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.