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Posts Tagged ‘foreign affairs’

Book Review: Japan Rearmed: The Politics of Military Power

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 30, 2020

Japan Rearmed: The Politics of Military PowerJapan Rearmed: The Politics of Military Power by Sheila A. Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before I say anything about this book, I need to confess I know the author (to whatever degree), highly respect her expertise on Japan (she’s the Council on Foreign Relations’ Senior Fellow for Japan), so this commentary and rating possibly may not be as reasonably objective as I try to make most of my ratings/reviews. That said, when she came out with this book recently, I was elated and dived in. It’s taken me a long time to work my way through because I have this horrible habit of reading far too many books simultaneously, which just slows everything down. And I’ve been meaning to contact her and give her some kudos for producing a great work here, but I’ve been too tied up to even keep up with people like I typically have over my life.

That said, I can hardly think of a more timely book. Particularly as it relates to the topic at hand. Millions (okay, maybe fewer, but still quite a lot) have been “China watchers” for years now and while it’s sensible, advisable, necessary, etc., to keep eyes trained on Beijing, and particularly as variables within the South China Sea become more clusterf*cked, more hostile, as the PLAN continues its progression into the India Sea, now being joined by Russia and Iran in a potential new axis of maritime adversaries, and as China has already tangled with the Philippines and Vietnam, and as India strives to become another possible regional hegemony, I think many of us in the west (understandably, perhaps) tend to lose track of some other states of import, most notably our longtime allies, at least one of whom is now feeling completely abandoned by the current US Administration and any defense agreements we’ve had since WWII (Australia), which I think is a travesty considering what a great and faithful ally Australia has been to the US over that time period, joining the US with only a couple of other states in fighting alongside us in the various “conflicts” we’ve found ourselves — unlike the vast majority of other, more “prominent” allies. Australia is so panicked that debate as been ongoing there on what to do regarding China, the Indo-Pacific region, and defense of their own country as they lack any form of serious navy, having built their defense doctrine on dependence on the USN. Which no longer looks like a sure thing, so major leaders are actually calling for the country to withdraw from the NPT and illegally go nuclear for survival’s sake! Which is a sad commentary.

Meanwhile, South Korea is facing its own challenges due to not only China, but their northern neighbors, whose leader seems cleverly insane. Plays a tough game. But the focus here is obviously the one that seems to get forgotten in all of these geopolitical games — Japan.

It’s great to see this major Asian/East Asian state that has been basically boxed into a corner it’s trying to get out of become the focus of some good new research and analysis produced and published just at the right time. Because for those caught up in the SCS BS going on daily, all too many people seem to neglect the games being placed in the ECS (East China Sea). Between China and Japan. Or more accurately, between the PLAAF/PLAN over the Senkaku Islands, or the Diaoyu Islands as the PRC insists on referring to them as, and the JCG and JASDF. And it couldn’t be any more stupid than this, but it is, and yes, it’s merely symbolic, but the fact that one state feels so aggressive about a group of small uninhabited islands that Japan legally owns, per international law and recognition, that it’s willing to take “testing” the much smaller and spreader thinned out JCG and JASDF by sending hundreds or even thousands of Chinese fishing boats into the contested waters or a larger number of aircraft buzzing the islands constantly, itching for an “opportunity” to do who knows what at the very plausible risk of a regional war that could spread once you bring contesting hegemonies into the equation … well, that’s either a sign of supreme confidence (maybe Pillsbury was right, but was too generous in his predictions of when the CCP would show its hand?), supreme stupidity if it actually is willing to risk a potential world war by hedging its bets the US won’t want to enter such a war merely because of decades-old defense commitments and treaties between the US and Japan (which is actually NOT a bad gamble on their part circa early 2020 as I write this), or typical CCP craftiness in pushing all as far as possible to get as much as possible by whatever means necessary — short of all out war. Which is my take on it at the present, but I’m willing to adjust that analysis as events transpire.

