Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 10, 2018

The “Huawei arrest” sends yet another a irritatingly mixed message to China. China believes that a “strong response” concerning Taiwan will convince the US to back away from support for Taiwan. Conveniently for China, the recent provincial elections in Taiwan seem encouraging and Beijing has reached out to Taiwanese cities that just elected pro-Beijing party candidates.

Premier William Lai intends to resign at the “right time”. Could that time be what is necessary so he can run for president? Taiwanese politics are quite unpredictable. All we should expect is a series of surprises before, during, and after 2020. Considering where things stand in the world, we must remember that there is no way the UK could be on Taiwan’s side, especially since the UK has concerns about Taiwanese fisherman illegally killing dolphins as shark bait. With opportunity seeming to open, and the increased possibility of the loud-spoken, pro-independence William Lai to run for office, Beijing may be feeling put in an ever tightening situation that compels action.

As concerned as the Chinese are about security, they are far more concerned about insult. Without any sympathy from Western news audiences, an extradition of the Huawei executive from Canada to the US could push China over the edge. China believes that its horrific past justifies its conduct today. It is only a matter of time before Beijing decides that a strike against Taiwan, supported by cooperation with Taiwanese city governments, would send the US out of the region. Taiwan may not be seen by Beijing as the irritant of tensions, but the solution to them. The US might have a different opinion.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 3, 2018

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen apologizing after a mid-term defeat at the provincial level will not demonstrate strength on her part, but she shows respect and stability in maintaining her appointees and policy toward China. Having not stood her ground on information about proposal that would have set Taiwan’s team name at the Olympics in Japan as “Taiwan”, instead of “Taipei”, she lost important support from the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, a group that seeks to have Taiwan internationally recognized as an independent nation.

Taiwan’s premier, William Lai, does stand for Taiwanese independence, held remarkable popularity in his reelection as mayor, and is the shoe-in candidate if he were to run in 2020 instead of Tsai. Tsai’s re-election is uncertain. What happens will depend on Taiwanese politics, which are too adolescent to not be surprised by. Main matters at stake include Taiwan developing faster responses to correct disinformation given to the public and a focus on better quality with internal governance and infrastructure. Interestingly, information and governance—not China itself—are at the heart of resistance to China.

If Taiwan declares independence from China, or takes too many steps to join international bodies like the UN, as Beijing has stated, we could be looking at all out war. Some in the political “news-o-sphere” call Taiwan a “flashpoint”. China hangs onto hopes of retaking Taiwan like King John’s suicidal siege of Rochester Castle. All the US does is provoke.

The latest provocation came late last week when Japan opened the path to retrofitting “helicopter carriers” into fixed-wing aircraft carriers. Japan looks to acquire 142 F35s—42 As and now 100 Bs; the UK eyes 138, about half of them to go to the Royal Navy. There are too many high-tech American aircraft in China’s backyard for China’s comfort. And, the US did two more sail-bys—one near China’s man-made islands, the other through the Taiwan Strait. China lobbed another “demarche” protest with Washington, presuming the action to be “provocative”.

Then came the US-China 90 day cease fire between Trump and Xi at the G20 this past weekend. A lot can happen in 90 days, whether politically, economically, or militarily.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 12, 2018

There are those who know Asia and those who don’t. There are those who know political gaming and those who don’t. Last week, Symphony said that China wouldn’t compromise in a “Sino-Vatico” deal. This week, a retired bishop in Hong Kong said basically the same thing: That if the pope vetoes Beijing too often, Beijing will tell the world the pope is unreasonable.

The pope is no fool. The Vatican knows to listen to a Hong Kong bishop concerning China. The deal is hotly debated in the Church and by no means unanimously supported as motherhood or apple pie. If the Vatican goes through with this controversial deal with China, then it indicates that the Vatican is counting on a popularity war against China, in which China loses respect, both among Catholics in China and everyone in every economy everywhere else in the world, except of course among Russians who always like a good fight.

If war breaks out between the West and China, and if China loses to a fierce West, China ought hold the Vatican partially responsible for playing the complex popularity mind game which is this deal. This agreement was always a cloaked plan to harm China. It seems that the retired bishop in Hong Kong hasn’t figured that out.

The Vatican would have us believe that they haven’t figured out China when they actually have things figured out all to well. That’s what makes the Vatican arguably the greatest danger to China. No wonder China is so concerned, but still not concerned enough.

Equally concerning, Taiwan is seriously talking about moving their Legislative Yuan and their Executive Yuan offices with it. The new location would be Taichung, the center of Taiwan. That would put the central government seat in two locations and the frequent target of democratic demonstrations between the ideologically conflicted north and south. While this is purported to help connect the central government more closely to local governments—and to provide large, open plazas so that demonstrations don’t interrupt local commerce—and to provide for an “earthquake” not disrupting the entire central government, that word “earthquake” carries symbolic meaning without mention. A change of cartography will also date any invasion rehearsals.

