Xi’an, the former capital of mainland China, may be the best example of the country’s heart, power, history and future of the country.

Emperor Qin [pronounced chin] Shi Huang unified China in the Third Century B.C, making Xi’an [pronounced she-ON], the country’s most important city for roughly 1,500 years.

During his reign, his generals greatly expanded the size of the Chinese state. He enacted major economic and political reforms aimed at the standardization of such things as roads and currency. He is said to have banned and burned many books and executed scholars,  but experts dispute these claims.

His public works projects included the unification of diverse state walls into the Great Wall of China and a national road system, as well as the city-sized  mausoleum guarded by the life-sized Terra Cotta Army. He ruled until his death in 210  B.C.

Today China looks back at the history and the ties to its national roots.

Nearby lies the tomb of Wu Zetian, the only woman to ever rule China and a key component of the Tang Dynasty’s role in building the Silk Road that made the region rich. She’s well known and revered in China, but I was the only visitor to her massive tomb on a brilliant Sunday morning.

Wu (624-705) and the Tang Dynasty devised The Silk Road or Silk Route, an ancient network of trade routes that were for centuries central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the East and West. Think Marco Polo.

While the term is modern, the Silk Road derives its name from the lucrative trade in silk  (and horses) carried out along its length.

Trade on the Silk Road played a significant role in the development of the civilizations of China, Korea, Japan, Iran, the Horn of Africa and the Arab Peninsula, opening long-distance political and economic relations between the civilizations. Though silk was certainly the major trade item exported from China, many other goods were traded, as well as religions, philosophies and various technologies.

Today, President Xi has revived the Silk Road philosophy through his “One Belt, One Road” strategy to improve economic and political relations with a variety of countries.

Essentially, the plan includes countries situated on the original Silk Road through Central Asia, West Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The initiative calls for the integration of the region into a cohesive economic area through building infrastructure, increasing cultural exchanges and broadening trade. Apart from this zone, which is largely analogous to the historical Silk Road, another area to be included in the extension of this ‘belt’ is South Asia and Southeast Asia.

A report from Fitch Ratings suggests that China’s plan to build ports, roads and railways in under-developed Eurasia and Africa is out of political motivation rather than real demand for infrastructure. Fitch also doubts Chinese banks’ ability to control risks, as they do not have a good record of allocating resources efficiently at home, which may lead to new asset-quality problems for Chinese banks that most of funding is likely to come from.

Simply put, the plan is believed to be a way to extend Chinese influence at the expense of the United States, in order to fight for regional leadership in Asia. The estimated $1 trillion for the projects can be considered a masterstroke by China to establish itself as a world-leading economy and to spread its power, particularly in the South Asian region. China has already invested billions of dollars in several South Asian countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to improve their basic infrastructure, with important implications for both China’s trade regime as well as its military influence.

One final note: Put Xi’an on your bucket list. It’s easy to get to and easy to get around. But make sure you see more than the Terra Cotta Army!

My new friends in Xi’an

For the third straight year, I am headed to China, where I will teach students at the International School at Jinan University in Guangzhou, formerly known as Canton in South China.

The trip allows me an opportunity to travel throughout China, Thailand and Myanmar, where I continue my own “Asia pivot” after years of reporting on terrorism and the Middle East.

I will keep you up to date, with my travels and travails. I start in Xi’an, the one-time capital of China, where the Terra Cotta warriors were found in the 1970s. I visited Xi’an two years ago, but I wanted to travel to a nearby locale, where the only empress of China, Wu Zetian (624-705), is buried.

Wu was the concubine of Emperor Taizong. After his death, she married his successor—his ninth son, Emperor Gaozong, in 655. After Gaozong’s debilitating stroke in 660, Wu Zetian became administrator of the court, a position equal to an emperor, until 705.

She is buried in the Qianlong Mausoleum, which is something I’ve always wanted to see.

A mural in the Qianling Mausoleum

Hangzhou, the Venice of China, is my next stop. That’s where the G20 met last year. The city is known for its key role in the early canal system of the country.