One may be a follower of issues, variables, geopolitical tensions, etc., throughout the greater Asian and East Asian regions, and they may be aware to some degree of what potential threat a burgeoning regional hegemony may present, but they may not possess the context Sheila provides in this book, such as how Japan has historically had its political and hence military hands tied when it came to defense spending, military building, etc., due largely to the constitution the US drew up for the country upon its surrender in 1945, and due to a combination of war guilt, the struggle to rebuild a country and economy, and to yes, abide by the constitution they now were governed by which has limited their ability and indeed desire to “go military.” And with China incessantly goading them eternally for the atrocities committed during the last century, the most famous of which was Nanking, those historically cautioning against appearing antagonistic in building up a (smallish) military for defense are now being countered by those who, like our other traditional allies in that area (such as Australia and South Korea), are getting sick and tired of Xi throwing his weight around yet fear if conflict comes, they’ll be on their own — hence the topic of the book titled “Japan Rearmed.” Frankly, there’s much more than simply what I’ve described or alluded to (and I’ve possibly even gone off track, inadvertently — a bad habit), but if I went into more, I’d be writing a book myself (another major element is merely the concept of an offensive militarized Japan with all of the possible regional implications that might entail…)! This is really one of the best books on the topic I’ve seen come along in a very long time. And again, so relevant and timely. I couldn’t urge people around the globe, let alone in the west and US, to read this more strongly than I am now, because I think it’s essential that we understanding the changing dynamics of a newly multi-polar world that’s been shifting to the east for over two decades. There are more variables than one cares to think about, but think about them one must (or should).

I feel like I didn’t do the book or the author sufficient justice in what I’ve written, but my health has sadly deteriorated to the point where I rarely write long, meaningful or in-depth book reviews like I did for many years, and I just don’t have the time and energy I once did. So my hope is the author will forgive any shortcomings in this review and will appreciate the overall spirit of support and enthusiasm I have for this book because I think it’s the best one I’ve seen published in the last several years amongst the Asian “experts” out there, no others being specifically named or mentioned at this time. Personally, there may be one or two experts out there who have very high profiles, and everyone seems to dote on every word they produce, but for my money Sheila Smith can think, research, analyze and write her way around all of them, and if this book isn’t proof, I’m not sure what would be. Most strongly recommended for those who are into international relations, Asia, East Asia, China, Japan, geopolitics, the growth of regional hegemonies, the global shift to the east, the dynamics being played out daily, etc. Literally one of the best of hundreds of books I’ve read over the past couple of years. Get a copy.

View all my reviews

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My Years In Books: 2019

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 24, 2019

Every year, I participate in the Goodreads Annual Reading Challenge. At the beginning of each year, you set a goal for how many books you’ll read that year. Goodreads keeps track of your running total and then lets you know how you’ve done and what percentage of your goal you met. You can also see other participants in the Reading Challenge. Each year, they provide an end of year webpage showing your stats, how you did, etc. For some reason, they recently decided to make them only able to share to a few social network sites where I no longer have accounts. I remain annoyed by this, so I’m doing the next best thing for the second straight year. (And you can see my blog entry for 2018’s results here:  My Year In Books: 2018.) I’ve taken several screenshots showing information like what they describe as your “Year in Books,” parts of the webpage showing how many books, pages, etc, you read that year, the average length of the book, etc., my 2019 Reading Challenge results, my Reading Challenge results since 2013 and something I’ve never done before — an intro to the webpage of My Year in Books because as you’ll see, my numbers are tremendously skewed up this year and are thus somewhat deceptive, so I felt obligated to explain. For what it’s worth, I set my 2019 reading goal at 90 books. Goodreads is reporting I read 443 books, or 492% of my original goal. Like I said, I wrote an explanation because while I exceed my goal every year, it’s never by that much and there are a couple of reasons why this year’s numbers aren’t completely accurate. So I’m going to post these screenshots for you to see. If you want to see the actual books I read this year, you can go to my Goodreads profile here. (I believe you have to be a logged in member to view it, however…)

And now, the promised screenshots. Comments are welcome…

 

2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge

My Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge Results

 

 

 

My Goodreads All-time Annual Reading Challenge Results

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My Year In Books: 2019”

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My Year In Books: 2019” — Introduction

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My Year In Books: 2019” — End Of Webpage

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

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Leaving LinkedIn. Hopefully Some New & Diverse Blog Posts Here…