More than implicating an airborne “earthquake” from, say, China, promoting democracy demonstrations along with a united island of 23 million are the greater, yet more subtle, messages that may insult some offices on the other side of that Taiwan strait. Few in the West will understand how Taiwan’s central government creating a “second seat” could spark the war that the Vatican is already piping the popularity to fuel.

Just as much, there are those who do and do not understand North Korea.  Every time the West is shown media coverage of North Korea, journalistic commentary doesn’t know what to say. Look at them, they all clap in unison. Doesn’t it look strange? They can’t be happy; after all they never stop smiling. It’s all fake. And, look at all of the crying at the Kim Jong Il funeral. That’s either fake or it’s radical support.

The press, wholly unqualified to explain events in Far East Asia, can’t help but flaunt their own ignorance.

North Koreans are part of a tightly-controlled, cult-like, nannied-and-mommied play script. They are neither happy nor sad. They are caught in a culture of mass group think. They cry at a Kim funeral because that’s what you do, much like taking your shoes off at the door. They cheer in choreographed unison at a sports arena because that’s what you do at sports arenas and, more importantly, all cheering is choreographed anyway, right?

They aren’t cheering from any obligation. They’re like a bunch of Sunday Morning micro-church minions parroting their microcosm lingo because that’s the only thing they have ever learned to do. A similar comparison would be to tone-lexical native language speakers—such as Cantonese and Mandarin—trying to use the free-form tone flow of Romance sentences, or asking someone who only reads sheet music to improvise for the first time ever. Singing spontaneously from the heart just isn’t something they have ever known. And, all the Western press can do is gawk, but not understand.

It just shows how far we still have to go to get to know each other.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 2, 2017

Things are stepping-up in Korea. The US is gearing up for a “military option”. The question is how China will respond. China’s approach with Taiwan is a contrast of priorities or a strong indication about China’s approach with North Korea. If China won’t take harsh action to stop a nuclear North Korea, then logically China should not be painted as a “hostile villain” over TAO (Taiwan Affairs Office) statements concerning Taiwan.

China has a reputation to defend, which includes normal political posturing. If China were to ignore a nuclear North Korea, but attack Taiwan during a time of no military conflict, that would seem to the world as “inconsistent”. The Taiwan situation hit many headlines this week.

Taiwan’s new Premier William Lai commented this week about “status quo”. He shared his personal opinion at an early stage in his tenure, more or less observing that China and Taiwan behave as if they are already sovereign and that the main two political parties in Taiwan hold a policy that Taiwan has a government with a constitution that considers itself sovereign. Lai’s comments focused on observing “status quo”, added that, personally, he is “pro-independence”, and that he will remain in-step with Taiwan’s President Tsai, regardless of his own career and personal views.

Lai admitted that he should have kept his personal views to himself, but indicated that such transparency of his personal view is part of an ingenuous disclosure when legislators are inquiring about him as recently approved for his public office. Needless to say, China was not pleased. Beijing responded with some simple public statements.

How serious is China about any intent to start a war to reclaim Taiwan? The first sober question would be about preparatory military exit strategy. Arguably, the US has more at stake in Taiwan than in North Korea.

Taiwan has more than a few F-16s, Apache helicopters, and other military and naval assets—all supplied by the US. If China’s government were to exert power over Taiwan, that would change status quo—something Premier William Lai says would require a vote in Taiwan. But, the question few people ask is what to do with all those F-16s, helicopters, and naval assets.

If China truly intended to “go to the mattresses” to change status quo with Taiwan, at the very top of its statement would be a plan to first send all of that military equipment back to the United States, to gut technology from all military installations in Taiwan, and to provide to move nearly all adult men in Taiwan to any country other than China. Adult men in Taiwan serve “compulsory” military time in a military that used US military tech. That means nearly half of Taiwan’s entire adult population would be a security threat if governed by a regime seated in Beijing. They, and their families would need to be relocated. China would be taking control of an empty island with massive infrastructure.

Beijing has presented no such “exit strategy” for US military assets in Taiwan. That does not mean Beijing is not deserving of “respect”—the foremost question on many minds in Beijing. It simply raises questions about how much the “Taiwan question” has been thought through.

Even with all that is happening in North Korea, more security eyes should be turned to how China will deal with Taiwan once North Korea stops making headlines—or more importantly, when North Korea makes far more headlines than it already does.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 14, 2015

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, September 14, 2015

China managed to stay out of the lime light this week, while its satellites shined. There seemed to be some chest thumping. Chinese police ordered local Taiwanese police to investigate a Taiwanese suspect without going through their normal international channels.

According to a statement from Zhang Xiaoming, chief of the Hong Kong liaison office from Beijing, the Hong Kong CEO has supremacy over the other branches, which have separation of powers “under the leadership of the executive”. On the surface this seems to run contrary to HK’s Basic Law as well as other statements from Beijing officials. HK remains under Beijing ultimately and there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of power abuse. But, they are thumping their chests.

Singapore remains free and independent, with more seats up for grabs and more voters than any time in history. Japan is having a bad year with a flood; 3,000 evacuated. North Korea thinks it is humanitarian and that the UN is wrong.  · · · →