Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 2, 2019

Opinions on Asia aren’t just flying, but swarming the Pacific. Hong Kongers vote against China in an unmistakable slap to Beijing’s face, then Beijing blames the US—because Beijing still thinks that voters only vote how the government tells them to. And, everything is all America’s fault anyway, right?

It took a day of silence for Beijing’s media machine to figure out how to spin the election. Beijing accused Hong Kong’s dissent on violence. But, that doesn’t hold since last week’s election went uninterrupted. Yet, Beijing sticks to the same script.

A commentator predicts that Hong Kongers don’t want independence—even though they already declared independence on October 4. Perhaps Doris Lam’s article on Channel News Asia was an attempt to tell Hong Kongers what they should want. Or, it could have been an attempt to tell Beijing to think that Hong Kongers don’t want what they want. Either way, it is a delusional olive branch in the form of a typical long-worded think piece. There is a growing trend of commentators who make their articles longer when they know that few readers will accept their opinions.

After Trump signs two laws about Hong Kong—one to define an autonomous region as autonomous, the other to stop exporting police tools for riot-control—Beijing calls it “interference”. Then, Trump drops tariffs on China because good ole Benjamin is hard to argue with. Yet, Beijing wants more. Now, as in Chinese business negotiation, China wants to change the deal after everything has been agreed to. They want even lower tariffs in Phase One.

Great Britain wants UN access to Xinjiang.  China wants the world to believe Xinjiang is happy, an Islamic utopia; new documents prove otherwise. China also faces a food shortage, but a good marketing effort is underway for investment in Chinese farming. Stopping any possible abuse of Uyghurs in Xinjiang is interference in Beijing’s opinion, but accepting foreign money to build better farms isn’t. Perhaps Beijing will call it interference if the rest of the world does not invest in Chinese farms.

Taiwan’s election is fast approaching. Though Tsai Ing-Wen, the pro-democracy incumbent president, leads in the polls, many Taiwanese are scared that there are too many voters in the old, beaten-down generation for her to win a second time. Older Taiwanese, like many Chinese, have been so dominated by East Asia’s shame culture that they truly believe that “bigness” always wins and therefore they must vote for politicians who will surrender to China. Younger Taiwanese have seen this older generation get its way so many times, even polls can’t keep them from being scared. But, as John Maynard Keynes said, “Men will not always die quietly.” Few things drive voters to the polls like fear of dying at the hands of politicians who want to surrender. Tsai Ing-Wen is set to win by an even greater margin than she did in her first term—and everyone has something to say about it.

Read More

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, June 17, 2019

Trump’s so-called “trade war” with China was never any failed attempt at relations. It was a way to get American companies out of China before the inevitable crud hit the fan. With Hong Kong’s government ignoring it’s people, we can see Trump’s wisdom with China.

One million people in a population of just over 7 million protested a Beijing-backed extradition law in Hong Kong. Protests continued all week until a second, larger march returned one week later. What in the world is happening in the Far East? To understand Hong Kong, first take a look at Taiwan.

Much like the Asian Mad Scientist Theorem for North Korea, consider the Taiwan Schedule Theorem, as follows: Unknown to the world, China has a military expansion schedule which requires possession of Taiwan. By a certain time, Beijing wants to use Taiwan’s harbors to anchor China’s Navy. Anything that threatens or delays that schedule causes China to take more extreme steps elsewhere, in fact anywhere, anyway. This isn’t truth; it’s a theorem that explains a lot.

For example, the DPP being elected in 2016 meant a slow in China’s schedule for Taiwan—according to this theorem. That led Beijing to lean on Taiwan’s allies, making them break off formal relations with Taipei.

With this theorem in mind, the goal of the US would, then, be to make as many disruptions with China’s “Taiwan schedule” as possible, provoking China to exhaust its “other” ways to respond to schedule delays. Trade would be one way China could respond to schedule delays. But, the US trade war already removed “trade” as way to retaliate.

Another way China expands its power is through unofficial loans. Sri Lanka had to surrender a strategic sea port to China because of debt. Moreover, if countries borrow Chinese money off the books, then government bond values are inaccurate. Under-the-table lending is another rout China can take if the “Taiwan schedule” gets delayed, but that’s been exposed and won’t be so easy in the future.

China’s getting boxed-in and Taiwan absorption seems farther and farther away.

With snowballing US-Taiwan cooperation—including the FBI scene last week, also including the $2 Billion in arms sales—China will see more delays. Protesting the G20 set for June 28, 2019 in Osaka would be another way Beijing could retaliate for delays in absorbing Taiwan. But, Trump already promised tariffs on yet another $300 Billion in goods if Xi Jinping doesn’t show.

Chinese ambassadors to G20 countries are promoting anti-US sentiment. Will those countries be likely to side with China against the US just because a Beijing ambassador told them what to do? Even Hong Kongers don’t like Beijing telling their CEO what to do. Perhaps Beijing doesn’t know that. Perhaps Beijing knows, but doesn’t care. Perhaps everyone “kowtowing” to China’s demands over the last 40 years has led the Chinese to believe they are more influential than they really are. Beijing doesn’t seem to be aware of where it stands with international opinion. But, it might find out soon.

