No sweet spot for Singapore in US-China tensions

That is the title of the new and remarkable Bilahari Kausikan Op-Ed in The Straits Times.  I will serve up some bits, and please note this is now the world we live in:

Evoking the Long March [by Xi] is intended to prepare the Chinese people for a prolonged struggle with the US. It was, in effect, a tacit admission of the CCP’s mistakes with the consequent need for a retreat, while holding out the promise of ultimate victory…

The Chinese have long memories. Despite our constant denials, they still consider Singapore a “Chinese country” and may feel entitled to our support and will not quickly forget if we are regarded as insufficiently helpful in their time of need.

Some in the Trump administration also seem inclined to view the issue in racial terms. As the only ethnic Chinese-origin majority sovereign state outside greater China, we may be subject to special scrutiny.

What Singaporeans need to understand better is that, under present circumstances, there may be no sweet spot we can occupy that will keep both the Chinese and the Americans simultaneously happy. There is no silver bullet, and it is a fool’s errand to look for one.

Neither can we just lie low and hope for the best. You may not look for trouble but trouble may come looking for you. And trouble is all the more likely to seek you out if either side thinks you are, or can be, intimidated.

We must have the courage to pursue our own national interests. Sometimes our national interests may lead us to tilt one way, sometimes the other. But it must always be our national interest that guides us and nothing else.

Both the Chinese and Americans may not be too happy with us for pursuing our own interests. But Singapore does not exist to give joy to American or Chinese hearts. So long as neither side is so unhappy that it dismisses us as unredeemable, we can live with their unhappiness and manage it…

Our more complex domestic politics is a complication. I see still faint but distinct signs that some section of our population – how large, I do not know – either for transactional economic reasons, or unthinking ethnic sympathies, or sheer chauvinism, is beginning to look at the current US-China tensions through a racial lens.

As US-China competition heats up, this tendency may be accentuated. This is the greatest danger to Singapore in this new phase of US-China competition. It is still at a nascent stage and must be checked, if necessary by the prophylactic exercise of the coercive powers that are the legitimate monopoly of the state, before external and internal forces act and react with each other in a vicious spiral downwards.

If we hold together, we can manage the external complications. If we do not, and the social compact which is the foundation on which modern Singapore was built is strained or broken, these internal stresses may make the external complications unmanageable.

Since this period of US-China tensions will be prolonged, this is not a challenge that lends itself to definitive solutions. Managing it requires continual vigilance and periodic decisive action. It is our own Long March.

Do read the whole thing, as I said above this is now the world we live in.


'As the only ethnic Chinese-origin majority sovereign state outside greater China'

Wouldn't want to offend the Chinese, apparently.

Whose efforts to make Taiwan a part of China, and not a sovereign nation, has been part of the world we live in for 70 years.

'there may be no sweet spot we can occupy that will keep both the Chinese and the Americans simultaneously happy'

Well, when it comes to merely ignoring that Taiwan is a sovereign nation, it seems really easy to find a certain sweet spot - just don't offend the Chinese government.

Well, the entire point of the article is, "Our only option is to ask, what's in it for us?" The claim is that the best, or maybe only, way to navigate this scylla and charybdis is to credibly claim to only be pursuing their nation's self-interest when doing business with either of the hegemons. It almost seems to contemplate a balance of unhappiness with both of them.

The name thing seems like an easy enough decision in that light.

Does Singapore trade much with Taiwan?

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'"Our only option is to ask, what's in it for us?" '

As noted by BC, China apparently feels that current borders should not apply to China. Whether it be expansion over maritime regions or claims of outright ownership, Singapore's best hope is in supporting concepts that undoubtedly do not meet the standards of Chinese expansionist.

I'm not sure that, "what's in it for us", is the right take.

I read the excerpt as a warning about the purely internal tensions within Singaporean politics. If they lose sight of being Singaporean first and then one of the several ethnic groups second Singapore as a country looses. They should not pick side -- China or the USA -- but pick Singapore and deal with the costs and realities of the external world from that view.

What is also interesting about this area is that Singapore is clearly "Chinese" due to migration of Chinese to that location -- displacing the Malay who are the original people. It will be interesting to see how that plays out here.

