Tag Archives: Beijing

What Would Sun Tzu Do?


Author Gary Moreau, aka Avam Hale in fiction

With North Korea’s recent successful test of a Hwasong-15 missile that reached an altitude of 2,800 miles, more than ten times the altitude of the International Space Station, Kim Jong-un is back on the front page. This, experts suggest, gives the hermit nation the established ability to strike Washington, D.C. with a pre-emptive nuclear strike launched from within its own borders.

When confronted with the issue by reporters, Trump, characteristically, was dismissive: “We will take care of it.” How, exactly, no one knows. Sanctions clearly haven’t worked and whatever diplomacy Secretary Tillerson has been pursuing behind the scenes apparently hasn’t either. (Adding even more urgency to the issue, Tillerson, the one politician even broaching diplomacy, is rumored to be on the way out.)

According to The Washington Post, “A growing chorus of voices in Washington is calling for serious consideration of military action against North Korea,” although it is inconceivable that such options have not already been considered and ruled out as impractical. The loss of life, particularly in South Korea, would easily rival the 20 million Russians who perished during World War II, redefining the geopolitical landscape for decades to come.

China has clearly noted that it would consider any pre-emptive strike by the US to be an intolerable violation of sovereignty. Such military aggression, moreover, would be senseless unless the US was willing to follow its ordnance into the country to pick up the pieces and reshape the nation, and there is virtually no way the Chinese would allow this to happen without their strongest possible resistance.

Depending on whether Trump or China is higher on their derisory priority list on any given day, many Western media outlets have attempted to position the latest missile test as either indicative of China’s failure to follow through on the perceived commitment to resolve the Korean Peninsula issue, or Trump’s foolhardiness for believing he had that kind of personal pull in Beijing.

Personally, I think there is little incentive for China to do anything except sit back and watch. If it believes that Kim’s regime will ultimately collapse, it has little to gain by getting its hands dirty now, short of preventing the US from establishing a US military presence on the 880-mile border China shares with North Korea. Let it collapse and then step in to either push for a unification of the Korean Peninsula, with security and political assurances from the current South Korean government, or turn North Korea into an autonomous Chinese political zone not unlike Hong Kong, Macau, or Tibet. (The latter, I believe, is the more likely scenario, all things considered.)

Two things, I believe, we can say with certainty:

1. Given any say in the matter, the people of North Korea will choose a Chinese protectorate over a US protectorate. Unless South Korea takes significant steps to distance itself from the US they will not, in all likelihood, even choose unification over China. Dennis Rodman’s diplomacy aside, the North Koreans do not see the US as Donald Trump sees us.

2. China will do nothing to give Trump face. In other words, he will accomplish nothing with China’s help if they believe he stands ready to take credit for it. He is quite literally shooting himself in the foot by touting his relationship with Xi Jinping in the context of his great self-acclaimed negotiating skills. To give Trump credit would be to compromise the Chinese Dream that is at the heart of Xi’s political agenda and legacy. He won’t do it; he has no incentive to.

To this latter point, I am quite confident that China did not release LiAngelo Ball and his UCLA basketball teammates after being arrested for shoplifting in Hangzhou because Trump asked them to. They did so because they concluded that it was in their best interest. It may, in fact, have been a simple test to see how Trump would respond.


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Trump’s reaction, in fact, could not have been worse in terms of his future ability to influence Chinese behavior. In his willingness to start a Twitter feud with LaVar Ball, Trump demonstrated beyond a doubt that he has no understanding of Chinese culture and the importance of face, particularly in the political arena. Certainly someone in Washington understands this.

I believe the most effective option for the US and the world remains the same. The US must withdraw its military presence from the Korean Peninsula unilaterally, while maintaining its commitment to protect South Korea from aggression using all of its resources, including nuclear weapons, if necessary.

Given the unlikelihood that a contained exchange of cannon fire along the 38th parallel will be sufficient to convince Kim Jong-un to dismantle his nuclear capabilities, it is hard to see how a military withdrawal from the Korean Peninsula would materially compromise the US’ treaty obligations to South Korea or Japan.

