Alright, geopolitics' skipped for a bit, for some lighter stuff. Remember the Woman Yelling At Cat meme (dimensions now coming under restrictions in Germany, as they go full National Socialist) first featured here last November? It's only... grown since then. First, there's getting into the angpow game:
(Source: mustsharenews.com, reddit.com)
And in Ukiyo-e style (available as a pair!):
But my favourite thus far is probably The Greatest Troll in The Three Kingdoms, starring 2010 Cao Cao as Cat (N.B. the tradition lives on to the present day, compare Merkel/Pelosi yelling at a Donald again):
It's certainly been an eventful second week to 2020, eh? Allow us to work through it systematically, by sorting through the immediate aftermath of Great America's strike. As the world teetered on the edge of World War III, at least amongst the badly-informed Reddit set, there was a lot of wailing, gnashing of teeth and "Death To America"-ing from Iran, i.e. nothing at all out of the ordinary. The leadership however faced an inextricable quandary - they had to retaliate in some capacity to satisfy their constituents, but they also wanted to do it in such a way that they wouldn't be scheduled to explode in the same manner as their recently-departed general. You have to understand, Iran were up against a guy that wanted to nuke a fucking hurricane. Sure, they might be true believers in Allah and all, but this realization had to give them pause.
It didn't help that the assassinated general had been their top brain for just these kinds of situations, as the Iranian leadership flailed about between multiple very bad options, at one point threatening to attack Israel and Dubai (cue Dubai: "wtf buddy, I no do shit buddy wtf?"); anyway, they rationally settled for peppering an emptied U.S. base in Iraq (sadly, nobody seems to care about them at the moment) after being very careful to inform the Iraqis to tell the Americans to please go out back for a while, and falsely claiming 80 casualties where there were actually none (to the great disappointment of the Democrats), and claiming victory (pls no hit back pls)
Over to the diplomatic end. So, Iran's foreign minister went to the United Nations to complain... sorry, tried to go to the U.N., because the U.N. is located in New York, which is in America, who unfortunately had just run out of visas for Iranian officials (recall the observation on this blog last month that "perhaps the United Nations being based in New York actually means nothing, but I doubt it"). They then went to the Europeans, but were essentially told "Bad Iran, sit down, be quiet, behave, stop hitting yourself; why are you hitting yourself?" - seriously, read the official U.K./French/German and NATO statements, that didn't even dare to mention TRUMP or America, and tell me that's not what the gist of their message was.
Overview of the U.S.-Iran "tussle"
But no, Iran weren't prepared to be pliable just yet, and the beating thereof self would continue until morale improved. The dearly-departed general's funeral would first take fifty-plus more of his own countrymen, and the news would soon come that an Ukrainian passenger airplane had just crashed near Tehran, reportedly containing another 82 Iranians, but also citizens of six other countries (mostly Canada). The initial insistence from Iran that it was due to "technical difficulties" would belatedly morph into "technically we hit the plane with a missile, so it had difficulties", as their propaganda efforts were crushed under the weight of incontrovertible video evidence (not applicable to Epstein, though), right as Rouhani tweeted about IR655. Latest updates have thousands of enraged Iranians spontaneously out on the streets demanding the Ayatollah's head due to the failed deception, cementing the GOD-EMPEROR's complete victory, though I'm unsure if the FAKE NEWS will present it as such.
This declaration of so much winning isn't just (warranted) trolling, either - consider GEOTUS's long-term objectives:
I continue to be constantly amazed, whenever the GOD-EMPEROR's achievements are objectively presented (unlike in the FAKE NEWS) - were Zhuge Liang to be reincarnated, would he even be comparable in terms of strategic genius? No, the reigning GEOTUS has already set a standard for presidents that most mortals won't be able to meet.
I mean, just try to reason clearly about the situation: honestly, why does Iran need to spam centrifuges for uranium enrichment? Scientific curiosity? Electrical power generation? It's one place where "do think think cheap oil for power plants just flows out of the ground?" can be answered with "Yes, yes it does"! Does anybody seriously believe that the mullahs turned to nuclear research because Greta Thunberg how-dared-them? Nah, the nuclear program was obviously a ransom, the JCPOA was being flouted anyhow, with France now admitting that Iran's perhaps a year from the bomb despite the agreement, which is exactly why GEOTUS wants it renegotiated before it's too late.
Of course, you wouldn't expect China to agree, given they're next in the firing line, but Europe being Europe and dithering even after attacks on their own soil is extremely disappointing, to say the least. However, consider the reality of the situation: previous traitorous efforts to bypass American sanctions on Iran by opening a financial backdoor (INSTEX) have proven largely useless (much like the current state of Europe, for that matter); the sad and bitter truth is that Europe simply can't save the existing Iran nuclear deal - if Great America wants the deal dead, it's dead (like Suleimani), because the other parties can't fulfil their side of the bargain under U.S. sanctions (now extended to any INSTEX users). While Europe are keeping a collective brave face for now, it should be remembered that BoJo had already called for a new TRUMP DEAL back last September, after strongly backing the initial strike and also now pursuing a "special relationship" with Hungary, as predicted in last week's outline of an Alliance of Greats. The world turns.
Maybe slightly disrespectful, but mostly very accurate
Some of my more prim and proper readers might be aghast here, at what appears to be outright bullying by Great America. What have Europe done to deserve this? About this, can I tell you a secret? The deep, dark hidden conspiracy behind NATO and the European Union? Let's begin with the history.
