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.
The war with China is becoming the war with Russia and China, it’s economic, it’s culminating, and Britain is double-involved.
Since the strike on Syria, Russia is angry and thumping the drums. They promised retaliation before. After, they really promised really retaliation next time. It almost seems that Trump is testing Russian and Chinese leadership—and North Korea and Republican and Democrat—and has called their bluff. That’s coming at the US via Europe. But, Germany is also taking rhetorical shots at China, bringing Europe back into the Pacific conflict.
Britain is in contemplating trade talks with Taiwan. The UK is already involved in the Pacific conflict with Hong Kong’s exit status—that China will have no involvement in Hong Kong matters for fifty years as a condition of Hong Kong not being British. With Britain “friending” up to Taiwan, we see more involvement from the Crown.
But, the main fuel in the Pacific conflict is economics. US sanctions are successfully driving Kim to the table; China is eager to work with Japan before a Kim-Trump talk disarms the North. So, the US sanctions are also driving China and Japan to do at least something.
Then, there’s China’s own economics. Germany is angry about Chinese investments in Europe. More news stories this week talk of Chinese using money as a hostile takeover tool in Sri Lanka and Pakistan. China’s ability to stand against a US trade war goes back to US Treasury bonds and the direct devaluing of China’s own currency. While different “experts” have differing opinions, money is the talk—everywhere.
Taiwan has a new Sheriff. Former President Ma, whose regime pursued secret talks with China, wanted to visit Hong Kong just after leaving office. Remember, on the books, Taiwan is still at war with China. Since 2003, former Taiwan presidents must file 20 days before international travel as a matter of national security. Ma filed 14 days before and cited a 2000 visit as an example of why the policy should not apply to him. The new president’s office, held by the other political party, denied Ma’s tardy request, citing lack of cross-straight and interpol cooperation—cooperation China has promised to diminish in recent weeks, since Taiwan’s new president took office. Accusations of democracy and grandeur flew in all directions.
The highly-coveted “blue crab” lives in some controversial waters. South Korean fishermen towed Chinese fishing boats from the South Korean waters to the South Korean authorities. A few days later, the South Korean military drove more Chinese fishing boats out of the same waters. North Korea claims the waters and referred to the incident as an “invasion”. The United Nations recognizes the South Korean map. Seoul asked Beijing to watch its own fishermen more carefully.
Germany also asked Beijing to ensure rule of law, this time over NGOs not being involved in politics. Human rights and abuse of new police authority over NGOs were mentioned. Historically, NGOs are a tool of human rights advocates, which China has been known to view as political.
Few policies in Europe create fewer problems than they invent, NGO governance in China being one example, European immigration being another. There seem to be many satellites orbiting the headline reasons for Britain’s immanent “brexit” from the EU. The “brexit” would have financial repercussions—sooner and smaller as opposed to later and larger, so the narrative goes.
Britain and Europe would not normally be mentioned in an editorial on Pacific-Asia, except for Britain’s continued agreement with China concerning Hong Kong—a territory that could lose its financial status in Asia and, interestingly also, a destination recently denied to a former and distrusted president of a US ally in the Pacific. Neither HSBC’s headquarters nor the former Taiwan president will be going to Hong Kong anytime in the foreseeable future.
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.