Nor would it, in fact, cause a US loss of face in the region. As famous Chinese military general Sun Tzu is often quoted to have said, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” In the eyes of Asia, it would take a strong and courageous America to unilaterally to pursue such a strategy, putting the clear burden for resolution of the North Korean problem at the doorstep of Beijing’s leadership.


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The proof is in the rhetoric. Why has China not seen fit to rattle its sword to the extent President Trump has? Why are there no anonymous quotes coming out of the Great Hall of the People? Is it because China is afraid? Or is it because China is clever and understands the importance of face in true diplomacy?

China can resolve the North Korean problem. And it will, if we allow them to solve it at their own pace and in their own way. In the meantime, North Korea is contained. There is no way that China will allow Kim Jong-un to unleash a single nuclear device on Guam, Japan, or the US. And there is no way that China would not know of such an attack long before the missile leaves the ground.

What is it that American diplomats are so afraid of? Does the Munich Pact still haunt the souls of our diplomatic core? The times and the circumstances could not be more different.

This would not be peace through appeasement. This would be peace through strength and confidence and a willingness to put humanity above any one individual’s standing in the polls. This is not an issue for Twitter. This is an issue for men and women of greatness to take the lead in the name of peace and stability.

If they fail to do so, history will not remember them kindly.

You may contact the author at gary@gmoreau.com
Visit my personal blog at www.gmoreau.com

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A New Bridge

It has often been noted that China is really good at making things at a low price. But can it create? Can it create another Apple?

There are a whole lot of young Chinese entrepreneurs who are trying to prove the doubters wrong and many are well on their way to doing so. Entrepreneurship is taking off like a rocket here and the government is providing a lot of the fuel.

It occurred to me recently, however, that perhaps the world needs to worry less about how creative the Chinese are and more about how clever they are. There is a difference. The former may make the world yearn; the latter makes the world go ‘round.

In downtown Beijing this past week, at one of the city’s busiest intersections, there is a ten-lane bridge, complete with clover leafs, that needed repair. Instead they replaced the whole thing – all 10 lanes – and the entrances and exits – replaced, mind you, in exactly 43 hours.

That’s right, from the time traffic was stopped until the time traffic was flowing smoothly again along all 10 entirely new lanes the total elapsed time was 43 hours. And even the lane lines were in place.

And the company responsible actually apologized for being a little late and inconveniencing the public.

How long would it take to totally rebuild a ten-lane bridge in your place of residence?

You can watch a time-lapse video of the process on YouTube but I can’t give you the address because I can’t access YouTube. But I have seen it on Chinese social media and it is one of the most incredible spectacles I have ever witnessed.

Okay, we know they’re not magicians. So, how did they do it?

Of course they worked around the clock and threw an army of workers at it. But more than anything else they were very clever in how they planned the whole thing out. Essentially, they pre-built the bridge and then moved it into place after tearing out the old one. Sounds simple enough. But why don’t they do that in the US or other developed countries?

Creative is good. In fact, it’s great.

But will creative or clever be more important in the new world order? Does it matter who can come up with the best ideas or who can bring them to reality more quickly? And what if one country can do both?

Another example: The Beijing Subway has 18 lines, 319 stations, and 527 km (327 mi) of track in operation. It provided 3.41 billion trips in 2014 with a peak daily ridership of 11.6 million people.

And most of that expansion has occurred since 2002. In fact, much of it has occurred since 2008. Average daily ridership has increased six-fold in the last decade alone.

Again I ask, how long has your local city been planning to expand public transportation in your area? Does it really matter if they haven’t actually done it?

To my friends and family in the US, Happy Thanksgiving. I dearly hope that you are grateful for all you have.  I am truly grateful to have you.

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“I’m only partway through the book, but I had to jump on and say, “Read this!”

Having done business and gone on personal journeys through the Asia Pacific region, I wish I’d read a book like this first…”

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Copyright © 2015 Gary Moreauschools, etc 146

Note: The views expressed in this post are strictly those of the writer acting in a personal capacity.

You may contact the author at glassmakerinchina@gmail.com

IAAF Championships Beijing

Beijing hosted the International Associations of Athletic Federations (IAAF) Track and Field Championships this past week. And as with the 2008 Summer Olympics they did a fantastic job. The Chinese are naturally great hosts.