Not so long ago, there was this charming neighbourhood, which we'll call West Eurasia - plenty of pedigree, post-gentrified, you know the sort. It also happened to be a perpetual warzone that would make today's Middle East look like a kid's playground. The Holy Romans whacked the French, the French whacked the Holy Romans and themselves, the Brits whacked everyone, the Spanish and Dutch came home just to join in the whacking, numerous small states were birthed, struggled mightily, and expired, and in the middle of it all, the Swiss counted gold bars in their mountain bunkers - not a bad gig if you can get it.
Sometime in the middle of it all, one of Tommy's sons Sammy wisely moved out from this abusive environment, and settled over in the next street. He did pretty well for himself too, and when things got serious - and in this neighbourhood, serious means serious - Uncle Sam was able to wade back into the fray, crack a few heads to end the pub brawl, and retire to his own house because, frankly, why would anybody sensible want to get permanently entangled in that tribal crap? Anyway, Uncle Sam thought - quite reasonably - that he had done enough for his old mates for a bit, and after some quality alone time in which he smooched up some flapper girls and lost most of his savings in the stock market (but not to worry, he made most of it back), Uncle Sam would pop back to his old neighbourhood with pizza and beer to check up on how things were going...
WHAT THE EFF IS GOING ON HERE?!
So, it seemed that Uncle Jerry had gone on another of his berserk rages after one pilsner too many and decked Uncle Pierre as usual, that bloody Ivan had egged them on and scooted, Papa Tommy had tried to separate them but failed because he's not what he once was, and the various other usual suspects were lying around nursing conditions between broken limbs and vegetative comas. With a sigh, Uncle Sam clipped the still-squabbling Jerry and Pierre on the ears, and addressed them: "Look, Jerry, I've seen your browser history, I know you are into some sick shit, but you've gone too damn far this time. And Pierre, what have I told you about walls? You want to build a wall, you complete the job, and not leave a big stonking hole through the middle! And you lost again with a handicap?!"
Well, Pierre was still screaming about how he should be allowed to suckerpunch Jerry, but Uncle Sam was like "No, no, you two total fuck-ups, there will be no more of that while I'm here, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me". And Uncle Sam got Pierre and Jerry and gang to hand over all their guns and other sharp objects, because they clearly couldn't be trusted to behave in an adult manner. Uncle Sam then realized that he had forgotten something, said "excuse me", went the next street down, nuked the Nipponese, came back, and was like where were we again? And peace returned to the land.
So, just to sidetrack a bit, Uncle Sam then went back to the Nipponese, who were all (inspired by Zeihan's telling) "alas, we have lost, we have dishonoured our ancestors, without raw materials our empire is finished, let half of us commit seppuku and the other half become your serfs"; and Uncle Sam was all, are you lot mental or what, look, let's make a deal - all you have to do is chant "Soviet bad, Commies bad", and we will help you import all the commodities you need, and protect you from the invading U.S.S.R & Communist China into the bargain. And the Nipponese were very confused, because they had never much liked the Russians or Chinese anyway, and they had to confirm whether they had mistakenly won the war instead.
When Great America friend-friend, prosper-prosper!
So, back to the present and the secret. Now, if you ask the layman about what NATO and the European Union are about, chances are that he'll say something about countering the Soviet Union (today, Russia) and stemming Communism and the like. Now, this is not wrong, just that if push comes to shove, I'd say that even the U.S.S.R at the peak of its powers was at most a secondary motivation for maintaining NATO and the E.U.
Yes, clever reader, the primary foe, the bête noire, of NATO and its European members has always been... themselves.
Paying A Fair Price
At the heart of the European alliance crisis, then, lies a very simple contradiction. GOD-EMPEROR TRUMP thinks that, as it stands, America contributes far more to Europe through NATO than it receives. Some of the Europeans, most prominently France and Germany, don't seem to think so. Honestly, the unvarnished truth is that TRUMP is correct, as usual.
Sure, if you read the wrong brand of FAKE NEWS, you'll find crazy articles such as "Why Europe hates TRUMP more than Iran", but let's get real here: Europe have been the beneficiary of an insanely-good deal for the past three decades or so, with America doing all the heavy military lifting. And, in return for America slogging it in the Middle East (which is geographically far closer to Europe than America, note), manning frozen outposts in the Arctic, and joining in their personal vendettas in Libya (where France and Italy were on opposing sides to boot), the Europeans have been so, so ungrateful.
You may know that kind of person; Pierre drops his kids over for baby-sitting every Friday, gets used to it, then one fine day you inform him that you won't be in, and he goes all side-eyed and spreads gossip about you; Jerry, pay his bar tab most every meet-up, forget your wallet one fine day, and he will self-righteously go on about how stingy and transactional you are, and how real friends don't make friends pay... wait, what? Have all these "world leaders" adopted Aladdin's Princess Jasmine as their professional role model?
No, none of this is going to fly under GEOTUS TRUMP. Recall, TRUMP is first and foremost a businessman. Unlike your run-of-the-mill no-skin-in-game socialist or civil service bureaucrat (but I repeat myself), TRUMP has an unparalleled nose for value, he knows who's getting the better end of a deal, and when it comes to NATO, it's definitely Europe. Now, through history, empires have almost always diverted wealth from its vassals to its core - think Rome, China, the bunga mas tribute from Malaysian states to Thailand, closer to home. Great America has been perhaps unique in how much of a discount they have given, which ties into TRUMP's consistent grand strategy. Recall the slogan, "Greedy for America", from the previous election? The Donald has a great memory, and frankly, he doesn't lie. Not about such.
