Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 30, 2019

We are headed toward a massive inquisition of police. It could be known as the “Hong Kong Trials”, where each police officer who served since June is combed over and evaluated for every step taken at every single protest, then tried under international law. It’s not immediately around the corner, but the current powers governing Hong Kong are doing everything they can to make that day inevitable.

Over the holidays, neither protestors nor police took a break, except for a brief moment on Christmas at midnight, when protestors were the adults in the room to pause for a moment in honor of something greater. Many had Christmas dinner away from their families, largely due to East Asian culture’s dogma toward older family members. Authoritarianism generally drives away people who are self-motivated and take initiative, family being a least exception. Older generations in Hong Kong don’t understand that. Neither does Beijing. This Christmas, many middle aged and elderly parents faced the question posed by empty seats at many a dinner table: Do you love your children more than your desire for compliance? To some extent, families will be reconciled in due course; parents who refuse will lose even more.

Taiwan had its own drama over the holidays. An accused Chinese mole, formerly in Taiwan’s military, is being hung out to dry for purportedly recruiting more moles. Former president Ma is accusing the Control Yuan of interfering by questioning the judge who let him off scot-free. That stands to reason since the Control Yuan was effectively shut down during his tenure, which, unbeknownst to most, gave even greater rise the Sunflower Movement of 2014. As if Taiwan hadn’t its fill of holiday joy, US Congress is now working on a bill that will formalize the US envoy to Taiwan as a full ambassador—requiring presidential appointment and Senate approval. That is about as close to recognizing Taiwan as a country without recognizing Taiwan as a country as a country can get. China won’t be happy, but the Taiwanese sure thought it was a very Merry Christmas!

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 23, 2019

China’s in over its head. They got somewhat of a trade deal, though they never had much to bargain with because their economy is much more dependent on imports than the US economy. So, their trade deal can’t have gone as well as they would have liked, so they were always going to be unhappy, no matter what they got. They won’t be happy, even though they plan a signing photo op come January.

Beijing-rooted leaders in Hong Kong are genuinely confused about the public outcry. In all likelihood, the Chinese truly don’t know how much they afflict and oppress their own people. Because they are out of touch with normal life—because they rely on inhumane means to silence any opposition—they probably believe dissidents are genuine misfits. Beijing remains oblivious to how cruel and rightly despised its rule is. Had Beijing even tried to know what real, ordinary people really, truly think, they might not have been surprised by Hong Kong’s harsh rejection. But, Beijing never cared enough to try to ask in the first place. So, Beijing despises Hong Kong, all the while doing so under the delusion that its spite is well-deserved.

The British have politely demanded that Beijing honor the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and hold talks with Hong Kong protestors. From Beijing’s perspective, this is as unimaginable as a Chinese demigod being willing to hold a dialog with a cockroach. Make no mistake, Beijing does not feel that Britain is making any kind of request; it is purely interpreted as an insult, like demanding one to kiss one’s own rear end. However incapable Beijing is of understanding the polite demand, let alone obeying it, the demand remains legally binding. Britain is building a case for nullification and Beijing believes that every way out is an illusion meant to insult.

Then, there’s Huawei. The trade agreement China holds no cards to oppose with won’t matter. Huawei needs customers and Europe is skittish, to say the least. Huawei needs money because the Chinese government needs money. Central planning squandered loans on enormous, countless, empty buildings. The concept of “scalability” is foreign to the government that always gets what it wants, until it can’t afford to anymore. Even then, the Chinese won’t know why they can’t afford to anymore because they can’t understand “scalability”. Huawei’s losses will weaken China’s position further when it comes time for round 2 of the US-China trade negotiations.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 9, 2019

Money doesn’t lie; it’s in the airline figures. Cathay is reducing its capacity, largely from loss of demand for flights in and out of China. Hong Kong Airlines is dropping long hauls to and from Australia, the US, and Canada. Clearly, both Chinese nationals and Pacific English speakers have lost confidence in Hong Kong. Hong Kong was special—for tourism, culture, lifestyle, trade, finance, and a slough of other things—all because both Chinese and the English-speaking West had easy and overlapping access. They could meet, they could do business, they could speak their own language, and they could enjoy Chinese culture without the oppression of a Confucian-Communist government. But, neither wants to play ball anymore.

In response to the US ending exports of riot-control weapons and defining autonomy as “being autonomous”, China banned the US Navy from making port stops in Hong Kong. The port stops had been an encouragement to international business, reassuring investors that everything was alright between the US and China. But, apparently China doesn’t want that illusion of reassurance to continue. And, more importantly, China obviously is less fearful of the US Navy making its R&R port calls in Taiwan instead.