As with the Olympics, there were blue skies. The government took half of the cars off the road each day using an even/odd number plate system. And they closed more than 1,000 factories and construction projects in Beijing and the surrounding area. The cynical will say that’s a little like cheating. The optimists, like me, will say that’s taking your responsibility to be a good host pretty seriously. Imagine how much tax revenue the government lost as a result of those moves?

My wife and I watched nightly. I don’t get to see many sporting events of global stature in real time. And track and field isn’t one of those areas of sport that requires a lot of commentary so the fact that I couldn’t understand the audible took nothing away from my enjoyment.

A few personal observations.

Usain BOLT of Jamaica is one of those rare boisterous athletes, like Muhammad Ali, that has the skill to back up the theatrics. He is a sprinting machine and it was a joy just to watch the perfection in his running mechanics.

Justin GATLIN of the United States was even more impressive but for different reasons. What an incredible personality. I don’t think I can recall an athlete that was more upbeat, positive and well-spoken than he is. He could have wallowed in his string of second place finishes but instead said with a genuine smile that it was a great honor to push Bolt to run a little faster.

My second observation concerned the female athletes. I’m sure there are still issues of gender-equity in the track and field world, but from my observation they got equal coverage here in China and they are obviously getting better training and support outside of the games themselves.

And as a father of two daughters (12 & 14) I was truly reassured that there is life beyond the Kardashians. When I visit the US I often worry that the superficiality of Hollywood and the fashion world are going to drain the life out of our young women and divert their attention from the things that really matter in life.

The female athletes that achieved their chance to come to Beijing reassured me. I’m sure this is politically incorrect but it shouldn’t be – and it’s my blog – so I will openly note that many of these female athletes – and many of the men – are very attractive.

The point is not how they look, however. The point is that they probably had the chance to take an easier path and they didn’t. They chose to take what has to be a very, very difficult path indeed. Because they yearned for it and I believe we owe them that choice.

My last observation is more of a question than an observation. Why do people decide to devote their life to the hammer throw – or the javelin – or even the triple jump? I have nothing against any of these events. These are very skilled athletes. But why these events?

I can’t believe there’s a lot of endorsement money in any of them and there is no professional hammer throw league anywhere in the world that I am aware of. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen anyone wearing a tee shirt with the picture of Yuriy Sedykh on it. (He currently holds the World Record for the men’s hammer throw at a distance of 86.76 meters – the men’s hammer weighs 7.26 kg/16 pounds, remember.)

That’s very reassuring to me. After watching the first lap of what will surely seem like an endless US presidential campaign I was beginning to wonder if we hadn’t completely lost our humanity after all. Everybody’s in it for something – money, power, celebrity, you name it.

But the hammer throwers and the javelin throwers are in it for the sport, the chance to compete, the chance to excel without an audience.

But this begs another questions. If the next person born in the world can someday pursue a career in the hammer throw, why do we try to make the world such an orderly place? Why are we always saying, “This is what you should do – this is what you must do!”

Newscasters get in front of the camera every night (Who decided they should stand up, by the way?) and try to convince us that today might just prove to be one of the most important days in history and we had darned well better listen.

But what if we didn’t? What if we just said, “Nice throw”, and left it at that.

This is where the inductive, receiver-oriented Chinese have a distinct advantage moving forward. It’s old news that we live in a wired world. But it’s less clear where that is going to take us.

If the Track & Field Championship was televised in your area did you happen to notice that whenever they showed a picture of the crowd, it was mostly a sea of smart phones? Few faces were visible. And most of those amateur photographers, I suspect, were not documenting the event, but were documenting their presence at the event, transmitting their pictures instantly to their social media networks to verify their ‘participation’.

We don’t have to worry about the machines taking over the world, as Dr. Stephen Hawking has warned. We have to worry that we – the humans – are becoming machines. We are the enablers – and we’re doing it voluntarily.

The Chinese, I believe, will be less prone to this de-humanization. Because, in the end, they don’t give a single thought as to why someone became a hammer thrower. They just did. That’s how their yin and yang unfolded.