Oh, some countries have been quicker on the uptake than others; South Korea, for example, understood how it was to be, and basically caved in their trade negotiations in 2018. They're now haggling over an additional US$5 billion to help support American forces in Seoul, which I consider still a tremendous bargain. Same for Japan, premier Shinzo Abe gifted TRUMP golden golf clubs and then very carefully lost to the GOD-EMPEROR over eighteen holes, and got off relatively easy. Saudi Arabia are coughing up the odd billion or so extra, and TRUMP should be ashamed because he's not giving the shop away for free?! The Europeans, in contrast, seem relatively naive after basement-dwelling and having chicken tendies served to them, and their piss jars removed on the regular, since 1946.
Return Of The Shitshow
(Original source: bloomberg.com)
If any of those prim and proper readers yet remain, they might be horrified at the above assertions. But the Europeans are so cultured and civilized! Not like the warmongering Americans (which, actually, furthers the point about popular propaganda)! No, truly I tell you, perhaps these guys can get together for Eurovision contests and stuff, but consider that Europe has basically been fractured throughout its history. Take China - yes, it's fallen into chaos every century or two, but at the end, most everybody kowtows to the winning warlord and new Emperor, because they all acknowledge a shared culture. Not Europe. Without a beneficent force holding them together from outside (hint hint, Great America), there will be blood.
Just look at the French - see, I can appreciate a certain level of romance in a guy, but I still have to gasp at Macron proposing the expense of a full-fledged European army (led by yours truly, it goes without saying), when his own citizens are burning his own capital down every weekend because of not enough money. Faced with this, what does Fräulein Merkel do? Cozy up to Putin, of course (and this was going on well before the Iran situation, with Germany bent on importing gas via the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from their "supposed enemy")! Can you now blame the Polish for waking up with a cold sweat at night, haunted by the ghosts of Molotov-Ribbentrop? Especially when polls have consistently affirmed that the majority of Germans aren't keen on defending NATO allies in the first place, not that they could if they wanted, while somehow, inexplicably, believing they can? Personally, there is a mad amount of delusion going on here.
Ok, fine, Germany's not gonna do shit, so Great America prepares to move their forces to Poland, and Poland very responsibly puts in a US$400 million order for American rocket launchers and tanks. Surely France and Germany would be happy at this contribution towards securing the Eastern front? Nope, "Europe is worried about Poland's plans to buy a large batch of tanks"! And wait, does this imply that Poland is not a part of Europe now (to be honest, when the FAKE NEWS says "Europe", they tend to mean "France & Germany, maaayybe Italy")?
Honestly, the way I see it, Europe has two outs:
Myself, I'd hope France & Germany see the light and save themselves a lot of pain, but I fear they have become too brainwashed by liberal propaganda to do so...
[To be continued...]
A Pentagon drone operator queries the GOD-EMPEROR
(Source: Lucifer #30)
Well, it was never gonna be a boring decade, was it? The New Year fireworks were barely done with, when GEOTUS kindly donated an impromptu display at Baghdad's international airport, for Iran's Number Two in-charge; dazzling drone shows have been all the rage in recent years, after all, and after Shanghai put up a slightly-fake exhibition, surely TRUMP's Middle Eastern friends couldn't be left out? A very unfortunate mishap however resulted in the sad demise of the Quds Force (i.e. Iranian CIA) commander, coincidentally together with the leader of the Iraqi militia responsible for the breach of etiquette at the U.S. embassy. The Golden Don sends his regards.
The Realities of International Law
The Ayatollah doesn't seem to be taking the accident very well, but before proceeding, it may be instructive to delve into the build-up to the event:
Never missing an opportunity to troll, bluff called!
[N.B. Also: tweet shit, get hit (guy has loooong memories)]
Like it or not, there's something about Great America's style. Recall Putin playing coy about whether they employed polonium-tipped umbrellas to deal with dissidents abroad, with Russia never quite admitting responsibility? Nope, Great America under GEOTUS doesn't skulk around, no sirree; they'll simply guide a care package down the ass of whoever they don't like, then raise their hand, stand up, and declare that yes, they did that, and would do it again - and what are you gonna do about it?
Indeed, what is Iran going to do about it? The online experts over at the geopolitics subreddit have considered Iran's options in some depth, and the broad consensus appears to be:
The New Axis Of Evillll *ba dum*
You know how popular rock bands tend to get reformed, possibly with new members, once the money runs low? Hold on to your hats, boys, the iconic Axis of Evil is making a comeback! Originally formed way back in the 1930s by madlads Germany, Italy and Japan, it took the world by storm for a decade or so, before burning out and only getting resurrected in 2002 by a trio of dashing new rogues, who put a new spin on the theme. Former leader Iran's raring to go, but with Iraq incapacitated from a couple of freak "falls", and North Korea in rehab thanks to supportive pals, new members were required. And have Iran got some seriously big names into the refreshed lineup:
Industry observers predict an *explosive* debut
Yes, that's China, Russia and Iran conducting a joint naval exercise just last week, from the Taiwan Strait to the Sea of Oman, culminating in a naval war drill - right on the heels of NATO confirming China as a "challenge" alongside Russia. Really, it shouldn't be too hard to realise what's developing, what with Great America continuing the full-spectrum decoupling by limiting exports of A.I. software, starting Monday.