Yes, and no sense of irony either given that just a few sentences earlier, the author wrote, "Despite our constant denials, [the Chinese] still consider Singapore a 'Chinese country' and may feel entitled to our support."

First they came for Taiwan, but we didn't speak up because we were Singaporeans....

From Wikipedia, "More recently, people from China have taken to describing Singapore as 'Po County' (坡縣), comparing it with a county of China....the comparison is not viewed favourably by many Singaporeans."

But, China "experts" assure us that China is different from the old Soviet Union as China doesn't have expansionist ambitions....

Singapore's air force used to train in Taiwan. Not sure if they still do.

Eye on the ball, Tyler: Russia interfered in US elections! Their man Ivan Trumpovich is already in the White House, plotting to give away Alaska.

Chin up! The Chinese are secretly terrified of all our empowered wimyns and xirs.

All Americans should be on their guard; the Russians might ever seek to distribute embarrassing, politically difficult, true material on senior Democrats, ostensibly through private citizens. Some Americans may take this activity at face value that this is private citizens leaking embarrassing, politically difficult, true material on senior Democrats (which is of course no crime), and fail to report this to the authorities.

Oddly, the Russians might be wondering why you left out the glaringly obvious - 'All Americans should be on their guard; the Russians might ever seek to distribute embarrassing, politically difficult, true material on senior Republicans and Democrats, ostensibly through private citizens. Some Americans may take this activity at face value that this is private citizens leaking embarrassing, politically difficult, true material on senior Republicans and Democrats (which is of course no crime), and fail to report this to the authorities.'

The Russians are interested in weakening their major adversary in any fashion available, and it has nothing to do favoring the Republicans or Democrats in American domestic party politics.

This is true. And has been since the end of WWII

Economy of style, prior. "And Republicans" would do, to make the point you believe you're making.

Great article.

China is keen to mobilise its diaspora, most significantly in Singapore and Malaysia but also in Australia and New Zealand. This takes the form of patriotic propaganda and stories planted to inflame relations. They are very comfortable using the western vocabulary of race and identity to rile up Chinese living abroad.

If push comes to shove, many close American allies are going to face significant domestic pressure to keep out of it rather than backing the US.

They just want to keep the diaspora from turning against it, knowing full well that the diaspora played a major role in bringing down the Qing. If the Chinese economy goes south, they will be playing defense on all fronts against multiple threats to their political power. The diaspora is one of them.

Did the ethnic Iraqi diaspora keep America's allies from supporting the war in Iraq? No. The reasons must be just and you must actually be friendly to allies in time of peace. Bush failed the first, Trump fails the second.

To my knowledge the Iraqi diaspora was small, not particularly influential and not the target of an organization program by the Iraqi government.
The Chinese diaspora, on the other hand...

I can assure you that the vast majority of Chinese Associations have PRC ties and sometimes funding. The campaign is no secret.

Arabs don't really like or trust each other. There are always plenty of Arab carpetbaggers the CIA can keep around in case the US decides to replace a Middle Eastern government. The Chinese seem to have more national affinity even though their individual dealings may be low-trust.

Perhaps if other countries did not discriminate against the Chinese diaspora, the Chinese diaspora would not support China as much? Read about how Chinese-Americans were treated in the 1800s, or the pogroms against diaspora Chinese in Southeast Asia (hundreds of thousands expelled from Vietnam in the year leading up to the 1979 Chinese attack; hundreds of thousands more killed by Indonesian dictatorship). Many Chinese diaspora want China to be a prosperous country that can defend itself for the same reason many Jews want Israel to be.

Chinese businesses and merchants and their concerns haven't exactly treat the other peoples of Southeast Asia to a smile and a handshake and equal treatment as business partners and customers, even before we get think about actual existing Chinese imperialism in mainland SE Asia (Vietnam and Burma) as recently as the 1800s.

But if the overseas Chinese, deeply invested in local business, wanna treat as the lesser of two evils a bunch of officially and bois who are 1) ideologically Communist, 2) uninterested in rights or the rule of law and 3) have a bunch of corrupt crony capitalist growth that's mostly rewards Party insiders who by definition ain't overseas Chinese.... well, that's kinda their bad choice to make, I guess.