Does any Chinese president show up where he is not welcome? Think about that…

With Trump’s G20 threat in place, if Xi Jinping shows up at G20 where his anti-US diplomacy efforts “un-welcomed” him, then people will think he succumbs to threats and is weak. If he doesn’t show, then Trump will lecture China publicly about “keeping a schedule” while Xi’s country faces tariffs on $300 Billion of goods, and Xi will be seen as weak. More importantly, with new tariffs, China would be even less able to retaliate to delays in the “Taiwan schedule”. Either way, drama over G20 exhausts China and leads to a checkmate.

If Taiwan is considered a playing “card”, then it is a “trump” card, as they say. Taiwan might be a chess piece, but not one that gets sacrificed. Taiwan may be the pawn-turned-queen to hold the king in check at the end game.

Now, consider Hong Kong, where a “to other countries including China” extradition law brought out 1 Million Hong Kongers in protest, twice. CEO Carrie Lam outright ignored the protestorstwice. She’s sad—not about her proposed extradition law, but that the law is opposed. Ignoring 1/7th of the population when they march in the streets is a bad idea in any country, in any universe. But, Carrie doesn’t care, thus reflecting the worldview of any Beijinger.

Taiwan responded by deciding that it would not cooperate with the Hong Kong extradition law, even if passed, until “human rights” were addressed and only if Hong Kong heeded the opinion of its people in choosing whether to pass the law. Without Taiwan’s support, the largest—if not only—reason known to the public for the law has vanished. And, it’s all because of Taiwan.

One important factor in the “Taiwan schedule” is the upcoming election. Things seemed to be leaning toward Mayor Han of Kaohsiung for the KMT-Nationalist party. But, the events in Hong Kong over the past week have weakened Han and almost certainly assured a second term for Taiwan’s incumbent, President Tsai. That means only more delays in the “schedule”

If Beijing can’t get a grip on Taiwan quickly, Beijing will tighten its grip on Hong Kong even more.

But, Hong Kong is small and already attached to the mainland and doesn’t lend itself to much in the way of retaliation. Too many changes in Hong Kong law and countries will break treaty with Hong Kong and the “Asia’s World City” show will be finished. Once Hong Kong is no longer sufficient for Beijing to lash out over delays with Taiwan, the only retaliation left will be to invade Taiwan. That was Washington’s goal all along—a fight for Taiwan that requires Pentagon intervention—and long-term presence after—and China started it.

Beijing might be willing for a pro-unification candidate to win  Taiwan’s election. But, if other things crowd in too quickly—say the US normalizes with Taiwan—the 2020 election wouldn’t help the “Taiwan schedule” either way. Beijing needs to give Washington a reason not to formalize ties with Taipei, and so far they haven’t. G20 will decide a lot; China voting “absent” will decide a lot more a lot more quickly. Based on this Taiwan Schedule Theorem, expect more jeers and insults leading up to G20, from both sides, at the end of this month and expect Beijing to try every way to tighten its grip on Hong Kong.

Read More

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, April 22, 2019

China faces more scrutiny from its own propaganda while Taiwan searches its own soul. Taiwanese elections are fast approaching. Demagoguery is in full swing. Even the founder of Foxconn says a Chinese god told him to run for president.

We could say that billionaires are the presidential trend, but Terry Gou’s (郭台銘) money is largely in China, which is planning to attack Taiwan. Trump’s investments were mainly in American companies with satellite projects globally. Gou can’t rightly be compared to Trump. While there were proven-to-be-unsubstantiated suspicions of a connection to Russia with Trump, Gou’s connection to China is both widely known and undisputed, Foxconn having 12 factories in China. Gou opposes the US selling weapons to Taiwan. I wonder why.

If business tycoon Gou were to take the de facto pro-unification KMT-Nationalist party nomination, he would need to overcome Mayor Han of Kaohsiung, a populist with little political experience who’s primary vehicle of campaigning is complaint and demagoguery. Han recently accused Taiwan’s military of being “eunuchs” in uniform, which stirred up the voters who don’t like compulsory military service, but he failed to provide a solid path to making any improvements.

The controlling party’s incumbent president will need to face a primary challenger, former Premier and Mayor William Lai, who has his own past list of non-accomplishments.

While Taiwan fights with itself, China’s new best-friend-forever is Venesuala. The press highlighted China’s high-pressure work culture this week with a story about Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s defense of 12-hour, 6-day work weeks. Did Ma think that would make the American public more or less likely to support US military action against China? Some in China are starting to see Trump as China’s savior.

So, with a seemingly unstable Taiwan and a China with something to prove, we are approaching flashpoint, where “liberators” will get the justification they need to come out of the woodwork and split up China like fire ants on a dead tiger.

Read More

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, February 25, 2019

Nations and peoples of the free world are reaching toward each other. The EU reached out to Taiwan and Taiwan was grateful. Taiwan reached out to CNN and CNN did an interview. Kim Jong Un is likely on a train headed through China to Vietnam to meet President Trump. President Trump met with the Vice Premier of China in the Oval Office to discuss trade. And, China “rightly” oppresses an estimated two million Muslims in internment camps, who inhabit the hope-to-breakaway province of Xinjiang, through which China’s “Silk Road” passes to reach other nations with trillions of dollars in trade.

