Monday, December 12, 2022

Comments by Professor Ling-chi Wang on contrasting styles of diplomacy

My friend, Prof Ling-chi Wang wrote a thoughtful response to my op-ed that I would like to share on my blog. BTW, he and I grew up on Gulangyu, the same tiny islet in the Xiamen harbor, and went to the same elementary school at the same time but we did not actually meet until many years later in San Francisco. ============================================== Thanks, again, for your insightful piece! What a contrast in leadership styles and management of diplomacy! Xi Jinping has been a masterful strategist in handling both domestic and foreign affairs. The ideologically driven Western media, commentators, and politicians have been completely wrong in criticizing Xi for his alleged assertiveness in dealing dealing with the West since day one of his presidency without basis, calling him a “Chinese Emperor” (On the cover of The Economist) and a ruthless dictator, suppressing dissidents and slaming China’s door to eager foreign investors and businesses in China since 2013. (Evidence points to the opposite). I think Xi has been quite low-key and patient in handling affairs at home and abroad in the last ten years, adhering to the precept of Deng Xiaoping, 韬光养晦, until the historic meeting between Yang Jiechi and Tony Blinken on March 18, 2021 in Alaska and now, in full display in the first two weeks of December 2022. Sparing no effort in saving lives in China, he mobilized the nation and the people in a war against the pandemic in the last three years, even as he quietly, steadily, and methodically lay the foundation of his policies, based on his vision of China's dream and renaissance and his Belt and Road Initiative in international relations he put forward since the beginning of his presidency. Eliminating abject poverty being one of his most successful goal. Your article offers the starkest contrast between the leadership of Xi Jinping and the leadership of Barach Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, even though the three U.S. presidents have very different styles in running the U.S. They actually have more important similarities among them than differences. Among the similarities is the commitment to maintain U.S. global hegemony at all costs at home and abroad by any means necessary. Even if the government is dysfunctional and totally paralyzed by mean-spirted division, what is keeping the government and the U.S. economy from collapsing is the shared interest in keeping the U.S. on top of the world and making sure the rest of the world, including our European allies, stay in line and remain subservient to American needs and interests. We absolutely refuse to look critically into ourselves, our system of government, our ideology and values. Instead, we only want to use foreign government, China, as a scapegoat and use it to unite the nation to blaming China for other our own failures. We declared China as an existential threat to our security, interests and prosperity without empirical basis. China is Branded as our No. 1 Enemy, just like what we declared in the 1950s and 1960s to justify our total embargo of China and we entered the Wars in Korea and In Vietnam to stop Chinese expansionism and against our own so-called values, we provided military and financial aids, at the expense of our own needs at home, for military dictators or our compliant regimes who were willing to sacrifice the needs of their people for our interests. Let me pose this question: If we blame and hate China and the Chinese people so much, why don’t we try to throw out everything within our households that are “Made in China” and see how long we can survive each day without them. We need China for "our daily bread!” just like what we say each time we say “The Lord’s Prayer.” The sad truth is we don’t even want to acknowledge that every American needs China for everything we need for our daily living. What we witnessed during the first two weeks of December 2022 is an impressive display of President Xi's orchestration of China's diplomacy without using military, economic, and political threat. What he has accomplished in diplomacy in the last two weeks is a game-changer and historic. But, mark my words, his diplomacy will soon be branded as Xi’s new assertiveness in international relations. This is diplomacy as it should be: he is very confident, thoughtful, polite, and strategic against the backdrop of a risky new phase of China’s handling of not just the pandemic now in its fourth year but also a national mobilization to address the economic slow down and people’s well beings since 2020. He engaged leaders of countries in ASEAN, G-20, Saudi Arabia, six Gulf states, and more than a dozen of Arab states in Asia and across north Africa under very friendly and cordial atmosphere without coercion or threat, the style came to be closely associated with President Biden. Even his European allies find it offensive and selfish.

