India has an aircraft carrier. It just finished its maiden voyage in China’s backyard. Those shipping lanes—one third of ocean-faring trade traffic—which China wants to claim by planting islands next to—most of them pass India. If any of them have traffic trouble, India will have reason to sail to the South Sea and clear up the cause of traffic congestion—or what some might call trade blocking.
India isn’t the only nation with a navy on the rise. Britain has its new aircraft carrier in the area. Germany wants to join the party. South Korea will join a scheduled US Navy exercise. And, the Japanese want to hire the British carrier builders to make their helicopter carriers F-35-ready. India’s carrier was built by a collection of 500 companies. If anything went nuts in the Taiwan Strait or the South Sea or the Sea of Japan, moving over to the Indian Ocean wouldn’t be a wonderful option since India already has its patrol.
Navies are snowballing in the East. If there’s money to be made in a Pacific scuffle, the convenient logistics of already having so many at the party could push the timing. Those islands-nations are in tumultuous waters.
The Hong Kong police have lost public trust. They’ve cried, “Victim!” after their injuries were proven to be from self defense when they were the assailants. They illegally shot tear gas canisters as harmful projectiles in violation of international law and from windows high enough to kill someone if a canister landed on someone’s head. One girl lost an eye because the police shot rubber bullets at the crowd at point blank range and one bullet passed through her protective face mask. Yet, the police claim that rubber bullets don’t cause harm.
Now, peace turns to instant violence just because these police arrive. Or, perhaps it’s because they arrive, then start pounding their batons against their shields as if they were Roman soldiers about to charge.
At the Yuen Long MTR Station in a somewhat remote part of Hong Kong’s New Territories, protestors were loud, but not violent, until the police showed up. From well-earned fear, protestors tore up the place to block the police from blinding someone else. Trash cans and other furnishings were turned on side, fire extinguishers made a smokescreen, and the students pulled down a gate to block the way between themselves and the violent police of Hong Kong.
The greatest mistrust of Hong Kong police isn’t their violence, but their inaction. The great criminals control the government. Perhaps protestors believe the police should enforce the Basic Law by forcefully unseating CEO Carrie Lam for violating the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984. But, they don’t because they have become a tool of Beijing’s interference, proven most by the usual Human Rights violations of Beijing.
But, Hong Kongers’ fears are still greater, sharing an overlap with US President Trump. China wants to Sinicize the world, as the 2008 Olympics opening ceremony showed—as Hong Kong and Taiwan show—as America’s economy shows.
As if Hong Kong’s problems haven’t shown enough about the greater threats looming over the world from the Far East, South Korea’s vindictive administration keeps making trouble. This week, South Korea ended an intel sharing agreement with Japan, then stepped up military drills near an island disputed by Japan.
Disassembling nuke sites prior to meeting Trump may seem like a “save of face” for Kim Jong-Un, but it’s actually a statement of Trump’s influence. If Trump wasn’t an influence, then Kim wouldn’t be doing what Trump has been demanding for a long time. No doubt, North Korea and its pro-Communist supporters in the Liberal media will twist this into “Trump not making a difference” from Trump getting what he wanted even before a meeting.
The comparison from history would be a feudal lord quickly accomplishing everything his king asked before his next royal visit. To say the king didn’t make a difference would be just plain ignorant. We should expect as much.
But, Trump wants it that way. The more Trump has his name on the Korean reunification, the more China’s desperate thirst for “respect” will sting. China wants everything to look like everything everywhere was China’s idea, or else throw a temper tantrum. Trump’s low-key silence will deny the “fight fix” and the semi-centennial tantrum will have to wait a little longer.
One easy way to understand, at most “anticipate, but at least be unsurprised by developments in Korea and China is the “PDT Symphony Mad Asian Scientist Theorem”. This “Mad Scientist” theorem is not fact and likely untrue, but if applied, events somehow make sense. The theorem is as follows.
Let’s say there is a mad scientist somewhere in Asia who freely travels between China and North Korea. He studies a very specific niche: civilian control. Over the last sixty years or so, he would have easily observed in North Korea what happens to a society with absolute police state control over a comparatively small population completely isolated from the outside world. Propaganda and behavior are equally managed and controlled by the government there. This hypothetical “mad scientist” would have all the information he needs to understand an Orwellian society in full swing.
Then, let’s say, for whatever reason, North Korea is no longer a viable source for his societal studies and experiments—however he manages to implement them. He then goes to China, which seems to be following the same Orwellian methods, but on a population fifty times larger. That is the theorem.
As North Korea stops being the perfect place for the mythical “mad scientist”, China suddenly becomes the new laboratory. It’s not actually happening that way; it just seems to be. One small example of this is China’s new use of facial recognition; police wearing face-recognition glasses, face-recognition police robots looking for bad guys at train stations, and even cameras using face-recognition to crack down on the great threat of J-walking. No question, China is the world’s new North Korea, but with tech the Kim Dynasty never dreamed of.
