Thursday, May 11, 2017

North Korea, Newsbud, and China Watch




Readers of China Matters may have noticed there hasn’t been too much to read lately.  That’s because since  the beginning of the year I’ve been doing a weekly video reports for Newsbud, an online indy media outfit run by Sibel Edmonds.

It started with China Watch, a weekly newsprogram that covers key China-related international affairs.  It’s quite good, if I do say so myself, thanks in large part to the skilled and enthusiastic efforts of the Newsbud production team.

China Watch can be viewed on the Newsbud website, and also on Youtube.  For free.

Here’s my two most recent episodes of China Watch.


This one is, in my biased opinion, the best objective take on the US strategy for North Korea currently available.   FP practitioners—who were largely blackballed from the Trump administration for signing those “Trump is unfit to be president” public letters—and their media friends appear unwilling to take an objective and informed look at Trump’s Korea play. It’s not a Trump in his bathrobe yelling at clouds; there’s a legitimate effort with a good amount of institutional buy-in, albeit none from Obama era pivoteers, who are embarrassingly avid to see the initiative fail. 

If Trump gets a win, he not only gets to vaunt over the Obama administration and its failed “strategic patience” policy; the idea that genuine US interests cannot be promoted through “transactional diplomacy” also takes a knock.  

So I’ve got the NK policy corner pretty much to myself.  And you can join the fun by watching my vid!

My current video follows up on developments in North Korea, Admiral Harry Harris, and the current international man of mystery, Miles Kwok.  All good stuff, as I think you’ll see when you watch the video.


In addition, for Newsbud community members, i.e. people behind the paywall, I’m now doing a second weekly feature covering backstory and context on Asian stories.  It’s called Asia Brief, and it focuses on formative events and key history in Asian affairs, like my reporting on the notorious failure of the George W. Bush administration to execute a financial sanctions strategy on North Korea in 2006-7.

Between China Watch and Asia Brief, I’ve basically tripled my workload so I haven’t had that much time and fresh material to put on China Matters or write up for outlets like Asia Times.  Sorry! 

However, I’m keeping China Matters active because I try to write for it as much as I can and, who knows, maybe text will become king again.

Newsbud needs subscribers and supporters for its current kickstarter campaign.  So, if you appreciate my work and you’ve always said to yourself, gosh, China Hand has never asked for support & I’ve always felt guilty reading his stuff for free for ten years, now’s your chance to make amends!

Here’s a link to the Newsbud subscriber page.  By joining Newsbud, you get not just me but access to an entire stable of knowledgable and personable analysts like Filip Kovacevich, Kurt Nimmo, and John Whitehead dishing out indy news in professional-quality video.

Also, the kickstarter, which is to support expansion of news operations to build the subscriber base.  Newsbud doesn’t run ads or solicit institutional support or investment and is making a go of it as a community-based subscriber-supported outfit.  





Please support it.  Thanks!

And whatever you do, please watch the videos.  I love the clicks!


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition




How do you sell elite rule to a 99% electorate?  Well, don’t run somebody like Hillary Clinton, a lackluster campaigner with more 1% baggage than the Louis Vuitton stock room.

There aren’t many politicians who can look you in the eye and say “I work for the bankers…but I care about you” and get away with it.  

Obama could.  Clinton couldn’t.  Now that Obama’s termed out, the search is on for the telegenic candidate who checks the intersectional boxes but knows on what side the world’s bread is buttered.

My bets are on Kamala Harris as the intersectional box-checking, globalist friendly, appealing candidate now being groomed for a presidential run.  Sooner rather than later, I’d think. 

Judging by Emmanuel Macron, a handsome youngster can be transformed into a president even with a slim resume.  Best thing is to get ‘em out in front of the voters while they’re young and fresh, and before they’ve had to accumulate too much of a track record of 1% accommodation.

That’s the Obama lesson.  He came from nowhere and became President.  Hillary came from somewhere and went nowhere.

It’s an interesting data point in the evolution of American politics that the Democrats doing what the Republicans used to do: find a charismatic front person who is also a tabula rasa to generate electoral mass appeal for elitist policies.

The key task, and one I’m guessing Democratic strategists have devoted a lot of effort to cracking, is how to convert the perceptual framing from “99% v. 1%” to “degraded lumpen v. the quintessence of America”.

Democratic Party liberalism pretty relies on meritocratic technocratic model to make the elite rule pill easier to swallow: the best and the brightest are recognized by an enlightened electorate and handed the keys to the America-mobile.

The people who don’t vote for Team Demlib are *ahem* unenlightened: low information voters, bigots, oh, what’s a good word?  How about…Deplorables!

So what should we call Demlibs?  The wise? The The woke?  How about…the Adorables?

This framing lets Demlibs dodge the slam that they are venal politicians feasting on the nutritious swill slopped in front of their snouts by globalist billionaires; or, for the Marxy-inclined critic, that they callow bourgeoisie sucking up to the capitalist class for profit and protection.

Sweeping issues of political interest or class interest under the rug does raise some awkward questions, though!  