World sees contrasting styles in diplomacy

First posted on Asia Times. After the US midterm election last month, I suggested that voters have yet to pass judgment on the current administration’s dismal foreign policy. Recent developments indicate that President Joe Biden’s policy will continue to assert the rights that belong to the hegemon of the world. After the election, Biden met with Chinese president Xi Jinping on the sidelines of Group of Twenty summit in Bali, a major international event. There the two leaders enjoyed a more than three-hour heart-to-heart chat and exchange of views. The Chinese side took careful minutes of the meeting and posted a summary of what Biden had said. The American side weren’t such careful note-takers but posted no disagreements to the Chinese summary. Biden basically doubled down on the US commitment not to interfere with China’s governing structure, not to wage a new cold war with China, not to recruit allies to align against China, not to promote or support Taiwan independence, nor reject the principle of one China. In addition, he said, the US does not intend to initiate military conflict, wage economic warfare, decouple the two economies or hinder China’s economic development. Spirit of Bali did not last long Xi expressed satisfaction with the American position, with the added hope that Biden’s lieutenants would act in accordance and consistent with the commitments expressed at this meeting by President Biden. Alas, the white man again spoke with a forked tongue. No sooner had Biden hurried back to attend his granddaughter’s White House wedding that his team began anew to tear China down. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, albeit not a white man, is a recent example picking up the cudgel to bash China. His plea to Congress to justify mega-billion-dollar allocations for defense is that such massive spending was needed to mount effective deterrence to China. Deterrence for what? China does not have military bases around the world like Uncle Sam has. China does not have naval flotillas sailing around every sea and ocean; Uncle Sam has. China does have a marine fighting force, but about one-hundredth the size of Uncle Sam’s. Who’s threatening whom, anyway? An example of the upside-down logic is Austin’s quote the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “war is not the result of NATO expansion, it is the cause of NATO expansion.” Most readers know well, as should the American people, that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been pushing eastward toward Russia for decades, and Russia’s Ukrainian invasion only began in February. By way of the same (il)logic, the US must deter the threat of China because we Americans have decided that China is a threat. How dare China develop countermeasures to our advance weaponry and deprive our right to shock and awe? Their action is a threat to our security. Our only alternative is to keep ramping up our defense budget. Consequentially, the bipartisan House of Representaives just enacted an allocation of $858 billion for the military. That’s $45 billion more than Biden even asked for. What’s a few more billions here and there? Washington wants to make sure that America feels secure enough to sleep at night. World lines up to be China’s friends In the meantime, the rest of the world has been watching Biden’s fumbling diplomacy and concluded that when the Americans draw a line in the sand, it doesn’t mean anything. But if Biden can profess to make nice with China, as he did in Bali, so can the rest of the world. Thus Qatar has just entered a 27-year contract to supply liquefied natural gas to China, which means that from now on Qatar can only offer occasional spot-market sales, if any, to the energy-hungry European Union. Xi Jinping has just concluded a full-scale, three-day state visit to Saudi Arabia. He was accorded all the pomp and circumstance heretofore reserved for Riyadh’s most important ally, the US. But when Biden flew all the way to Saudi recently, he was greeted with a cursory fist bump. More important, Biden was humiliated when OPEC+, led by Saudi, ignored his request to increase oil output in order to cut the price of oil and ease inflationary pressure in the US. Instead, Saudi did just the opposite and cut production. Saudi provides China energy security While in Riyadh, Xi concluded a comprehensive strategic partnership cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia. Part of the agreement included reaffirmation that Taiwan is part of China and that both parties pledge non-interference in the domestic affairs of the other. These provisions were for the benefit of the US watching on the sidelines. Bilateral trade, in rough balance between China and Saudi Arabia, was worth $87.3 billion in 2021, nearly 34% up from the previous year. Xi noted that China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a perfect complement to help the Saudis realize their Vision 2030 goals. One immediate effect is Saudi’s engagement with Huawei to help build a smart city. Xi also finalized a $25 billion deal for oil, and suggested the replacement of the petrodollar with the renminbi for payment. The demotion of the dollar would be explosive news, and both Beijing and Riyadh may have elected to keep quiet on what would be the beginning of the end of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. The best face The Wall Street Journal could put on the Riyadh summit was to say, “China hasn’t yet demonstrated interest or ability in supplanting the US’s broad role in the Middle East, and the Saudis don’t really want to replace the US as their main security guarantor, analysts say.” I would say that’s a classic attempt to put lipstick on the pig. Riyadh also hosted a summit meeting of the Gulf state leaders, with Xi on expanding cooperation on not just energy but trade and infrastructure building. As the World Cup in Qatar has amply shown, the world-class venues for that soccer tournament and supporting infrastructure were built by Chinese companies. The Arab Gulf states have plenty of money but need the infrastructure to help them turn to other avenues of economic development and diversify from oil. China is more than happy to supply that need. And China does not require geopolitical allegiances nor demand access to military bases. In addition to the Gulf states, leaders of Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Morocco, Algeria and others were at the Riyadh summit. Coupled with China’s existing 25-year strategic partnership agreement with Iran, China can count on the 1.8 billion people of the Islamic world as