First off, it should be noted that this grouping is basically reactive, defined as it is by being America and allies' not-very-friends. Honestly, do China, Russia and Iran have much if anything in common otherwise? Russia for one is likely to still be nursing not-too-distant memories of getting backstabbed by Comrade China via their American tag-team, though geopolitical necessities have certainly made far stranger bedfellows.
Anyhow, it's only natural for Iran to try and tap China and Russia, under the age-old adage of "enemy of my enemy is my friend"; problem for Iran is, I really can't see either China or Russia joining in with actual military assistance. Sure, they'll be happy to sell Iran all the weapons they can afford (which isn't much, nowadays), but if it goes tits up for real in Tehran, it's far easier to imagine Putin waving and shouting while using the distraction as cover to reintegrate some former Soviet territory.
Cleaning Out The Friend List
This one sparks joy
(Original source: independent.co.uk)
While elements of the establishment FAKE NEWS are attempting to sell the lie that GEOTUS has little support on this bold action (much as the desperate "impeachment" gambit has instead contributed to his approval ratings reaching a three-year high), in particular that this threatens relations with America's traditional European allies, the reality is rather more subtle; GEOTUS is probably simply just scrolling through his Facebook contact list and confirming who's Great America's true allies, and who are just "allies", before the shit goes down.
Because, let us try to view this objectively from GEOTUS's perspective for once - you have a bunch of hangers-on, who are more than happy to call themselves your friends; which is alright, I suppose, big men naturally attract an entourage. In return, Great America broadly upholds the system that sustains them all: stupidly-expensive aircraft carriers that keep the sea lanes open and international trade flowing, drones and soldiers to nip terrorists and criminals in the bud upon request (for some reason, the FAKE NEWS doesn't like to remind the general populace about how a cartel openly slaughtered government troops in the failed state of Mexico, and forced the no-wall government to submit, proving TRUMP, alas, right yet again), medical innovations subsidized by the American taxpayer...
So, now picture GEOTUS going to his "friends", and informing them that in view of Great America's many intangible benefits, they might lower their tariffs (which were generally far higher in aggregate than America's to begin with, which is again very seldom emphasized by the FAKE NEWS). His "friends", however, refused, and then had the cheek to complain when he merely gave them a taste of their own medicine! The logic goes as follows: these people aren't real friends, because they have no intention to reciprocate transparently; they are however too proud to be subordinates, because they have their own interests. Instead, they plan to free-load and run up the tab, by offering nebulous "soft influence" that is no influence at all.
What then is the civilized response? For Great America to politely walk away where they're not appreciated, obviously.
A Comment On Reliability
Certain misunderstandings about TRUMP should be cleared up, before continuing. It has become standard practice in the FAKE NEWS to describe him as "unpredictable" and "unreliable". This is far from the truth, as analyzed here in 2017: "President TRUMP is one of that rarest and most precious class of men - a man of his word". He has not wavered from his major electoral pledges: Build a wall, well in progress. Confront China (a consistent stand from the 1980s), trade war plus decoupling, baby. End illegal immigration, lowest numbers in a decade. Middle class jobs and tax relief, lowest unemployment since 1969, highest stock market ever. Repeal all previous unconstitutional executive actions, Obama cancelled. Clean up corruption in Washington, Bidens (very rightly) investigated, only to be held up by a House of Representatives coup.
From all this evidence, it might be reasonably surmised that: if TRUMP says that he is going to do something towards a major policy direction, he will do it, whatever other politicos think (details are flexible, though). This is diametrically opposed to establishment/deep state politicians, who will promise changes, but revert back to usual business at the first opportunity. The man, you see, has the same aura as LKY, as we have explained.
The GOD-EMPEROR subscribes to the same tenets: "...if you take me on, I will put on knuckle-dusters and catch you in a cul-de-sac... If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no other way you can govern!" Thus, all the games of chicken, but as also noted, it's a rather rational game when you own the most massive vehicle (i.e. the metaphorical TRUMP TRAIN). Sure, China has maybe an unloaded eighteen-wheeler, Russia a vintage ZIS-5, Iran a second-hand Chevy, North Korea a looted Volvo and France a Renault Zoe (but GEOTUS wouldn't do it, because they're still friends, kinda), but do you think any of them are actually eager to see the game of chicken out to its extremely predictable conclusion?
No, the GOD-EMPEROR is one of the most reliable guys on Earth: flatter him, go along with him on his very reasonable demands (e.g. drop European tariffs, don't cross borders illegally, don't attack U.S. embassies), and he will be your true and loyal friend. Oppose him, and he will consistently tit-for-tat (e.g. in the Chinese trade war; tit-for-tat is by the way a proven winner's strategy), he'll never ever back down, and always, forever, hit back harder. In all his interactions and negotiations since taking office, whether domestically with the Democrats, with so-called allies, or the likes of the new Axis of Evil, I have yet to observe the GOD-EMPEROR wavering from his core beliefs - this most fundamental of principles.
