China looks worse and worse in the public eye. H&M closures have drawn more Western attention. Chinese ads showing a purportedly happy Xinjiang backfired among Facebook staff. The Philippines are evermore concerned about a swelling number of Chinese militia boats parked in their backyard.
But, things aren’t looking so wonderful for Taiwan either. Pineapples sold to Singapore weren’t properly handled, so the cores rotted. That’s Taiwan’s culture—to not care, thinking problems won’t get bigger. A truck slid down a small cliff on the east side of Taiwan, colliding with a train, killing at least 50 people. The transportation bureau never put guard rails on a dirt road on a cliff above a train track. That’s Taiwan’s culture—to not care, thinking problems won’t get bigger.
Now, Taiwan is working with European partners to develop its own submarines, not only America. That report combats the notion that Taiwan hasn’t been wonderfully annexed by China only on account of the United States. But, are the Taiwanese all that different from China? Lack of care with pineapple exports and railroad safety might say otherwise. The Taiwanese an important choice to make—whether they want to be different from China or not. That is a decision only the Taiwanese people can make. And, they haven’t made that choice yet, even after seventy years of exile.
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.
The “Symphony Asian Mad Scientist Theorem” continues to play out. Trump engaged North Korea in talks that led to a calm without North Korea changing its DNA. Trump eventually reminded North Korea what everyone knew would be necessary to reach an agreement and North Korea stomped off.
Now, Trump comes off a marathon of wider-scope talks with China and continues to talk about talk, while the message is sent more clearly to China every day. China already knows what will be necessary to reach an agreement, its ambitions otherwise are classic Imperial-Confucian wishful thinking.
Over the weekend, the US and China exchanged insults at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore. America isn’t gonna’ tip-toe around China anymore! And, China will risk any and every cost and will defeat everyone who stands in the way! They sure told each other! We can’t say China didn’t warn us, just like China warned the world before the victorious Korean armistice and before China’s great and splendid invasion of Vietnam.
Don’t think for a second that Trump doesn’t care about Japan. If he really didn’t care about Japan—if he truly enjoyed the missiles recently launched by “Rocket Man”—he wouldn’t say so on camera. Remember, everything he says is being closely watched by a large and volatile North Korean neighbor which believes that everyone believes everything published in the press.
No matter how much anyone warns China of the dangerous pinball machine game it’s bouncing around inside of, they won’t change because China only ever and always remains true to its Imperial-Confucian values. Those values can and will never include “capitulating to outside demands”. China just won’t change, you see.
In Taiwanese politics, a mayor candidate’s comments about his own benefits from drinking honey-lemonade sparked retribution from the medical community. After a lump under his eye went away, apparently from a vegetarian and honey-lemonade diet, he actually said so. A professional from a hospital was quick to weigh in. It’s understandable. If people learned that honey could cure disease, hospital profits would plunge. More importantly, Taiwanese political debates would become outright boring without the ability to, as the saying goes, make lemonade from political debates.
But, lemonade really is important. Google search results even saw a spike after this essential talk of Taiwanese politics made news.
Meanwhile, at the ASEAN summit in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for nations to come together at a time when Southeast Asian stability was under threat. In anticipation of APEC after ASEAN, Mike Pence started talking tough, wanting results and genuine action from China concerning an even-flow of trade. He elaborated, that the US has a quarter of a billion dollars in tariffs and isn’t afraid to go twice as high as well as take more “diplomatic” action. It was a strong “they know that we know that they know what we think” remark, the kind that precedes otherwise objectionable action to make the action unobjectionable.
Later, at APEC, Pence warned of returning to a “cold war” while making plans for a US-Australian naval base in Papua New Guinea. Rather than dropping its tilted tariffs on goods, China has been openly gearing up for all out war three weeks. APEC ended without a written agreement between member nations for the first time ever because of the disagreements between the US and China.
This past weekend, Taiwan did something that China despises every bit as much as it cannot identify with: Taiwan hosted democratic election campaigns. With all the strong rhetoric concerning Taiwan, independence, and China’s loudly and often-spoken determination to invade Taiwan, there shouldn’t be any question where China’s war-in-preparation will start and why America will easily get involved.
America is already involved in Taiwan to quite an extent. AIT, the unofficial yet de facto US embassy in Taiwan, had an interview scheduled for release with a large TV network in Taiwan. But, after the interview, the TV network, TVBS, scrapped the interview. So, AIT shared the interview in its Facebook page, rather than relying on TVBS.
With the history lessons about Taiwan in almost every Taiwan-related story in the Western press, Americans will take an advancement against Taiwan as an advancement against themselves. China would be perceived as an aggressor and rightly so. Everything the US has done to provoke and irritate China would have only worked if China possessed the old school “Asian Pride” that Sun Tzu warned against, a pride that can’t be permitted in a world’s superpower because such pride is easily provoked just as much as it is easily shattered. Hardened pride makes for brittle peace. That’s something that the entire West won’t allow, the US notwithstanding.