friends. The West alleging debt traps from Belt and Road financing by China is increasingly ringing hollow and is ignored by most of the world longing for the mutually beneficial relationships that China offers. Aligned with China through BRICS, SCO Other large countries that than Group of Seven allies of the US are lining up to join BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). All it takes to join is an invitation, and there are no dues for membership. BRICS stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The purpose of the organization is to promote peace, security, development and cooperation. A long list of nations has express interest in joining or have formally applied to become members. Among them, Saudi Arabia sees the group as important customers for its oil. Turkey, as a member of NATO, sees BRICS as a geopolitical hedge between the West and the rest of the world while addinc another tie with China. The SCO was organized to counter the West. Its membership included China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Later, India and Pakistan were added. Iran has become the latest member. Neither the SCO nor BRICS encompass military alliances but are in solidarity against hegemony and unilateralism – meaning the US. The fact that adversarial states, such as India and Pakistan and Iran and Saudi, can share common ground and belong to the same organizations is a hopeful vector for world peace. Much of the world outside the West does not see any benefit from being aligned with the US, just living with the fear that goes with sleeping with a tiger. Even some allies are seeing the downside of having to face the whims of American hegemony. Unilateralism and Biden ASML, based in the Netherlands, is openly challenging the White House sanction against selling photolithographic machines to China. ASML is the world’s leading maker of the multimillion-dollar etching machines necessary for making semiconductor chips. China is its most important customer, and not selling to China is to commit corporate suicide. Samsung has invested heavily on semiconductor plants in China making chips for customers inside China. Samsung, possibly with the help of the South Korean government, is also trying find some dispensation to wriggle out from under Washington’s ban. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is the most hapless victim of the undeclared chips war. It is known to have the most advanced fabrication process and is recognized as the leader in making the most advanced chips for the world. For this reason, Washington considers TSMC being located in Taiwan as a risk to US national security. Consequently, TSMC has been coerced into disassembling its fab processing line from Taiwan and shipping it to Arizona along with a technical and management team. In addition, if Taiwan should face imminent invasion by the mainland’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the US with the tacit acceptance of the Taipei government would likely plant explosives to destroy the TSMC facilities remaining in Taiwan. Overlooked in this revelation are several noteworthy conclusions. The US government does not own any part of TSMC but has no compunction about blowing its facilities into smithereens in the name of guarding national security – of America, of course. Moving to Arizona and planning the destruction of TSMC properties remaining in Taiwan is to admit that the US cannot defend Taiwan against the PLA. Obviously, the fate of 24 million people living in Taiwan is of no concern to Washington. Furthermore, moving technicians and management lock, stock and barrel from Taiwan is admission that the US no longer has the skillset and capability to run state-of-the-art semiconductor fabs. Morris Chang, the retired founder of TSMC, was mostly on the mark on another occasion when he said that production costs in the US would be at least 50% higher than in Taiwan. Certainly not good news for tamping down inflationary pressure. But at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in Arizona to mark the arrival of TSMC equipment, Chang backed off somewhat by saying the 50%-higher operating cost was when TSMC first tried to operate a fab in Oregon more than 20 years ago. Oregon never became an economically appealing base to expand the company’s presence in the US. Now, he seemed to imply, Phoenix will be different because of past lessons learned. Biden celebrates return of US manufacturing Biden spoke at the ceremony and declared the “return of American manufacturing.” Perhaps he was thinking of Chang being an American citizen, or he was thinking of the first group of 300 from Taiwan who will be given instant green cards (permanent resident certificants) and become bona fide Americans. Or, maybe he was simply delighted with the success of the “grab and go” caper. And consistent with Biden’s claim, somebody had better brief the Federal Bureau of Imvestigation in full, so as not to trigger arrests of suspicious-looking Asian faces walking around Phoenix. These are newly arrived “Americans” and not spies from China. Joining the celebration were other luminaries such as Apple chief executive officer Robin Cook, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang and AMD CEO Lisa Su. To the surprise of no one, they all gushed about the prospects of having a first-class fab as their supplier in their back yard. Time will tell if the transformation of TSMC into “USSMC” will become a real success or simply be another lip gloss on the pig. We can see that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen is no Volodymyr Zelensky. The president of Ukraine constantly asks Biden for more billions to stay in the fight against Russia. Tsai doesn’t ask for any funds, she just lies down and willingly gives away Taiwan’s crown jewel to please her American master. China builds friendship around the world. The US gets along by strong-arming those considered to be its allies on the unilateral principle that it’s all for the good of America. To no one’s surprise, the number of friends is dwindling. Perhaps it’s time that the Biden administration listens to a commentator at The Harvard Crimson who is no fan of China: “It’s time Americans stop throwing pity parties and give up on trying to regain bygone dominance. Instead, we should chart a new course of bilateral cooperation between the US and China, one founded on cultural exchange and the free flow of information.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Chinese-American completes ‘long journey’ to justice - But does Sherry Chen’s legal victory signal the end of racial profiling by US authorities?

