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, 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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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 21, 2019

“Careless” Carrie Lam’s effectiveness in Hong Kong is in the red. After banning masks at public gatherings, more people are wearing masks at gatherings than in the past. She bans an assembly, but people assemble anyway. Protests are so bad, police hit some people guarding a mosque with a water cannon and had to apologize to the imam. Lam was heckled by legislators during her annual policy speech and had to leave the chamber twice, finally delivering her speech on television. A government so defied and can’t govern. But, the need for public trust isn’t understood by Confucianism nor Communism nor especially Confucian Communism.

Beyond loss of control, the West gets the message loud and clear: China won’t back down on its forced expansionism. US Congress continues to pass laws favoring freedom in both Hong Kong and Taiwan. The TAIPEI act is largely symbolic, but still meaningful inasmuch as it gauges China’s response. Evaluating Hong Kong’s level of autonomy to be treated as a separate territory from China makes sense. Still, China considers the US formulating its own international policy a form of “interference”. Think about that…

US international policy must be what China wants it to be, otherwise China labels this as “interference”. This can only mean that China considers the US already under Chinese rule. It’s no longer about whether or to what extent China can boss Hong Kong and Taiwan. Now, the question is whether China should be allowed to dictate another country’s foreign policy.

Another factor is corporate. Gaming companies oust gamers who make “political” statements to defend freedom and human rights, but then Dior gets political by apologizing to China for not putting Taiwan in its map of China. If companies were consistent about being so-called “non-political”, then Dior would have refused to agree or disagree with China. But, this isn’t about being non-political; it’s about agreeing with whatever China demands.

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 14, 2019

You can’t bring a pot to boil forever. While the conventional narrative for Hong Kong warns, “Retribution is coming,” a better understanding would be, “The Chinese are coming if Hong Kong doesn’t level up.” The protests must either “level up” or otherwise change, or else the PLA will indeed march and smash.

While the situation in Hong Kong is deteriorating into a cultural war—a defense against an invasive culture of Sinicization—talks between the US and China took a similar cultural detour for the worst. China doesn’t want so-called “interference” with kidnapping 1.5 million Muslims in Xinjiang, in Beijing’s view “internal matters”. By that definition, “internal matters” violate international Human Rights laws.

Trump’s words, that all is well in Hong Kong, elude Hong Kongers and Chinese as much as the American media. On the surface Trump appeared to praise the doctored press reports coming out of Hong Kong. He also praised Supreme Justice Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Ford, days before mocking her. Not one main news agency reported Hong Kong’s October 4 de facto declaration of independence with plans for rebellion elections. Praising evidentially censored reports from Hong Kong surmounts to little.

Still, Trump knows the ramifications of his words. By playing along with propaganda China would normally get resistance from, and by staying hands-off, Trump was indirectly telling Beijing that he knows Hong Kong is worse than reported while also letting Hong Kong learn the hard lesson that independence starts with expecting no help from the outside. Over the weekend we saw just that, including smaller flash-protests and perching the Hong Kong “Goddess of Democracy” atop Lion Rock in Kowloon. “Careless Carrie” Lam even cancelled a meeting with Senator Ted Cruz—after his 10+ hour overnight flight landed.

Trump’s words could lead to the very “level-up” game-changer the Hong Kong protesters must make in order to survive. One should guess that Trump doesn’t want Hong Kong to “just be okay”, but to earn whatever independence they get on their own. It feels like rejection at first, but being abandoned to earn one’s own victory—and the spoils with it—is the greater gift of a friend. Trump never said he would squash Hong Kongers’ call for independence; he simply refused to steal their thunder.

The Chinese probably won’t pick up on Trump’s subtlety because Confucianism—especially Communist Confucianism—doesn’t believe anything can happen without outside “help”. This is the only reason Beijing suspects supposed “Western interference” without a shred of evidence.

So, the trade agreement seems to be okay, this week. But, China doesn’t want to be told to let its economy play by the same rules as ours because that too is “internal”. There is one key flaw with China’s thinking: entitlement.