The most exciting news of the event for the Chinese was that SU Bingtian of China became the first Asian to ever qualify for the 100 meter men’s final. He finished last in the finals, .27 seconds behind Usain Bolt, but that didn’t dim the praise or the enthusiasm one iota.

Which brings me to a television advertisement currently running in Asia for one of the big American accounting firms. In it a presumed executive for this company claims that 80% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years. But that, of course, is not true. What’s true is that 80% of the world’s recorded data has been recorded in the last two years. (I can’t personally verify that but, if true, I don’t consider that a good sign at all.)

The world doesn’t need more data in my opinion. We need more time to sort out which data is important and which isn’t. Some things just are. Why someone became a hammer thrower isn’t important. That they obviously enjoy sport, competition, and have an incredible appetite for both discipline and achievement is.

By the way, Anita WLODARCZYK of Poland won the women’s hammer throw at the IAAF World Challenge with a mark of 77.73. Well done, Ms. Wlodarczyk!

Last week Beijing was host to the IAAF World Track & Field Championships. As always, they were splendid hosts.
Last week Beijing was host to the IAAF World Track & Field Championships. As always, they were splendid hosts.

View the author’s literary work written under the pen name of Avam Hale. Both books are available at Amazon and most major online retailers in both electronic and print formats.

Copyright © 2015 Glassmaker in China

Notice:  The views expressed in this post are strictly those of the writer acting in a personal capacity.  They are not in any way endorsed or sanctioned by his employer or any other individual with which he may be personally or professionally affiliated.

Systems vs Parts

I admittedly use the word holistic (adjective of the noun holism) a lot in writing about China. It’s impossible not to. But it’s a word I seldom used until coming to China. And, unfortunately, like a lot of our language, it has been usurped by the world of corporate jargon where companies are centric-this and centric-that when a mere ‘we care about this’ would do. To many of us that in itself gives it the feeling of a word that has no application in real life.

But it does, particularly in China. It is impossible to understand China, in fact, if you don’t grasp its implications and nuances.

Merriam-Webster, an Encyclopedia Britannica Company, defines holistic as “relating to or concerned with complete systems rather than individual parts.” In the past it has primarily been associated with alternative approaches to contemporary Western medicine. Merriam-Webster, however, offers the additional example of holistic ecology, which “views humans and the environment as a single system.”

The Chinese definition, I believe, would be that “the body, society, and the universe, both visible and not, past and present, are a single system.” It’s a broad view, but, in a way, a more holistic view than the Western definition. (Sorry for the pun.)

The opposite of holistic, or holism, would be incrementalism. Things exist individually but can become something else when combined. It implies discreet steps in logic and behavior that move only in one direction, typically left to right, much like deductive logic. If you want to get someplace, you start walking, one step at a time. These steps (cause) take you in the direction you want to go (effect) in an orderly and predictable process, the pre-occupation of the deductive Western worldview.

It is true that many Westerners, particularly in business and sport, are fond of saying, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” But this is often more of a motivational imploration than a worldview. Why else would US corporations continue to give individual performance reviews and professional sports teams to treat individual players as commercial markets unto themselves?

The American political system has become incremental in the extreme. The electorate often votes on a single issue of particular importance to them and the emergence of the powerful special interest group is, itself, the ultimate testament to the trend. A ‘special interest’ is, by definition, incremental in its focus.

Political party affiliation, while still meaningful, is becoming far less so, a fact reinforced by the number of successful politicians who have declared their official independence. Even the President cannot count on the support of all members of his own political party on legislation of undeniable historical importance.

The Fifth Estate and voters alike now insist that political candidates talk only about ‘the issues’ and take stands on specific issues that they have no reason to have any expertise in. One result of this, of course, is that our government policy is really determined by a tapestry of unelected experts who do have experience in the many specific issues that an incremental electorate is totally focused on.

Chinese politicians, by contrast, remain completely holistic in their worldview. While individual Chinese are following their Western cousins along a path of incrementalism, the Communist Party of China (CPC) is not. It remains completely holistic in both its decision-making and its public posture.