Hangzhou

After that, I head out of China as it celebrates May Day, and millions of people throughout the Communist world launch some sort of remembrance for International Workers’ Day.

In Thailand, which has no May Day parties, I will head to the north, where I will stop in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, the locale for the famed Golden Triangle.

After a few days, I head for Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, which is being ruled rather poorly by Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who ousted the longtime dictatorship.

But I’m not there for the politics; I am visiting for the famed Buddhist shrines in Bagan and Yangon.

Buddhist shrines in Myanmar

Then it’s back to southern China, where I will teach Journalism Research and In-Depth Reporting for sophomore students. Here is what my class produced last year: www.writingforjournalism.com. The stories include some about abortion, the elderly, urban policy and more.

The Chinese students are among the best and the brightest, and it’s an opportunity for me to see what the next generation from the Middle Kingdom will be like. For the most part, they resemble my students from the United States, but the work ethic is much stronger.

I’ll keep my head down as North Korea, the South China Sea and other issues swirl around me.

 

President Trump’s State Department has told the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to get along without U.S. financial support. There are people who think this is a bad idea. I’m not one of them. Neither is Reggie Littlejohn.

I met Reggie very briefly a couple of years ago, when we were speakers at a pro-life convention in New Hampshire. My job was to talk about effective use of social media. Reggie’s job was to talk about China’s coercive abortion policy. She got better billing – and deserved it. Her stories were compelling and persuasive.

She became interested in Chinese policy when as an attorney she represented a Chinese woman seeking political asylum in the United States. It was Reggie’s first exposure to the wretched effects of the One-Child Policy: forced abortion, forced sterilization, and gender imbalance as boys are more valued culturally than girls. The revelations changed her life. She later established Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, an international coalition dedicated to fighting forced abortion in China.

Wherever she speaks, she points out the support China’s policies have received from UNFPA. She has called repeatedly for U.S. de-funding of the organization. She released a statement the other day when de-funding was finally announced.

“We are thrilled that the U.S. is no longer funding forced abortion and involuntary sterilization in China.  The blood of Chinese women and babies will no longer be on our hands. My very first press release, in 2009, was entitled ‘You Are Funding Forced Abortions in China.‘ I have consistently advocated for the defunding of UNFPA over the years…

“The UNFPA clearly supports China’s population control program, which they know is coercive. Under China’s One (now Two) Child Policy, women have been forcibly aborted up to the ninth month of pregnancy. Some of these forced abortions have been so violent that the women themselves have died, along with their full term babies. There have been brutal forced sterilizations as well, butchering women and leaving them disabled. Where was the outcry from the UNFPA? In my opinion, silence in the face of such atrocities is complicity.   Dr. Martin Luther King once said, ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’ The UNFPA’s silence in the face of decades of forced abortion has been a sword in the wombs of millions of women and babies of China. I rejoice with them that the foot of the UNFPA is finally off of their necks.”

Well done, Mr. President.

I remember listening to Reggie speak around the time China shifted to a Two-Child Policy. She was unimpressed by the change. “What matters is they’re telling people how many kids to have and they’re enforcing it with forced abortions.” She elaborated on that in a 2015 press statement about the policy shift.

“Characterizing this latest modification as ‘abandoning’ the One-Child Policy is misleading. A two-child policy will not end any of the human rights abuses caused by the One Child Policy, including forced abortion, involuntary sterilization or the sex-selective abortion of baby girls….Noticeably absent from the Chinese Communist party’s announcement is any mention of human rights. The Chinese Communist Party has not suddenly developed a conscience or grown a heart. Even though it will now allow all couples to have a second child, China has not promised to end forced abortion, forced sterilization, or forced contraception.

“…In a world laden with compassion fatigue, people are relieved to cross China’s one-child policy off of their list of things to worry about. But we cannot do that. Let us not abandon the women of China, who continue to face forced abortion, and the baby girls of China, who continue to face sex-selective abortion and abandonment. The one-child policy does not need to be modified. It needs to be abolished.”