The historians and experts are all hysterical about the historic meeting between Trump and Kim. They warn that JFK appeared too week while Nixon’s aggression didn’t intimidate. No one can win in the eyes of the hindsight expert who sees himself as the smartest guy in the room. But, history has already been made: Trump brought Warmbier home and Kim to the table. No one has done either before as a sitting president.
For the record, former President Bill Clinton did bring home Lisa Ling’s younger sister from North Korea under Kim Jong-Il, but he wasn’t president at the time and he wasn’t dealing with the same leader. Still, Clinton deserves kudos. Presidents Clinton and Trump should have a victory cigar together at some point.
Kim Jong-Un is a kid who has never known the free world. Though there are rumors of him having attended school as a kid in Europe, it would have been just enough to gain an appetite, not an understanding. Donald J. Trump is an old, wealthy man. With talk of a McDonald’s and a Trump resort in North Korea being on Kim’s wish list, everyone should expect the conversation to be that of the young kid eagerly asking daddy for gifts. Trump’s answer will likely be similar to his response to Senator Feinstein, “Sure we can do that…” with the added, “But, those things aren’t given by eternally rich countries since no country is eternally rich. Those things are part of a world culture of people coming in and going out, but your father and grandfather wouldn’t let people go in or out. If you just let people go in and out, you can get those things yourself without having to ask me.”
In all likelihood, no one has ever told those things to Kim Jong-Un before, not even South Korean President Moon who began the current outreach. Everyone has his role. Moon was the charm, Trump may be the evangelist who delivers the good news no one else could. This meeting is not about a hashed-out, jig-sawed “deal”; it’s about the only man in the world with both the power and the words to explain life and love to the only man in the world who can’t receive those ideas from anyone else.
As Trump and Kim prepare to meet tomorrow, the main news in the Western press about China is China possibly spying on the Trump-Kim summit, that and flashbacks to Nixon and Mao. The rest focuses on the old script of news in China: economics. The SCO summit includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Russia, China, and India. They basically met to agree that they agree. Clearly, China and its neighborhood is solidifying a stark alliance to contrast morphing alliances in the West—and the West’s growing alliance with some nations to China’s east.
Reciprocal trade is the trend of everyone. Canada charges 270% tariffs on US dairy in the midst of the NAFTA “free trade” agreement, Trump threatens to charge other tariffs if trade isn’t even, and Trudeau objects to reciprocal tariffs and threatens them at the same summit. If the results were allowed to speak for themselves, it would be hard to know if anyone wants free trade or reciprocal tariffs or if people just want to argue. But, the results aren’t in yet. Until they are, we don’t know.
Trump left a G7 summit, wishing it were a G8 summit to include Russia, making it a G6 summit while he left for his own G2 summit in Singapore with Kim Jong-Un. Trump solidified the certainty of that summit by canceling it. Reciprocal trade will almost surely be on the shelf. The Western press can’t not speculate, especially with the old wives tale that investment is the primary source of economic stimulation—generally overlooking hard work, balancing free markets with regulation, and ingenuity.
The reason Russia is not at the G 7/8 summit is because it took back Crimea via referendum. Khrushchev gave Crimea to the Ukraine in 1954, which was a controversy all to its own. The Obama administration’s response was to alienate Russia. Russia’s main faux pas in the recovery of Crimea was flying its Russian flag over a government building taken by Russian soldiers prior to the referendum, but that received little attention. The West’s opinion at the time was largely limited to who should own what territory in Ukraine and Russia.
Amazon is listening and respecting the religious needs of its Muslim workers in the Twin Cities. Fasting is hot work and the Muslim immigrants need a cooler, slower-paced work environment during Ramadan. No word in the news, however, on reciprocal trade working conditions, such as whether Amazon has negotiated for disposable barbecue celebrations for Taoists on Chinese holidays or fish Friday for Catholics who have so generously immigrated to Muslim countries.
Talk show news punetdom is losing, in life, a lion of the mind, Charles Krauthammer. When the other talking heads from the Potomac beltway and NPR niggled over opinions of the press and heads of state, Krauthammer explained the three step process of delivering a nuclear weapon and where Kim Jong-Il had made progress within those steps. He resented terms like “Washington establishment” and also objected to Trump for fighting against an establishment he deemed mythical. He represented a sobering voice of reason and calm, disagreed with almost everyone about something, politely held to his own opinions, and remained courteous in discussion. He shared a letter within the past few days that cancer is ending his life and he has only weeks to live. The world of ideas and politics already misses him.