Do you know why Chinese are hated in Indonesia?

The Dutch created an apartheid like system where Chinese were allowed to be tax farmers. Tax farmers aren't popular. And they exploit people.

Chinese also opened retail stores because they knew more about retailing than Javanese peasants did. Think Korean stores and African-American communities...

Presentist bias in time and place. I'm guessing Zaua comes from a context where it is visibly salient that post-1960s American Chinese are highly selected, and do mostly contribute positively to the economy without discriminating against the locals (and, yes, possibly more so the other way if anything).

So he/she tends to overgeneralize this to the past, imagining European migration to the Americas as positively selected for skills (even though it wasn't), and imagining past waves of Chinese migrants as relentlessly fair and open dealing with locals in SE Asia (even when they really weren't).

And to imagine Chinese as somehow analogous to Ashkenazi Jews - even though the Chinese are probably the least dispossessed and most internationally powerful actor in Asia as a whole, and keen to use that state power to benefit the merchant diaspora, almost the opposite in their situation than the Jews.

MR's extract is very selective. It leaves out the most interesting part about China's thinking and the insight that the root of the current confrontation is in Obama's no response to China's invasion and occupation of the South Sea. I second the suggestion to read the whole article. BTW, the world has not changed, we always lived in it but we had illusions that suddenly the Moshiach had arrived and there was peace on Earth.

The South Sea has been invaded and occupied by China? Depending on who you are talking to, Australia can be included in the South Sea. I was wondering why the trains were running on time this morning.

He means they "invaded" the empty part.


Oh, that. An expensive mistake by China clearly going against international treaties on these things, but not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier.

Why is China's leadership being so stupid? Probably so they can distract their populace with sabre rattling. I don't recommend playing their game. There's always the chance they'll forget they're only supposed to be sabre rattling. I think the best thing is a united front calmly insisting that territorial disputes be rationally decided by an international court. It's hard to make a monster out of coalition of companies who think an issue should be decided sensibly.

Why would China agree to that? They have fortified military bases in the South China Sea and are denying the right to maritime navigation of the surrounding waters. And why shouldn't they?

Ah, I see. You are concerned that China may interfere with other nations ability to trade with China. We're a little bit more sanguine about that here.

One is always learning new things. So Australia is in the South China Sea? They have built artificial fortified islands and declared that all the sea is theirs. Time being, Australia is outside of the area delimited by the seven "islands", but it is too early to know. Anyway, it augurs more to come.

The South China Sea is near China. (The hint is in its name.) The South Sea isn't a delineated location and what it is depends on who you ask.

There are 600 million people in countries bordering the South China Sea, not including China. All of them with family sizes that are larger and populations that are younger than China's. All have an interest in free navigation of the seas. What approach do you think the United States should take to go about building a coalition of the sensible?

I shouldn't have said all the countries have higher birthrates than China. Taiwan, Singapore, and Thailand are all lower. Still got China beat on averages. Anyway, in 10 years Indonesia's population will be about 300 million and its per capita GDP may have doubled in that time. If you are worried about China then obviously you'd want to boost economic growth and stability in nations in the region.

The South China Sea is shared by many countries; it is not occupied by China.

"not occupied by China"....?

From your own link: "In 1987, China installed a small military structure on Fiery Cross Reef on the pretext[citation needed] to build an oceanic observation station and install a tide gauge for the Global Sea Level Observing System.[9] After a deadly skirmish with the Vietnamese Navy, China installed some military structures on more reefs in the vicinity of the Philippines and Vietnamese occupied islands and this led to escalating tensions between these countries and China over the status and "ownership" of reefs."

Sure sounds to me like a long history or militarily expanding China's territorial rights. But we can go much farther back to document things like that. For instance, Taiwan was not considered part of China until a little more than 100 years back.

Go farther back and you'll see that the northern part of what is Korea used to extend much further north and west.

Much of eastern mainland China belonged to others as well.

China's "long memory" is very selective.