Let’s hear UNFPA speak up for Chinese women that way. Until then, the agency can get along without U.S. taxpayer support.

Ellen Kolb blogs about New Hampshire life-issue policy at Leaven for the Loaf and looks farther afield in ellenkolb.com

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China’s bid to influence the 1996 election for Bill Clinton stands as one of the most damning examples of foreign interference in the U.S. political process.

Unfortunately, the Chinese connection has largely been forgotten, including its continuation in Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016.

Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign received millions of dollars in illegal contributions from Chinese donor that were channeled through the Democratic National Committee, according to a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Reform.

Johnny Chung, a businessman born in Taiwan, had a partner, Liu Chaoying, a high-ranking military leader and intelligence officer in China. Liu wired hundreds of thousands of dollars, which illegally went to the DNC. The duo also sent campaign funds to U.S. Sen. John Kerry for his reelection bid to the Senate. Liu’s father was one of Mao’s fellow travelers.

Chung visited the White House nearly 50 times—most of them authorized by Hillary Clinton. In one visit, Hillary met with Chung and his visiting delegation of Chinese businessmen from state-run companies. After another visit, Chung paid the DNC $50,000. In exchange, Chung was allowed to bring some of his investors to see the president deliver one of his radio addresses.

Another operative for the Clintons was John Huang, who raised millions of dollars for Dollar Bill in the Asian-American community. In 1996, Huang bundled $3.4 million for the DNC—much of which was returned after a Senate investigation found that the contributions were illegal.

Charlie Trie owned a restaurant in Little Rock that was frequented by his friend then-Governor Clinton. After Clinton won the presidency, Trie went to Washington to cash in on their friendship. He thought his association could help him develop more business contacts in Asia. One of them was Hong Kong businessman Ng Lap Seng. Seng would wire a million dollars to Trie. From 1994 to 1996, Trie directly sent $200,000 to the DNC. Trie provided the rest of the money to other people who later sent that money to the DNC. Trie also helped raised another $640,000 for Bill Clinton’s Legal Defense Fund.

According to the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 94 people were called to testify about the illegal campaign contributions to the 1996 Clinton campaign and the DNC. Of nearly 100 people called before the committee, 57 invoked the Fifth Amendment, 18 fled the country and 19 foreign witnesses refused to testify.

But the China connection to the Clintons didn’t end there. A Chinese billionaire gave the Clinton Foundation $2 million in 2013. The Justice Department investigated the payment from Wang Wenliang, a former delegate to the Chinese parliament. No charges were filed.

Fast forward to Hillary’s 2016 campaign and the Wikileaks emails from the DNC.

The Chinese ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, requested a meeting with Hillary Clinton’s top aides in January 2016, according to an internal email circulated among the former Secretary of State’s senior presidential campaign officials.

“Chinese Ambassador Cui invited me over to the residence Tuesday for a coffee and to make a request. He wants to have an informal, private, off the record get together with a few of us to discuss the next year and the current state of US-China affairs,” wrote Clinton campaign aide Kurt Campbell in the Jan. 7, 2016, email to campaign head John Podesta.

“He asked me to host a social meal at my house in the next month. He was fairly insistent and indicated that he wanted to pass along some perspectives. I told him I’d reach out to you all to see about your judgement [sic] on this and possible availability. I’m happy to make some chili and cornbread by the fire but let’s first decide whether this makes sense. Please let me know your thinking,” Campbell wrote.

Somehow these deep connections between the Clintons and the Chinese have gone mostly unnoticed in the current kerfuffle about foreign involvement in presidential elections.

Christopher Harper is a visiting Scholar in China

Last week I checking my traffic which has been very good for March, and for the fun of it looked at the countries where the traffic has been from this year.

So far in North American Cuba and Iceland have had no interest (although perhaps by this time my WBC post might change that.  In South America French Guiana, Suriname and the Falkland Islands are out.  In Europe only Albania hasn’t stopped by while in both Asia and Africa a dozen or more countries have not found the site worth their time.