Dems are pretty much in the situation of saying, we’re out here absorbing billions in campaign funding and promoting globalist centrist polices because…

…because…

Um, because we care so much about humanity we can’t bear to do otherwise!

We’re not creatures of class, ambition, or interest!

That must be it! Noblesse oblige!

This is an indispensable piece of framing for a political movement that might otherwise be convincingly portrayed as tools of the 1%.

It’s an easier line to sell with a young, sexy, and savvy candidate.

Obama played that role quite well as president, but not, in my opinion, so well since then, with the whole fracasso of sabotaging the Trump presidency with the anti-Russia horcruxes and then signing a $60 million book deal and shouldering up to the public speaking trough with the Clintons with a $400,000 gig and for that matter helping out with “Hillary a la Francais” centrist Emmanuel Macron’s presidential campaign.

Takeaway: get the pretty people in front of the voters before they turn ugly.   

The future belongs to the young!


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How Sick Is the Dalai Lama?




I expect the PRC government has a team of spooks and doctors whose main job is to monitor the Dalai Lama’s public appearances for indications concerning his health.  The Dalai Lama’s April 8 visit to Tawang probably gave them something to chew on, because he didn’t look that good to me.

He was mentally acute and spirited, but whenever he walked he was supported by two monks.


Watching him struggle after he got up from the platform after two hours of religious teaching at Tawang makes me think there’s more going on than religious deference with the monk escort.

At the 2:33:00 minute point in this video you can see the Dalai Lama wrap up his talk, tuck his meds away in his little carry bag, and exit with some effort.


Last year the Dalai Lama received treatment at the Mayo Clinic for a month, presumably related to his prostate condition which I’m guessing is more like prostate cancer.  It looks to me like his physical condition had deteriorated.

Talking about the Dalai Lama’s health is an unwelcome subject for the Tibetan diaspora and government in exile, since the CCP strategy is clearly to drag out any engagement until the Dalai Lama passes on, and deal with a position of strength in any talks with his successor.

The Dalai Lama has declared he’s going to live to 90 (he’s now 82), when he'll finalize the succession issue.  Maybe he’s got some supernatural insight, but you have to wonder.

The Dalai Lama’s successor looks to be an “emanation” chosen during the Dalai Lama’s lifetime to pre-empt Chinese meddling.  Although there’s a possibility of an upgrade to “reincarnation” after the current Dalai Lama’s death, I doubt the successor will carry anywhere near the current Dalai Lama’s prestige and authority.

If, as is bruited about, the Dalai Lama chooses the Karmapa of the Karma Kagyu lineage as his successor, the new Dalai Lama’s clout will also be undercut by the fact that he’s not of the Gelugpa lineage that has dominated Tibetan Buddhist religion and politics for generations.  The Karmapa had some of the sheen taken off him by an ugly controversy in which it was claimed he was a pretender and a Chinese Communist mole.

The rough edges have been smoothed off the Karmapa controversy by the death of the alternate claimant’s main champion, Shamar Rinpoche, and a change in attitude by the previously suspicious Indian government and intelligence service.  On a broader stage, there’s a move to redefine Tibetan Buddhism as an ecumenical movement, rather than a congeries of independent-minded and ferociously contentious and occasionally murderous monasteries and religious leaders.

One sign of this was the festooning of Tawang with Buddhist flags for the Dalai Lama’s visit.  The Buddhist flag I am referring to is not the traditional prayer flag but the colorful stripy thing, which is actually a relatively recent innovation.  It was announced in Sri Lanka in 1885 with input from an American Buddhist (and Blavatsky Theosophist) enthusiast, Colonel Henry Steele Olcott and is supposed to symbolize the shared essential beliefs and potential for unity for a global Buddhist movement that transcends different traditions and teachings.

As a visual aid:

Traditional Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags at Tawang:



“Buddhist flag” at Tawang:




Buddhist, Tibetan, and Indian flags festooning the exterior of the Tawang monastery on the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s visit, which presumably hacked off the PRC no end:



A sign that the “all Buddhists are brothers and sisters” approach is working is the flourishing of the ecumenically oriented Tibetan Buddhist academy at Larung Gar in Sichuan inside the PRC. 

Larung Gar was founded in 1980 by a rinpoche of the Nyingma lineage, but its curriculum also incorporates Gelugpa and other teachings.  Perhaps its promise as a unifying, trans-lineage institution for Tibetan Buddhists—and one less susceptible to the divide-and-conquer strategy China has employed for centuries, most conspicuously in the case of its promotion of the Panchen Lama-- is why the PRC government restricts Larung Gar operations and is now tearing down parts of the immense favela of student housing that has grown up around the academy.

Here’s my most recent video for Newsbud, where I discuss the Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang (and Xi Jinping’s visit to Mar a Lago!) and conclude that the next Dalai Lama will probably turn out to be more of brand ambassador for Tibetan Buddhism, a Dalai Lama Lite, rather than a galvanizing figure like the 14th Dalai Lama.


In my video, I mis-state the dessert that witnessed Donald Trump's announcement to Xi Jinping that he was pasting Syria with cruise missiles as "chocolate sorbet".  It was actually "the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake."

Apologies!