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 3, 2019

I am coming to the conclusion I may finally terminate my LinkedIn account after 15 years there. There are a number of reasons and it both pains and saddens me, but I see no viable alternative. I’ve worked hard over 15 years to build the largest very high-quality network on the platform, and by most accounts, I did pretty well. I have 19,910 followers at the moment (really wanted to reach 20K very badly), of whom about 55% are senior execs and some 40% C-level execs, and in every industry that exists in over 160 countries, at the highest levels of commerce, government, military, science, etc. But for some reason — and I have my theories — after being a huge ambassador for LI for a decade and a half, they turned on me last year — and I’m a PAYING customer! — and started to arbitrarily and punitively harass and “punish” me for alleged rule violations that tens of millions of people do everyday but on a far worse basis than I ever did, and with the company’s full knowledge and blessing. And for a year, I’ve interacted with these customer service pukes and it’s like talking to a damn brick wall! They refuse to respond to anything I say, assert, allege, ask, to send me to colleagues or supervisors or even their Legal department, to defend their blatant hypocrisy in their absurdly inconsistent enforcement of alleged rules they continually cite, but which are not at all on one document they cite and it’s hidden beneath generic links on the other they cite, so no one could ever find it, and they just robotically intone the same idiot sentence or two repeatedly, regardless of my question, assertion, statement, topic, allegation, etc. It’s like they’re brain dead zombies! I have a lot more to say, but this wasn’t originally going to be my topic, so I’ll end this part. Suffice it to say though that I’ve NEVER been this stonewalled, this ignored, this shit on by any company in the world and I think it speaks very ill of them, especially since they’re lying hypocrites. I expected more from a company such as theirs. If I still had my health, time, energy, strength, stamina and the money I once had before my medical bills decimated it, I would literally sue them — and I would win! I’ve never lost a lawsuit and I’ve sworn to go to my grave with that record intact. I’m confident it wouldn’t be too hard to prove my allegations against them, and despite what their terms say in regards to litigation damage maximums, a good attorney will get around that, and I would be looking for millions….

In any event, I often post links to interesting articles on a variety of topics there, and I often add my own commentary or thoughts or opinion. And sometimes I’ll just write a much longer independent article, again about various topics. Some of my posts don’t get too many views, but many get quite a few, and some get a large number. I posted about the Capital One Hacker a few days ago and got about 650 views. Then I posted about how the DoD has banned military personnel from using CBD, even though it’s federally legal in all 50 states. That one got closer to 2,000 views. Some of my posts have exceeded 15,000, 20,000+ views, but those are rare. And it’s always hard to predict which ones people will find interesting.

The point of all of this rambling that as I take several days to extracate myself from LinkedIn, I may stop posting pieces there and start posting them here. I don’t have a fraction of the followers or readers, but that doesn’t matter. I post on things I find interesting and hope others will too. If they don’t, they don’t. If they do, they’re definitely welcome.

Cheers!

Scott

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A New Book Review: Has the West Lost It?: A Provocation

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 9, 2019

Hi All. Sorry I haven’t been posting and I don’t have time to explain now, but my schedules and the degree of my responsibilities and overall business have radically changed, my health is rapidly deteriorating, and we’ve been EXTREMELY busy house hunting, which looks like it’s finally going to pay off after over seven long, grueling months of hellish work.

In any event, I wrote a new book review today and published it on Medium, an excellent combo online magazine/writing community/source of extremely diverse information and ideas. I’ve published a couple of things there before. They publish writers from newbies to writers for The Atlantic, NY Times, Washington Post, The New Yorker, etc. In order to read their content, you’re supposed to be a member, which involved a very small fee. However, not everyone wants to be a member, but some people still want to access specific articles. Fortunately, Medium’s cool enough so that they provide a “Friend Link,” so non-members can access a specific article. Thus, I’m going to post that link here and invite anyone to go read it. It’s a little over 800 words, so not too long, and it’s on a very interesting book discussing the deterioration of the West as world power shifts to the East — a subject I’ve read a ton of things on, but nearly all by American/Western writers — and the thing that makes this book very unique is it provides analysis, commentary, critiques, and suggestions regarding the West from a presumably Eastern world citizen who is quite astute and who wants the West to hold strong and make a comeback. I thought it provided an interesting perspective. I hope you are all doing well, and here’s the link. Feel free to comment. Thanks!

 

Has the West Lost It?: A Provocation : A Book Review

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It’s Not Just Huawei and ZTE…

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 4, 2019

I published an article on my LinkedIn page on April 4, 2019. This is the gist.

There are other technology-based companies in China, some much bigger and wealthier than Huawei, that *could* be capable of things some accuse the more famous companies of while hiding beneath the surface. Here is the link to it if you’re interested: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/its-just-huawei-zte-scott-holstad.