Watch for many things to shift to Taiwan. While the first finance leaders in Hong Kong are exiting to Singapore, watch for a swath to relocate in Taipei once Singapore’s galore wears off and finance centers discover the difference in real estate prices and cost of living.

China will still be angry enough to blow a few gaskets when the US Navy does make more port calls in Taiwan, it’s just that they are less fearful of it for the time being. China’s leaders have been had, largely due to their thirst for respect, which blinds their judgement. But, they are incapable of learning, so they are only going to be had more and more.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 25, 2019

Hong Kong’s election results from yesterday have confirmed the general public’s view: Hong Kongers reject China’s actions. Not that it will make a difference—elected officials don’t hold a majority in Hong Kong’s legislative process. But, pro-Beijing officials were voted-out, replaced with pro-democracy candidates who campaigned on “5-demands”. There had been speculation as to how much Hong Kongers supported the “5-demand” protests; this morning there is no doubt. Taiwan, the US, and the UK generally oppose the manner of Chinese expansion; this morning we know Hong Kong does too.

It was always easy to see why.

When the US Senate unanimously passed its own version of a bill that would annually evaluate whether Hong Kong was autonomous enough for it to be treated autonomously, China went berserk and accused the US of interfering. When Hong Kong’s High Court overturned Hong Kong’s recent ban on masks, Beijing rebuked the court, thereby proving that Beijing believes Hong Kong is not a separate jurisdiction from the rest of China. Apparently, Beijing thinks Hong Kong should have its government utterly determined by Beijing, but should be treated as if the opposite were true. In America we call this “wanting to have your cake and eat it too”; in China it’s called “Communism”.

US Congress has sweeping bipartisan agreement to determine what the US does in its foreign relations. The US decides whether to sell riot gear to another country. China calls this “interference”; in America that’s called “blame-shifting”. Albeit, China has been illegally interfering in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and even working to undermine Australia’s government, according to a Chinese Communist spy who recently defected Down Under. $200M USD to thwart Taiwan’s election—and China thinks the US is meddling by not selling rubber bullets to Hong Kong police. It’s no wonder yesterday’s election turned out as it did.

Several students holed up in Polytechnic University in Hung Hom tried to walk out, but police chased them back in with tear gas—purportedly because they wanted the students to leave. That was a few days before the US Senate passed its bill about Hong Kong’s autonomy being defined by autonomy. While the intentions of the police seem to be contradictory, there is a greater danger Hong Kong’s government is blind to.

While under siege and later trying to escape, the students and countless new protestors who joined the cause because of the police response, have learned new skills. They are gaining practice at launching Molotov cocktails, shooting police officers with old fashion archery, rappelling in free air, organizing supply and movement lines, along with other aspects of urban guerilla resistance that neither Hong Kong’s police nor China’s PLA are trained for. Carrie Lam has turned these now three plus million protestors into one of the most formidable military forces in Asia, if not the most per capita.

A civilian military is necessary for any nation’s independence. Before these protests, Hong Kong never met that unwritten-yet-real requirement. Since Carrie Lam made the decisions that she did, now Hong Kong has a different truth. As relevant and telling as yesterday’s election was, the more important election is coming in March, when Hong Kong’s October 4 Declaration of Independence scheduled its provisional election. With a now-experienced civilian militia, Hong Kong has all the pieces it needs for a successful revolution. That should not be ignored, but it is.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 18, 2019

America and China are getting fed up with China and America being fed up with each other. Americans tried patience and negotiations; that didn’t work. China hid its agenda for global domination, denouncing so-called “interference” except when China did the interfering. Now, China’s true colors are showing and it looks like a lot of debt. Municipalities and local governments are buried in debt, which is eating at China’s central economy like Asian ants on a morning worm.

Amid riots and threats, encroachments by police on university campuses and by China upon Hong Kong rule, the primary issue in Hong Kong is the upcoming revolution election in March. On October 4, Hong Kongers declared the current government already nullified and that interim government elections would take place in March. That election is not the primary concern for most reports coming out of Hong Kong, if it gets mentioned at all. But, that election should be the primary concern of China, the United States, and the current—and denounced—Hong Kong government. Perhaps those upcoming elections have not been taken seriously, and, if so, that would be perhaps the most serious miscalculation.

