Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Biden’s next two years look bleak - The Democratic Party has survived, but the White House remains mired in a failed foreign policy

First posted on Asia Times. Despite going into the midterm elections with under 40% popular approval, US President Joe Biden appears to have survived the outcome, avoiding the mortal wound historically associated with a lame duck in the White House. Bill Clinton, a rare US president who presided over a budget surplus, once embraced an adviser’s mantra “It’s the economy, stupid.” Biden does not seem be graded by his grasp of the economy. Fortunately for Biden, foreign policy does not normally figure in American voters’ thinking. The Biden team has run around the world busily trying to shore up the American position as the hegemon of the world. Drawing from the lessons of the ignominious retreat from Afghanistan after a 20-year debacle, Biden’s new strategy was to assert authority by initiating proxy wars – in other words, getting somebody else to do the fighting. He was successful in provoking Russia into invading Ukraine and supplying more than $40 billion worth of arms to Kiev to fight to the last Ukrainian standing. Uncle Sam’s EU allies dutifully supported Washington and castigated Russian President Vladimir Putin for his aggression. EU suffers as Russia sanctions backfired Initially, the European Union supported the sanctions imposed by the Biden administration. Then Putin changed the rules of the game by demanding payment in rubles for Russia’s oil and natural gas. The net effect was a ruble that strengthened against the euro and dollar. And the EU countries got to pay through the nose for their energy. Then the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines from Russia were “mysteriously” blown up by a blatant act of sabotage. Severing the pipelines supplying Russian gas to Germany and others in Europe erases any basis of reconciliation with Russia, so Washington thought. Rather than letting European allies face a freezing winter, the US rushed to the rescue by selling Texas crude and liquefied natural gas (LNG) at high prices. Yes, very profitable for the US but not so good for the Europeans, feeding their mounting resentment toward Uncle Sam. Leaders of Germany and France are beginning to question the wisdom of blindly following Washington. They are beginning to see that the so-called “rule-based international order” is nothing more than rules for placing orders for American oil. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz quickly led a delegation to Beijing shortly after the adjournment of the 20th People’s Congress. One significant outcome of his one-day visit was a joint declaration with President Xi Jinping that the two countries will promote a multipolar world and disavow any attempt at decoupling – a clear rejection of Biden’s foreign policy. Scholz was also handed a $17 billion order for Airbus passenger jets and acceptance of BioNTech Covid vaccines for use in China. The business leaders in the German delegation also announced intentions to increase their investments in China. These are clear indications that both countries recognize the importance of their economic partnership. Germany is just the latest American ally to realize that dutifully lining up behind Uncle Sam merely exposes them to a full dose of flatulence and not much else. Saudi Arabia says get lost To help tamp down inflation, Biden asked Saudi Arabia to increase oil output so as to reduce the prices at America’s gasoline pumps and lessen the pain of taxpayers. Saudi promptly did the opposite by cutting oil production. In less polite circles, we would call that a middle-finger salute. In fact, Saudi Arabia shows no fealty to the US but is applying to join BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), in both of which China plays a leading role. Riyadh is also finalizing arrangements to sell oil to China for yuan instead of petrodollars. Iran along with India and Pakistan are already members of the SCO. Others including Turkey, Belarus and Egypt are waiting to join. The organization promotes cooperation and collaboration for mutual benefit and geopolitical tension and rivalry is left outside the door. Military alliances and confrontations are specifically excluded in the charter of the organization. That India and Pakistan can belong in the same organization is proof. That Saudi Arabia would join with Iran perhaps presages a more amicable future between those two states. Unlike being aligned with the US, collaborating with China has no downside. No need to host bases for the American troops, and the resultant indignities that, for example, civilians in South Korea and Okinawa have to endure. Turning his attention to China, Biden has his double-talk down pat. According to the one-China principle, Taiwan is part of China, and the US stands by that. On the other hand, it will train the Taiwanese people how to fight, give them more and better weapons and a promise to send American troops to defend Taiwan. For now, let us defer the ramifications of this issue for another day. Biden turns to China In the meantime, despite protestations that the US and China can collaborate in important issues, Biden has gone all-in to wage a full-blown chips war against China. His edicts are intended to effect a total shutdown of trade, exchanges and any sort of transactions involving semiconductor products and technology between the West and China. The desired outcome is to kneecap China’s semiconductor development. However, the Silicon Valley giants such as Applied Materials and Lam Research are among the first companies to be kneecapped. More than 30% their sales go to China only 8% in the US. Their American employees in China are put on hold and layoffs are beginning in the US. Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) can no longer sell their most advanced chips to China for artificial-intelligence development. These advanced chips represent these companies’ most important comparative advantage and will mean lost sales in the hundreds of millions. Lost sales are opportunity costs that do not return. The total drop in market cap for the entire industry worldwide is around US$1.5 trillion. ASML of the Netherlands has virtually a world monopoly on lithographic machines necessary to transfer chip design into actual chips. The company is struggling with not being able to sell not only the most advanced generation but even the older-generation machines to China. These machines go for hundreds of million dollars, and the Biden White House is asking the Dutch company to sit on its hands. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), Korean companies and Japanese companies are similarly requested by Biden to kneecap themselves for the greater good of keeping China’s chip industry stunted. Apparently, American companies are forced to comply by law, but the non-American companies are stalling in their compliance. As Asia Times has pointed out, “the [US] Commerce Department’s specifications show ignorance about the technologies involved and confusion – if not duplicity – about the ban’s implications for China’s military. The experts’ group concluded that the new policy was rushed into effect in panic mode, without weighing its civilian or military implications.” In other words, the embargo order was hastily and sloppily written and leaves plenty of holes and ambiguity for further arguments and negotiations for exceptions. The chips clampdown is supposedly based on security grounds, but American commercial interests will take a major hit as a consequence. The semiconductor embargo has forced China to work around the American chokeholds. Contrary to Washington’s perception, the Chinese won’t catch up by just copying and replicating silicon-based American technology. For example, they have been working on gallium arsenide as the substrate for photonic chips that will operate 1,000 times as fast at 1% of the power consumption – which is important for military uses and does not rely on economies of scale essential in commercial applications. What will be the eventual outcome? Companies in the West will be crippled by the decoupling and play in a market smaller than the formerly globalized market. New companies in China will dominate in a market centered on China. The sum of both markets is likely to be less than the total market today. This is a classic lose-lose outcome. The joke is on Washington It is hard for us Americans to know if our political leaders are just joshing or are seriously misinformed about China. Washington seems to see China as a mere copycat that depends on intellectual-property (IP) theft to compete with America. In certain technologies, China has at least caught up to the US, if not already surpassing it. To name a few: fifth generation to 6G in telecommunications, superior accuracy of Beidou over America’s Global Positioning System (GPS), exploration missions to Mars and the dark side of the moon, Tiangong soon to be the only space station circling Earth, quantum computing and hypersonic glide missiles. And oh yes, China has a network of thousands of kilometers of high-speed rail. The US? Zero. Readers might be amused to know that former US congressman Frank Wolf, who had control of annual funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), specifically demanded the exclusion of China from participating in the International Space Station that was jointly operated with the Soviet Union. Now the US is complaining that all the writing in Tiangong is in Chinese, even though NASA has yet to be invited to visit. According a recent joint report from Harvard, Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), at least 1,400 US-based ethnic Chinese scientists and academicians have left the US in direct response to the notorious “China Initiative,” and the departures continue to increase. They have been intimidated and terrorized by random arrests and prosecution that leaves them traumatized, reputation destroyed and financially ruined. Our Department of (in)Justice does not apologize for wrongful prosecution nor offer compensation for damages. This self-inflicted injury will be America’s loss and China’s gain. The good news is that some Chinese are coming to the US. According to Bloomberg News, Tesla is sending production personnel, automation and control engineers from China to its plant in Fremont, California, in order to “reproduce the success of the Tesla factory in Shanghai.” Another way of saying “be careful of what you wish for” is to quote Rafael Reif, outgoing president of MIT: “If all we do in response to China’s ambition is to try to double-lock all our doors, I believe we will lock ourselves into mediocrity.”

Saturday, October 22, 2022

G20 to showcase China’s high-speed rail - Jakarta and Beijing plan to demonstrate their partnership in making transportation more efficient

