2017: Bully meets bully. Con meets con. Chinese arrogance and juvenile nationalism meets American voter stupidity. Something's gotta give. Unless Donald Trump turns out to be China's stooge after all.
That was my (edited) reply to a tweet about China brazenly stealing a U.S. underwater drone. One of countless documented acts of bullying used to stir up jingoism in the heavily censored, underinformed and misinformed surveillance state covertly facilitating both North Korea's missile development program and economy. The same nation projected to be anyone's greatest threat by 2025 that uses “diplomacy” to strategically mislead America and the world. Ask Tom Friedman. And listen to Part 1.
But expect civilian, expat and business casualties downstream as Trump's America, Xi Jinping's increasingly jingoistic China and paranoid and unstable Kim Jong-un duke it out as the race to World War III erupts via the South China Sea. And who know what hybrid or direct catalyst Putin's Russia will offer as America is outfoxed. Yes, real Richard Clarke stuff. But about that so-called Trump-Tsai Ing-wen snafu or Trump China tweets, rebukes and Xi “is a good man” blab?
Not so fast. Listen to the BBC discussion playing now. Manually start it at the bottom of the page if not playing. Switch to a browser or device that supports Flash. Or download or listen here. Critically, if you read U.S. Cyber Deterrence 1.0 (Preview), “How Putin Weaponized U.S. Social Media” prequel to Garry Kasparov vs. U.S. Putin Apologists — and all of them prerequisites — you will understand my contention that if hacking is the new espionage, diplomacy is the new Trojan horse for an already imploding America. And as the New York Times echoed following publication of Part 1, U.S. useful idiots are legion. Including in academia. Corrupt, naive, dangerous policies and influence-peddling I don't see Trump fixing. Nevertheless, like strategic intensity, his unpredictability can be a strategic asset. No matter what North Korea makes fearful Americans think. And Henry Kissinger concurs.
Not anymore. Because learning an adversary's language abroad, writing books about or majoring in Russian, Chinese or Asian studies doesn't automatically make one an expert but easily a “useful idiot” undergoing indoctrination unawares. Unless they consciously, emphatically refuse to be useful idiots. Sadly for decades, U.S. Foreign Policy has been shaped by naïve apologists intoxicated by hospitality abroad. Establishing dangerous exploitable cadence of the type Bruce Lee exposes in Game of DeathA Kenyan mother of two I know who came to China with big dreams recently quietly settled in a small remote village earning little money teaching English. Her conditioning began when she returned from Hong Kong having spent a week there processing her visa only to find her apartment had been given to someone else. Her belongings, moved to an unkempt corner of the building. Trip.com CEO Travis Katz also has relevant China stories you should read. Including debunking the trade myth. But I lived in Asia Pacific for some 15 years. 12+ in China. And the question that never ceased to haunt me was:
Why is it that — putting aside Russian cyber crime for a moment — China, which is single-handedly responsible for perhaps the most documented evidence of U.S. intellectual property, data theft and strategic economic cyber espionage all of which have benefited its economy, military and global reputation, is allowed to get away with so much?
Americans are obsessed with walking on eggshells to not offend Beijing. Yet American disunity and naïvety here worries me more.
GOP Putin apologists keep deflecting blame when Russian U.S. Election is raised with the now all too familiar refrain: “It could be China.” Yet like Russia, China has expertly, surgically socially engineered America to the point where only few who understand the Mainland Chinese core culture of deception find unnerving. To know China is not so much about mastering Mandarin and using chopsticks as it is being superb at reading people, —who frankly will hoodwink you if you let them.
Business and government leaders are unimaginatively trapped in fear instead of resolve. Never asking: Why isn't China offended or embarrassed when they hack, rob and cheat us? We allow China to establish a rhythm. Take risks and liberties. Nibble away and pluck our feathers one at a time. Yet most of the world, not just America, isn't taking risks to correct the imbalance it has with China. And that's a failure of vision, strategy, tactics; leadership. Not China's fault for plundering with impunity.
Indeed as Jeroen De Flander aptly put it: “If you have too many rear view mirrors, it will be very difficult to see the road ahead.” And Travis Katz couldn't have been more accurate: “If China was a battleground - and when it comes to competition and innovation, it is - the field would be littered with U.S. tech companies that came, saw and failed to conquer.”
Ask any clued-in cyber security, intelligence or strategic security expert to provide overwhelming proof that China attempts to extend the same courtesy or consideration in its aggressive "great brain robbery" as CBS aptly called it, and I promise you, only fake news will suffice.I'm no Trump fan. Hoped U.S. Electors didn't elect him on December 19. But noted that given the fact he was signalling a deep understanding of the P.R.C. that I recognize, a strategist's curiosity is piqued.
