Monday, September 22, 2008

Chen Shui Bian's Next to Last Strategy

A classic in Chinese culture is the collection known as the 36 strategies. One of the 36 is the so-called battered flesh (苦肉计, 'kurouji') strategy. The famous example of this strategy can be found in the Romance of the Three Kingdom, in which the greatly outnumbered Wu forces needed to persuade the superior Wei forces to adopt a losing battle plan. They accomplished the goal by sending a pretend defector to the Wei camp. To make the defection look real, the Wu commander had the defector beaten in front of eye witnesses on some trumped up charges. When the defector arrived in the opposing camp, the Wei generals had already heard about his mistreatment at the hands of Wu commander and welcomed him into their confidence. Thus when he suggested a battle plan desired by the Wu camp, it was accepted without suspicion.

It appears that in Taiwan, Chen Shui Bian is heading toward a kurouji of his own. In his case, his wife, Mme Wu, is being set up to carry this off. To date, she has pled frail health as the reason she has turned down at least 17 summons to appear in court and testify on her own defense regarding the illicit transfer of funds to overseas bank accounts. According to Chen, the wheelchair bound Mme Wu has recently fainted more than once, whenever she faced the prospects of having to appear.

The Taiwan authorities are less than sympathetic and threatened to force her to appear. Chen claims that such a forced appearance would surely kill her and thus setting the stage for the ultimate kurouji. In order for her to avoid having to explain to the investigators how she was able to wire transfer more than USD 20 million to Swiss bank accounts without the knowledge of her husband, she may really have to kill herself, or have someone do it for her.

Committing suicide, real or otherwise, would solve a lot of problems for Chen. Her real role in the Chen family money laundering schemes would remain in the dark. Just as the fortuitous assasination attempt on his tummy on election eve worked to his advantage four years ago, a grief strickened Chen would win him public sympathy--again--and possibly take the pressure off the ongoing investigation.

If the kuruoji does not free Chen from the corruption charges, there is always the most preferred of the 36 strategies. That strategy (走为上计) would be for Chen to get the hell out of Taiwan under the cover of darkness.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

If I were Chen Shui Bian's daughter....

This is the email letter I would write:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I desperately need your assistance to access funds from secret Swiss bank accounts.

You see my father was the former president of Taiwan. Now that he is out of the office, his enemies are persecuting him and hounding him about alleged financial misconduct. The current government is investigating charges that my father illegally laundered at least $31 million to overseas accounts. My father has angrily denied these charges. He will only admit that my mother transferred $20 million to Swiss bank accounts under my sister-in-law's name, but without his knowledge. Of course, every penny of the $20 million are legitimately his, given to him from his multitude of admirers.

Now, my father, mother, brother and others in the immediate family are not allowed to leave Taiwan. Therefore we have no way to access the funds abroad. We need the funds for a variety of reasons. In part for his legal defense, even though he has been very skillful in rallying public opinion to his side. But just in case we need to make a fast get away, the under cover run will be costly and we would need the funds immediately. There is even a chance that my father will run for president again in 2012 and regain the immunity (and impunity) that he once enjoyed. If he does, his old donors may not rush to his aid unless he can show he already has the funds to make a serious attempt.

The shabby treatment of my father knows no limit. There is even a movement to reexamine the assasination attempt on the election eve in 2004, which the accusers claim my father staged to get some last minute sympathy votes. You may know that my father was seriously grazed by the assassin bullet which also wounded vice president Annette Lu on the knee. Fortunately for her, the momemtum of the bullet had been mostly dissipated by the fat of my father's belly. But as you can see, my father's enemies will go to any length to get him.

So please, I need your assistance to withdraw the funds that belong to my family. If you agree to help me, I can promise you a fee of 20% of the millions you help us recover and in any case not less than USD$10 million. If you are interested, please contact me at your earliest convenience.

The letter is, of course, tongue-in-cheek. For a good recent summary of the scandal surrounding Chen, please go here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

China's Nuclear Weapon Development

Recent disclosure indicates that in the late 1980's and early 1990's, scientists from China attending scientific conferences in America came not to steal America's nuclear secrets but to let America in on China's secrets.

The latest expose about China's nuclear weapon development makes for fascinating reading and turns popular notion on its head. Written by Thomas Reed, an expert on nuclear weapons and former Secretary of Air Force, entitled The Chinese nuclear tests, 1964–1996, the article appeared in September 2008 issue of Physics Today.

Reed's article pointed out that China exploded its first atomic bomb on October 16, 1964, and quickly moved to detonate its first hydrogen bomb 32 months later--a rate of progress faster than any other member of the nuclear club and at a time when there were hardly any contact with the West. Subsequently, China decided that America should know about their nuclear capability.

Contrary to Reed's assumption that Chinese scientists craving international recognition was the main motivation for their subsequent disclosure, I believe China decided that Washington needed to be made aware of the level of sophisticated deterrence China was capable of and thus alleviate any miscalculation by the Pentagon.

Reed's article was based on information provided by Danny Stillman, a nuclear weapon scientist based in Los Alamos and charged with the responsibility to gather intelligence about China's nuclear weapon technology.

Stillman eagerly sought meetings with the visiting Chinese. He knew very well that dialogue with scientific peers was frequently the most effective way of learning about what the other side was doing. He struck friendships with the Chinese visitors and was invited to visit China.

Stillman's numerous forays into China opened his eyes. He was impressed with the advanced state of the art technology he witnessed. He compiled what he saw into a book he was hoping to publish, but his timing was bad.

His book was suppressed by the U.S. government on the convoluted grounds that the Chinese should not know what they have already told Stillman about China's nuclear weapon development. This was during the height of China bashing hysteria as exemplified by the Cox Committee Congressional Report in which every piece of worthwhile military secret was thought to have been stolen by the Chinese.

Dr. Wen Ho Lee was a direct victim of this hysteria. A Los Alamos scientist, Lee was initially accused of somehow giving away multi-headed missile technology to China, later the charges downgraded to illegally downloading from his work computer. The presiding judge dismissed the case with a most unusual apology to Lee for government misconduct. A review of the hysteria that occurred in 1999-2000 can be found here.

Naturally, Stillman could not be allowed to publish his book revealing that China has been developing its nuclear weaponry quite successfully and independent of the need to steal American technology. His book would have spoiled all the fun of China bashing.

Reed concluded his article with, "Over a period of 15 years, an intellectually talented China achieved parity with the West and preeminence over its Asian peers in the design of nuclear weapons and in understanding underground nuclear testing. China now stands in the first rank of nuclear powers."

Pentagon frequently accuse China's military with lack of transparency. But have we been attentive when China is being candid and transparent?