First posted in Asia Times. More than 1,300 journalists have already registered to cover the Group of Twenty summit to be held on November 15 and 16 in Bali. The pre-summit buzz seems to be focusing on such questions as: Will US President Joe Biden attend? If he does, will he meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin? If they meet, will Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky be invited to sit in? If so, will there be any substantive outcome? So on and so forth. The Western media missed mentioning an unprecedented event that will take place at the G20. Indonesian President Joko Widodo, widely known as Jokowi, will be taking his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for a ride on Indonesia’s first bullet train. Taking Xi for a ride The short ride around Bandung in West Java will be a test run at a more leisurely pace than the train’s designed speed of 350km/h. Full commercial operation after the shakedown of the high-speed railway (HSR) is expected to begin in June 2023. By then, the travel time from Jakarta, the national capital, to Bandung, the capital of West Java, will shorten from more than three hours to 40 minutes. The 142.5-kilometer linkage is the first phase. The second phase at a distance of 520km will extend the HSR from Bandung to Surabaya and will begin later in 2023. When completed, the HSR will in essence run the length of Java, the most populated island of Indonesia. Kereta Cepat Indonesia China will own and operate the HSR. KCIC is a joint venture, 60% owned by Indonesia and 40% by China. In 2008, Japan first proposed the high-speed rail project connecting Jakarta to Surabaya. After a lot of back-and-forth wrestling over the required financial investment, Indonesia finally decided to take a serious look at the project in 2015. To Japan’s surprise, out of the blue, China submitted the winning bid. Since the global financial crisis of 2008, China had been busy investing in infrastructure. By 2015, China had become the owner of the world’s largest network of high-speed railways. China used its experience and, ahem, track record to qualify for the Indonesia bid. Widodo went to Japan and China to compare the two HSR systems for himself. Not only has China’s system exceeded Japan’s Shinkansen in performance, but China’s proposal included technology transfer and willingness to assume of cost overruns. Japan would not commit to either. China ready to build HSR anywhere Taiwan-based commentator Lai Yueqian (赖岳谦) has explained why this G20 showcasing is a highly significant development. The test ride is Beijing’s way of announcing to the world that China is ready to market and build HSR anywhere in the world and Indonesia is China’s partner in this venture. Lai has advanced degrees in international relations from France. He foresees that the KCIC-owned HSR could extend north from Jakarta to Singapore, through Malaysia and Thailand into China and link up with China’s own HSR to become part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to Central Asia and beyond. G20 members account for 85% of the world’s gross domestic product, 75% of international trade and two-thirds of the world’s population. There is no more ideal venue than the leaders’ summit for the host country, Indonesia, and China to unveil their intentions to contribute to global trade by building transportation infrastructure around the world. When China first began to consider building an HSR network to cover its vast territory, it approached Japan and France and proposed a 50/50 joint venture that would include their technical assistance. Those two countries had been up to then the only sources of HSR technology. Both refused the deal that would include technology transfer and both assumed that China could not go it alone. Instead, China has since built HSR through mountains, deserts, over open waters, high altitudes and permafrost and proves that it can go anywhere. The railcars are being supplied by China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) in adherence to their specifications for the Fuxing railcars; Fuxing represents China’s highest level of HSR technology. China to share HSR technology These cars feature advanced smart technology, safety protocols, and strong environmental adaptability. Called electric multiple units (EMUs), the cars are equipped with 2,500 monitoring points for timely detection, early warning and diagnoses of all key systems. As reported by Straits Times, “The Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway will enrich the development of infrastructure facilities and generate fresh growth points in both the services sector and trade in services in Indonesia and Southeast Asia.” The Biden administration and cohorts in Washington favoring confrontation with China are likely to be oblivious to the implications of China’s success in HSR. Earlier this month, I suggested that sanctions on sales of semiconductor devices and equipment to China is rule-based disorder. Since then, Biden has doubled down and imposed virtually a total ban on semiconductor trade with China. Speculations are rife in Taiwan that should China decide to invade the island in response to the American chokehold, the US military has contingency plans to hustle key technical and management staff of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) on to a plane and fly them out to Arizona. Mind you, this is based on American assumptions, not on any evidence of China’s actual intentions. In effect, Biden’s chip ban will disrupt and damage a safe, secure and booming global semiconductor industry and turn it into tatters and pieces. American producers from process equipment to design software systems to advanced devices will all suffer drastic reduction in revenue and potentially fatal loss of funds to develop the next generation of advances. As with HSR, China will eventually succeed in circumventing America’s ban on semiconductor trade. Then Washington will experience a “see I told you so,” self-fulfilling confirmation that China poses a threat to America’s security. In the meantime, Saudi Arabia has told Biden to “get lost” by cutting oil production instead of increasing output as he requested. Biden’s diplomatic response is to decide which cudgel to use on the Saudis. Talk about how to lose friends and piss off people. The United Arab Emirates has also followed Saudi Arabia’s footsteps by becoming China’s second-largest (after Saudi) economic partner in the Middle East. China’s COSCO Shipping has chosen Khalifa Port in Abu Dhabi as the base of its Middle East operations. Everybody in the world, except the Americans, seems to understand that bilateral trade builds and strengthens bilateral relations. Disrupt trade and those relations start to drift. Missed opportunity CRRC is the company, I reported more than three years ago, that set up assembly facilities outside of Chicago and Boston to replace outdated subway cars with new, state-of-the-art cars at a cost 20% lower than competitive bids and containing more than 60% made-in-America content. The first delivery was met with rave reviews and praise as an outstanding case of win-win success. Thus encouraged, the Chinese company started to make plans to study the feasibility of replacing the subway cars in New York and Washington, DC. That was when the wise old folks in Congress, such as the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, put a kibosh on the process. Senator Schumer raised the alarm that subway cars are perfect for Beijing to use for spying on the American commuters. Thus, today New Yorkers continue to ride on the noisy, dilapidated, rocking and rolling, more than century-old subway cars, secure in knowing that no one is going to spy on them. By golly. At this point, all Washington seems to know is to take cheap shots at China, denigrate beneficial projects around the world, and obstruct China’s progress wherever possible. The rest of the world is increasingly skeptical and unsure that following the US is in their best interest.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

US pushes ‘rule-based disorder’ Latest set of sanctions targeting the chip industry will do no one any good, certainly not the US itself

First posted in Asia Times. Upon becoming president of the United States, Joe Biden immediately set forth to promote “rule-based international order,” ostensibly for the world community, but the message was really intended for China. The “world order,” according to Biden, was for Beijing to conduct its foreign affairs in line with Washington’s expectations. Now into the second year of his regime, it has become increasingly clear that Biden’s idea of order is actually disorder and is causing chaos not only in the world but especially to the American economy. The latest example is the most recent series of sanctions and embargoes forbidding sales of semiconductor chips and manufacturing equipment to China. Up to now, China has been far and away the largest buyer for semiconductor processing equipment and is the major market for advanced chips designed by such Silicon Valley companies as Nvidia and made by such foundries as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). The ban seeks all the members of the semiconductor industry, foreign and domestic, to go cold turkey and stop doing business with China. Heretofore, the industry has been a prime example of a virtuous circle created by globalization. In simplified terms, we can say that innovations in chip designs for new uses are created in Silicon Valley, fabricated by foundries in Taiwan and South Korea, and then shipped to China to assemble into devices and final products, which are then sold around the world. Companies engaged in making fabrication and processing equipment kept pushing the boundaries of their technology and collaborated with the foundries to produce the next generation of advanced chips. The equipment companies were not just in the US but also in Japan and the Netherlands. Everyone wins in a virtuous circle In a virtuous circle, everybody does what he does best and contributes to a supply chain at the most cost-effective efficiency. Everybody wins in such a circle. By breaking up the circle, everybody loses. South Korean foundries such as Samsung sell 40% of their output to China, including foundries they operate inside China. China represents around 30% of sales for semiconductor fabrication equipment from American companies such as Applied Materials and Lam Research. China is also the most important market for ASML, the Netherlands-based company that is in essence the only maker of advanced lithographic machines. Despite the just-imposed ban, the company has continued to increase its local hire in China to support its sales and technical services. Every member of the circle now faces a perplexing dilemma: Do they obey the Washington edict at the expense of their financial interests and companies’ futures? Or do they pay a lot of money to lawyers and lobbyists to plead on their behalf and secure certain dispensations that would allow their continuing to do business with China, perhaps at a more subdued level? Or do they find questionable routes and intermediaries to continue their sales to China? Or can they flat out defy Washington? In theory, their lost sales to China would be replaced by the expansion of a new and growing US market, as foreign companies such as TSMC and Samsung are enticed or coerced into building new fabs in the US. The challenge is whether other members of the circle can survive long enough while waiting for the new capacities in America to make up the immediate shortfall around the world. Furthermore, there are serious concerns and doubts as to whether new fabs could actually happen in the US. The cost of defying Washington’s order will be high, but the industry can already see that the cost of yielding to Biden’s sanctions makes no sense given the devastating consequences. TSMC obediently gave up on serving Huawei, its most important customer, under orders from Donald Trump’s White House more than two years ago. Now it apparently has given up on the rest of the China market in exchange for locating fabs in the US. Since then, the market capitalization of the company has declined by half from its peak. Washington offers losing propositions Washington doesn’t offer any incentives or rewards, just threats and intimidation if they are not obeyed. This is what a hegemon does, but increasingly the world is disenchanted and not convinced South Korea is the latest to feel the sting that goes with being a loyal American ally. Washington expected the Koreans to give up their huge markets in China, and the reward was for their president to face a rude and very public brushoff when he greeted Biden at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York recently. According to K J Noh, who understands the Korean language, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol cursed in the foulest terms at the way he was treated. Hard to blame him though. Biden is asking his country commit economic seppuku but acted like Yoon was some Asian scumbag – another gaffe that the White House staff will have to repair. The European Union has also learned that there is no upside in being a groupie of American foreign policy. By joining the US in supporting the Ukrainians and sanctioning Russia in the Ukrainian war, the EU is facing a bleak cold winter with a shortfall of fuel to heat homes and fire the boilers that the German industries will need to keep operating. Facing record-breaking inflation, the people in the EU are becoming restless and beginning to agitate and question the reasons for antagonizing Russia and bringing economic misery on to themselves. Shortly before the UNGA, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization concluded its annual conference, held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Under China’s leadership, the SCO welcomed Iran and Belarus as new members, with a long list of other nations applying to join, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others. The SCO now accounts for half of the world’s population and more than 25% of global GDP. Non-aligned countries find the SCO increasingly attractive as an antidote to American unilateralism. Geopolitical rivals such as India and Pakistan or Saudi Arabia and Iran can leave their contentions outside and join the organization to work on trade and economic cooperation, and collaborate on combating terrorism. Unlike the American led groups of nations, political or military alliances are specifically excluded within the SCO. There are, by the way, no nations waiting to join the US alliance to contain China. As I observed in June, the US approach to recruiting others to join in an alliance to contain China is a faltering strategy that will lead to America’s self-destruction. Biden’s insistence on decoupling China from the semiconductor supply chain is another step in that direction. Another step to self-destruction Washington seems not to have anticipated China’s likely response to the latest sanctions. Its semiconductor industry is redoubling its efforts and investments to develop technical advances that would replace the chips and fab equipment that have been cut off by the American sanctions. China has the raw technical manpower graduating from their colleges and universities every year and has recruited senior engineers and fabrication technologists – Asia Times called them godfathers – from Taiwan, Japan and South Korea to advise on the technical and management direction. News from China already indicates that they are making breakthroughs getting around the American embargoes. Even American analysts say that the trade barriers are doomed to fail. In the long run, the Biden sanctions will help China create its own independent semiconductor industry and leave the currently established providers out in the cold. When and if China decides to retaliate in full, it has the wherewithal to inflict pain in kind. China’s CATL is the world’s largest producer of lithium batteries for electric vehicles. The company has announced plans to build a US$7 billion plant in Hungary to serve European automakers. Its plans for North America are on hold since Nancy Pelosi’s jaunt to Taipei. China also has a virtual stranglehold on the world supply of rare earth minerals, some crucial in strategic military applications, and can elect to restrict sales to the US. Most recently, the Pentagon was aghast to find that the engine of the F-35 fighter depends on rare-earth magnets made in China. This latest “discovery” shows the deep integration of the two major economies and the difficulty of disentangling and decoupling the two. It also can show the destructive power of paranoia in Washington. The wise old gnomes in the bowels of the Pentagon probably wouldn’t suggest tearing apart all the existing F-35s to remove the magnets from China, but could certainly see this matter as another “urgent” reason to increase the defense budget greatly in order to develop a domestic replacement. The hostile drumbeats from Washington reverberate within the echo chamber for the benefit of the handful of allies sitting inside, seemingly unaware of the ongoing peaceful cooperation between China and the rest of the world. It’s hard to know when the American people will say enough is enough and vote for a thorough reform of how Washington makes friends instead of enemies.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