Taiwan’s position in the world only stepped up. In tech, it’s the multinational victim of China. The EU’s unanimous statement of support for Taiwan and condemnation of China’s military activity in the Taiwan Strait is anything but positive PR for China. Taiwan has the support of Europe; that doesn’t count for nothing.

China’s latest shenanigans include Hong Kong taking a serious look at redefining extradition laws so that Taiwanese in Hong Kong would be “extradited” to China. This does far more damage for Hong Kong’s popularity with its electorate at home than it does for Taiwan, raising international sympathy for both. Remember, meddling in Hong Kong’s government is a “must not” as the condition of Hong Kong not remaining under Britain. Nothing would indicate Chinese meddling in Hong Kong’s government more than such a sure-to-backfire anti-PR move like Hong Kong is making by even entertaining such a revision.

The fingerprints of Beijing damaging Hong Kong where British interests remain, all in order to damage Taiwan, goes against the wisdom of courting favor with the masses across Europe. Then, there’s Huawei.

As if international scandals implicating China weren’t enough, Huawei’s founder made the narcissistic comment that “the world can’t live without Huawei”. In Chinese culture, that might make enough people feel compelled to comply. But, the God-fearing West will take the self-absorbed claim as a challenge, much how God took the challenge when “experts” said He couldn’t sink the Titanic. Huawei just might take its place in the hall of sunken fame. No, the West does not. Not too many years from now, when a finance guru claims that a company is “too big to fail”, the public will respond, “Remember Huawei.”

Read More

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, December 3, 2018

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen apologizing after a mid-term defeat at the provincial level will not demonstrate strength on her part, but she shows respect and stability in maintaining her appointees and policy toward China. Having not stood her ground on information about proposal that would have set Taiwan’s team name at the Olympics in Japan as “Taiwan”, instead of “Taipei”, she lost important support from the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, a group that seeks to have Taiwan internationally recognized as an independent nation.

Taiwan’s premier, William Lai, does stand for Taiwanese independence, held remarkable popularity in his reelection as mayor, and is the shoe-in candidate if he were to run in 2020 instead of Tsai. Tsai’s re-election is uncertain. What happens will depend on Taiwanese politics, which are too adolescent to not be surprised by. Main matters at stake include Taiwan developing faster responses to correct disinformation given to the public and a focus on better quality with internal governance and infrastructure. Interestingly, information and governance—not China itself—are at the heart of resistance to China.

If Taiwan declares independence from China, or takes too many steps to join international bodies like the UN, as Beijing has stated, we could be looking at all out war. Some in the political “news-o-sphere” call Taiwan a “flashpoint”. China hangs onto hopes of retaking Taiwan like King John’s suicidal siege of Rochester Castle. All the US does is provoke.

The latest provocation came late last week when Japan opened the path to retrofitting “helicopter carriers” into fixed-wing aircraft carriers. Japan looks to acquire 142 F35s—42 As and now 100 Bs; the UK eyes 138, about half of them to go to the Royal Navy. There are too many high-tech American aircraft in China’s backyard for China’s comfort. And, the US did two more sail-bys—one near China’s man-made islands, the other through the Taiwan Strait. China lobbed another “demarche” protest with Washington, presuming the action to be “provocative”.

Then came the US-China 90 day cease fire between Trump and Xi at the G20 this past weekend. A lot can happen in 90 days, whether politically, economically, or militarily.

Read More

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, January 9, 2017

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen (蔡英文) is in Houston, TX. Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) and a few lawmakers from Hong Kong are in Taiwan. A new wave of smog is in Beijing. And, more threats from Beijing to Trump are in the headlines.

Wong was a Hong Kong Umbrella Movement leader and is now secretary-general of the Hong Kong center-left pro-democracy party, Demosisto. The lawmakers accompanying Wong in Taiwan are Edward Yiu (姚松炎), Nathan Law (羅冠聰), and Eddie Chu (朱凱迪).

Senator Cruz gave a few educational remarks on democracy to Beijing over the Communists’ requests that US lawmakers not meet with Tsai. Tsai is on her way to Central America, but her connection in Texas brought lots of opportunity to discuss the strong and strengthening relationship between Taiwan and the US.

Back in Hong Kong, Wong and Law, elected but disqualified by the courts as a legislator, are facing charges for connection with protests that stormed a political office in Hong Kong in 2014. So continues the generational disputes. Establishments do what they will and the people, especially younger generations more willing to take action, never seem to find a way to lodge their objections in a way that is both effective and agreed to by the establishment. Perhaps, the objection to the protest was not its manner or location, but its political objective: Hong Kong Independence.

Asian news in early 2017 is back to the usual: Which territories ought to comply with China’s policies regardless of their will; and the smoke in Beijing, both environmental and political. And, of course, America is managing to remain in Asian headlines and Chinese talking points, as well as China’s backyard ocean.

Read More