Of course, America should not dictate what type of economy is best for China or any other nation. At the same time, trade is a privilege not a right. By America requiring a free market as a condition for trade with another free market, America is not interfering, but refusing to be interfered with.

Just the same, Beijing claims to reject a “zero-sum game” deal. What they mean is that they want a zero-sum game in China’s favor because they believe being better than everyone else is their right. If America doesn’t lose so that China can gain, China will reject the deal as unfair, just as they did with Britain in the “silver-for-leaves” trade that led to the Opium Wars. Nothing has changed.

The virtue of compromise doesn’t work in dealing with China, whether as an American trade negotiator or as a citizen of Hong Kong. When China demands 100, then we compromise at 50, China will demand another 100 again tomorrow. If we compromise again, it would be 100-0, and it would happen all over again the next day and the next. China will keep demanding to expand and overrun everyone else. By China’s China-favoring standards, the only compromise stands on how fast China takes you over, either ultra fast or slowly. For Beijing, there is no room for the words in the Book of Job where God told the ocean, “Here, and no farther.”

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Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 7, 2019

Hong Kong has declared independence! On Friday, October 4, thousands peacefully gathered in Ma On Shan at New Hong Kong City Centre and read aloud a manifesto. This manifesto included basic arguments similar to the US Declaration of Independence, along with basic steps for a provisional government until the new government takes over. In the eyes of China, this will be treason, just as the US Declaration of Independence was treason in the eyes of Britain.

There has been no bigger news in almost 200 years. No nation has stood up to a world superpower so great since the American Colonies defied the world-dominating British Empire in 1776. Suspiciously, mainstream news agencies were utterly silent about this all weekend.

The next question is whether Hong Kong will be able to resist China’s military. That question can only be answered by historians who have studied asymmetric warfare, such as the First War of Scottish Independence in 1270, the American Revolutionary War of 1775, or Vietnam’s August Revolution of 1945.

Britain would be wise to help because that might allow the Crown to hold Hong Kong among the Commonwealth afterward. The UN is calling for an investigation into how China has handled the four months of protest, so it would seem that the world is on Hong Kong’s side. But, investigations always follow long after a crime, even against Human Rights, while the people are left to defend themselves until help arrives. Can Hong Kong join the successful revolutionaries of history?

The string of anti-extradition protests began March 31, this year, 190 days ago. The protests have been in a state of ongoing outbreak since June 9. Hong Kongers have lived and fought in unrest in their own home for 120 days straight. They have overpowered a 32,000 troupe police force the entire time. Hong Kongers have thus become formidable and battle-tested with inferior weaponry. The impossible odds—fighting with bamboo sticks against guns—make the typical Jackie Chan movie prophetic. If China’s PLA soldiers think they will have an easy time suppressing Hong Kong, they have news in store. It’s not impossible. Only history will tell.

Unrest turned to turmoil on October 2, when China held its 70th Anniversary parade for the Communist Party. America will soon join Hong Kong’s objection to China in its own way.

In Beijing, showing off the old-news, well-known DF-41 hypersonic, “can-hit-America-in-30-minutes” 10-nuke-warhead missiles was a miscalculation. America is not afraid because we don’t expose the limits of our tech in parades. Most of our most-advanced military tech isn’t known to the general public, which is somewhat how the American people want it to be, kind of. Seeing this flagrant, open threat will motivate the inventors and businesses in the wealthier, higher-tech America to neutralize China’s open threats ASAP. Some are calling it a “Sputnik moment”.

China is a nation that thinks itself to be stronger than it actually is. If it rises to even a quarter of the world domination it hopes, it would be the first time a superpower rose from a nation so ancient. Since Persia, all world superpowers of history rose from new nations built on the encouragement of new ideas, legal limits of government, and rights for citizens. China is not on a quest to defy the world; it is on a quest to defy history. Hong Kong has history on its side.

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