My confession seems to have struck a responsive chord

I also had a conversation with Cyrus Janssen on his YouTube channel. I have received many more reader responses than usual on my essay on Asia Times. I have decided to post selected inputs from my readers. Ifay Chang Tue, Aug 23, 9:17 AM (1 day ago) I echo with you as a Republican, seeing the hypocritic bipartisan bickering that is degrading the U.S.. Ifay Bob Dickerson Tue, Aug 23, 9:29 AM (1 day ago) Wonderful, George. Very moving and so honest. Peace and love to you. If you need me, I’ll be there for you. Peter Li Tue, Aug 23, 9:42 AM (1 day ago) Thanks George. You have said exactly what’s in my heart and a sense of frustration and exasperation. America has changed so much since we first came in the 40s and 50s. Alas… Peter William Fuller Tue, Aug 23, 9:51 AM (1 day ago) Hi George, From one 84 year old to another, well done! Like you, I could not be more worried about our country, its relations with China, and the risks to our democracy. With best wishes, Bill Ivy Chang Tue, Aug 23, 9:58 AM (1 day ago) George, I'm an immigrant, like you, and agree with your writing. You make the Chinese in the U.S. proud. Lillian Sing Tue, Aug 23, 10:39 AM (1 day ago) George, I tilt my hat to you over and over again. Once again, your writing touched my heart and soul. 很佩服你! You share the same experience as so many of us, CA, who came to the US with hope and aspiration. Yes, US has been good to us. I became a judge when there were no female AA women judges in No. CA . It was a dream come true. But, alas, I see over and over again, how US has missed opportunities to be the great country and now has taken steps that will endanger all of us. CA is no longer welcome here. We are viewed with suspicious and the entire CA community is accused of posing a "whole of society threat against the US." Like you, I feel betrayed, disappointed and the necessity to speak out. Lillian Nancy M. Lee Tue, Aug 23, 10:47 AM (1 day ago) George: I could not have agreed with you more. It echoes precisely my feeling. When I came to this country in 1960, America was at its best. It has since come down and deteriorated year by year. Instead of using the tax money to build our country, it has spent the money around the globe to start wars. Thank you for writing this excellent article. I am sending your article to all my non-asian friends. Best, Nancy Anthony Ng Aug 23, 2022, 11:14 AM (1 day ago) Dear George: Thank you for sharing. Profound analysis! I resonated so much with what you wrote and got to know you better. Indeed, honesty is such a lonely word in politics. What could we do as part of the solution? I would love to hear more from you. Could we chat at your convenience? Blessings, Anthony C. Ng Robert Kapp Tue, Aug 23, 1:12 PM (1 day ago) I knew we had things in common: I ran "Americans Abroad for McCarthy" in London in 1968, when I was a graduate student just out of nine months of Ph.D. research in Chiang Kai-shek's Taiwan. But not Laurelhurst: the first thing someone at the UW said to me when we moved to Seattle in 1973 and I joined the UW faculty was, "Of course you'll live in Laurelhurst...." Uh-uh. We bought a houseboat for $12k instead. I never did quite meld with the Laurelhurstians on campus. Best wishes. B. Phil Cunningham Tue, Aug 23, 1:26 PM (1 day ago) Hi George, I liked reading your personal story, helps put your pieces in perspective. You have a lot of wisdom, hard-earn lessons and longitude in your views on things. Funny on the Shakespeare thing. Cornell Press asked me to read a thesis and book proposal by a Chinese scholar about Shakespeare in China; it was quite good! I've got a piece coming out in SCMP this week about decline in number of Chinese students, using Cornell as example. Next piece is about the almost complete zeroing out of US students in China. Phil Maeley Tom Aug 23, 2022, 1:57 PM (1 day ago) Your article was nothing short of "outstanding" and distributing it to my network. Thank you George Tue, Aug 23, 2:50 PM (1 day ago) George Your disclosure of personal experience is deeply appreciated by myself And this is a very acceptable article to share with all My friends disregard their political outlook nor their “ distorted “ ( a big majority of them , unfortunately Views or perception of China These are fir those who lived in the west ( US Canada England Australia or even Hong Kong and yes HK and Taiwan) Your personal experience is indisputable including your criticism and disappointment with US politicians ! Money talk it’s not like one would like to think Democracy is Peoples Talk ( we are all damaged by the Western Politician Talk ) leaving many of us feeling so helpless and hopeless 😩 Miranda Hsiung Fei Lee Tue, Aug 23, 2:54 PM (1 day ago) Dear George: Very well said. Your article of "Confessions of a Disgruntled Chinese American" resonances with me very much. I first came to the US in 1961. The America in the early 60's was different from how or what it is today. Many of the things you mentioned were not on the surface back then. The military and defense industry complex brings misery to the people around the world as well as Americans at home. It is hard to reverse the ' one-dollar-one-vote system' we have today back to the ' one-man-one-vote system' it is supposed to be. But it is the only chance that America will survive another two hundreds years without collapsing. There has to be a way to turn the American policy from outward expansionism to paying attention of domestic issues. Washington needs to look after the well being of the 99% instead of what happens in Ukraine or Taiwan Strait. Most Americans do not understand international politics. Hopefully, they know what it means to have food on the table and the roof over their head. H. F. L. Ling-Chi WANG Tue, Aug 23, 3:48 PM (1 day ago) Hi, George: What an inspiring confession! There are so many striking similarities between your experience and mine, from being born in the same year and raised on the same tiny island of beautiful Gulangyu (鼓浪屿), 3 sq. Km., to coming to America for education and opportunity to becoming engaged in American civic life, and finally, to becoming disillusioned and disgruntled in our sunset years. Reading your confession is like reading my own memoir except you write, as usual, with such flair and eloquence, I could not possibly match. It is quite incredible that we should finally, in a fortunate stroke of serendipity, meet in San Francisco a few years ago when we were active in the fight to win freedom and justice for Dr. Wen Ho Lee. Dr. Wen Ho Lee won his freedom on September 13, 2000. Sadly and outrageously, 22 years later, we, Chinese Americans today, have all become Wen Ho Lee because of American ignorance, racial prejudice, and hostility. Thanks for sharing your experience. Keep writing because the U.S. needs your perspective and voice! Ling-chi Aug 23, 2022, 3:58 PM (1 day ago) With great grandiloquence, par excellence. Henry Richard King Tue, Aug 23, 4:40 PM (1 day ago) Dear George: Thank you for sharing your story with me. We are the same age. But I came when I was already 14. I did well in school but not at your level. While my math was fine I still struggled with my English and therefore did not get into Bronx Science. Instead I attended Lincoln Park Honor School. I wanted to go to Cornell but did not have the money. I worked at a Jewish resort and managed to save $ 1,100, a nice sum but it was short of the $ 2,000 needed. If I knew then what I know now, I could have borrowed, got a scholarship or worked at a frat house for my room and board. I went to CCNY which was known as poorman's Harvard. At that time more than 90% of the students were Jewish. I hated it. Ironically, my son Bentley would one day go to and graduate from Cornell. Of course he did not have to work a single day to pay for his tuition. But isn't that what we all work for: To give a better life for our kids? Since there were few of us then, there was not the hysteria of Asian, namely Chinese, students taking over the top colleges. Affirmative actions were then not that evident. These days I don't know what it would take for our kids and grandchildren to get into an Ivy or MIT? China was then Red China and for the most part not on the radar screen. Even as recent as the late 70s and early 80s it was Japan that was the threat. Japan bashing was in full swing. Japan folded and has never recovered. China is a different and more tough nut to crack. As you pointed out, the head of the FBI shamelessly bragged about targeting ethnic Chinese. I worked in the defense industry, something I would not do today. I wonder what would happen if all ethnic Chinese were to boycott the defense industry. It would collapse. With China's rising, we Chinese-Americans will increasingly face tough times ahead. Richard James Hsue Tue, Aug 23, 5:34 PM (1 day ago) Thank you George for the personal experience spoken from the heart. It is an experience that is probably widely shared amongst not only Chinese Americans but also amongst Chinese canadians, Chinese Australians etc. I am really happy to see it being told. I sent it out to my HK highschool classmates, many of whom emigrated to the U.S., Canada and the U.K. James Shirley Kinoshita 6:51 AM (16 hours ago) George Interesting op-ed. I also served on the Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission and has experienced a lot of opportunities and rewards as an American. In my case, I’ve had the added blessing of being born in US Territory of Hawaiii, see my home state become a state. I’m surprised you use the term “Heaven..” since I believe you are not a believer in this concept. Shirley

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Confessions of a disgruntled Chinese-American. Heaven help any aspiring leader who wants to correct America’s problems at home and campaign on what the US needs to fix.