Fewer than 6% of the Chinese population actually belongs to the CPC, although it alone controls all things political in China. This, in itself, is evidence of the holistic Chinese worldview. As Confucius himself noted, a government cannot rule by the sword alone. The power of rule requires the voluntary acceptance of the ruled if it is to survive the 60+ years that the CPC has.

And is it even plausible that each member of the CPC shares the same perspective on all issues? It’s unthinkable. I’m sure there is as much division within the Party as there is within any governing body, be it the UN or the local school board in the US.

The difference is the holistic worldview that holds the government of China together and has allowed it to do things that few other developing countries, including India and Brazil, have been able to replicate.

A current example.

At the end of August Beijing will host the World Track and Field Championship and a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, culminating in a giant military parade on September 3 to commemorate the specific surrender of Japan, its principle adversary during the war.

To date the government has set up security checkpoints on all roads leading into Beijing. Every car and truck is stopped. Licenses and registrations are carefully checked. The contents of the vehicle are carefully scrutinized.

Anyone mailing a letter or parcel to a Beijing address must present identification to the receiving postal authority or carrier and all delivery companies have been given strict security protocols to follow.

And, of course, the government has promised ‘APEC blue’ skies so factories and construction sites will be closed down throughout Beijing and its neighboring provinces. The steel mills of Tianjin and Hebei Province have already been ordered to cease production during most of August and September. (The government apparently wants to insure blue skies for the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls at the end of September, and the important National Day Golden Week that begins October 1 and is a popular time for the Chinese to visit their capital.)

For the same reason, from August 20 until September 3, cars will be allowed to drive in Beijing only every other day on an even/odd plate system similar to the one employed during the Summer Olympics of 2008. Cars not registered in Beijing will not be allowed in the capital at all.

Security Bureaus in the areas surrounding Beijing have also been put on alert and will undoubtedly take strong measures to limit the access of potential terrorists to industrial materials that could be used to disrupt the festivities, meaning even more factories could be shut down and the transportation of critical industrial raw materials could be halted.

Even the subways are already swarming with police who use hand held electronic devices to check the ID cards of Chinese nationals they randomly and/or profile and pull out of the crowds. (Foreigners are apparently exempt from this scrutiny in my personal experience.)

Inconvenient? Yes. Acceptable? To me, of course.

Possible in any Western country? Certainly not the US. In the US I’m sure there would be lawsuits about civil liberties, protests about the police overstepping their authority, even screams of repression. Politicians would be lined up in front of the microphones to get their face in front of the news camera with some incremental statement of conviction that really misses the holistic reality and the holistic steps that must be taken to combat it.

Here, however, I have yet to see a single politician stand in front of a microphone and question whether all of this was really necessary. And while I have heard individual citizens complain about the inconvenience, not once have I heard any individual question the necessity of the measures.

Perhaps it is too much. Perhaps it won’t be enough. Only time will tell. For now, the holistic Chinese appear fully supportive.

In the meantime I am convinced that incrementalism and the extreme individualism that ultimately follows will only take the US further into an abyss of chaos, unnecessary violence, and paralysis in solving the many social ills that face us in the West.

And to those who claim that it is individualism and personal liberty that got the West to the advanced state it is today I respond that you are interpreting history incrementally, not holistically. Incrementalism can work when there is a common culture, a common moral code, and a common commitment to personal restraint in the interest of the common good. Civil order, as we are now learning, is largely a function of self-restraint, not armed force. (Confucius understood this completely.)

The US had that holistic, if largely invisible, containing wall in the decades immediately following WWII. With the random killings we are now witnessing on the streets and in the homes of America, however, the death that shrouds our schools, and the ‘lone wolves’ now terrorizing our public gathering places, it is hard to say that natural self-restraint remains intact.

As a resident of Beijing, I can honestly say that I’m all in favor of holism. And, yes, there are pros and cons. That’s okay. Only an incrementalist sees the world as either/or, black or white.

To the inductive Westerner, individual freedoms of speech and expression are paramount. To the inductive thinker, however, results are all that matter. What good is the freedom to express myself if no one is listening or acting upon my expression, a position Americans increasingly find themselves in.