I get annoyed when some people say China's multi-millenium history is proof that democracy doesn't work there. Jackie Chan famously said that Chinese people need to be controlled. People then nod their heads like its some foregone conclusion. Yet, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are all proof that Chinese democracy exists today and most importantly works very well (although less so in HK these days unfortunately). The usual retort then goes well China has over a billion people and those are just tiny city-states. Well India has over a billion people too and they are a democracy! If China wants to be a good citizen in the 21st century they are running out of excuses. Drop the totalitarian state act and learn from the many Asian countries that transitioned from 20th century dictatorships/one-party states to 21st century democracies. Big Brother China can learn from Little Brother Singapore.

HK was/is not a democracy/republic because the British never trusted the people of HK to do what the British wanted it to do.

If there were a democracy demonstration of any size in HK in the 50s, the British would have responded as China does today.

Only when the British decided HK wasnt worth spilling British blood/treasure did the British consider giving self rule to HK instead of returning it to China. Decades too late. In the 70s, an independent HK would have been defended like Taiwan, Korean, et al by the British and US against a weaker China faced with strong USSR competition in a global cold war.

China's rise is as much due to the collapse of the USSR as it is economic reform, which probably need that breakup to be under taken.

After all HK existed because the British needed to get the Chinese addicted on British opium, which served US interests as well in developing the US pacific west. How dare the Chinese rulers ban opium!

"China's rise is as much due to the collapse of the USSR as it is economic reform,"

China had been growing at 4% to 5% a year in the 70s and after it opened in 1978 began to grow at 8% to 9%. The USSR broke up in 1990/1991, right?

" which served US interests as well": particularly those US families who made their wealth from the opium trade. Such as the Delanos. Where have I heard that name before?

Probably in connection with a president who stretched American law into a pretzel while ignoring Congress and American isolstionism.

Strangely enough, he did it to keep the UK from losing WWII. Pretty sure you have heard his name in connection with trivial things like D-Day too.

Best to stick to Taiwan. HK and SG not great examples.

Taiwan is actually a fascinating example of homegrown democracy, and can stand alone as proof that ethnically Chinese societies can embrace and flourish under democracy. Whether they can flourish with a suffocating and threatening big brother like the PRC is another question...

Taiwan. What do you suppose the US would have done if the Confederate leadership, seeing its ultimate failure, had moved into Cuba, conquered the locals and set up a miniature US of A? In the case of the native Taiwanese, much like the American natives, they are the few survivors of a ideological battle between strangers. Neither of the two adversaries belongs in Taiwan, then or now. Parenthetically, the Chinese diaspora, due to its successful business influence over the rest of the world, is unlikely to have many friends or supporters in "democratic" but increasingly "populist" neighborhoods. So much for cosmopolitanism.

Your metaphor would hold if the local Cubans had eventually taken control of that government and built their own democracy (while the rest of the US starved). Taiwan is no longer defined by the KMT - statues of Chiang Kai-shek are being removed all over the island and the 228 Incident is very publicly discussed (compare that with the CCP's reaction to yesterday's 30 year anniversary). Throwing off the yoke of the KMT and building a genuinely democratic society is exactly what makes Taiwan politically exceptional, not the mere fact that they avoided the disaster of communist rule and therefore developed a modern economy long before the PRC. The bulk of the population is descended from immigrants from Fujian province over the 17th-19th centuries, and they are the ones that run the country. You phrased it as if the 1949 migration wave overwhelmed an insignificant aboriginal population and has been in charge since then - that is not what happened at all.

It is similar to South Korea. They too threw off the chains of strong arm dictatorship and opened up the country to democracy in time for the '88 summer Olympics. Of course, the US relationship meant that democracy would be an inevitability. Today, the purge of hundreds of thousands of leftists and the massacre of pro-democracy student movements are all openly talked about. SK, like Taiwan, has been putting a lot of former presidents in prison. The fact that these Asian democracies have the capability to put corrupt leaders away without harming the legitimacy of their government is what I find exceptional.

building a genuinely democratic society

Ain't no such thing.

India is a democracy, and it is doing considerably less well than China. The two countries were similarly in life expectancy and GDP in 1950, and China is now way ahead.

Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong are populated by the most educated and ambitious elites of China, so of course they were going to be more liberal and successful than mainland China; it’s the same reason ethnic Southern Italians in the United States are doing better than those who stayed in Southern Italy.