First posted on Asia Times. I am proud to be an 84-year-old Chinese-American: proud of my Chinese heritage and at one time proud to be an American. My friends frequently ask me why I am so critical of our government. I tell them that as a citizen, I have a right and duty to criticize when I see my country heading in the wrong direction. It has not always been like this. One of my proudest moments was when I became a naturalized citizen many years ago. To be an American was something to be proud of and look forward to. I thought I was enjoying a charmed life and living in the best of two worlds. Before I immigrated to America, I lived in China for my first 11 years, a country devastated by war with Japan. But I had the good fortune of living in a remote area of China that never saw one Japanese soldier. Thus I didn’t have to witness the many unspeakable acts of atrocity committed by the Japanese military. When my mom, my sisters and I joined my dad in Seattle, he was a graduate student on a very limited income. We lived in the university housing project where each duplex was modestly better than a Quonset hut. But we lived within the district of one of the best elementary schools in town. At Laurelhurst Elementary, my classmates, mostly from well-to-do families, helped me learn English as quickly as I could absorb it. A friend gave me helmet and shoulder pads and I quickly learned to play football. At no time did I feel the sting of racism. My welcome to America was all cookies and cream. I graduated at the top of my senior class and received a scholarship and part-time job on campus to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. By the time I became a young father raising a family in New Jersey, I was the supervisor of a materials-testing laboratory. My company encouraged me to complete my doctoral studies by giving me leave and financial support. I was living my American dream. I even participated in exercising American democracy by becoming a grassroots worker campaigning for delegates going to the Democratic National Convention to cast their votes for Eugene McCarthy as the party’s presidential nominee. But watching the 1968 Chicago convention on national TV, I was appalled and outraged. Mayor Richard Daley’s police force was supposed to maintain law and order. Instead, they were instigators of violence and chaos, clubbing the protesters outside the convention. I wrote a letter to the Newark Evening News, a major daily in New Jersey, expressing my indignation. To my surprise, my letter was published. That encouragement caused me to think that expressing my opinion could make a difference. After I moved my family to California, I continued to participate in civic affairs and local politics. I was the campaign manager for two friends running for the city council – at different times. One won and the other did not. When my city decided to establish a “Human Relations Commission,” I was appointed to the first one. One of my commendations read: “His service demonstrates his commitment to the community and the desire to promote the fullest participation of all members of the community.” When Mike Honda decided to run for Congress and asked for my help, I was happy to help because he was an honorable and genuine human being with a generous heart. He won on his first try and when we met for lunch to celebrate, he told me that his first task at hand was to raise a lot of money for his campaign war chest so that potential opponents would think twice about running to unseat him. His revelation surprised me but also drove home to me the realization that money had taken control of our democracy. Fast-forward to today, and I keep asking myself, “Why has my country fallen so low?” We can’t seem to keep up with other developed countries that are our peers. We unfailingly acknowledge the importance of education as critical to the future of our children, but we only talk and don’t do anything about it. The quality of education depends on the average household income in the local area where the school is located. Children from the city ghettoes hardly ever get a decent education and thus start out in life with a disadvantage that many are not equipped to overcome. In some parts of our country teaching creationism has the same legitimacy as teaching science and mathematics. Some Americans still believe that our Earth is 6,000 years old. Ignorance is regarded as a badge of honor. Thou shalt not commit perjury “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” I may have learned the oath from the long-running TV serial Perry Mason, but I came to understand that honesty and being truthful were among the foundational principles that made America great. Today, public figures of any and all stripes tell lies and do not even bat an eyelash. They violate every statute of the constitution as if the laws of the land do not apply to them. There is no sense of honor and right or wrong or even any hint of shame. Our two major political parties battle for control of the federal government and Congress. They devote virtually all of their energy and attention to outmaneuvering the other side just to gain an edge. Getting re-elected and retaining their seats in Congress have highest priority unless it’s to unseat someone from the other party. Pettiness reigns and national interest is rarely on the table. My e-mail inbox is filled daily with solicitations from candidates running for public office asking me for a campaign contribution. People I have never heard of, running for the House or Senate or governor from a state far from California, and they don’t ever ask what issues I support. They simply presume that I care about their getting elected. They just want my money. If I can write a big check, they will come running again and again. If I don’t write checks but can “bundle” a lot of checks from other contributors into a bagful, I will be regarded as a person of influence. America’s democracy is all about money and it takes more and more to enter the fray. Thoughtful and capable politicians are getting out. Our roads and bridges are dilapidated, college and university tuition has been rising beyond most household budgets, women are denied the right to decide what’s good for their health, and schoolchildren are regularly slaughtered in mass shootings. These are just a few indicators of what’s wrong with America. Heaven help any aspiring leader who wants to correct the problems at home and campaign on what America needs to fix. Such a candidate won’t get financial sponsors and won’t get nominated, much less win any election. Incumbents will not risk their chances of re-election by tackling these knotty issues and are very adept at kicking the can down the road. Anti-China chorus The one sure-fire way to political success is to demonize China and attack China as our adversary, an easy adversary accepted by both parties. In the process, every ethnic Asian in America becomes a prospective target of hate crime, because “all Asians look alike.” To add fuel to the fire, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation even boasted about the many cases of investigation opened daily on Chinese-Americans employed in American universities and research organizations. He never talks about the disproportionate number of cases that were dismissed or dropped because of lack of evidence or the FBI’s haste to accuse. He doesn’t acknowledge the financial ruin suffered by the innocent victims because of the cost of their legal defense and their having to deal with careers in tatters. A senator from Arkansas even suggested that students from China should not be allowed to come to the US for further studies in science and engineering but only on Shakespeare. Indeed, because of arbitrary prosecutions, random violence from hate crimes and uncertain treatment on granting of visas, enrollment from China has already dropped substantially. There is nothing to suggest that this trend is likely to reverse. Heretofore, Chinese-Americans have contributed far more than their pro rata would indicate. They come to America as part of China’s cream of the crop, already well trained and prepared to contribute with diligence and motivation. If they stop coming, it will be America’s loss. Meanwhile, Washington is investing all its energy on pushing China’s head under water, all the while not doing anything to solve the social and economic ills rooted within our country. China will continue to work around the American embargoes and sanctions and surpass the US with one technological advance after another. It already has taken the lead in many technical disciplines, Shakespearean scholarship not being among them.

Friday, August 19, 2022

What China’s Taiwan white paper is saying - This important document is intended to remind the West that China will not budge on its position on Taiwan

This was first posted in Asia Times. By flying to Asia and landing in Taipei, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, disregarded the “one China” principle and the fact that Taiwan is a province of China. Pelosi stepped over China’s red line. And, as promised, China responded by holding live-fire drills all around the island for the first time in the history of cross-Strait relations. The military exercises by the People’s Liberation Army prompted the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to sail away from the waters of Taiwan. This made it abundantly clear to the people in Taiwan that while the United States wants to encourage Taipei to start a war with the mainland, Taiwan would have to fight the PLA by itself. Seeing these developments, the collective wisdom of the people in Taiwan as reflected by the media is to conclude that to declare independence and break away from China would be suicidal. The US Congress and President Joe Biden’s administration, however, have continued to test China’s resolve and attempt to push the red line. Since the US and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) normalized relations in 1979, Congress has enacted a series of legislation to weaken the bilateral agreement progressively as expressed by three communiqués. The first communiqué was agreed in 1972 when then-US president Richard Nixon went to China. Each communiqué stating that Taiwan is a part of China was signed by both Washington and Beijing and is binding on both parties. Unlike these joint agreements, the US government arrogantly presumes that any law enacted by its Congress is unilaterally binding on China as well. In response to this American arrogance, the State Council Information Office in Beijing has issued a white paper on the “Taiwan Question and the Cause of China’s Reunification in the New Era.” This important document is obviously intended to remind the West that China will not budge on its position on Taiwan. First of all, the paper reiterates that Taiwan is part of China, that reunification is inevitable, that the way reunification will take place is a matter between Taiwan and the mainland, and that Beijing will brook no outside interference. This is a re-statement of the red line about Taiwan that has never changed but is now stated in no uncertain terms. Second, the white paper reviewed Taiwan’s place throughout the history of China. The terms of Japan’s unconditional surrender at the end of World War II mandated the return of Taiwan to China after 50 years of Japanese occupation. At present, 181 countries including the US recognize the PRC as the legal government of China and that Taiwan is part of one China. Advantages of being part of China Some people in Taiwan may not fully appreciate the intertwined cross-Strait economic relationship. If so, they should read the white paper and understand the advantages of Taiwan being a part of the national economy. As just one of the indicators, Taiwanese businesses have over the years invested more than US$71 billion in more than 1.2 million projects on the mainland – not to mention an annual trade surplus of $170 billion that Taiwan enjoys with the mainland. From 1980 to 2021, the mainland’s economy grew three times as fast as Taiwan’s and has become the second-largest in the world, and is soon to overtake the US to become No 1. China has become a major power not only economically but in science and technology and in military prowess. As more people in Taiwan come to understand China’s place in the world, they will appreciate being a part of China. Winding through Congress is the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, which according to its sponsors will promote the security of Taiwan, ensures regional stability and threatens China with broad economic sanctions. But the consequences of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan showed that such an act will do just the opposite: The island will become less secure and the region less stable. As we have also seen from the Ukraine war, the US sanctions imposed on Russia backfired badly, causing worldwide food shortages, rising energy prices and overall inflation, and solidified the ruble’s place among the world’s major currencies. Any attempted sanctions on China would inflict blows to the US economy many times more serious than the sanctions on Russia. One only need look at the foolhardy tariff war waged by former US president Donald Trump and continued by Biden. The American consumer had to pay a higher price for goods made in China because of the tariffs, and the trade surplus by China only increased rather than reduced. For Washington to threaten China with sanctions is meaningless if not just stupid. Moreover, the white paper has reasserted China’s red line on Taiwan, leaving no room for ambiguity or equivocation. This is a matter of sovereignty for China. The Chinese do not make empty threats. They will view stepping over the line as an act of war. No independence without US support Taiwan’s ruling pro-independence (taidu) faction would not be so foolish as to declare independence without US support. If the US does show support, then China will most likely strike at the US naval ships first and take them out of action. Without American military presence, the taidu faction will become irrelevant and negotiations between Taiwan and the mainland for a peaceful reunification can begin.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Damage from Pelosi’s Asia tour awaits final tally - Besides worsening US and Taiwanese relations with China, her trip made the semiconductor conundrum even more complicated