View the author’s literary work written under the pen name of Avam Hale. Both books are available at Amazon and most major online retailers in both electronic and print formats.

Copyright © 2015 Glassmaker in China

Notice:  The views expressed in this post are strictly those of the writer acting in a personal capacity.  They are not in any way endorsed or sanctioned by his employer or any other individual with which he may be personally or professionally affiliated.

Jing-Jin-Ji

Imagine a single metropolis of 130 million people. The Chinese are building it. It is called Jing-Jin-Ji and encompasses the current mega-cities of Beijing, Tianjin, and the more rural Hebei Province that sits in between.

It is the brainchild of President Xi Jinping and his urban and economic planners who view the supercity as the future of economic reform and environmental protection.

The key is collaboration where there has previously been little. As noted before, China is not the economic or political monolith that most Westerners perceive. It is a tapestry of cities, regions, and provinces that have operated largely independently and perpetuated income inequities through the strict residency controls of China’s Hukou system first established in 1958.

China's Hukao residency system both perpetuates income inequity and stresses the environment and infrastructure of its large, prosperous urban centers.  Simply eliminating it, however, would only exacerbate the problem in the short term.
China’s Hukou residency system both perpetuates income inequity and stresses the environment and infrastructure of its large, prosperous urban centers. Simply eliminating it, however, would only exacerbate the problem in the short term.

That is why when you cross the line between Beijing and Hebei Province today, as I do every day, you feel like you have stepped back in time. The glass high rises of the capital give way to the brick warrens of traditional Chinese villages. The people are poorer – much poorer – and the sanitation and general appearance of the people and the place is a stark reminder that in many ways China is still very much a developing country.

Unlike the mega-cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, Jing-Jin-Ji (“Jing” for Beijing, “Jin” for Tianjin, and “Ji,” the traditional name for Hebei Province, home to smaller cities like Langfang and Baoding.) this city will not emerge organically. It will be a planned city at every level; all built around a strategically designed network of high speed rail lines.

And therein lies the key to its success. In the past urban planners generally agreed that cities could be no larger than the equivalent of a one-hour drive by car. But mass transit capable of moving commuters at speeds in excess of 300 km per hour changes the math dramatically.

Enabled by that enormous increase in commutable reach, Jing-Jin-Ji will be spread over 82,000 square miles, an area roughly the size of Kansas. It will, however, hold a population larger than a third of the population of the United States and twice the population of France.

To relieve its own traffic and environmental congestion, Beijing will shed itself of all businesses and government bureaucracy non-essential to the fulfillment of its civil role as the capital of China. Even hospitals will be moved.

There are, of course, hurdles to overcome. How, for example, will tax revenues be distributed between areas that today do not share such income?

It is, nonetheless, an ingenious concept that probably wouldn’t be possible in any other country on earth. In the United States it would surely be wrapped up in the courts for decades.

It shows just how holistic the Chinese are in their thinking. They know that without more equitable income distribution there will eventually be social unrest. But they can’t just dismantle the Hukou system or cities like Beijing will be literally crushed by the inflow of people looking for higher incomes and a better way or life. So instead of eliminating the system they will expand its footprint, but do so in a way that minimizes the environmental impact of such high population density.

And, of course, the transformation itself will provide plenty of jobs during the economically challenging years of China’s pivot away from an industrial export economy to a service-led consumption economy.

Circular thinking, perhaps, but an inductively reasoned solution that achieves the desired and most likely deductively-insurmountable goal.

Bravo!

The key to building a supercity of 130 million resident is plentiful and inexpensive mass transit capable of moving residents at speeds in excess of 300 km/h.
The key to building a supercity of 130 million residents is plentiful and inexpensive mass transit capable of moving commuters at speeds in excess of 300 km/h.

View the author’s literary work written under the pen name of Avam Hale. Both books are available at Amazon and most major online retailers in both electronic and print formats.

Copyright © 2015 Glassmaker in China

Notice:  The views expressed in this post are strictly those of the writer acting in a personal capacity.  They are not in any way endorsed or sanctioned by his employer or any other individual with which he may be personally or professionally affiliated.