 

Well, what I found after publishing the link on my blog here was that while, if memory serves me correctly, for many years LinkedIn has been an open site, if not for posts, articles, original content, etc., at least for people’s profiles, often viewed as expanded digital resumes. The impetus was simple. Your profile, and hence your digital resume, could be located by anyone, anywhere, most prominently headhunters, recruiters, HR professionals, etc. That was, after all, the original point. But no more! I really don’t know when changes started happening, but I discovered sometime last year that if one searched for me by name and my LinkedIn profile came up in the search results, clicking on it would take you to a black page with a login, and subsequently ever since, everything I’ve posted, shared, written, published, created, and yes, even my ever fluid profile has been completely off limits to anyone who cannot log into LinkedIn, presumably anyone who does not have an account. I’ve said publicly what I think about this new trend, but for this particular purpose, that’s a topic for another post.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

In any event, when I posted the original post with the link to my article here, I heard from some of you telling me you couldn’t access the article, was there another way for you to read it? And yes, there is. Forgive me for taking so long to address this, but I’ve been ill, busy and out of town, so I’m only now getting to it, but my solution is to simply reproduce my article in its entirety as it appears on my LinkedIn profile here on my blog, at which point it will be accessible to all. The formatting may not be as perfect, but the content will be the same. So, as requested,

 

It’s Not Just Huawei and ZTE…

 

Yesterday, Foreign Policy magazine published an article titled “The Improbable Rise of Huawei” with the tagline reading “How did a private Chinese firm come to dominate the world’s most important emerging technology?” (https://bit.ly/2HXEcU2) Current trendy topic, legitimate questions. I get it. And I don’t blame the authors or the journal. It’s a good piece, well written in a quality publication, and it’s one that needs addressing, although in my opinion, there’s probably been a little bit of overkill recently.

Huawei Mobile Phone\

[Huawei Mobile Phone]

I’ve been researching this myself. But I’ve been researching some other things, other companies, their owners, and shell games – all Chinese. And I’ve got a LOT of questions, and one thing I’m curious about is why the founder of Huawei, a Communist party member and former PLA soldier, is getting so much notoriety, and everyone knows how fabulously wealthy the company has become, yet no one is talking about another Chinese entrepreneur who started a company of his own, also under mysterious and unusual circumstances, and who has been so very successful, that he is worth about 20 times what Huawei’s Ren Zhengfei is worth and according to this year’s Forbes, is the 22nd richest man in the world (https://bit.ly/2HYsbhq), compared to Ren, whom Forbes lists at #1,425 (https://bit.ly/2G1jnFb)!

Do you know of whom I refer? Does the name “Jack Ma” ring a bell? Does the company, “Alibaba” (or Alibaba Group) ring a bell? (https://www.alibaba.com) Let’s just say that his background is of a person who was largely a massive failure, who found out about the Internet and somehow found 20 grand to start a web design company out of his house with his wife. (I intend to write more about this some other time, so I’m leaving a great deal out…) Around 1999, with his wife and a group of friends, Alibaba had been formed as a B to B technology marketplace start-up. (https://bit.ly/2fcoC5c)

Then Ma disappears. Nothing on him. I’m sure it’s possible to find stuff, but just take a cursory glance and see if you can find him in, say 2006 or 2010. Yet, in 2015 he surfaces and takes the company public at the NYSE in the biggest IPO in the history of the world! Now how did he get from poor, miserable failure (rejected on 30 out of 30 job applications after barely making it through a minor teacher’s institute with a BA in English, just as one example), start two companies in three years, start making bank and then disappear from view for 15 years, only to emerge in the public’s eye to become, by today, owner of a relatively unknown (in much of the West) Chinese company that is literally worth twice as much as the notorious, world famous Huawei, and whose own net worth as of this year is over $40 BILLION compared to Ren’s $2.2 billion, as of two days ago? Doesn’t that strike anyone besides me as just a little … odd? And while Huawei is everywhere in the world, so is Alibaba. Indeed, I have very senior level contacts at both companies (C-level), both in China and in the US. I’ve interacted with some people at different times. And the Foreign Policy writers, if I recall correctly, noted that Huawei is everywhere now – specifically in 170 countries. Guess how many countries Alibaba operates in? Going on 200. Yep, bigger, richer, more successful, founder possibly more mysterious than Huawei’s, and while the company hasn’t become notorious for making devices like mobile phones, they sell the hell out of them! I know, I bought one. Recently. A high-end Kyocera, unlocked international, for half the retail cost elsewhere. But I didn’t keep it. There were multiple reasons why. I looked at it, tested it carefully, and returned it. The company actually has a program where they award certificates, of a sort, to third party resellers whom they deem sufficiently good enough to represent them. And while the company is not a manufacturer, like Huawei is, it has access to and sells more (I believe) items, generally technology items such as … mobile phones…, than most companies in the world. And while people are up in arms about Huawei’s alleged ties to China’s communist party, certainly in the company’s beginnings, many analysts believe that NO “private” company, especially such huge, successful international behemoths – that are everywhere throughout the western world, for instance – could possibly operate without both the permission AND most likely the backing of the CCP, or at least elements of the CCP. Think about that. And think about the fact that Alibaba sells a virtually unlimited number of Huawei and ZTE products, as well as many other international products (including from other Chinese companies), in more places than Huawei! And how hard is it to modify a mobile phone? If MSS, or one of the newer agencies that have been created over the past few years, were to somehow be involved in some way – and I’m NOT saying they are at all!!! – it wouldn’t be too difficult to replicate or even improve on some of the possibilities that some people are accusing Huawei of. Think about that too. And just in case you’re wondering if the company is just a giant marketplace, understand this – like many other companies, they’re ambitious. And they’ve developed a cloud program so massive, it can be rivaled only by the likes of AWS, Google, IBM and it seems Oracle is also moving up the ranks. Literally, Alibaba has come out of nowhere to become one of the roughly 5-6 biggest cloud providers in the entire world! And yes, I have connections with people at Alibaba Cloud (https://us.alibabacloud.com).