This was first posted on Asia Times. Nancy Pelosi came and left. Some in Taiwan called her visit a part of her graduation trip. A tad condescending, perhaps, but they meant it was her last hurrah. After the forthcoming midterm election in the US, her Democratic Party is expected to lose control of the House of Representatives and she will no longer be the Speaker. She had to make her grand tour, fully paid for by taxpayers, while she could. The immediate consequences are clear. Step over Beijing’s red line and you can expect China to react as it promised. Some hotheads were disappointed that People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fighter jets did not shoot down Pelosi’s plane. However, by exercising live-fire exercises in seven regions surrounding the island of Taiwan, China was saying not only that the “median line” in the Taiwan Strait does not exist, but that it can enter Taiwan’s waters any time it wants, anywhere it wants, and fire at any target it wants. Pelosi’s provocation had given China the necessary cause. The PLA fired missiles from the mainland over the width of Taiwan that landed on the opposite side of the island facing the Pacific, the potential area where US naval vessels would lurk if they were there to defend Taiwan. They weren’t. The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan had already hightailed out of danger and sailed for Japan. No wish to waste Patriot missiles The Taipei government explained that the air-raid alarms remained silent because it did not want to panic the populace unduly. It did not fire at missiles incoming from the mainland because it did not want to waste expensive Patriots on missiles that were going to land harmlessly in the sea. A poll taken shortly after Pelosi’s visit found that 9% of Taiwanese people remain convinced that the US military will be around to defend them. The world will be waiting to see if US carriers will resume patrolling the South China Sea and if the PLA will challenge the American version of “freedom of navigation” in the body of water that China considers its own. Pelosi’s meeting in Taipei also revealed why South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol declined to meet her. Over lunch in Taipei, Pelosi urged Morris Chang, founder and former chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), to locate some of its fabrication plants outside of Taiwan, specifically to complete its new site in Arizona and perhaps establish a presence in Japan. Chang’s polite reply to Pelosi was that building semiconductor fabs in different locations is not economically or technically practical. An American citizen, Chang did not say that he did not think the US has the needed skilled personnel, which he had said on other occasions. Strong-arming South Korea Pelosi’s mission in Seoul was to pressure Samsung and other chip makers in Korea to join TSMC and move their fabs to the US. Her selling point was to take advantage of the US$52 billion in the CHIPS (Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America) Act as a financial incentive for such a move to the US. The conundrum for the Korean chip makers is that the US would expect them to take sides, that is, the American subsidy would require them to stop supplying chips to China. While China represents only 10% of TSMC’s market, the Korean fabs sell 60% of their output to China. Giving up 60% of their business to comply with the American embargo would be a real dilemma for South Korea. While the Korean government is stalling on making a commitment to Washington, Yoon’s avoiding seeing Pelosi was a diplomatic way to avoid being put on the spot, at least for the short term. A less diplomatic view was that meeting with Pelosi was not in South Korea’s national interest. Washington’s method of denying China access to semiconductor technology has been excruciating for the entire spectrum of players in the chip industry. TSMC was the first to feel the pain when former US president Donald Trump’s administration ordered it to stop providing advanced chips to Huawei, ZTE and others. China used to be a major customer, accounting for more than 20% of TSMC’s sales. Now. according to the current chairman and chief executive officer, Mark Liu, the figure is around 10%. The Dutch company ASML is the world’s leading maker of lithography machines essential in making semiconductors. Its most advanced extreme ultraviolet (EUV) system sells for more than $150 million per unit, and the company is forbidden to sell to China. Now Washington is asking the Netherlands to forbid export of an older generation of deep ultraviolet (DUV) machines to China. Last year, ASML sold $2.78 billion worth of this product line to China, accounting for 14.7% of the company’s total sales. Embargo painful for US company too Lam Research based in Silicon Valley is one of world’s major supplier of equipment for semiconductor fabrication, with annual revenue just under $20 billion. Based on its latest quarterly report, China accounts for 31% of its sales while the US accounts for 8%. Undoubtedly, Lam management is agonizing on how to plead for an exemption from President Joe Biden’s administration so the company will not have to commit corporate seppuku. Washington’s determination to decouple from China is shortsighted and reflects what lawyers know about technology, which is not much. For many years, the US has underinvested in semiconductor manufacturing while China has done just the opposite. The $52 billion in the CHIPS Act is too little and too late. Asking companies to withstand self-inflicted pain and act against their own self-interest is unfortunately a case of Washington being an implacable bully. To survive, the victims will have to find ways around American exceptionalism. Already there are reports appearing to indicate that China is coping, American sanctions and embargoes notwithstanding. See for example two recent discussions, here and here. Could China embargo EV battery? Another development associated with Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan that seems to have escaped mainstream media’s attention is the Chinese company Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL) putting on hold its plan to build a plant in the US until the dust settles from her tour. CATL is the world’s largest maker of batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) and the owner of world-leading battery technology. Vehicles using its battery pack can go more than 965 kilometers per charge. Its current battery offers four main advantages: safety, long lifespan, high energy, and fast charging ability. The founder and chairman of CATL, Robin Zeng, has a PhD in condensed-matter physics. In an interview, he indicated that his company has two groundbreaking batteries under development ready for imminent market introduction. As of May this year, CATL had the largest market share in China’s EV battery market of 45.85%, and as of 2021, it had a global market share of 32.6%. CATL had been looking at potential sites in the US states of South Carolina and Kentucky to build an EV battery plant to supply Ford and BMW. It’s probably unlikely, but Beijing could decide to reply in kind and deny America’s access to China’s advanced technology and order CATL to abort plans to invest in the US. Or, on the other hand, US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer could express concerns that a Chinese battery under the hood could be used as a listening device to spy for China, the same logic he expressed on subway cars from China.

Monday, August 8, 2022

What has ‘champion of democracy’ wrought? Nancy Pelosi’s welcome to Taiwan was far from unanimous, and her ‘support for human rights’ is in question in her home city

First posted in Asia Times. This first of three on Pelosi's trip to Taiwan. Despite earnest counsel from many quarters against going to Taiwan, including threatening warnings of dire consequences from Beijing, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, insisted on making the trip. She landed in Taipei in pitch-black conditions near midnight on Tuesday. Her plane landed on the little-used Songshan Airport close to the Taipei city center. The runway and other lights on the ground were lowered just in case. Her flight path from Malaysia took an exaggerated circular route over Indonesia and then around the east coast of the Philippines and landed in Taipei from the east. Thus she completely avoided China’s airspace over the South China Sea and the Chinese coastline. Her flight took significantly longer than if she had simply flown directly by line of sight from Kuala Lumpur to Taipei. Apparently, an exact replica of the military aircraft did take off from KL hours earlier and flew directly to Taipei. We have to wonder how that crew must have felt as a decoy to test the resolve of China’s People’s Liberation Army. American fighter jets took off from the carrier USS Ronald Reagan to provide escort service with the help midair-fueling tankers, needed to extend the fighters’ limited range. As Pelosi’s plane approach Taiwan airspace, Taiwan-based jets took over the escort service. Happily, Pelosi’s plane landed without incident. So, other than burnishing her credentials as a champion of democracy and human rights – subject to further discussion later – what has her tour accomplished? Well, President Tsai Ing-wen awarded Pelosi with the Order of Propitious Clouds, Taiwan’s highest civilian order. And the award came with a pretty turquoise sash worn across the body as if she were Miss California. In fact, the pro-Democratic Progressive Party faction of the Taiwan media gushed enthusiastically over the beauty of Pelosi when she was young, repeatedly showing a photo of her standing with then-president John F Kennedy, who was giving her an appreciative ogle. Other members of the Taiwan media were less complimentary and flattering. One commentator observed that Pelosi promised more security for Taiwan. Yet as a result of her visit, the tension across the Strait has heightened, and now people in Taiwan face frequent fighter-jet incursions from the mainland. Taiwan has become less secure. Another said that the cross-Strait problems should have been left to the two sides to resolve and not commandeered by the US. Now, he lamented, “We have been reduced to a chess piece between two great powers.” Yet another asked the rhetorical question: “Can Taiwan become the next Ukraine?” Heretofore, we have been secure and peaceful and faced no risk of war across the Strait, he said. But the Western media are pushing Taiwan to the front line of conflict. The response from the mainland was for its customs authority to announce suspension of imports from Taiwan encompassing more than 3,000 products, most of which are foodstuffs and agricultural goods. The announcement came on the eve of Pelosi’s arrival and will likely incur heavy losses and put a dent in the trade surplus Taiwan normally enjoys. Pelosi throws the party, Taiwan foots the bill Tsai’s government is supposed to have realized the possible consequential fallout of heavy economic losses and had quietly asked Pelosi if she could consider not coming, but to no avail. It’s not as if Pelosi was unaware of the potential damage and negative consequences of her visit. On the eve of her departure from the US, voters in her own congressional district demonstrated in front of her office asking her not to visit Taiwan. She also elicited vocal protest in Taipei after her arrival. One sign read, “War Speaker Pelosi get out of Taipei.” Laotaipo, “old woman,” is one of the nicer name-callings for her. Less kind, some thought of the US military transport as her personal broom to fly into Taipei. China’s show of displeasure came with the announced live-fire drills commencing shortly after Pelosi’s departure for South Korea. The drills will in essence surround the entire island and threaten Taiwan in every direction. Pelosi’s visit has given China an excuse to do a practice run for a potential future invasion. No wonder Republican members of Congress, while enthusiastically encouraging her and voicing their support for her trip to Taiwan, all found reasons to stay home and not join her. Only former secretary of state Mike Pompeo volunteered to make it a bipartisan tour, but apparently no one cared for his company. One final measure of the popularity of Pelosi’s foray to Taiwan is South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol informing her that he is on vacation and can’t take the time to see her. Since being elected president, it took less than three months for Yoon’s popularity to drop below 30%. He could see the reaction Pelosi got from Taiwan and saw no upside for him to meet with her. Pelosi has represented the city of San Francisco in Congress for well over three decades. During this time, she has risen in seniority to become the Speaker of the House, two steps from the presidency. She has also taken on the mantle as a champion of democracy and human rights. In her more than 30 years of public service, we have seen the institution of democracy in America erode and deteriorate to the point of gridlock and impasse. True, it would not be fair to blame it all on her. It took many petty politicians to make the mess that we Americans are in, but she is one of them. During her term of office, the blight of her district has worsened every year. San Francisco has become the major city with the worst homeless problem in all of the US. The sidewalks, doorways and public areas are just gross beyond description. Nancy Pelosi apparently cares about human rights as far away as China but not much in San Francisco.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Open letter to Nancy Pelosi - If you step over the red line China has laid down, it can’t back down and not react

Watch Cyrus Janssen discuss the letter. Dear Nancy, In 1991, you were a member of the Congressional party invited to Beijing as guests of the Chinese government. There you held a well-planned “impromptu” press conference in Tiananmen Square where you unfurled a banner proclaiming “Human Rights in China.” A group of members of the western media patiently waited for you to break off from your official host and show up. That was just simply brilliant. The show-and-tell established your credentials as a human rights advocate. As a newly elected member of Congress, the publicity certainly didn’t hurt your chances of getting re-elected. Of course, the Chinese government probably regarded your breach of protocol as rude and uncouth, but hey, that was their problem. Now rumors have it that you are planning to visit Taiwan in August. A lot has changed since your trip to China more than 30 years ago. The Taiwan media are all in a tizzy asking each other, “Who invited Nancy Pelosi? After all, Taiwan isn’t some American offshore possession that Nancy can come and go as she pleases.” To paraphrase one of the commentators, “Doesn’t she understand that we can’t stand the excitement and tension of her visit?” “Most people of Taiwan,” he continues, “like the relations with the mainland just the way it is. Peaceful, stable, quiet and we sell a lot of our stuff across the Taiwan Straits, to the tune of over $100 billion in surplus every year.” Some say that you are visiting Taiwan to encourage the Taipei government to start a fight with the mainland. The people of Taiwan have seen how the U.S. has been helping Ukraine in their fight with Russia and they don’t want any part of that setup. Before the Ukraine war, around 60% of the people of Taiwan were sure that the American soldiers would join the fight in their defense. Now that number has fallen to around 30%. Maybe the publicity of your visit to Taiwan, daring the Peoples’ Republic of China to respond, will help your party in the midterm November election. However, you are now the Speaker of the House and two steps away from the presidency. Like it or not, your actions represent the official position of our country. If you step over the red line China has laid down, it can’t back down and not react. We don’t know what their response will be but it will be dangerous—potentially explosive, in fact. As a loyal American, I humbly ask for your careful consideration for the sake of world peace and your personal safety. Best person regards, George Koo The writer of this letter is a retired business consultant, resides in California and is deeply worried about the future of America.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Sputnik moment isn’t what it used to be