Because to beat Mainland Chinese, one has to show them he knows their game and moves, inside out.
The entire Mainland Chinese society, as one CNN forum commenter once opined, is based on deception. It takes ethical, fiercely independent-minded Mainland Chinese born people or veteran foreigners with advanced observational skills, situational awareness and keen strategic security sense to acknowledge this (as one catches people in the act FREQUENTLY) as fact, rather than smear. And to avoid going off on a tangent, I'll spare you relevant anecdotes.However, not surprisingly, this skill, learned from infancy — as I've observed for over a decade living there — permeates national policy. And leveraged internationally to beat the Europeans (whether it is brazenly cloning their top brands from Porsche to Jaguar Land Rover with impunity), Africans, Americans and others in all competitive milieus. That's why China and naive Western academia and even the Department of Justice can talk “cooperation” as China chuckles. Knowing the above Chinese government-affiliated cyber criminals will never see U.S. Justice.
Similarly, kleptocratic, tyrannical and corrupt resource-rich African governments and democracies are being out-foxed as Chinese pour into Africa for business while in China, the citizens of those nations face highly unfavorable social and immigration discrimination as well as outright racism, daily. This, in a country where Black media and movies (Denzel Washington's, etc.), not just American culture, is proactively blocked and suppressed while Chinese leadership colludes with corrupt African leaders who could care less about favorable visa policies for their citizens. Many, I'm told, sometimes getting by on 3-7day visas.
It's not the fault of the admirably pragmatic Mainland Chinese, that they're thriving in countries like Ghana where they're beginning to cook and sell local foods and bottled water while Black media and Black American movies are blocked in their own theaters back home, fueling intense racial ignorance and curiosity. That's why you have college educated Chinese secretly and rudely filming and stealing shots of unsuspecting foreigners dozing off in public transport or minding their business only to lie when caught. Black people, in particular. Things Hong Kongers have no time for.
Trump's duplicity and unpredictability — for strategic security reasons — may not be a bad thing. Because Mainland Chinese leadership has abused American predictability; so-called American values, and Western and African governments' naive foreign policy for years. Case in point, the “since 1979” protocol breach argument/line, getting into the WTO with promises of easing restrictions and respecting Human Rights, the Hong Kong handover, to name a few. Same argument applies to North Korea's Kim Jong Un, who benefits from scholars' lack of imagination vis-à-vis a U.S. military strike.
Moreover, words like “cooperation” and “mutual benefit” are platitudes American policymakers together with timid, wined and dined academia (see my Social Engineering blog series if unclear) have latched onto for years, to justify their careers. And those serve China well. Not so much America. Be it suppression of self-determination, self-expression and Human Rights of Hong Kongers, Taiwanese, Tibetans, the Uighurs or Dalai Lama. This includes the deceptive Sino-DPRK influence.Everybody with a good head on their shoulders knows that Taiwan is no province. Mainland Chinese entrepreneurs finding me affable and college professors I've mentored have secretly initiated conversations telling me that much. Likewise, commuters and strangers who opened up to me after I made them laugh and they initiated politically-sensitive queries themselves.
That, as courageous Hong Kongers and legislators have risked Beijing's ruthless ire in asserting publicly with banners: “Hong Kong is NOT China.” That, the annexed, occupied, arrested, enslaved and suppressed cultures, values and vision of Tibetans and Uighurs alike don't belong. Not in a world where self-determination trumps Han-Chinese (Mainland) nationalism.
To counterbalance continued Mainland Chinese leadership manipulation and exploitation of America is to understand and 'patch' the huge cultural competency deficit Americans bring to the table. A deficit that allows us to overlook, despite glaring weekly evidence, the disproportionate role deception plays in this unequal relationship and foreign policy.
Moreover, business opportunities for foreign enterprises, like a small cat acting like a big cat has been a front. A façade for years. Much like Chinese banks hiding over a $2 trillion in loans. Behind all the veneer is nationalism. And Americans who mistake vacationing and hanging out and being wined and dined by Mainland Chinese nationalists for knowing China have always been the first to fall victim to Mainland Chinese deception. Personally, and as entrepreneurs, I'm very fond of the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter's Jack Dorsey whom I frequently tweet business insights related to China. And the likes of Uber's Travis Kalanick. But that doesn't stop me from describing their moves and that of others blocked or sure to be, if not strategically killed in China, as naive. Nationalism above all is the way and we know what Albert Einstein said about that:The average Mainlander, even when educated to tertiary level and highly decorated professionally, often is easily ethically challenged by virtue of a “duty” they are relentlessly indoctrinated into believing they owe to “mother China”. As well as a preparedness to use all deceptive means at their disposal to advance the motherland. And Jackie Chan's own Shanghai Noon (2000) accurately depicts this with the line: “He will never learn. He can only follow orders.” Exceptions? Absolutely! From Ai Weiwei and Liu Xiaobo to thousands of harassed, killed or silenced yet courageous Mainland Chinese.