Server Farm - Alibaba Rev

What does one make of this? I guess my primary point is to not discount this company simply because it does not manufacture high tech wireless devices. It’s a technology company, first and foremost, and it’s gone from reseller to a very big player, essentially under most people’s noses. Which begs another question: how big do and will they get? I anticipate acquisitions, partnerships, new divisions in other areas. I would think AI would be very attractive to them at the moment, especially in light of Xi’s announced ONE TRILLION-dollar goal to have the biggest and best quality (by far) AI industry in the world by 2025. And with the R&D available in China, and that kind of financial backing, and – forgive me if it seems like I don’t know what in the world I’m talking about, because I know enough to be dangerous, but I’m not a scientist – with the likely advent of advanced quantum computing, it’s virtually impossible to imagine the possibilities of that bizarre universe as a base for AI. And what could come from that. Need I continue?

But that’s not all. I’ve been delving into other, smaller and lesser known, but increasingly popular, Chinese wireless manufacturers and companies, and have turned up quite a bit of interesting information in the process. I’m not ready to name names, but one company that interested me turned out to be owned by another company – in the same district in the same city – that turned out to be owned by yet another company – same district, same city – all of whom had unlisted, but official representatives who shared the same email domain – that of one of these companies. And their items and inventory are similar, but grow more diverse, and you start hitting walls, have to find ways around them, and continue on, while more and more companies pop up. And they go out of their way to hide their connections with the others, and the next one and next one. Standard shell game. Makes one wonder who the ultimate owner is… Possibly Huawei? Or ZTE? Or MSS itself? Who knows? All I know is there’s a lot more going on in China than many realize, particularly with certain types of technology being sold and provided in the West. And that begs an interesting question – could Huawei simply be a distraction – a large one – thus allowing an untold number of much smaller, relatively unknown companies (or in Alibaba’s case, certainly not smaller, but definitely not a household name) to produce and distribute goods that actually might do what Huawei’s products are often accused of? Let’s not forget, there are a lot of devious people in the world, including in some governments (I think the US learned that in 2016, although preparations for that began many, many years earlier). Face it, many Westerners, and especially Americans, are – or have been for decades – simply naïve because we haven’t bothered to study other peoples and cultures and so on much more the way so many other countries have studied the US. Kissinger himself said that was probably his biggest mistake, circa the ‘70s. Not educating himself properly, not getting to know other peoples, other cultures, others’ goals and ambitions, even among one’s perceived allies. I would like to hope many Americans have come a long way since then, but I fear that most US geopolitical policy efforts since the Cold War have finally brought many to realize we have not, that we sat on our haunches, focused on the wrong agendas while ignoring important issues, and now there could be some major prices to be paid, if not already, then almost certainly in the near future.

I’ll wrap things up now, although I have much more to say. As mentioned, I hope to continue researching and digging and be able later to publish a more detailed piece with more specific information and harder analysis. Besides, I’ve been banging this out for too long now, and I have to move on to other projects. And while everyone is focusing on Huawei, I’d encourage people to take a hard look at some other entities, such as was mentioned here, as well as numerous other examples, and then do some reflecting. Feedback is welcome.

 

Scott C. Holstad

Founder, COO, CTO, Chief Strategy Officer, VP Cybersecurity @ WireMe Designs, LLC – Retired!

WireMe Designs, LLC

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It’s Not Just Huawei and ZTE…

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 4, 2019

I published an article on my LinkedIn page today. This is the gist.

There are other technology-based companies in China, some much bigger & wealthier than Huawei, that *could* be capable of things some accuse the more famous companies of while hiding beneath the surface. Here is the link to it if you’re interested: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/its-just-huawei-zte-scott-holstad.

Thanks!

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