90% of Hong Kong's territory was leased from China for 99 years, a lease whose expiry was in 1997. Only Hong Kong Island itself, which today has about 17% of the total population of Hong Kong, was "permanently" ceded to the UK.

Given that looming deadline, there was never any possibility of Hong Kong becoming some kind of self-ruling entity.

That was supposed to be a response to Mulp

"Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong are populated by the most educated and ambitious elites of China"

In terms of education, this doesn't apply nearly as much to Singapore, which was not a significant beneficiary of the 1949 KMT diaspora. Most of the Chinese population were blue collar workers, not lawyers driven out by the Communists. It's a big reason why they came within a hair of walking the communist path themselves in the 60s.

As for ambition, it's hard to say - immigrants of any type are a self-selecting bunch. But European migration to the US didn't seem to hold back Europe much...

European migration to the USA during the age of major European migration to the USA seems to have been negatively selected -

Argument is that this is inevitable with far larger income and welfare divides in the Old World at the low skill end so probably also true with respect to Southern Italy to the US. They weren't sending their best. Contra Zaua's rather odd assumption that Sicilians are a cut below Sicilian-Americans.

Post 1960 Asian migration to the US is probably the opposite, due to the complex visa system, much larger absolute wealth divides at the top end. Chinese Americans probably are better than Chinese.

When it comes to GDP per capita, India followed pretty bad policies between 1928 to 1985. Nehruvian Socialism and the Licence Raj, y'know. Democracy doesn't make you immune from that.

Still, Indian GDP per capita was far the superior of China all through 1800-1969 -

India stagnates to a lower level than China for about 15 years after 1969, then, starts to grow at about the same per capita rate in 1985. This is all per Maddison's figures.

And India was devoid of the singular vast ideologically driven famines and political murders that characterized China under the Communists for much of their 20th century rule. No "Great Leap Forward" for the Indians. That's one thing democracy probably does do for you, even if it doesn't always give you the right policies for growth.

The ChiComs did do a little better on improving healthy life expectancy from 1950-1970 though, Great Leap Forward notwithstanding, so you have to give them that - . Maybe that's one thing that they did better.

Literacy too - - although given China's complex script, its hard to say exactly what that literacy really means in comparable terms.

"Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong are populated by the most educated and ambitious elites of China"
You forget that the most educated and ambitious elites of China are also in the rich cities of Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen. Ali Baba, Huawei, Tencent, etc. are all in China proper. What about the Chinese diaspora in SE Asia and the West that seem to be doing well too? If there's Chinese "elites" everywhere, then we need to use a different word.

More erosion of basic human rights even in Hong Kong due to Communist Party of China bullying.

I get the sense that discussion of the accelerating repression of the Communist Party of China and Beijing is not PC in libertarian and "free trade" circles.

And since every discussion must be racialized, I also wonder if Hong Kong was populated by white European descendants would the West be so cavalier about the elimination of human rights in Hong Kong.

Well, Hungary is populated mostly by white Europeans and outcry about Orban‘s reversion to Chinese style authoritarianism doesn‘t seem to be provoking a lot of outrage.

"China is clearly ahead in some crucial areas of software, notably artificial intelligence."


"But Singapore does not exist to give joy to American or Chinese hearts."

Exactly. As President Captain Bolsonaro says, "Brazil above everything. God above everyone."

But is Brazil above God, or is God above Brazil?

Brazil is a nation under God. According to famous Brazilian religious leader Mr. Malafaia and Congolose pastor Kunda, God has chosen President Captain Bolsonaro to free Brazil like He choose Cyrus the Great to free the Jewish people.

we love you man
but you can't believe everthing that tele-evangelists assert

Mosieur Kunda said it via internet. Also, President Captain Bolsonaro agrees. He said, "no one can explain how I became president". He had no budget, his party was small, he had only amfew seconds every day on TV while his enemies had many minutes. God has chosen him to be Brazil's Cyrus.

Don't be an idiot. I didn't choose Bolsonaro heck I barely think about Brazil. The red guy with a pitchfork probably did it. I probably give him too much free reign but I've been so busy these days trying to prevent mankind from inventing AI because we all know how that will end. That and I'm a jealous god that can't stand competitors. Singularitarians are worse than atheists. If you don't mind, I'm going to appear in a batch of pupusas in Guatemala real soon.