Then for the fun of it I checked my all time stats and the Numbers changed dramatically

Only eight countries in the world have thus far decided that DaTechGuy blog isn’t worth their time.

One of them North Korea I’m figuring is a lost cause, given the amount of electric use the only way I’m going to get any traffic from there is if the Un family decides to take an interest which might be dangerous.

As for the others, I think there’s a shot so, in the interest of getting the rest of the map filled here is the oddest clickbait post you’ve ever seen.

Boko Haram in Chad:

Initially, Boko Haram’s presence on the Chadian side of the lake was limited. But violence rapidly escalated in 2015, partly in reaction to the intervention by Chadian forces in neighbouring states. Two suicide bombings in the capital N’Djamena and multiple attacks on villages and army posts followed. Attacks diminished at the start of 2016, having never reached the levels seen in Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger. This was accompanied by a wave of surrenders of Boko Haram members in the second half of the year, but which seemingly included few if any of the hard core.

It’s a real issue and a big problem

The Seed vault of Svalbard:

Submerged within the bowels of rock and frozen earth on an island between Norway and the North Pole lies a new state-of-the-art agricultural marvel: The Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Here, millions of food crop seeds from nearly every country in the world have been meticulously packaged, cataloged and tucked away.

The vault is kept at a low moisture level and minus 18 degrees C, optimal conditions to keep seeds viable for decades, centuries or indefinitely. And even if the electricity should fail, the surrounding rock and permafrost will keep the seeds frozen. Although the vault has not yet received its full capacity of 4.5 million varieties, it already houses the most diverse stockpile of food crop seeds anywhere.

I wonder who thought of doing this in the northern most inhabited island in the world?

The occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco continues

Morocco left the Organization of African Unity (OAU), precursor to the AU, in 1984 after the OAU recognised the right to self-determination and independence for the people of the Western Sahara, who have been occupied by Morocco since the 1970s.

The OAU granted membership to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), proclaimed in 1976 by the Sahrawi people’s Polisario Front in a declaration of independence rejected by Morocco. The decision was in keeping with the OAU principle not to recognise the occupation of any part of the continent. While the SADR claimed sovereignty over Western Sahara, Morocco saw it as an integral part of its own territory.

Rather than accept the SADR’s independence, Morocco left the OAU. Since then Morocco has refused to join the AU unless the group withdraws the SADR’s membership.

But Morocco’s King Mohammad has the money and when it came to rejoining the Organization of African Unity their money talked.

Action on the abuse by UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic:

Guterres pledged the UN will appoint a human rights expert, tasked with advocating for victim’s rights, to serve in his office and report to him. His new plan also asks UN peacekeeping missions in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, and South Sudan – all countries where peacekeepers have been accused of raping women under their protection – to appoint victims’ rights advocates on the ground. These local advocates, together with the high-level attention of an expert in Guterres’ office, could finally prompt accountability for abusers and support for victims.

Human Rights Watch research in the Central African Republic shows the lack of support or access to justice victims of sexual exploitation have when peacekeepers are the victimizers. This was echoed in the UN’s own assessment: “very few victims have been assisted due to lack of dedicated funding and the slow enforcement process.”

Under the new plan, the UN will bolster a Trust Fund for Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. This fund was set up last year but has only collected US$436,000 from five member countries: Bhutan, Cyprus, India, Japan, and Norway. It needs more support. Guterres has suggested boosting the trust fund by withholding funds for troop-contributing countries that don’t investigate allegations of abuse by their troops, then transferring that money to victims.

This is another story of abuse of women that for some reason doesn’t draw a lot of attention from western feminists as that would involve critique of the UN rather than the US or the west in general.

China’s base in Djibouti is nearly complete

The military base that China is building in Djibouti will be completed “later this summer”, General Thomas Waldhauser, the commander of the US military’s Africa Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on 9 March.

