other “act of God”, if China suddenly adopts a two-party system, Western newspaper readers will have already been prepped to think it is a good thing.

Then, there’s Vietnam, exploring foreign investment “zones”. Deserved or unfair, distrust is stirring against China as a place of investment. This will have a double-edged effect in Vietnam. Firstly, Western manufacturing will flock to Vietnam as a way of fleeing the newspaper villain, China. But, with a Communist Party having total rule in Vietnam, Western investors will demand certain assurances before dumping too much money into yet another single-party market. Sooner or later, we could be looking at Vietnam adopting a friendly two-party system as a stronger strategy of competing with China. That will only add to the momentum of change in East Asia.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, March 12, 2018

As talks between Kim and Trump march forward, China is resigned to the new situation at its eastern border and is focusing on other areas, specifically trade. In truth, China’s main trade opponent is not the US, but Vietnam.

Vietnam’s main edge in trade will be that it is less expensive. Vietnam is, in many ways, less developed, yet more free to be expressive. Hanoi doesn’t sanction the same censorship as Beijing does. Many hard-working Vietnamese are hungry, even desperate for income. A hard-working, uncensored, hungry, less-expensive people will be difficult for China to compete with on many fronts. This is entirely beside any point about political tension between China and Vietnam.

The meeting between Kim and Trump is less-than-satisfactorily explained. Suddenly they want to talk? Some “teamwork” consultant trying to sell a book will likely attribute it all to diplomacy, along with the preemptive speculation that Kim would give up the nukes because he got them. More is going on behind the scenes and if the true story is ever told it may not be told for ten or twenty years.

As for the Western spin about China’s constitutional changes, it is all about the party, not about Xi. The humble pig farm worker, Xi Jinping, did not rise to power by publicly trying to serve himself. He has followed Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power to a tee and will continue to do so—that means putting the party first in his public agenda.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 13, 2017

At the APEC summit in Vietnam, Putin told Trump that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 election. Putin was sincere. At the same time, Taiwan is beefing-up cybersecurity, ostensibly to counter “daily” and “Russian style” attacks originating in China. If everyone’s rhetoric holds true, that means that there aren’t any threats at all.

Trump offered to help settle disputes in the South Sea. The Philippines’ finance minister complemented Trump on knowing “the art of the deal”. The Filipino president does not want any problems in the South Sea. China would rather settle disputes one-to-one. Will everyone get what they want? We’ll have to see. This is a chance for China also to earn compliments about negotiation skill from Filipino leadership.

Trump was very friendly in China. He underscored the importance of cooperation between the US and China. It was one of the kindest things he ever said. He publicly conducted himself in some of the kindest ways he ever has since running for office. China received him with respect and his public appearances went smoothly. If there ever was a good chance for peace, now is the best chance there has been for a long while and is probably the best chance there will yet be for a long while.

Will things go peacefully? We’ll see.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, August 21, 2017

After President Trump warned that North Korea must never make any more threats, North Korea is making more threats than ever. Trump mentioned Hawaii and Guam in his warning, North Korea mentioned Hawaii and Guam in this week’s threats. Again, another US ship in the 7th Fleet crashed into a merchant ship, the USS John S. McCain, right in China’s back yard near Singapore. And, the Navy was sure to announce it to the world through Twitter—another blatant attempt to look incompetent if there ever was one. North Korea and possibly China may even believe it.

China is running into PR problems with the West. Of course, the Communist Party has their reasons, but the press wall between China and non-China makes it difficult to get the story straight.

Hong Kong Umbrella movement leader Joshua Wong was imprisoned this week, along with other leaders. China is not hiding the changes they are making in Hong Kong, even though the agreement between Britain and China was that no such changes would be made for 50 years as a condition of the handover. China has its reasons, but Britain would have no trouble convincing the public that the agreement that Hong Kong belongs to China has been invalidated.

India paid China money to collect annual rainfall data to prepare for seasonal floods. China has not fulfilled it’s contract to deliver the data India already paid for. The data relates to water flowing from China into India. Central territory of interest is Tibet. India provides such downstream data to two of its neighbors at no cost. This week, Chinese troops reportedly walked into India for a few hours, resulting in a few stones being thrown. China has its reasons, but India would have no trouble convincing the public that the agreement of data exchange between China and India to avoid dangerous flash-food incidents has been invalidated.

China has its reasons, but the West also has its reasons and China faces enemies on many sides. Vietnam is getting cozy with the US. India is getting irritated. And, North Korea’s status quo is past being defensible. If China were to find itself in a war, it would already be surrounded. But, rather than bolstering the home front, China is engaging in “venture wars”, seeking to have its flag flown over more territory. Such was the choice of King Richard in his Crusades, which arguably cost him France. Of course, it was his by rite, just as it is China’s by rite.

As things look, the Pacific conflict will likely draw China in on many sides. If China doesn’t win, those many sides will be fighting over many pieces; India may claim Tibet, Britain may reclaim Hong Kong, and Taiwan may sue for normalization with China.

It would be great if it didn’t come to that. But, then so would be a lot of things.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, June 29, 2015

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, June 29, 2015

China’s economy is tanking if you look at sales reports, or, no, wait, it’s going up if you ask the Chinese. China is also losing in the battle for Vietnam’s alliance: Moscow is now buddy-buddy with Hanoi.

Taiwan’s internal politics are all over the map with a presidential election schedule running near-parallel to the US 2016 election. Both countries look like they will elect a leader that wants to “deal smart” with China—against Beijing’s de facto policy of demanding that the world allow itself to be annexed by Beijing. Beijing has already rejected what looms in 2016 like a slave owner rejecting a slave’s desire to “normalize relations”.

Speaking of slavery, China is now an expert on human rights, lecturing the US. It is almost comedic, not because of the gross difference in numbers, but because China has so consistently told the US that countries should mind their own business. It seems Beijing has reversed that precedent with a new one.  · · · →