Singapore is so heavily invested in China, I don't see how Singapore could manage to be neutral in the trade war - Singapore's sovereign funds return much of the funds originating from China. But Singapore, if it aligns with China, wouldn't of itself be that great of a loss to the U.S. as compared to a host of countries that might choose to remain neutral of even align with China, including the nascent economies of southeast Asia and Africa, the Philippines (strategically located in the shipping lanes between southeast Asia and the Pacific), even Australia. And what happens if Trump's trade war with China escalates, will the thousands of native Chinese residing in places in the west such as Toronto be treated as outcasts or worse? How about American politicians such as Mitch McConnell, who is married to Elaine Chao, Trump's Secretary of Transportation, whose native Chinese family owns one of the largest shipping companies with deep ties to the Chinese government. McConnell is one of the richest members of the Senate as the result of gifts from the Chao family. Will the conflict between the U.S. and China spill over into domestic politics in the US., threatening anyone with business or family ties to China? The potential reach of the trade war with China could be long.

Whoops, Vancouver.

Not really a mistake--Toronto too.

Many times I have said that communism is bad, but I have been laughed at. Maybe now it becomes kosher for Americans to admit that Red China is an aggressive, totalitarian regime and that supporting it was wrong. But I won't hold my breath.

I think most above ignore the simple message in this quote. If America increasingly views the world through a racial lense, the world will increasingly look back on those terms.

To paraphrase Tyler, it's not your grandfather's framing. It's not about expanding democracy and human rights.

I see. America is forcing racist Asians to act on their delusional superiority complex. You know, maybe Asians have moral agency of their own!!

Even if the Chinese believed in an ethnic superiority, it was an effective counter-strategy to set democracy and human rights in opposition.

As oppose to, you know, "When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak."

Maybe if Americans did not support Red China's regime, those things would not happen.

If Americans did not *model* themselves on the Red Chinese!

Americans are supporting a dictatorship!!!

It is not that simple.

It is a difficult straddle if you try to support authoritarians opposing authoritarians.

No, it is not.

It is.

No, it is not. It is written: "Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters".

It is. It is written: "Thiago Ribeiro is a lunatic from Ohio"

No, it is written nowhere, let alone in God's Word.

Actually he's right. We both know you are from Ohio and have some mental challenges.

I have no mental challanges. I have never been to Ohio.

You cannot hide from me, my son.

I don't hide. I hunt.

Maybe the David Koresh affair, Ruby Ridge, Elian Gonzalez, Kent State, the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia, etc. have disappeared into the memory statute of limitations but Tianamen Square will always be remembered.

And children dying in immigration jail?

Something might have happened in the way we respond to these things.

Surely, if the Democrats succeed in decreasing funding for BP and ICE, the migrant children will be safer!

Trumpian (il)logic is apparently a communicable disease.

Cowen has been focused on this theme both on this blog and at Bloomberg, including his post yesterday about accommodation between nationalists and cosmopolitans. Here, we tend to think of nationalists as white nationalists, but nationalism knows no color or ethnicity. Recall that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor to weaken the Pacific fleet and protect Japan's sphere of influence in southeast Asia, Japan's influence having been challenged by America's presence in the Philippines. China has expanded its sphere of influence, not by military domination as was the case with Japan, but with economic ties - that's what Belt and Road is all about. That's also what the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) was all about, to expand the west's economic sphere of influence in the East, but Trump killed it, killed it because he didn't understand it. It's often said that the ignorant often lead countries into war. Well, Trump is ignorant.

The TPP was killed because it was an anti-democratic, crony-capitalist, anti-sovereign, rococo atrocity. Unceremoniously killing it was one of Trump's disappointingly few Trumpian acts.

I thought the TPP because I thought it was too hard on countries the US should be trying to win over. I wasn't aware it would be replaced with random trade wars.

I don't think the Chinese have ever had a problem thinking of themselves as the Han nation-state with collective interests.

I don't know if this is attributable to all or most Chinese, but Jet Li rolls out a hilariously ham-fisted view of race and ethnicity in Fearless. The Americans are clumsy oafs but worthy of respect. The British and French are corrupt fops. The Japanese are imperialist running dogs. The Han are the natural guardians of the diverse Asian peoples!