The first one in 1957 spurred the US on to technological greatness; now, China’s progress spurs stagnation and indolence First posted in Asia Times. When China successfully tested a hypersonic weapon system in October 2021, General Mark A Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this was very close to a “Sputnik moment.” The first Sputnik moment took place on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union surprised Washington by sending aloft the world’s first man-made satellite, called Sputnik 1. All of a sudden, the heretofore assumed technological superiority that Americans thought they had over the Soviets vanished overnight. Public panic fueled by fear and loathing became a national crisis. For the rest of that October, The New York Times talked about the Soviet satellite, on average, in 11 articles every day. The US under president Dwight Eisenhower responded promptly to the Sputnik moment. He ordered the formation of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in February 1958 to develop emerging technologies for the military. In July, he signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act to create NASA. Response to Sputnik challenge Congress quickly followed by passing the National Defense Education Act to pour billions of dollars into the American education system and raise the quality and quantity of university graduates in science, mathematics and engineering. By the time the USSR sent Yuri Gagarin into orbit on April 12, 1961, the US was ready for the space race and set putting man on the moon as the goal. The culmination was the worldwide televised moon landing of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin from Apollo 11 in July 1969. DARPA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration generated many noteworthy technological breakthroughs, and many of those were spun off into civilian uses. Some directly or indirectly became home-run investments that nurtured an emerging venture-capital industry. The budget appropriations for the National Science Foundation created by Congress in 1950 were boosted every year to encourage scientific research in academia and research institutes. The 1970s were undoubtedly the golden decade for America. Then-president Richard Nixon went to China in 1972, which later led to normalization of relations between the two countries. The endless war ended in Vietnam. America led in virtually every field of science and technology. The fruit orchards south of San Francisco became the now famous Silicon Valley. The US claimed ownership of most of the top universities in the world. International students all over the world aspire to do postgraduate studies in America. A flood of the best and brightest from China began in the 1990s. US won the rivalry over Soviet Union America had risen to the challenge of the Sputnik moment, and it was easy to be a proud American. The American people celebrated the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and looked forward to a forthcoming “peace dividend” with enthusiasm and anticipation. Tragically, the dividend never materialized. Instead, the draft of the Wolfowitz Doctrine in 1992 became the guiding framework for future White House administrations. Paul Wolfowitz, undersecretary of defense at the time, was the principal author of the doctrine. As summarized by the documentary program Frontline, the essential points of the doctrine were: The No 1 objective of the US post-Cold War strategy is to prevent the emergence of a rival superpower. Another major objective is to safeguard US interests and promote American values. If necessary, the United States must be prepared to take unilateral action. The legacy of this doctrine has been America’s unilateral action in Iraq, Libya and many other less publicized overthrows or interference of regimes not to US liking. The price was the loss of millions of innocent lives. “Safeguard our interests and promote American values” are invariably part of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks supporting his justification for the threat of and actual unilateral action. China became the next designated adversary The doctrine needed a rival to warrant actions to “prevent emergence.” The US branded China as its next threat. To justify the American position, it declared a unilateral trade war and accused China of massive intellectual-property theft. And the US increased its military surveillance off the coast of China and justified increasing its naval presence in the South China Sea as based on “freedom of navigation.” A litany of US provocations succeeded in getting China to respond. One result was the hypersonic weapon system. But this was hardly a Sputnik moment. General Milley’s comment was meant to motivate increase budget allocation for weapon development. However, Washington and the mainstream media seem oblivious that the deliberate provocations have created a formidable opponent. Since the US declared China as an adversary, it has surpassed the US in many technical fields. One response was to deny China access to advanced semiconductor manufacturing technology in order to kneecap its semiconductor industry and cripple its manufacturing that depends on advanced chips. But as David Goldman observed in a recent Asia Times article, “The Biden administration’s belated attempt to suppress China’s semiconductor industry appears to have backfired. China has found workaround technologies that bypass the aging American IP that Washington has embargoed.” By concentrating its national energy and attention on stifling China’s advance, the US has neglected to invest in solutions and remedies that would have raised the well-being of America. We Americans could have raised the living standard of the poor. We could have made universal health care affordable for everyone. We could have repaired our old bridges and highways. We could have strengthened our law and order and made it fair to all regardless of race. We could have invested in our education and in scientific research to ensure our future. We could have done all that and more. Instead, we experienced more than 30 years of stagnation and indolence because of the US determination to rule the world.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Disintegration of unipolar world begins

The only sensible course of action for the US is to collaborate with China and find mutually beneficial outcomes First posted in Asia Times. In April, I was invited to speak about the US-China bilateral relationship. For the title of the speech, I chose, “Pushing China’s head under water won’t make American great again.” Recent developments suggest that an updated title would be, “Pushing China’s head under water will hasten America’s own demise.” There are two reasons for fine-tuning my title. First, the United States’ deliberate tactics to obstruct China’s growth and expansion have failed miserably while inflicting more hardship on Americans. The American people are paying a ghastly price for Washington’s obsession with China. Second, priorities of America’s foreign policy are not making any sense. The most recent example is the announcement by President Joe Biden that the US will contribute $200 billion to the G7 pool of funds to compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It’s hard to tell where Biden is going to find the money. Even if all Group of Seven nations contribute their share of funds, it’ll be even harder to figure out to how they can implement BRI-like projects in the developing world. Most probably they would have to subcontract work to China, which knows how to implement it. On top of Biden’s dream of grandeur, he is sending billions’ worth of arms and weapons to Ukraine to prolong the conflict with Russia. Bipartisan approval is easy when it comes to making war. By contrast, to relieve the inflationary pressure on the American domestic economy, Biden is proposing to forgive 18 cents per gallon (4.76 cents per liter) of federal tax on gasoline for the three summer months. Wow. Billions to compete with China and Russia and an 18-cent discount for the American motorist. In California, a gallon of gasoline has gone over $6 ($1.59 a liter). Saving 18 cents per gallon from a fill-up will barely cover the cost of a cup of coffee. In the US, prices of everything are going up; inflation looms. Nay, inflation at 8.8% is already the highest in 40 years. Soon the American motorist won’t even get a cup of coffee from his gas-tax saving. Biden does not deny that Americans are facing inflation. He blames the inflation on Russian President Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine. He urges the American public to endure this “for as long as it takes” in order to defeat Putin – hardly encouraging words. Of course, most American people are not aware that it has been the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization that baited Putin over the decades into the war with Ukraine. Washington has since congratulated itself for successfully mounting a proxy war – getting Ukrainians to fight the Russians. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin even explained that the war meets the objective to wear down the strength of Russia – albeit at the expense of Ukrainian casualties and property. Having successfully pushed Russia into invading Ukraine, NATO celebrated with a summit at the end of June where Sweden and Finland were formally inducted as new members. At the same time as having pushed Russia into a closer relationship with China, the organization accused China of not condemning Russia and therefore not standing with NATO. NATO is afraid of China At this NATO summit, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea were invited as observers, as a signal that NATO’s expansion plans now include the North Pacific. Just to make sure nobody misses that intention, for the first time NATO identified China as a potential adversary and a “systematic challenge.” So, what constitutes China’s threat to the security of NATO members? Apparently it is the fact that China has dominated manufacturing of goods at prices that the West cannot compete with. China’s GDP continues to grow, and that makes NATO members nervous. The West led by the US has repeatedly accused China of violating “rule-based international order.” The most recent action by the Biden White House was to impose sanctions on goods made in Xinjiang, alleging human-rights abuses there. In response, China, on the day after the conclusion of the NATO summit, announced the placement of an entire order for 292 commercial jetliners worth more than $37 billion with Airbus, the European consortium, and none to Boeing, the other major maker. This was a harsh, attention-getting message from China in response to Biden’s endless innuendos and baseless insults and a signal that China is ready to play hardball. All of Beijing’s past diplomacy seems to be misinterpreted by Antony Blinken et al as being soft. The Blinken team in the State Department seem to think they can cherry-pick issues to work with China on the one hand and otherwise castigate Beijing with a recitation of imagined violations of international rules. No more, says Beijing. Boeing recently made a market projection that China’s future demand for passenger jetliners was 8,700 planes worth $1.5 trillion over the next 20 years. If the US is determined to decouple from China, Boeing faces a bleak future in China. China offers EU partnership China’s other message is to the countries in the European Union, many of which are members of NATO. The Airbus order reaffirmed that China can be a major economic partner and poses no threat to the security of the EU. Inflation in the EU is rapidly getting out of control because of the war in Ukraine and the US-imposed sanctions on Russia. If Biden thought he was driving a stake into the heart of Russia’s economy, he miscalculated. Putin turned around and pegged Russia’s energy exports to the ruble. Consequently, the value of the ruble against the euro has reached a seven-year high. The artificial shortage in world oil caused by the US sanctions on Russian oil has not hurt Russia. It makes money selling its oil to China, India and other buyers at higher prices. Concurrently, the US and UK as oil exporters are also making money because of the shortage they created. However, major nations in the EU, especially France, Germany and Italy, are energy importers and they are beginning to question the wisdom of following the US leadership, which seems to work in favor of the US and UK at the expense of the EU. Such doubts were accentuated when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently announced that his country needs aid to the tune of $5 billion per month to survive and keep operating. On top of refugees, shortages of staples, and inflationary pressures, the EU leaders have to worry as to whether Uncle Sam will pick up the tab or pass it on to the EU. The world is beginning to see the difference between currencies based on assets and the American dollar based on the “full faith and credit” of the US government, in other words, the Federal Reserve’s printing press. Central banks of various countries are beginning to lighten their dollar holdings in favor of other reserve currencies, the most popular being China’s renminbi. According to the International Monetary Fund, the US dollar’s share of total global currency reserves has fallen to its lowest point in more than two decades. To take advantage of the availability of Russian oil at favorable discount, India entered a rupee-to-ruble deal and get around paying in dollars. For the first time, India also bought coal from Russia with the Chinese renminbi. BRICS as another pole While the G7 and then the NATO summit meetings took place in Europe, it was China’s turn to host the BRICS summit, which it did virtually. At the 2022 summit, Beijing invited many non-member countries as observers. Formed in 2009, BRICS consists of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. It is not a military alliance but is meant to promote collaboration for peace, security and global economic development. Compared with the G7, BRICS has three times the population but only about 70% of the G7’s GDP. At the 2022 summit, Argentina and Iran formally applied to join BRICS. Adjusted for purchasing parity, the GDP for BRICS+ would surpass the G7. And there is a proposal afoot to create a new global reserve currency based on a basket of BRICS+ currencies as an alternative to the US dollar. Rather than going around the world collecting military allies and imposing sanctions on countries that do not wish to align with the US, China invites partners to collaborate on mutually beneficial basis. Since it was initiated in 2013, China’s Belt and Road Initiative has launched more than 13,000 projects in 165 countries valued at nearly a trillion dollars. Most of the BRI projects have to do with upgrading badly needed infrastructure, which leads directly to a boost in the recipient country’s economy. There is now a high-speed rail linkage from China through Central Asia to Moscow and on to Rotterdam on the Atlantic coast. Twenty-five out of 31 Latin American countries are participants in the BRI, as is most of Africa. At the just-concluded Group of Twenty summit, the divide between the US-led Western bloc and China, Russia and the non-aligned members of the G20 became quite clear. The summit concluded without the usual group photo of smiling state leaders and no joint declarations expressing optimistic steps for the future. The Biden administration and the US Congress remain convinced that the way to suppress China from making economic progress is to deny it access to American technology and knowhow. As all nations know well from their own development history, among them Japan and the US, borrowing and copying from more advanced nations can only be a beginning. Unless they can build from there and innovate and originate their own breakthroughs, they will always be me-too laggards. Every year, China graduates eight times as many students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) than the US. These human resources power developments in high technology. The more pressure the US exerts to stifle China’s advance, the more determined the Chinese will be to find their own technical advances and skirt around American roadblocks. In some fields, China has caught up with and even surpassed the US. China is already the world leader in electric vehicles and the battery technology for the EVs, in fifth-generation and the future 6G in telecommunications and quantum computing, just to name a few examples. China’s latest aircraft carrier has an electromagnetic catapult system on par with the one on USS Gerald R Ford, the newest US carrier. China has demonstrated a hypersonic missile while US manufacturers are still tinkering with theirs. Despite the US-mounted trade war that “punished” Beijing with tariffs on imports, China has continued to expand exports and the trade surplus with the US has actually grown rather than lessened. The real impact was to raise the cost of living for the American public. The US has wasted a lot of energy and resources trying to suppress China’s rise. It hasn’t worked, and it won’t work in the future. With four times the population, China’s GDP exceeding that of the US is inevitable. If on the other hand the US should succeed in provoking a conflict with China, the Americans will rue that day, and most likely so will the world. Can US and China find common ground? The only sensible course of action is to collaborate with China and find mutually beneficial outcomes. As Asia Times recently urged, “there is a wide field for potential cooperation that would benefit both countries and give the United States more room to back out of the stagflation trap in which it finds itself presently.” On the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Blinken held a five-hour conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The purpose was to pave the way for a future meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The tone from Blinken was that US would like to restart a friendlier and more positive bilateral dialogue. China’s reply was that this is easy to do. To begin, all the US has to do is to recant all the lies, disavow the nasty rhetoric and stop blackening China. Whether Blinken and Biden will see the wisdom of non-confrontation and choose win-win outcomes in place of zero-sum results remains a question. Maybe we’ll know more after the two leaders meet.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