But, rather than carefully calculating the right way forward, China is more concerned with optics—not with causing good optics, but with countering bad optics with more mere optics.

The same Plague from the Black Death has re-emerged in China’s Inner Mongolia province. Historically, whether in 541, 1347, or 1894, the Plague always had its origins in the Far East. Rather than promptly confronting the source, the Chinese are basically doing what the San Francisco government did in the early 1900s: covering it up.

Even Chinese soldiers play the optics game. Chinese Communist PLA soldiers are not allowed to leave their garrisons in Hong Kong without a formal request from Hong Kong’s government. But, they did anyway—to clear streets blocked by protestors. They didn’t clash with protestors, they simply picked up stuff in the street, mostly bricks. They weren’t armed nor did they wear fatigues; they wore running shorts and OD-green T-shirts, the same that they exercise in on a daily basis. But, they weren’t invited by the Hong Kong government. As a result, their presence was technically illegal, though seemingly helpful in the minds of some residents who want to drive down the street.

Interestingly, the unarmed, seemingly-harmless soldiers were accompanied by cameras; it was a publicity stunt. Voices in the British Commonwealth are especially concerned because this beautiful, warm, kindhearted photo-op sets a precedent of PLA soldiers breaching Hong Kong illegally. Chinese thinking puts logic before law, which feels like justice at first, but then operates with no standard of conduct, deciding right and wrong from one moment to the next. In other words, Beijing thinks that China’s soldiers must not enter Hong Kong uninvited—unless they want to.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 11, 2019

Hong Kong has presented the world with the ethical question of confronting bullies. Say there is a bully at school who quietly eats whosever lunch he wants, stealing anyone’s homework he wants, until one day someone says something and the bully gets violent. In theory, most people agree that the bully started it. But in practice, when it comes time to stand up to the bullies of life, even the biggest Braveheart fans place the blame for the fight on the one who had the conscience to stand up to the bully. So, are Hong Kong protestors to blame for not going along to get along while China quietly violates its treaty with the UK, denies human rights, and refuses to regulate police conduct?

China says restoring social order in Hong Kong is the “most pressing issue”, but obviously not as important as destroying anything that stands in the way of Chinese Communist hegemony.

In a double-standard, Taiwan is having to adjust its laws to deal with Chinese interference. The CCP is paying news outlets to spread its propaganda in Taiwan. It got caught having a fake news site and is now resorting to outsourcing. The Taiwanese don’t think that publishing what China tells someone to publish is “free speech”.

Xi Jinping’s decision to keep Carrie Lam as CEO of Hong Kong only makes sense, notwithstanding it proves interference by pure definition. The Chinese Communist Party would never dispose of such an efficient creator of chaos. Chaos is always the first phase of the CCP taking over a resistant people; the second phase is to send in the military and—well, do what China’s military does so well. While the Western press explains keeping Carrie as a way to avoid opening a can of worms, the Chinese have much more sinister intentions as history proves.

More crud hit the fan this week, over and over, again and again, evermore. A college student not connected with a nearby protest tried to escape a parking lot just after police fired tear gas, then fell to his death. As expected, police denied any wrongdoing.

A woman rumored to be only 16 years old passed a police station Tsuen Wan where she claims to have been ordered inside, then gang raped by four masked men. Meeting some of the criteria of a rape victim, she found she was pregnant a few weeks after the incident, the young woman was reportedly suffering from depression, and had an abortion last Thursday. The investigation is ongoing, but, in the current atmosphere, police have done little elsewhere to stop such stories from being believable.

Over the weekend, police arrested six lawmakers who effectively filibustered Carrie Lam’s annual report back in May. Six reporters wore Chinese letters on hardhats at a police press conference, spelling a Cantonese request to investigate police. This was in response to two reporters having been arrested. The police department sent formal objection letters to the six reporters’ press agencies. Lawmakers and journalists should be immune to such arrests in order to prevent political interference. But, Hong Kong police no longer wear ID tags on their uniforms, and China says the unrest in Hong Kong started because police don’t have enough power.

Western foreigners visiting Hong Kong have started to join protests. It’s arguably bad form, though it indicates that the world feels a sense of solidarity in standing up to China’s bullying anywhere and everywhere it happens. China sees it as proof of interference while the West sees it as successful marketing from the Hong Kong protesters. The problem with China’s “interference proof” argument is that foreign attendees after the fact do not prove any causality before the fact. But, when being a mouthpiece rather than a think tank has been the habit for so long, Chinese wouldn’t understand the difference.

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