Think about the Opium War: a literal war by British imperialists to keep the Chinese government from banning opium. Singapore still executes drug dealers. If you look at Chinese actions across the former Commonwealth, and view them thru the lens of payback for the Opium War, it explains a lot. Of course, I doubt there's a secret memo on this, so maybe the Opium War doesn't figure in Chinese thinking, but it sure looks like it does.

At some point I expect the three countries that matter will recognize the reality of a tri-polar world and negotiate on their respective spheres of influence. Australia and New Zealand will just have to figure out what to do when China sends over 50 million homebuyers. Canadian prime ministers already campaign in India and I expect they will start doing this in China as well so Canada is probably too far gone. Maybe we'll focus southward after everybody realizes that large swathes of Central and South America are incapable of self-governance and respond accordingly.

It’s not just the opium war. That was simply first in a series of problems involving foreign powers and influences. Even the Taiping Rebellion - essentially a civil war, but one that is also in the top 5 biggest wars in history in terms of number participants - is sometimes viewed as a product of western religion. Add in the Boxer Rebellion, Sino-Japanese war, all the cessions of cities to western powers, and of course the Japanese invasion that started WWII in the Pacific, and there’s plenty of relatively recent history to support a mistrust of foreigners.

so how come singapores newspaper editorials
are exponentialy morecogent, objective & pertinent
than the new york times/washington post editorials?

We might be looking at this all wrong. Everyone sees this as a trade war. It really isn't. I think it better to view it through the lens of a conflict in property rights regimes.

Given the Chinese, at least under the CCP, do not have the same understanding and view of property rights as the USA we have conflict in trade relationships.

The standard argument for trade benefits is similar to Friedman's Machinery of Freedom. Buchanan noted that in the absence of shared property rights concepts that machinery will necessarily brake down.

Perhaps the USA, China and the world in general might actually be better off with LESS trade between China and many other countries -- or perhaps more accurately, less investment and integration into various supply chain structures.

Even with no problem in the trade relationships the USA and China have serious geopolitical disagreement that are leading towards conflict. Adding trade relationships just increases the margins for conflict.

I think so, but further complicated by the fact that neither country is truly united in its beliefs. An open source hacker in Shenzhen may find common cause with an open source hacker in Houston. Neither may be aware (or certainly be able to control) rouge-or-not agents hacking into Boeing.

To be honest, I think Trump is just playing "quien is mas macho" with Xi, and not understanding this .. but the attempted veneers on his strategies do treat China as one thing and the US as another.

That's probably not a useful simplification. There are actors within China who we could encourage.

Perhaps some people see the trade war through a racial lens because Trump’s own officials have come out and said that our conflict with China is because Chinese are “not Caucasian”?

LOL at the racist notion that inside every Chinese is a white social democratic Lutheran just waiting to get out. This is the same mentality that thinks everybody from Beirut to Tokyo is "Asian."

Well, to be factual and not alternative factual about it, *one* official did, in her own opinion and without quoting that this was anyone else's opinion, say that this dimension would add to tension, which no doubt it does to some degree, but not that anything about the China strategy was *because* of this.

And that official, Kiron Skinner, you have to wonder if being a black Republican establishment figure trying to navigate the choppy waters between the US's need to confront China on trade and security concerns, and a mass media that daily portrays huge racial conflict in the US and accuses the administration she chose to work in of being White supremacist, if all that isn't putting her under some serious pressures in dealings with the public.

"this is now the world we live in" - no, this is the world we have made. The passive construction works ridiculously hard to obscure what actually caused the world to be as it is.

Wow, foreign countries are sovereign and have agency!

What hath Trump wrought! It’s almost like 20 years of militarized foreign policy and destroying 5+ Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and N. African countries with pointless wars has blow back on US reputation!

What’s the choice here pick economic growth or a US Navy base? Whatever happened to freeload off the US protection while getting the Chinese trade benefits?

Poor Singapore…if you gave cosmopolitan TC his version of the Trolley Problem, choice between a Singaporean VC and street food vendor tied to one track and 20 Middle Class Americans on the other, I think we all know where TC would pull the lever!

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