First posted in Asia Times. Sherry Chen threw a party last weekend to celebrate her legal victory over her former employer, the US Department of Commerce (DOC). The purpose of the party, Chen said, was to thank her many loyal supporters for standing with her throughout her “long journey seeking justice.” The celebration took place at a home in Palo Alto, California, belonging to Adrian and Monica Yeung Arima, where Chen was staying as their houseguest. Silicon Valley was where many of her supporters reside who donated to her legal defense fund and gave abiding moral support. Around a hundred attended the party. Long ordeal begins In October 2014, after a two-year investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation came to her workplace and took her away in handcuffs, to the shock and surprise of her colleagues. In March 2015, federal prosecutors dropped all charges without any explanation. That should have been the end of the Sherry Chen story, but it wasn’t. Amazingly, in March 2016, Chen, a hydrologist, was fired from her job with the National Weather Service (NWS) based on the same charges that had been discarded by the prosecutors. NWS is under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Asia Times described the twisted shenanigan that took place between the NWS and NOAA in order to formalize the paperwork for Chen’s dismissal – hint, the head of NWS wriggled and managed to stay out of the fray. Shocked by the development, she said to Asia Times, “Why do I have to accept the unfair and unjust treatment my government has given me? I am not just fighting for myself but for all victims of racial profiling so that it won’t happen again.” MSPB rules in her favor Chen then filed a complaint for wrongful termination with the Merit System Protection Board. The MSPB was established to protect federal workers against abuses by their employers. To the surprise of many, the chief administrative judge, Michele Schroeder, ruled in her favor as the victim of gross injustice. From the time she filed with the MSPB to reaching the verdict took one and a half years. Judge Schroeder order reinstatement with back pay and benefits. Historically, the odds of winning a ruling from the MSPB against the federal government had been less than one in a hundred. So, in April 2018, the verdict should have been the end of Chen’s journey and a cause for celebration. But it wasn’t, because the DOC filed an appeal, which needed to be heard by a quorum of two or more judges. At the time the MSPB had only one working judge, and therefore the appeal was sent into limbo. Was the DOC aware of the delay due to a technicality? Of course. On January 2019, Chen filed a civil lawsuit against the DOC alleging malicious prosecution and false arrest and sought $5 million for damages and compensation. In October 2021, the American Civil Liberties Union along with Cooley LLP, a major law firm headquartered in Palo Alto, joined her legal team in pursuing the suit. Finally, early this month, Chen along with ACLU announced a settlement that would pay her $550,000 and an annuity of $125,000 per year over the next 10 years. Thus she can claim a happy ending after a decade-long journey. “It’s an enormous victory for Ms Chen personally,” said Ashley Gorski, a senior staff lawyer with the ACLU National Security Project, “and for the Chinese-American community as well. The settlement makes clear that when the government discriminates, it’s going to be held accountable.” ACLU proclaims Chen’s win historic The ACLU called her settlement historic, unprecedented and the largest ever paid by the DOC. All true, but Chen’s win, in my view, just recovers her legal fees and back wages. And her case is just a beginning of possible rectification and does not signify the end of systemic racial profiling against Chinese-Americans by the US government. As I observed in 2015, “Rather than compiling evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, the FBI and fellow practitioners will jump at any flimsy thread of possible wrong doing, make a public arrest, send out a press release on their accusation and put the hapless Chinese American in detention. “When their findings are then subject to scrutiny and fail to pass muster, the charges are quietly dropped. By then, of course, the reputation of the person is in tatters and the victim’s life and finances are in ruin.” Since the celebrated Wen Ho Lee case and even earlier, to this day, Chinese-American scientists are considered guilty until proven innocent. The burden of proof is on the accused. In Sherry Chen’s case, even when proven innocent, the burden was still on her to fight for the justice that was her due. According to an article published last December by the MIT Technology Review, analyzing the so-called China Initiative launched by former US president Donald Trump, “To date, only about a quarter of defendants charged under the