Mudazumo Naki Kaikaku captures his soul perfectly
[N.B. Even the famously-nationalistic mangakas had to respect TRUMP, unlike for example Hillary, Bush II or Sarkozy, because they recognize real men]
No, all the ivory tower political analysts have badly misread this lion of a man, when they slammed him for not involving "allies" such as France and Germany in his economic smackdown of China. TRUMP's attitude towards adversaries has been unchanged throughout his life: either they bend the knee, or they are defeated and broken. 2016 saw the entire Republican party bend the knee, with some of his most bitter rivals such as Ted Cruz having entirely converted to TRUMP's cause; the Democrats were, of course, defeated. Well, Great Britain's well on the way to bending it (though he wouldn't frame it that way, because it would be slightly crass); France, Germany, China and Russia are simply next in line to kiss the ring because, as explained above, all Great America needs to know is where they stand - do they accept U.S. hegemony and world order, or not? Declaring either way is fine - only the consequences differ.
The Greatest Alliance
While the mainstream FAKE NEWS might pounce on this as some diplomatic failure, most signs are instead merely pointing to a realignment (recall when we accurately called the American domestic political realignment, back in 2016), the creation of a new and better European alliance for Great America. The playbook is exceedingly straightforward - with Great Britain's exit from the failing European Union, the stage is set for an expanded emphasis on the major Anglophone nations - The U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand; their relative intimacy is already underlined by the longstanding Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, which self-important continental wannabes such as France and Germany are not privy to.
The next developments are quite easy to imagine. The rising Alliance of Greats will find more than a few willing applications, chief among them Great Hungary and Great Poland, who have had it up to there with Merkel's liberal immigration policies, but not unlikely also Great Italy and various Scandinavian and minor Eastern European states, because they're on the frontlines against Russia, and know who has the better record of sending boots on the ground when shit happens. While this doesn't necessarily spell the end of the E.U. or NATO, it will definitely raise scrutiny as to what France & Germany actually bring to the table, other than siphoning riches from the common currency.
Before FAKE NEWS establishment commentators splutter that this undermining of the E.U. and NATO is irresponsible, it might be noted that overt security measures against designated foe Russia is most appropriately enforced on the eastern border (i.e. mostly Poland & Hungary), unless France wants to admit that they view those countries mainly as useful speedbumps, as was the case in previous World Wars. And lest deluded globalists view France as some sort of responsible unity figure, it should be remembered that France withdrew from NATO in 1966, and only rejoined in 2009, long after the Soviet Union had crumbled (this fact is also, for some reason, almost never mentioned by the misleading FAKE NEWS in contemporary commentary on NATO, though Macron has already hinted at another break)
No, France is merely reviving old Napoleonic/Gaullic fever dreams of re-establishing themselves as the preeminent European power by leading their own army, as Germany understands only too well - against this backdrop, joining the fold of Great America/Great Britain must seem quite palatable, especially given that Great America/Great Britain by themselves consititute a bigger trade bloc than the entire European Union (Italy's already being openly courted, by the way); all it takes is a couple more dominoes to fall. Here, we must mention the incomparable wisdom of the great LKY, who foretold the doom of the European Union back in 2012 (like him or not, he tends to be very accurate on such matters), with NATO possibly going the way of SEATO. Fortunately, the GOD-EMPEROR will forge something stronger and more lasting from the ashes.
High and mighty alone we are kings
Whirlwinds of fire we ride
Providence brought us the crown and the ring
Covered with blood and our pride
[To be continued...]
In which Mr. Ham plots his evil for the coming year
[N.B. In case anybody's forgotten, it might be a good time to check out those credit card fee waivers; DBS has kindly enabled waiver requests online - though they're also cutting back on the Multiplier plan benefits...]
Given that the selection was between a furry fantasy made real, the slow-mo destruction of the venerable Star Wars franchise and this, it wasn't tough to pick out my holiday popcorn companion. Fortuitously released to coincide with the Sino-American trade war wrangle, the fourth and final instalment of Intellectual Property Man has the doughty ethnic hero stare down his toughest nemesis yet; Sure, IP Man may have survived three minutes of no-holds-barred action with Mike Tyson, but can he navigate the suffocating morass that is the Californian high school admissions system?
The producers certainly knew what they were doing with this opportune allegory about the abiding mistrust between the U.S. and China on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, translated into a throwback kung fu genre film set in the Swinging Sixties; wise decision too, because the audience for a one-and-a-half hour lecture on contemporary socioeconomics is probably smaller than that for watching creepy computer-generated cats groom themselves. No, it's either hot chicks or violence or both, and since Margot Robbie was out of their price range, they stuck to what Hong Kong cinema does best, which is to unleash the fists of fury.
The central theme, then, revolves around a suboptimal market equilibrium in information exchange in period San Francisco. On one side, we had the Americans, who had a monopoly over academic instruction: math, science, literature, and a bit of cheerleading on the side. On the other, we had the more-recently-immigrated Chinese, who had a monopoly over various independent yet convergent systems on how to reliably smash their opponents' faces into a bloody pulp. Now, orthodox economic theory informs us that in an efficient world, both sides would release their hoarded knowledge at a reasonable price. Then, we would have the best scholars and bouncers regardless of skin colour, and students would be able to settle arguments through both rhetoric and spinning backheel kicks. This is a win-win for all involved, as far as I'm concerned.
Alas, this scenario did not come to pass, due to reciprocal racial bigotry. IP Man would have his initial petition for his son to join a private academy rebuffed, no thanks to an uncooperative character reference, though the headmistress did display her relative open-mindedness with an offer to open up a spot for the tiny consideration of a ten thousand dollar donation (an obvious jibe at the recent Collegeadmissiongate, methinks). The resident Chinatown kung fu masters were little better, being united against IP Man disciple Bruce Lee's outreach, and refusing to take Caucasian trainees themselves.