What I've learned from the January 6 hearing

When my mother and me and my siblings arrived in the US in 1949, my father met us at the airport. At that time he had been in the US for three years studing for his PhD. We were overjoyed to see him and he us. Dad said to me, "George, you have entered the land of golden opportunity and a chance to live the American dream." For most of my life, it was a dream come true. I had indeed landed in the best of two worlds. No more. The House January 6 Committee public hearing is telling us how close America came to lose our civil liberties and witness the Constitution torn to shred. Incredibly enough, elected officials and politicians wilfully ignored the rule of law just to cater to the personal desires and ego of one person, Donald Trump. I cannot believe that one blowhard can stage a revolution, get away with sedition and came close to overthrowing the US government. It saddens me terribly to see a post WWII golden age America turn into a fail state in my lifetime. God save America. Nobody else can.

Biden’s policy toward China is a road to self-destruction

This was first posted in Asia Times. President Joe Biden’s administration appears determined to project the image that United States remains the world’s hegemon regardless of cost or consequences and despite overwhelming developments around the globe that are contrary to such misguided hubris. The American leadership has always rested on the carrot-and-stick approach to rally countries around a unipolar world headed by the US. The carrot is in the form of foreign aid Uncle Sam dangles before a country as reward for joining the American camp. The stick is the threat of economic disengagement and sanctions and the withholding of military protection, thus stripping away that nation’s sense of security. Since the financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent quantitative easing by printing billions of dollars to keep the US economy afloat, the economic might and stability of the American monetary system is not what it used to be in the minds of many nations. When the Biden White House unilaterally confiscates foreign reserves owned by other countries but held in the US, such as in the cases of Afghanistan and Russia, the reputation of the US as a fiduciary is in doubt. The full faith in and credit of the US government cease to mean very much to the world. Thus the carrot has dried and withered, and after the 20-year war and debacle in Afghanistan, the stick Uncle Sam carries appears to have shriveled and is not so intimidating. Sending arms but no troops to Ukraine merely confirms America’s preference for war by proxy with little appetite for direct engagement. Bully on the block Yet the Biden team seems oblivious to the erosion of the US stature as the world leader but insists on going around the world approaching each country and demanding that it choose sides and align with the American geopolitical positions. The US has elected to designate China as its adversary for the foreseeable future. For allies and would-be allies to side with the US means they must also regard China as their adversary as well. The American demand places these countries in a dilemma, because regarding China as an adversary is in conflict with their own national interests. China is most likely their most important trading partner and a potential major investor and major supporter in the building infrastructure under the Belt and Road Initiative. China has expressed no interest in displacing the US to become the world hegemon and places no demand or expectation that countries choose sides. Friendship with China does not discourage or preclude friendship with the US. Beijing’s style of international diplomacy makes it easy for countries to get along with China and with the US while demurring from being a fully committed formal member of the American alliance. The Summit of the Americas held in Los Angeles this month hosted by President Biden is just the latest indication. Many Latin American countries including Mexico found reasons not to attend. Nothing like throwing a party that used to be a must-show event that nations now decide to bypass. Russia proposes New Group of Eight The Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin suggested recently that the G7 nations – once considered the world’s leading economies – are continuing “to crack under the weight of sanctions imposed against Russia,” obviously referring to the sacrifice of their economic self-interest in order to meet the demands of the US. Most other nations will have nothing to do with the American-imposed sanctions against Russia. From the non-compliant group of nations, Volodin proposes the formation of a “New Group of Eight” as counterweight to the G7. He selects Russia, China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Iran and Turkey as members of NG8. Volodin reasons that this group of eight countries with a combined GDP (measured in purchasing power parity – PPP) is 24.4% larger than that of the G7 nations. Furthermore, the NG8 contains about half of the world’s population and is much more representative of world opinion and interests. Ironically, Russia left the G7 group in 2014 and is now the promoter of NG8. This development can only be attributed to American insistence on remaining on top of a unipolar world, a unipolar world vaporizing Star Trek-style as we speak. The Biden White House seems to think it has succeeded in getting Ukraine to go into war with Russia and is willing to send another $40 billion worth of weapons to Kiev to enable it to fight to the last Ukrainian. They now think that they can persuade Taiwan to do the same, namely, provoke China into conflict. To provoke war with China, the Taipei government would have to declare independence. Washington has been encouraging the ruling Democratic Progressive Party to inch toward that red line, selling the party leaders the idea that the US is ready to go to war with Taiwan. However, a majority of people in Taiwan do not find American assurances credible, do not believe Taiwan can win a proxy war against China, and cannot justify the death and destruction it would entail just to make Washington happy. The people in Taiwan also find it inconceivable that the Chinese would actually attack their own people on Taiwan. China ready to go to war over Taiwan In the meantime, Beijing has invoked the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and declared that the waters of the Taiwan Strait are within the territorial waters of China. Henceforth, any vessels belonging to foreign countries that sail between the mainland and Taiwan and challenge the sovereignty of China will be subject to attack without notice. China is a signatory of UNCLOS while the US is not. Beijing has drawn the red line based on international law. Continued provocation by American officials in Taiwan will put US vessels in the Taiwan Strait in jeopardy. The Beijing expression of its intentions is as stark and unequivocal as it can be. The next move will be up to the Pentagon to see if it is willing to test China’s resolve. There can be no question that China would rather fire on the US Navy than threaten Taiwan with missiles. Heretofore, Biden has depended on creating more money out of thin air to keep the American economy going. Printing money has been so easy that sending $40 billion to Ukraine seems pain-free. Conflict over Taiwan and waters around there, however, would surely lead to a meltdown of the Fed printing press.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Pushing China's head under water won't make America great again

The future of our young generations is at stake. This is a presentation before the Chinese American Association at Rossmoor (CAAR) on April 11, 2022. Introduction begins around the 2 minute mark.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Blowbacks from Ukraine war will be deadly serious