Noting the proximity of the Chinese base to the US military’s Camp Lemonnier, Gen Waldhauser said he was concerned about operational security. “I’ve talked to their [Djibouti’s] president and expressed our concerns about some of the things that are important to us about what the Chinese should not do at that location.”

This is a story of international importance, that it has gotten so little attention is pretty odd.

The big news out of Turkmenistan is the state visit of the president of Uzbekistan:

Mirziyoyev and his Turkmen counterpart, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, inked an agreement on economic cooperation in 2018-2020 and a memorandum of understanding on the need to develop railway infrastructure, among other documents.

Turning from word to deed, the two leaders traveled to the northeastern Lebap province on March 7 to attend the ceremonial inauguration of the 1.75 kilometer Turkmenabat-Farap railway and road bridge, which straddles the Amu-Dary River and could conceivably enable greater cross-border traffic. Until now, trains crossing the river coursing along Turkmenistan’s side of the border did so using a bridge built in 1901.

It was his first state visit as leader so it’s a bit of a big deal that Turkmenistan was the destination

and finally things are heating up between the Falkland Islands and Argentina again:

The letter added: “We take this opportunity to remind you of our fundamental right to self-determination, as enshrined in the UN Charter, and of the 35 years of attempts by the Government of Argentina to ignore our rights as a people and undermine our way of life.

“In recognising the universal rights of all people, we welcome you in visiting our home, to see for yourselves our community and our heritage born of nine generations.

“During your visit here, the Falkland Islands Government would like to invite you to a briefing on our modern, independent, well-governed, sustainable and thriving country, so that you can further your understanding of our citizens and way of life.”

The letter added comes as an Argentinian delegation comes to visit on a fact-finding mission related to the war.

I doubt that this post will draw thousands or even hundreds of hits, but if I manage seven, one from each of the countries listed that will do.

By John Ruberry

“So you’ll be paying yourself to build a railroad with government subsidies.” Sen. Jordan Crane to Thomas “Doc” Durant.

“These are exciting times. You and I are opening the way for the greatest nation the world has ever seen.” Major Augustus Bendix to Cullen Bohannon.

“See him driving those golden nails
that hold together the silver bars
That one day’s gonna take us to the stars
cos he’s the man who built America.”
Horslips, from their song, The Man Who Built America.

“A new chapter of American greatness is now beginning. A new national pride is sweeping across our nation. And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp. What we are witnessing today is the renewal of the American spirit.” President Donald J. Trump to Congress last week.

Last week I completed my latest binge-watching endeavor, Hell on Wheels, an AMC show that ran from 2011-2016 that is available on Netflix and on Amazon.

The building of the American transcontinental is the driving force of the plot of this series–the Union Pacific heading west from Omaha and the Central Pacific heading east from Sacramento.

The transcontinental railroad exemplified America at its best–getting the job done 16 years before Canada and 36 years before Russia. It also exemplified America at its worst. Racism and corruption–the Crédit Mobilier outrage was one of our nation’s worst political scandals and it forever tainted this monumental achievement.

The Civil War purged America of slavery, the nation was no longer “a house divided against itself,” but in 1865 the United States was in a way like an uncompleted jigsaw puzzle, the east and west coasts, the easy part, were settled but much of the middle–the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, still needed to be filled in.

Hell on Wheel’s main character is Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount), a former slaveholder and Confederate cavalry officer who travels to Nebraska Territory to hunt down Union soldiers who murdered his wife and son in Mississippi. Despite that ruthlessness–make that because of that ruthlessness–Union Pacific president Thomas “Doc” Durant (Colm Meaney) takes him under his wing, although their relationship is mostly turbulent throughout the run of the series.