Happily, such racist nonsense has largely been resolved in our current more-enlightened era, and so let us proceed to the adjacent observations on an optimistic note:
Manners Maketh Man
I have to say that it warmed the cockles of my heart when Bruce Lee and challengers very graciously took their fight outside the diner that Lee had been conversing in, rather than bust the place up (his first three opponents didn't understand the concept of attacking all at once, as is usual for minions, while big blue weeaboo thoughtfully brought his own nunchucks). This consideration doesn't extend to the average kung fu master - IP Man himself included. All of them seem to harbour a secret fetish for property damage, and yet another perfectly good antique table gets reduced to firewood in this edition. Well, when you've attained the Iron Palm technique, everything looks like a chopping board. Either that, or they're sponsored by a furniture supplier, or rearranging for feng shui.
IP Man's rival's daughter invokes the standard go-back set
IP Man doesn't deviate from the standard Hong Kong cinema (and comics) formula for racial presentation, which tends to portray blacks as bumbling but ultimately good-hearted comic relief, and whites as either basically honourable and upright but somewhat distant superiors (the Marine commander, in this case), or as xenophobic, adversarial and possessed of a superiority complex (almost every other relevant character here). The producers aren't shy about pounding this attitude in either, with clumsy camera cuts to a colored recruit when the gunnery sergeant baddie is spewing racist abuse, all the way to the burning cross symbolism of the Wing Chun dummy (so much for the resurrected Groot cameo, then). This has established the instantly-recognizable Caucasian C-lister caricature in Hong Kong cinema, marked by their wooden one-dimensional acting, by design. It's a living, I suppose.
Something felt off when the main baddies of the show - karate practitioners both - took pleasure in deriding kung fu and Orientals, and for very good reason. Karate, one recognizes, had been honed in Japan for barely a century then, being derived from Ryukyuan martial arts, which was itself an offshoot of, that's right, kung fu. Even if these baddies were deficient in their history and general knowledge, surely they would have known that the karate (originally literally 唐手, or "Tang [Chinese] Fist") that they were so proud of had also come from "yellow people"? Of course, this makes sense from the Hong Kong film industry perspective, since a sprinkle of indirect anti-Japanese sentiment has always been an easy sell in their biggest market (though IP Man is ironically getting caught up in an anti-Beijing boycott, in Hong Kong itself)
All Are Equal
It is notable that one of the Chinatown kung fu masters was a lady, although that didn't save her from nearly getting her ribs pounded out through her back (IP Man saved her then), after she accepted the challenge of a marauding karate instructor, because there was no Captain Marvel crap going on here. As it should be, admittedly; she couldn't expect special treatment due to her gender once she got into the ring, surely? Just to make it clear, I'm not against females practising self-defence at all, just that they might consider appropriate tactics and tools - the naginata, for example, compensates reach for strength; there's a reason why "long pointy stick" has dominated battlefields from antiquity well into the age of gunpowder.
Might Makes Right
"...Besides, all the people we call masters now, all raised all kinds of hell back in their day, didn't they? And the minute they become old men, they all start talking like they're some kind of saint? That's what I can't stand. We fight because we want to win, right? You and me both."
- Hatsumi Sen, getting real in Kengan Asura
Despite the distance between their cultures otherwise, both the "good guy" and "bad guy" martial artists concur on one issue: the winner justifies his stand. We see this between the two best Chinese kung fu masters in the show, when Wan insists that he will only write a referral letter for IP Man after being defeated, an offer that IP Man accepts without much protest. It was just how things were done. It should be recognized that both main baddies, the instructor and the gunny, took the so-called kung fu masters on fair and square; recall, the instructor beat three masters, barely working up a sweat, before IP Man schooled him, while gunnery sergeant went alone to the masters' association, and crushed half a dozen of them in their own base at once. Considering karate's overall record of like 10-6 over kung fu in the movie (counting Bruce Lee's display too), it's hard to view this as an effective advertisement for kung fu.
Best By Test
And back to real life...
Continuing on from the last point, it should also be remembered that Bruce Lee, kung fu master archetype par excellence in the wider world, had moved on from Wing Chun and its associated traditions too, having formulated the philosophy of Jeet Kune Do, which might be summarized as "whatever it takes to win". While he kept the centreline concept from Wing Chun, the moves were borrowed from all over, kung fu or not, without favour or discrimination. If it works, good, if it doesn't, it was out, whatever the old masters might say. Indeed, modern MMA suggests the superiority of such "mongrel arts", with specialists quickly having to adapt to filling out their deficiencies, whether with their striking or ground game, or just... lose.
Despite IP Man's plug, empirical testing has frankly not cast classical kung fu in a good light; it's really not a racial thing either, with a celebrated Chinese MMA exponent proving his point by taking down self-proclaimed kung fu master after master, to the point that the best counterpoint his detractors could come up with was his loss to a Muay Thai kickboxer. Of course, individual fights are at best anecdotes, but the point is that if kung fu is to claim respect, the most convincing way would be by winning actual competitions. Now, it could be that all expert kung fu masters are too refined to publicly parade their prowess for money. However, it's far more probable that they're simply not very good in a real combat situation, and are instead stubbornly clinging on to their reputation.
To conclude, Intellectual Property Man is disappointing in that its overriding message remains tinted by cultural supremacy. Such thinking has held China back for centuries, and continues to unnecessarily hobble their development even today.