Moreover, the pettiness and retaliatory predisposition of Mainland Chinese foreign policy and whimsical nature of immigration policy based on some argument or offense its leadership takes with some random country, and its bullying tactics with regard to displeasure about Dalai Lama visits, the misappropriation not just of Intellectual Property and flagrant denials when caught, but also of the word "law", like the word "smear", explains why experts have rightly dubbed it "immature".
Such immaturity often parallels its penchant for unprofessionalism not only in the South China Sea but the one recently directed at President Obama when it choreographed a red carpet G20 arrival snub. Some U.S. optimists might ask: That's the “thank you” we get Nixon's support of your gradual opening up? A “FU” for all that prolific, well-documented IP theft China is well-known for but gets away with? But as if all that wasn't enough Beijing refused to apologize, doubling down on a familiar chorus repeated by China's own Public Security Bureau on social media — variations of which have been directed at other foreigners. Namely:
—This is China!
—This is my country!
—This is our country!
—This is our country! This is our airport!
—If you don't like it, go back to your country!
—If you don't agree, go back to your country!
That is Chinese pragmatism for you. Often accompanied by a well-timed cold dish of rudeness that even Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth III knows a thing or two about. Mainland Chinese duplicity buttering up a target through deception even as they greet or dispose of them with rudeness. Free refills guaranteed.
And all in the same week Philippine President Duterte, whose country's U.S. Aid could be used for better things at home called President Obama the “son of a whore.” So, I ask: Isn't time? Isn't America powerful enough to stand up for itself and stop appeasing repressive regimes unafraid hack, plunder, disrespect and bully America into accepting a 'One China' worldview we know to be FALSE? Why is China suffocating the free world with juvenile P.R.C. nationalism while butchering Self-Expression OK?
America's most hostile strategic and aggressive adversaries — China, Russia, Iran and North Korea — have one thing going for them that America urgently lacks in a restive world. And that is political decisiveness and national unity. It doesn't matter if the latter is forced.
What matters is, it's not enough to be at the top of the medal table in the Olympics — something very important to Mainland Chinese nationalism, and needless to say, in Putin's Russia too — to have a formidable superpower fighting force, Silicon Valley, or the greatest innovations that matter to your name, IF politically, you're a dysfunctional mess.
This, Chinese leadership understands, consistently has, and rightly should, continue to exploit.China is winning. Because regardless its faults, its smart obsession with STABILITY and disinterest in the kind of self-imposed distractions that ideologically consume DISUNITED Americans — from gun hubris, rancor and litigiousness to actively sabotaging their own Presidents; obsessive obstruction, to a kleptocracy by legislature and oligarchy by judiciary — means it is in fact more formidable than the U.S. by virtue of its ability to stay functional and focused as a nation. A strength it is invested in perfecting.
It also knows its weaknesses. Which is why its posturing in the South China Sea is a bit laughable because well-informed defense analysts will tell you its military buildup as well as island occupation can't survive a serious military conflict. Not with a military superpower. The same argument applies to talk of nuking Taiwan's 23 million peace-loving citizens or bullying them to forego their right to self-determination. Sure. But at what price?
The Russians? Well, click above to read. And listen to Garry Kasparov in the previous installment. But similarly, when Putin jokes about destroying America in 30 minutes — again, sure. Almost everybody has nuclear weapons now. But he'd have to take the whole world with him. Wouldn't he?By contrast, U.S. foreign policy is enslaved, hacked, socially engineered and naively stuck in the past. Applying American ideals where cutthroat competition is required. With marriage to the 'faculty lounge' suffocating imagination like a Floyd Mayweather opponent out of ideas, facing indecision, and capitulating.
America has over-studied its enemies yet missed the fundamentals laid out above. And I might add, to offset P.R.C pragmatism — which China counts on the rest of the world to be ignorant of — stakeholders have to understand it's not enough to hire Mandarin speakers/expats, cower to Chinese demands, capitulate to technology transfer demands, outsource jobs while unknowingly facilitating State-sponsored data breach.
It is time for America to steadily untangle itself by being OBSESSED with stability, economic growth that benefits all, and national unity. A heavy lift given its fractured politics. But doable. For national (economic) security. Because China's own 孫子/Sun Tzu may posit: If China worried so much about how adversaries react, it wouldn't be the envied miracle it is today. Indeed the fresh thinking required to upgrade and rectify U.S.-China Foreign Policy will come from people as skeptical of “experts” who know everything about the past and nothing about present ingenuity per Manoj Bhargava. Until then, Mainland Chinese leadership understand quite well