Bohannon isn’t the only character scarred by the turmoil of mid-19th century America. Elam Ferguson (Common) and Psalms Jackson (Dohn Norwood) are freedmen who quickly learn that freedom from slavery doesn’t mean equality. The Reverend Nathaniel Cole (Tom Noonan) and his daughter Ruth (Kasha Kropinski), suffer from pangs of guilt remaining from Bleeding Kansas. The Rev. Cole’s most prominent convert to Christianity, Joseph Black Moon (Eddie Spears), is estranged from his father, a Cheyenne chief. The most compelling character on the show, Thor “The Swede” Gunderson (Christopher Heyerdahl), is a Norwegian immigrant and former Union army quartermaster–a man who says he is good with numbers, but after his barbaric incarceration at the notorious Andersonville prisoner of war camp, he ascertained that “I had to control people like I control numbers and I learned to practice a sort of immoral mathematics.”

The Swede is Hell On Wheels’ principal villain and if there is ever a Villains Hall Of Fame built, then he belongs as a charter member.

Another intriguing HoW character is Irish immigrant Mickey McGuinnes (Phil Burke), who like Durant, finds a way to make himself a success after starting with nothing. One of his workers is a tattooed former prostitute and a Jack Mormon, Eva (Robin McLeavy). She was captured by Indians after her family’s wagon train was waylaid.

The final season of Hell on Wheels brings in the storyline of the Central Pacific. Movie posters for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly boasted, “For three men the Civil War wasn’t hell. It was practice!” The Chinese laborers on the Central Pacific can be forgiven for having a similar dismissive view of our Civil War, which killed 600,000 Americans. Emotional scars from the Taiping Rebellion plague many of the Chinese characters. That conflict, which was actually a civil war between Imperial China and a man claiming to be the brother of Jesus Christ, probably killed 20-30 million people–after the famine deaths are added in. Some estimates bring the death total as high as 100 million. If that last figure is correct, then the Taiping Rebellion was the deadliest war ever.

Life is cheap in both the Union Pacific and Central Pacific camps–both are served by brothels, although opium is offered at the latter instead of whiskey.

Durant was a real person, although his portrayal in Hell on Wheels is largely fictional. Other historical figures appearing include Wyoming’s territorial governor John Campbell (Jack Weber), President Ulysses S. Grant (Victor Slezak), and Brigham Young (Gregg Henry). Eva’s character was based on an actual woman, as was the man in the show who survived a scalping. He carries his scalp in a bottle of alcohol–and offers paid listeners a recounting of his ordeal. The phrase “Hell on Wheels” is a real one in this context, it’s what the tent cities that followed the construction of the Union Pacific were called.

Blogger walking the rails

In the penultimate HoW episode, there is a prescient moment as black and Chinese workers rush to finish the road in 1869. Above them you see the moon. One hundred years later, yes, in 1969, “the greatest nation the world has ever seen” reached the moon. No country has repeated that feat or even attempted it.

Yes, American exceptionalism is real.

If you enjoy westerns, you’ll find Hell on Wheels worth your while. But if you are looking for romance–then look elsewhere. Mount is a fine actor but love encounters are not his long suit. And what was the point of his sex scene on top of a table with fused nitroglycerine on it?

As with most westerns, the cinematography is first-rate–with Alberta filling in capably for Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and California. It would be better if movies about America would be filmed here, but that’s another subject for another time.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

This week the press freaked out about a Russian spy ship off the eastern coast.  It even managed to roll up my way, obviously hoping to capture information about submarine operations near Groton.


The Viktor Leonov, from shipspotting.com

The truth is, this is normal.  The Viktor Leonov didn’t violate any rules.  It didn’t cross into territorial waters.  It didn’t get in the middle of a live naval exercise.  It operated in international waters according to the rules.  Before we jump all over Russia, realize that the United States puts warships in their backyard and conducts military exercises near their borders on a regular basis.  Allowing this vessel to operate where it did is part of being a responsible member of the established world order, an order that has given prosperity to all nations around the world.

What we should be afraid of is attempts to dismantle this order, which is exactly what China is attempting to do with a revision to its maritime law:

The draft revisions stipulate that authorities will be able to designate specific areas and temporarily bar foreign ships from passing through those areas according to their own assessment of maritime traffic safety….”As a sovereign State and the biggest coastal State in, for example, the South China Sea, China is entitled to adjust its maritime laws as needed, which will also promote peace and stable development in the waters,” Wang said.

