Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 17, 2020

The 2019-nCoV Wuhan virus isn’t doing any good for Xi Jinping’s public trust. Dissidents inside China are silenced and their social media accounts scrubbed. Joshua Wong issues a call to arms from Hong Kong. Taiwan closes its border and plans to evacuate its citizens from the quarantined cruise ship, Diamond Princess. Yet, the Philippines blocks entry to Taiwanese airline passengers while in-flight because World Health Organization information reports Taiwan as part of China. And, Xi tells Trump that everything will be okay after April’s hot weather kills the virus.

It looks like the world wants a fight. Why did evacuation plans for this cruise ship take so long? Why doesn’t China close its border to Hong Kong as an act of good faith to at least pretend to want to earn public trust? China locked down Wuhan and Huanggang, why not Shenzhen?

The WHO praised China’s efforts, claiming they bought the world time. That doesn’t stack—information control started the problem, China’s clampdown on information only grows, the Philippines close their border to a country run by a completely different administration on account of the WHO reporting in denial. Is the WHO controlled by China, does the WHO just want to start a war, or could it be that the WHO wants to start a war because it doesn’t like being controlled by China?

Fear of the virus may be overrated. Initial figures suggested that the seasonal flu may be more deadly. But, panic is panic. And, with Chinese cities going on lockdown, countries closing borders, and hundreds of people getting sick on a cruise ship after it was quarantined, nerves are on edge. Chinese State control of information has been exposed for the hoax it is; no Chinese people will trust China’s government again. Even those who support the Communist Party can’t expect the public to believe them anymore, no matter what they say. In the middle of the breakdown of Chinese trust and control, Xi’s solution is to fly bombers around Taiwan.

Nothing re-elects a president like a war someone else started and nothing fires a president like an outbreak or a failed economy. If Xi invades Taiwan, Trump’s re-election will be even more certain and Xi’s own party could be doomed along with him. Nothing would weaken China’s People’s Liberation Army at home like the decision to boost its political image by invading one of the best responding WHO-non-members in the world, Taiwan. Xi is so addicted to failing, self-destructive decisions, invading Taiwan might be the ultimate fatal flaw of failure that he just can’t refuse. While this viral outbreak isn’t quite enough to push Xi to the point of desperation for distraction, it’s another bail of hay on the camel’s back.

Great Pacific

Feeding China Is Wrecking the Amazon // The Atlantic

Trade & Tech

Pelosi warns US allies: ‘Don’t go near Huawei’ // CNBC

US claims Huawei can secretly access carrier backdoors // Engadget

U.S. Officials Say Huawei Can Covertly Access Telecom Networks // Yahoo News

US says it can prove Huawei has backdoor access to mobile-phone networks // Ars Technica


AP News: New virus cases fall; WHO says China bought the world time // AP

Coronavirus COVID-19 prompts China to lock down its megacities as the death toll climbs // ABC News Australia

‘This may be the last piece I write’: prominent Xi critic has internet cut after house arrest // Guardian

China’s Xi urges more policing as virus toll rises // Yahoo News

The fallout from the death of a Chinese doctor is turning into a major challenge for Xi Jinping // CNN

Now with coronavirus, China’s numbers – like its provincial GDP figures – just do not add up // SCMP

Trump Says Chinese President Xi Told Him That Heat Will Kill Coronavirus ‘by April’ // Newsweek

China’s online censors tighten grip after brief coronavirus respite // Yahoo News

Virus storytellers challenge China’s official narrative // AP


Virus Outbreak: Taiwan to evacuate cruise passengers // Taipei Times

Coronavirus: hundreds of Taiwan travellers stranded in Philippines due to ban on Chinese tourists // SCMP

China crossing into Taiwan airspace was ‘completely inappropriate’ // CNBC

Update: 500 Taiwanese stranded after Philippines includes Taiwan in China travel ban // Taiwan News

Philippine airlines cancel flights to Taiwan over coronavirus // Yahoo News

Taiwan scrambles jets as Chinese air force flies round island // Yahoo News

Taiwanese health care ranked 1st in world: Online survey // Taiwan News

Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s young protest leader issues a call to arms // Sydney Morning Herald

Do fashion brands breaking into mainland China still need Hong Kong? // SCMP

‘It’s like a war’: the fight for rice and toilet roll as coronavirus convulses Hong Kong // Guardian

How can the coronavirus spread through bathroom pipes in Hong Kong? // CNN

A new strain of resistance? How the coronavirus crisis is changing Hong Kong’s protest movement // SCMP

Korean Peninsula

North Korea ‘shoots dead coronavirus patient’ after he’s ‘seen at public baths’ // Daily Star

Military Faceoff

F-22, F-35A fighters teamed up to take on F-16s in Hawaii // Business Insider