initiative have been convicted, and about half of those defendants with open charges have yet to see the inside of an American courtroom.” The remaining 25%, I surmise, had their charges quietly dismissed. Xiaoxing Xi also seeking justice In 2015, Xiaoxing Xi, professor of physics at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was arrested at gunpoint at his home in front of his wife and daughters by the FBI in a “daring” dawn raid. The DOJ subsequently dropped the charges, which could be considered a win for Xi because the department did not ask him to plead guilty to some minor misdemeanor in exchange. The government just hates to admit making an error, and will normally ask for a plea to some minor offense so the arrest can be scored in the win column. Wen Ho Lee, for example, had to plead guilty to downloading computer files in violation of regulations at the Los Alamos National Laboratory before obtaining release from nine months of solitary confinement and set free by the presiding judge. The judge expressed regret that Lee had to cop a plea and apologized to him for government’s gross misconduct. Many other Chinese-Americans victimized by the FBI and DOJ have had to plea-bargain so that they can go on with their lives and cut the financial bleeding from the legal fees. It’s always a challenge to take on the US government in a legal dispute. Compared with the individual, the government has infinite resources and time on their side. Like Sherry Chen did, Professor Xi is also suing the US government and FBI agents for knowingly misrepresenting evidence as the basis for his arrest and the consequent trauma he suffered. The ACLU is also part of his legal team and he is hoping for an eventually favorable ruling. Gang Chen, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), appeared in a panel discussion along with Sherry Chen and Dr Xi at a conference in San Francisco, held a day after Chen’s legal victory was announced. The subject was racial profiling and discrimination against Chinese-American scientists. The fourth speaker was Jeremy Wu, founder of APA Justice, responsible for diligently tracking the government’s judiciary abuses. Gang Chen has similar FBI encounter Professor Chen was more fortunate than his fellow panelists. According to The New York Times, as soon as he found that he was under investigation, his employer, MIT, hired outside legal counsel to advise him along the way. One early morning in January 2021, a gang of more than 10 FBI agents came to his home to handcuff him and take him away for interrogation. He was released that afternoon, but he had to stay away from the campus and make no contact with any MIT employees. That September, Professor Chen’s lawyer reported good news from the prosecutor’s office. If Chen would admit to having certain contacts in China, the charges would be dismissed and the case dropped. While his lawyer thought the offer was a safe, risk-free deal to get off, Chen refused. Since he had done nothing wrong, he did not think he had to make the deal. A full year later, in January 2022, all charges against Professor Chen were dropped and he resumed his work at MIT. He was more fortunate than most because Rafael Reif, then president of MIT, supported him from the inception of the government investigation and the school pick up his legal bill. His fellow faculty vigorously rallied to his defense and protested his innocence. Others in similar debacles have been much worse off. Their university employers quickly cut them loose and hung them out to dry. By the time the charges are dropped, they may or may not be reinstated, their reputations have been tainted and their bank accounts greatly depleted by the fees for legal defense. At least 1,400 US-based ethnic Chinese scientists switched their affiliation last year from American to Chinese institutions, according to a joint report by academics from Harvard, Princeton and MIT. The trend is increasing thanks to the China Initiative established by Donald Trump and only recently canceled by President Joe Biden. The original intent of the initiative was to curb exchange of scientific informative between the US and China. It turned into a witch-hunt that ran amok. For ethnic Chinese, working in science and technology in the US has become hazardous, risking out-of-the-blue arrests and third-degree grilling about one’s loyalty. The way to stop the brain drain from the US is to enact regulations and laws that will punish prosecutions based on lies, falsified evidence, and hiding exculpable evidence. Anti-Chinese hate crimes must not be tolerated, especially when the perpetrator is the government. Provisions need to be in place for victims of wrongful prosecution to be promptly compensated for damages and legal fees. Only then can a brain drain of Chinese scientists and researchers slow – and perhaps reverse.

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.