This should frighten people.  China already considers the entire South China Sea to be its territorial waters.  They’ve gone so far as to plant Chinese flags on the sea floor.  The certainly don’t respect property rights in the area either, as demonstrated by the illegal seizure of a US unmanned drone.

And in case it still doesn’t scare you:

“China’s waters are open to foreign ships as long as they do not damage the waters’ safety, order, or China’s sovereignty,” Yang said

China’s sovereignty.  Which begs the question, what is China?

What is China? From Wikipedia.

That definition seems to keep expanding.  As the above graphic shows, what is China has morphed over the years.  Now it includes Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang, and apparently the South China Sea, and even perhaps Hawaii.

That should scare us.  The bear, while a problem, is deviating from the rule book.  The dragon is throwing out the book entirely.


This post represents the views of the author and not the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency.  The featured image is from politicalforum.com.

Drop some money in Da Tip Jar, because otherwise CNN wins, and we all know they are fake news. And stop by my blog when you get a chance.

usa-china

By John Ruberry

Building upon Peter Ingemi’s RH’s spectacular Trump’s China Call is a Deliberate Overreach from yesterday, it’s my turn to add my two yuan into the discusssion.

The media loves to dismiss Donald Trump as a showman–as if there was no showmanship with Barack Obama–but those under 45 first encountered our next president as a real estate developer, albeit a flashy one. Developers are many things, including, yes, deal makers, as well as a negotiators. In regards to that last one, when you are sitting across someone you are negotiating with, or as it usually turns out, haggling with, a strategy that has worked since the Babylonian era is to get the person sitting on the other side of the table from you off of his script and on to yours. One tactic is known as “getting-yourself-inside-their-heads.”

And that’s something that Trump may have accomplished by accepting a telephone call last week from the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, which has caused a kerfuffle. Because the United States recognizes communist China as the legitimate government off all of China, including Taiwan, a president hasn’t spoken to a Taiwanese leader since 1979. Of course we still have extensive trade relations with the island nation–oops, breakaway province–and we still sell Taiwan weapons. If they are ever fired in defense it would very likely be against the Chicomms.

Oh, Taiwan and China are major trading partners.

Trying to understand international relations is a descent into madness.

Trump made the re-negotiation of what he calls bad trade deals a central campaign promise. Of course those bad deals with China, if they really are awful, are good ones for the Chinese. If Hillary Clinton won last month’s presidential election China could look forward to at least four more years of crony socialism from the former secretary of state. Since then China has been bracing itself for a return to the bargaining table, preparing for difficult deal making with this New York capitalist.

John "Lee" Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven
John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

But Trump, who was a very good baseball player when he was young, threw a curve ball at the Chinese.

He accepted a phone call.

He got inside their heads.

Trump knows what he’s doing.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Update (DTG): I’d like to take credit for the piece that John is referring to but that one was written by RH (NG36B) one of the newest additions to our magnificent 7 writers. I’m delighted to have both John & RH on the team

trump_china
Trump’s recent phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen has sparked a not too surprising response from Beijing:

“We must point out, there’s is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory,” read a statement posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website Saturday afternoon.

Anyone who has been watching Chinese-American relationships in the past decade isn’t surprised by this.  To an American, Taiwan has been de-facto separated by China, and many people don’t understand why they don’t just give it up at this point.

trump_taiwan

The biggest problem with this thinking is that China has sold itself on the reunification with Taiwan.  It’s not just a lot of press, it’s written into their constitution:

Taiwan is part of the sacred territory of the People’s Republic of China. It is the lofty duty of the entire Chinese people, including our compatriots in Taiwan, to accomplish the great task of reunifying the motherland.

To put it into American perspective, it would be like giving Florida back to Spain, despite it being an American state for so long.