It is another of my theories that reality and myth create each other in cycles - historical deeds are embellished into standardized patterns or tropes (see: the Hero's journey), that are in turn translated back into the present though their imprinting on the collective consciousness. We have long drawn on Warhammer 40k lore - itself an unashamed British satire made good - in explaining and forecasting contemporary happenings, and it has shown itself to be remarkably prescient thus far (at least when compared to FAKE NEWS pundits and professional "political analysts"). This trend continues with the Conservative blowout victory, that basically assures Brexit (some Warhammer 40k spoilers abound, of course):
N.B. Here, we seek to expound on a tiny proportion of the references employed:
Before entering into the A.I. hype proper, it seems apropos to mention Huawei's opening of a research lab at Changi Business Park, with the explicit intention of "cultivating a thousand talents". Which may, you know, be a direct reference to the aforementioned "Thousand Talents" programme identified as having established clandestine "shadow labs" back in China as a destination for siphoned foreign expertise, including possibly Magic Leap hardware (though it seems to have just been superseded by the "National High-end Foreign Expert Recruitment Plan" earlier this year). They're not even being subtle about marking territory right now!
The real and present risk here is that of eventually being cut adrift from the American tech ecosystem, what with the U.S. making all the expected noises - they've banned Huawei for a period, to begin with, alongside going as far as to inform their closest allies such as the United Kingdom to drop Huawei or lose their intelligence ties. Private firms and professional organizations haven't been spared the decoupling either, with IEEE banning Huawei reviewers for a time, and Google's former coziness also unraveling fast. As The Guardian has it, the struggle over Huawei isn't really about technology; it is about whether China or the US is to be master.
Just to clarify a couple of points here: it's true that the U.S. can't completely crush Huawei or other Chinese tech giants - they'll always have a market with the right inducements, such as the S$54 smartphone deal that engendered the closest scenes to the Hong Kong protests that Singapore has seen for some years. Personally, I also find their rumoured links to the Chinese authorities and spooks unremarkable; if you believe that Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon etc have zero relations with the CIA, FBI etc, have I got a bridge to sell you. The question is the extent to which the interference goes. Before further expounding on the reality of Singapore's "shrunken geopolitical space" (viz. Kishore Mahbubani), a short explanatory fable might aid comprehension.
Oh, *you* are the boss here?
Once upon a time in a more fantastical land, there lived a farmer. The farmer's family had a longstanding agreement with a titanic Great Eagle, which helped guard their flock from wolves. However, in return, the Great Eagle would freely help itself to some lambs now and then, without asking for permission. Overall, it was a good deal, but as the farmer became more prosperous, his pride grew, and eventually he could not bear the infringement. One day, he went to the Eagle, which happened to be picking its beak from its latest meal.
"I will not be subservient!" the farmer said. "You feast upon my property without my say-so, and corral my flock where you please. But I am in charge here. You have to respect me."
To this, the Great Eagle drew to its full height, and towering over the farmer, unfurled its mighty wings. "My friend." it said patiently, with the wisdom borne of inhuman power. "You are my friend, but we are not equals. With your eyes you see that, in your heart you know the truth. I was friends with your father, and his father before him, but it is also a fact that I could have destroyed them - and you - at a whim. But, truly, I like you, for you are cute and sensible, and you know that the service I offer you is fair recompense for the few sheep I consume. Let us speak no more about this, lest it spoil our relationship."
But the farmer was prosperous, and he had grown proud, and he could not bear the Great Eagle's words, reasonable as they were. And he hatched an idea. He would go to the north, and invite the Giant Panda to his home. For the Giant Panda was strong too, if not quite as strong as the Great Eagle, and he thought to set their power against each other, that he would regain the satisfaction of being in control.
However, after the Giant Panda arrived, it began helping itself to the bamboo garden that the farmer's family had painstakingly cultivated over decades, while ignoring his entreaties to face the Great Eagle down. "This wasn't the deal!" the farmer cried. "You were supposed to keep each other at bay, such that I would gain the benefits of your patronage, while avoiding the costs! Now, let's you and him fight over me!"
The Great Eagle and Giant Panda glanced at each other, then turned as one to look at the farmer, unmistakably conveying the impression that they both thought him a bit dim. They then went back to ravaging his flock of sheep and bamboo garden respectively.
The farmer's spirits were down with his losses compounded, for he could realistically refuse neither the Great Eagle nor the Giant Panda now. Seeing this, the farmer's wife had a bright idea. "I know!" she said. "There lives a Bengal Tiger to the northwest. Let us invite him and his children to our farm, such that the Eagle and the Panda no longer run roughshod over us." And the farmer thought it a swell idea, and he signed a pact with the Tiger, only to discover that the Tiger sure as hell wasn't going to report to him before feasting on his pigs either...
"Alright, let's try the Continental Bull this time..."
Or, take the guy who, fed-up with being an employee yet unable to strike out alone, cuts back his hours at his main job to take on two additional part-time jobs. Does this imply that he is self-sovereign because he does not report to a single boss, or does he simply have three masters instead?
Returning to the technological front of the unfolding Cold War II, there is now little doubt that a full-spectrum decoupling between America and China is taking place. Here, it should be noted that there had always existed a one-way decoupling of sorts with China's Great Firewall and effective ban on foreign Web giants, though the reasoning behind that is easily understood - had Google etc been freely allowed, there would be no practical way to maintain the CCP's ideological stranglehold. Given this, however, it's only fair for America and friends to question why they should allow Huawei, Alibaba, Tencent etc access to their own markets; recall, this was part of the implicit deal with China's accession to the WTO in 2001, that they democratize and liberalize and all that hooey. Evidently, this isn't happening, and America's patience on upholding the other end of the deal has all but run out.