First posted in Asia Times. Rampant inflation, a damaged dollar, and the threat of wider conflict are among the perils awaiting the world As the war in Ukraine rolls into its second month, the fog (of war) is beginning to lift and certain troubling conclusions emerge into view. Ominously, some are consequential threats to the future existence of the world as we know it. It’s increasingly obvious that the war was provoked by the US and that the US has a vested interest in keeping the conflict going. No members of President Joe Biden’s administration talk about ending the war, only about providing more arms for the Ukrainians to keep fighting, and to impose more sanctions on Russia. Biden has declared that the purpose of levying sanctions on top of sanctions on Russia was to inflict pain on the country to the point that the Russian people will revolt and overthrow President Vladimir Putin from power. As the world has learned from previous experiences of countries that faced the full fury of American wrath, Cuba, Iran and Venezuela to mention a few, sanctions represent a blunt and non-discriminating instrument of torture. The elites of the target nation might feel some pain but innocent civilians, especially women and children, suffer the most from the deprivations resulting from the sanctions. Rather than turning the people against their leaders, the external cause of pain can become a rallying focus for their leader and turn the resentment toward the perpetrator. Over time, the victimized people learn to make do with less and stiffen their resolve to stand up to the external bully. Also, in order for any sanction to become a potent weapon, it needs virtually universal support from the community of nations. Thus US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other senior officials have been scurrying around to hector friend and foe alike into joining the sanctions on Russia. Most not buying the American sanctions The response has been a great disappointment to Washington. Brazil, India and South Africa have elected to stand by Russia as fellow members of BRICS. Even Mexico has demurred and not joined the American-led sanctions. A spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin, was tactless enough to point out that 140 members of the United Nations have not signed on. In other words, more than half of the world’s population is not joining the sanctions on Russia. Along with oil and natural gas, Russia is a major supplier of wheat and other agricultural products and fertilizers. Prohibition of Russia from participating in the world market will create shortages and inflationary prices. Not only does Biden expect his American public willingly to bear the economic pain caused by the collateral impact of his sanctions, he also expects the Europeans to go along, notwithstanding that their cost of living will go through the roof. The European Union depends on Russia for 40% of its natural gas and 27% of its oil. Germany is especially dependent on Russia as its major supplier of energy. One has to wonder how long the EU will squirm under US unilateral foreign policy. Rampant inflation will lead to civil unrest and tear the European alliance apart. A weakened Europe unable to get along with Russia would minimize the EU’s claim as one of the poles in a multipolar world. Eliminating the EU as a rival happens to fit the White House design to regain world domination. Even though Biden admits that sanctions do not deter, he freezes Russia’s international reserves. Then he chooses to accentuate the pressure on Putin by ordering the seizure of private property, such as US$100 million yachts, from selected Russian oligarchs, and removing Russia from the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) international financial transfer system, in effect removing Russia from global commerce. After Biden’s announcement, the value of the ruble plummeted through the floor and the US and its allies crowed in delight. Then Putin declared that he would accept payment only in rubles for the sale of Russian natural gas and oil to “unfriendly” countries. Later, he broadened that to include accepting gold for payment at the exchange rate of 5,000 rubles to one gram of gold. Trust in the dollar eroding With the linking of the Russian currency to real assets, the world has a choice on whether to trust the ruble or the full faith and backing of the US government on the value of the dollar. Apparently, confidence in the ruble was quickly restored, as the exchange rate against the dollar bounced back to near pre-war level. The unilateral and arbitrary actions of the Biden administration are raising doubts about the reliability of commitments from the US. India is one example. Not even Japan’s offer (as a proxy for the US) of a $43 billion investment over a five-year period can tempt Prime Minister Narendra Modi into joining the sanctions. Instead, Modi is negotiating a rupees-for-rubles deal for Russian oil. Even before the war in Ukraine, Russia had struck a deal to supply natural gas and oil to China based on the renminbi. Saudi Arabia has also hedged and agreed to sell oil to China on payment of the yuan instead of the dollar. Biden’s sanctions on Russia clearly drive home the lesson that no sovereign foreign reserve is safe in the hands of banks in the US or the UK, but is subject to seizure at the whim of the those governments. The American public may not yet fully appreciate that the one consequential blowback of this is a worldwide loss of confidence in the dollar, a currency not pegged to gold or any real asset and the belief that the US remains a safe place to leave one’s money. If and when the US is no longer perceived to be a safe place to park a country’s foreign reserve or a tycoon’s private wealth, the dollar will cease to be a reserve currency of any value. The dollar not being worth the paper it is printed on will lead to the collapse of the US economy, which can be directly blamed on Biden’s folly. China works on negotiation to peace While the mainstream media in the West focused on Putin’s naked incursion into Ukraine, there were some that documented the step-by-step aggression of the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that led to war. The alleged motive for the aggression was to provoke Russia into a war. The war was to bleed and weaken Russia into a pushover state for the US. Small wonder then that when Blinken asked China to join the sanctions on Russia, he got a polite but blank stare. He must have assumed the Chinese were too stupid to understand that after the collapse of Russia, China would be next in Uncle Sam’s gunsight. In contrast with Biden’s foreign policy, Chinese President Xi Jinping contacted Putin on the day after the Russian incursion into Ukraine to propose commencing negotiations with Ukraine for a peaceful settlement. Distinct from the US, the UK and NATO, China has been quietly working with France and Germany to promote a negotiation process that would lead to peace. The most recent meeting held in Istanbul was the fourth in a series of parleys to discuss a ceasefire. As host, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been following and reporting on the progress of the negotiations. Despite Western media accusations of genocide and war atrocities, Putin has apparently been careful to limit civilian casualties. As former ambassador and US official Chas Freeman has pointed out, the ratio of civilian casualties from the Ukraine conflict to military casualties has been one-tenth of that normally found in a typical war. Newsweek reported a US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst as saying, “I know that the news keeps repeating that Putin is targeting civilians, but there is no evidence that Russia is intentionally doing so. In fact, I’d say that Russian could be killing thousands more civilians if it wanted to.” Yet Blinken had the temerity of wanting to charge Putin with war crimes without any sense of irony. So far, no one has accused Putin of indiscriminate carpet-bombing, drone strikes on wedding parties or waterboarding of prisoners of war. All are war crimes that Americans could have been charged with but have not. Another indicator that Putin’s objective in Ukraine was to reach a negotiated settlement was the report that the Russian military had agreed to release the mayor of the occupied Ukrainian city of Slavutych in exchange for removing arms within the city and for the Russian soldiers to leave. Hardly the action of anyone planning on a long-term occupation. One media source reported that prior to the breakout of hostilities, Moscow had submitted a draft proposal for a new mutual security treaty between Russia and NATO, with nine articles to be negotiated. But the Biden administration brushed off Russia’s entire proposal as a non-starter, not even a basis for negotiations. Given the Biden administration’s attitude about extending the conflict for as long as possible, it would be reasonable to speculate, as the two parties approach a peaceful settlement, whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky could run the risk of assassination by either a radical Nazi hit squad from within or by an outside CIA sniper. Kinzhal the dagger To show Russia is no mere paper tiger, it fired a hypersonic missile, which it calls Kinzhal, from the Black Sea across Ukraine that penetrated and exploded in an underground arms and munition depot in Ivano-Frankivsk region in western Ukraine. This depot was supposed to be hardened to resist a direct hit by a nuclear blast. The Kinzhal, Russian for “dagger,” is an air-to-surface missile that the Russian military claims can travel at more than 10 times the speed of sound and has a range of 1,930 kilometers. One reason for firing the missile was to tell the Pentagon that it had greatly underestimated Russia’s capability. As the publishers of Asia Times have written (Biden’s living a dangerous fantasy), Putin has repeatedly warned the US that the Russian bear will not be cattle-prodded into a corner but will pre-emptively launch the first nuclear strike if baited. Apparently, the Biden administration is not ready to back down and lose face. Thus the second consequential blowback from Ukraine is America’s evident willingness to collide with Russia at full tilt, even risking a worldwide nuclear holocaust. If the US does not succeed in knocking Russia back to the Stone Age, then what will Biden do with China? First, the US can continue to pressure China with the threat of sanctions. However, if sanctions will not cause Russia to bend to America’s will, China is even less likely to feel intimidated. After the financial crisis of 2008, China could see the shakiness of the dollar – a currency that depended on quantitative easing, that is, on the US Federal Reserve’s printing press running wild – and began to enter currency swap agreements with other countries. A swap agreement allows two trading partners to pay each other in their own currency and not have to settle in dollars. At last count, 40 countries have such agreements in place with China. Since China has become the leading trading partner of virtually every nation in the world, the US is even less likely to find many interested in joining any American boycott of doing business with China, were the US foolish enough to try. China counters US sanctions on Xinjiang But sure enough, the Biden administration has tried, by banning the import of cotton from Xinjiang. In response, China has mandated that all face masks for export must be made with cotton from Xinjiang. Biden has also forbidden the import of any products made in Xinjiang. In response, China has consolidated all its rare-earth mining companies into one holding company and registered it in Xinjiang. The US can probably get along without masks from China but will find it a real challenge without rare-earth metals and minerals. There’s a Chinese saying: “For every ploy, there is (always) a counter.” Second, the skill level of Biden’s team of diplomats is no match for China. When Blinken and company come calling, their message has been a consistent one: Follow our lead or else we will subject you to sanctions beyond your imagination. Nothing subtle or nuanced in their message, nor any offer of incentive to go along, just arrogance. Chinese diplomats do not go around threatening military action or sanctions. They offer collaboration in the spirit of their Belt and Road Initiative. China’s recent interaction with India comes to mind. On the eve of a scheduled visit to India by a UK delegation led by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also came calling. The UK group intended to lecture their former colony on the need to join the sanctions against Russia. Instead, the Indian government abruptly canceled the UK visit, but welcomed the visit by Wang. Wang went to India to indicate that the two nations’ border dispute can be resolved amicably and pale in importance compared with the need to unite and stand up to the hegemony of US/UK/NATO. India, having had a full dose of the Pentagon’s insulting arrogance, listened. Both Russia and India have tried to integrate with the West and failed. Now it’s time to look east and align with East and Central Asia. If the threat of sanctions against Beijing rings hollow, could the Biden administration replace Ukraine with Taiwan to push China into war over the island? Many in the mainstream media have suggested that pushing Russia to invade Ukraine was a dress rehearsal for doing the same with China, namely getting China to invade Taiwan. Is Taiwan China’s Ukraine? Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and others have suggested that the sure way to provoke China into war was officially to declare recognition of Taiwan as an independent and sovereign nation. Such a declaration would be to ignore the one-China principle that Taiwan is part of China and would violate China’s sovereignty and international rule and order. Of course, trampling on established international order has never bothered the US. The only order that the US respects is the set of rules set by the US. For certain, such open support for Taiwan’s independence would raise the tension between the US and China by orders of magnitude. But to light the spark of conflict, Washington would have to persuade Taipei to initiate military hostility. According to a poll taken in Taiwan recently, after witnessing how the US provoked the Russian incursion into Ukraine and then watched the war on the sidelines, only one-third of Taiwanese are confident they will receive direct US military support in the event of a Chinese invasion. One in six fears they will have to fight alone. This represents a sharp decline by almost half from a survey taken six months earlier. Hard to imagine that the people in Taiwan would want to see their island turn into another Ukraine. China also claims to own hypersonic weapons, but we have not seen a demonstration of the capability of its version of a “Chinese dagger.” But we do know that China is developing carriers on high-speed rail to keep its nuclear missiles on the move. The idea of moving the nukes on China’s high-speed rail network is similar to putting nukes in submarines. Namely, keep them moving to raise the likelihood of surviving a surprise attack and retain the ability to strike back. Unlike Putin, China is not ready to depart from its long-standing policy on “no first use” but will endeavor to keeping its sting potent. The American public must wake up to full realization that the third consequential blowback is the willingness of the political leaders in Washington to risk nuclear war in order to assert hegemonic superiority over China and the world. The Chinese have a saying, hui tou shi an (回头是岸), meaning “turn your head to see the shore.” In order to turn America back to the direction of peace, the American voters must be alert to the danger the world is confronting and exercise their rights to vote the rascals out. That means all of them, regardless of their party affiliation, so long as they yearn for war. We stand at a dangerous junction in history. Let us hope the world will live to see a brighter tomorrow. This song, "War Machine" says it all.