Whatever is going on behind the scenes, this “peace deal” with North Korea is not all that it is purported or reported to be. South Koreans will be led to believe that the new peace will be the result of the new president Moon Jae-in’s emphasis on “diplomacy”. However much his diplomacy may have in fact helped, it’s not just any old kind of diplomacy. Obama also stressed diplomacy and we saw what happened there—or better said what didn’t happen. South Korea’s president had a special diplomacy, but he hasn’t said what made his so diplomatic methods get actual results.
Just as much, Trump’s embargo against North Korea also stepped up pressure, something obvious that receives some mention, but not much mention because it’s so obvious. The more likely Trump-effected factor in the North Korean deal is China. That you are likely to hear little about from Trump since people who make a difference rarely share all of their trade secrets. Trump is the great deal maker, after all. So, there is no way that we will know what all went on behind the scenes.
What most likely happened was a US implied threat made to China, a simple reveal of US military capability. “China, back off or you’re boiled toast, cooked, and well-done.” That’s what kind of message China must have gotten, one way or another. This is all the more obvious because of China’s response, grasping for friends.
Even with all this bravado about playing hardball with the US, China just opened up foreign investments at warp speed. Of course, China loves it when foreign money flows one-way into its markets. It’s working with an economic team from the US. And, China is also working on economics with its old, hard-earned enemy India—in the same “bromance” as Xi had with Trump.
The India deal won’t work because China always negotiates with a factor of “saving face”, an brittle value. If China really wanted India’s friendship, it would apologize for all past disputes—whether right or wrong—and permanently surrender all disputed land to India. But, it won’t because China isn’t demonstrating any change of heart, only a state of desperation.
For China’s sake, the decision makers in Beijing must be careful. India is no fool and “desperate” is exactly what India will see. India’s president will seek to exploit as much as he can from China, but India is by no means a friend of a nation that wants to be friendly and save face at the same time.
It was a week of protests in both Hong Kong and South Korea. Neither side of any controversy rose above the fray. For the powers that be, it was PR gone bad. For the masses, it was spitting in the wind. When the governed don’t want the ambitions of the controlling few, the solution is not Delphi method, but re-evaluation at the fundamental level. When the disgruntled masses reject the powers that be, peaceful boycott can make more lasting changes than any message sent by heated protest.
No one forced students to attend Baptist University in Hong Kong. If 90% of the student body objects to the mandatory Mandarin classes then 90% of the student body would do better to simply find another school. If the leadership at the university believes Mandarin classes can help students, then one would think the students would volunteer for them. A better way would be to make the classes both optional and tuition free for students and alumni of up to four years. If leadership is correct that the most widely-spoken language in the world, right in Hong Kong’s back yard, would be useful for Hong Kongers—and classes with university credit were free for students and alumni—the university would see an influx of enrollment.
No one is forcing South Koreans to attend the Olympic Games. If South Koreans don’t want the Kim Dynasty to participate in the games, they can save themselves the expense and either save the time of going or replace that time with a public stand-in, carrying educational signs during the Olympics, whether on-sight or off. If the democratic South Korean government wants to promote a unified stance with North Korean athletes, they can use the abundance of Internet technology to poll the public on what would make the people happy to that end. Since South Korea’s new president is so popular, he should not have lacked feedback when asking his many supporters what they want to do.
Taiwan made it’s own—and likely most aggressive—move. By entering the world of AI development, Taiwan is entering the ring with other big players, such as China. Few will see it as the bold move that it is. The miracle of Taiwan’s AI venture was that the move did not insight protests.
The only positive communication seemed to be between China and Japan. They are communicating about communicating. That’s always a good thing.
The talks between South and North Korea are not at all what they are cracked up to be. While the world would love to believe that this is some grand exercise in “can’t we all just get along” diplomacy that always-only ever failed under Obama in any and every hemisphere, North-South talks are not what they seem. They are a distraction, a false pretense, an ostensible cover story, a smoke screen for something much, much deeper.
In all likelihood, the talks will include a very subtle Asian-style, excessively subtle (since it’s among Koreans) offer. Even bachelor’s degree students of business management study the science of talking to an employee in such a way that he doesn’t figure out he’s being fired until he gets home and takes his first bide of dinner. Leonardo explained the idea well in his movie Inception.
The meeting, capitalizing on participation in the Olympic games so strategically timed and placed, is more akin to the close of the series The Sopranos. A lieutenant of a rival family meets with the head of another family to plot the “offing” of his own boss in order to stop an ugly war that no one wanted, which started when that new boss came to power. The rival family “does in” their own boss at the gas station, the main character makes his hospitality rounds, and the story ends.
That’s what this seems like. The Trump administration is allowing it, taking partial credit in a preemptive expectation of due accolades, also reminding the Asian world that communication is a good thing. Symphony said the same two days before Trump sent his January 4 Tweet to the same effect: without pressure from the US there would be no talks.
If Kim Jong Un eventually disappears in the months ahead, remember that it all came from this meeting, purportedly about the Olympics. There wouldn’t be any moves in northern Korea without already having “certain assurances”.
But, don’t let that distract you. Taiwan is definitely playing its role in provocative and irksome “spitting matches” with China. As with the min-boss in The Godfather Part III, Taiwan wouldn’t do that without “backing”.