Scylla and Charybdis
- Romance of The Three Kingdoms
The excerpt above, then, has especial relevance to Singapore's consistent deference to "rule of international law" in foreign policy. In the excerpt, the general Guan Yu had just been forced to surrender, but out of his principles proposed three conditions lest he fight to his death. The first among them was that he would surrender only to the legitimate Emperor (whom Cao Cao had control over), and not Cao Cao himself, whom he regarded as just a warlord. Cao Cao had no qualms about it, because, as he pointed out, he controlled the Emperor; therefore submitting to the Emperor was equivalent to submitting to him. He wasn't going to let semantics get in the way of such a talent.
Thus is it with Singapore, international law and the United States of America. In the period since the nation's unwilling independence, international law had de facto been dominated by America - perhaps the United Nations being based in New York actually means nothing, but I doubt it. Perhaps even more importantly, international financial law was definitely being run by the Americans. Going by this reasoning, adhering to international law was more or less subscribing to the American-led hegemonic system, and they definitely had better things to do than to micromanage a Southeast-Asian city-state.
While we have given some examples in the previous narrative, another salient example would be Lee Kuan Yew's much-played-up role in the opening-up of China, beginning with his first visit in 1976, proceeding through normalization of diplomatic relations in 1990. It is seldom mentioned in these triumphant flashbacks, however, that America under Nixon had started the reaching-out through ping-pong diplomacy in 1971, which grew out of a general Sino-Soviet split and border conflict in the 1960s (one might wonder - weren't China and the Soviet Union both Commies then? Shouldn't they be supporting each other against the Evil Capitalists? To this, the only answer is that anybody who asks doesn't understand the realities of power)
Come, let's play ball!
In any case, table tennis would quickly lead to broad-based scientific and military cooperation between America and China by the late 1970s - targeted at their new common foe of some convenience, the Soviet Union. Returning to Singapore's "strong contesting of Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia in 1979" being to demonstrate our "self-commitment to sovereignty" (this is so funny that I can't help but repeat it), this must be seen in the context of the [North] Vietnamese being backed by the Soviets then, which makes our stance against the Vietnamese mostly a by-product of our alignment with the Americans (and by extension, China as well). It is even less told of how there was a Sino-American Cambodian program against the Viets, with Singapore involved and LKY himself visiting their secret camp (read: Chapter Three of The Hundred-Year Marathon)
So, quiz time: Let us imagine that America had not embarked upon their grand strategy of rapprochement with China in 1971. Instead, imagine that America had continued to treat China with the same rivalry as with their main Cold War opponents, the Soviets. In such a scenario, without LKY's most-respected POTUS Richard Nixon leading the way, do you think that LKY could have balonglong chartered an SQ flight, landed in Beijing, asked for an audience with Mao, and "crafted Singapore into a role model for China" without at least an informal go-ahead from the White House? Doesn't make any sense, tio bo?
Please note that this is not meant to belittle LKY's vision and intelligence in any way; by all indications, LKY was very busy shuttling between America and the Soviet Union around 1970, because it was clear that the nascent Singapore needed a backer, and those two were the only really viable options then. Anyway, he picked America after a stint at Harvard - one can only imagine what arrangements were privately struck then - which was the correct choice. Certainly, there was much less whining about "maintaining neutrality" for appearances! Having started on the right foot, the major part of LKY's genius would then be doubling and tripling-down on his winning bet, by integrating Singapore into the American-led and sponsored international trade system, whilst capitalizing on being the only Chinese ethnic-majority nation outside of China itself and Taiwan, to piggyback on China's rise as well.
The main point here is, there were no truly difficult, existential-level foreign policy decisions that Singapore had to make, since LKY's American alignment about 1970; his singular choice then bought half a century of prosperity for the country. Singapore supported international law supported America supported China. This looks like it's no longer going to be the case. China doesn't seem to be backing down, and will likely refuse to acquiesce to Plaza Accord-like measures that neutered the Japanese rise in the 1980s. If so, I don't see how Singapore can avoid taking sides, as they did with America and the Soviet Union. I can only hope that our current leaders will make the right choice, as LKY did then (i.e. go with the GOD-EMPEROR OF MANKIND)
No lah, not ally lah, what makes you say so?
Happily, most signs point to this being how we're leaning, with another arrangement with Great America to host fighter jets in Guam signed just a few days ago; perhaps coincidentally, the distance from Guam to Singapore is about 4700km, which is also approximately the flight range of the F-15 and F-16. Just to reiterate, if Country A parks its most significant military assets with Country B, I would sure hope that Country B is considered an ally of Country A, because the alternative would be a far less honourable type of relationship.
Meanwhile, the wheels are also turning in Europe, with NATO officially naming China as a "challenge" alongside Russia, which is how these things tend to go. While elements of the lamestream media might be gleefully playing up Blackface Trudeau and company mocking TRUMP during the NATO anniversary, it remains that they're coughing up billions more in contributions thanks to uncompromising pressure from GEOTUS. To put that in perspective, star laugh merchants such as Stephen Colbert and John Oliver make maybe tens of thousands a show; for that amount, chortle on!
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