Although the phone call appears almost random, I’m guessing it’s not, and that it’s a deliberate overreach by Trump.  He knows that President Obama has too often gotten the snub by China.  China plays the long game, and doesn’t deliberately piss people off unless it feels it has the upper hand.  After watching the US fumble foreign policy with China and give them essentially what they want, China feels like it can push the US around to a certain extent.

Trump gets better deals negotiating from a position of power.  If he approached China in a normal manner, they would seize upon every diplomatic way they could to undermine his legitimacy as President.  So instead, he hits them between the eyes by pounding on a very sensitive diplomatic button.

I predict the following:

  • China will do something to show they still “control” Taiwan.  A military exercise, shoot off missiles, cyber attack…something like that.  Enough to get attention, but small enough to be diplomatically written off by the US if they want to.
  • This action will let China reassure its people, and plenty of people will advise Trump to just let it go.
  • Trump won’t, because he knows if he does, he starts off at a place of weakness.  So, he’ll do something out of the box that will scare the Chinese:
    • He could dismantle the alliance China has built up over the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.  If the US stops the UN from helping the bank, it would be a massive blow to Chinese pride.  Trump could selectively woo countries away from the bank and leave China holding a large bag of debt.
    • He could conduct a military exercise that would scare China.  A freedom of navigation drive-by would be too lame.  If President Trump practiced a maritime blockade of China, and deliberately built an alliance (think Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia, all of whom have reasons to hate China), it could rattle the Chinese.  They want to win in a short, sharp conflict, and know that a long, drawn out blockade could strangle them in the long run.
    • He could buy off Chinese overseas investment.  China has put considerable money in African and Asian countries to try and break out of the First Island Chain.  Trump is the master deal maker, and if he dismantled those deals one by one, it would damage the international image that China wants to portray.

Make no mistake, Trump is walking into the China-Taiwan situation deliberately, and it’ll be interesting to see what he comes up with to negotiate from a position of strength.


This post represents the views of the author and does not represent the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other organization’s viewpoints.


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The Terracotta Warriors from the creation of China
The Terracotta Warriors from the third century B.C. underscore the longstanding power of China. (Photo by Chris Harper)

For the United States to have an effective policy with China, Americans have to stop buying iPhones. Or Apple has to move some of its production facilities from China. And a whole lot more.

The trade imbalance between the two countries is so out of whack, amounting to a deficit of more than $300 billion a year for the United States, that the American government cannot put any significant pressure on China. Moreover, the Beijing government owns more than 7 percent of the U.S. debt. China has a lot of leverage.

Sanctions and tariffs usually don’t work. It would help if Apple would move its production plants from China to South Korea, for example, but educating consumers about the implications of buying Chinese products might also work.

After visiting and teaching in China during the past two years, I offer a few insights:

–President Xi Jinping is the most powerful, politically savvy and intelligent leader in recent history.
–The pivot toward Asia under the Obama administration has been laughable, including alliances with some dreadful regimes in Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines.
–China’s so-called “belt-and-road” program to build infrastructure from mainland Asia to Europe has been a resounding success despite U.S. naysayers. For more about the economic plan, see https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/asia/china-s-infrastructure-play
–The presidential election has made the United States a laughingstock among Chinese.

President Obama’s recent Asian excursion underlines how poorly the United States is doing. The Chinese made him disembark from the back of the plane. The government restricted his access to the media, and officials got into a shouting match with his aides. The president then got dissed by the government of Laos and the Philippines.

These incidents don’t bode well for any resolution to China’s desire to control economic and military sway over the South China Sea—an issue that does matter. That route controls access to billions of dollars in fishing, minerals and petroleum for a range of Asian countries.

The most recent U.S. policy has been to confront Chinese vessels—an approach that is likely to heighten tensions rather than lessen them.

Neither presidential candidate offers much hope in dealing effectively with China. Clinton is likely to continue gunboat diplomacy, while Trump wants tariffs against Chinese products. These inept approaches are troubling because China is the leading competitor of the United States for the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of the rest of the world.


Christopher Harper, a recovering journalist with The Associated Press, Newsweek, ABC News and The Washington Times, teaches media law.