Category Archives: Thought Bubbles

Saber Rattling Between Trump and Jong-Un

Recently there has been a lot of back and forth between President of the United States, Donald Trump, and Supreme Leader of Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK), Kim Jong-un. Most distressingly, North Korea recently released a report detailing how they will strike at Guam, a strategic U.S. military location in the pacific.

As a US citizen working and living in Beijing, this news is quite shocking. Beijing is quite close to the Korean peninsula and China is certainly involved in the drama. Whether it likes it or not.  

Amid all the panic and rabble rousing, I find myself asking just what is going on and what could come about from all this “saber rattling”.

Just What Is Going On? 

The press loves this type of news. It draws eyeballs to their publications and advertiser’s dollars into their pocketbooks. But why is this particular issue so alarming for so many people?

Well, because the consequences of mishandling it are potentially catastrophic.

If North Korea were to fly a missile over Japan and at Guam, they would essentially force the U.S. military’s hand. We have strong alliances with both South Korea and Japan, which means that should the DPRK threaten one of these countries egregiously enough, than we will be forced to intervene alongside our allies and attack North Korea. 

A lot of people believe that the U.S. should preemptively attack North Korea before any of this come to fruition. “Kim Jon-un is an evil dictator! We can’t let him talk badly about the U.S.!” such people might yell. However, these people fail to understand the two main reasons why it would be a terrible idea for us to go into Korea alone.

  • “Going alone” means without the international community’s support. This hasn’t worked out well for us in the past.
  • We would be putting Seoul in a very, very dangerous position. North Korea’s main objective has always been, first and foremost, to “reclaim” the southern portion of the Korean peninsula (and has the arsenal to do this). 

Therefore, it is safe to say, that we will not, nor should we, attack North Korea without first being provoked in such a way that puts either Japan or South Korea in serious danger.

Also important to note is that, for the same reasons, North Korea most likely won’t fire a missile at Guam because they would be putting themselves in a position with very little chance for survival. Sure they may destroy a significant portion of South Korea, but ultimately they cannot stand up to the combined strength of allied forces – and I wouldn’t bet on China or Russia intervening on their behalf (although it’s not impossible).  

Of course, you never know for sure what will happen, but this is my personal opinion of all the factors at play from a purely cause and effect view. North Korea likes to say and do outrageous things because, it would seem from a distance, they feel that a variety of geopolitical factors have essentially made them “untouchable”.

Enter China.

All the while the President and Supreme Leader exchange vitriol, China sits on the sidelines, trying to distance itself from the whole conflict. Of course, one can assume that they are quite enjoying themselves, as the series of events discredits the US in the media and weakens our strategic position in the Pacific, which gives the party more political clout at home and soft-power influence abroad.

But aside from their obvious satisfaction, the big question on everyone’s mind is who China would support should an open conflict with North Korea and allied forces come to pass.

In the Korean War (1950-53), China did support the North as it was allied with the U.S.S.R. at that point in time. But a lot has changed since then. Would they really support Pyongyang and risk cutting themselves off from the economic advantages of trade with Japan, USA, South Korea, etc. of today?

My thinking is that they wouldn’t. There is too much to be lost in poor relationships with these developed economies to allow such a rift. We can, however, definitely plan on China doing what is in China’s best interest. 

Hopefully, if such an event would come to pass, China would begrudgingly support Allied Forces, or at least not intervene on the DPRK’s behalf. But what if I am wrong? Certainly the idea of a war with China, caused via a conflict in the DPRK is not out of the question.

Inevitable? Possible? Likely?

The older I get the more I realize that events in the world are not planned and the future is anyone’s guess. Certainly we cannot take the possibility of a war, or a world war for that matter off of the table.

In some respects, I feel like the further away we get from the WWI, WWII, Vietnam, etc., the more likely it becomes. People become more and more complacent. Everyone thinks that war is not possible, so they act with less and less respect for the strong potentiality of such events.

What makes us think that we are so special that the possibility of a global war is nonexistent? The main argument is that now we have nukes. But is that really a strong enough deterrent against a World War? I don’t think you can say that.

War is always a possible outcome, and if you study history you will see that humans love it. 

Not to say that I support or encourage death and violence; only that we should be slightly more humble about the possibility of war.  

A lot of people aren’t taking this issue seriously because they think both leaders involved are incompetent. Well, I’m not saying that either are particularly academic or intellectually gifted, but I would only remind the reader of Franz Ferdinand and “the shot heard ‘round the world”.

Why Don’t We Take This More Seriously?

I was born in 1990 and I don’t think many people in my generation fully appreciate the true horror of war. It’s not necessarily our “fault”, just that we grew up in mostly safe, peaceful environments, where the most controversial issues were terrorism, drugs, and perhaps most vicious of all, debt.

Today, America’s younger generations as well as most of the developed world are more concerned with their paychecks and bank statements than ideological warfare or international diplomacy. We take peace for granted because, quite honestly, we have never experienced the atrocities of war first hand.

Sure, the U.S. military is still the world police. It has been since I was a child. We watched and read about the middle east and terrorism, but only small pockets of the country were affected and certainly not enough for us to really understand how it feels to lose someone we love from violent conflicts. 

In a sense, the developed world is largely a safe place and it is just that safety which lulls us into a sense of false security and place of weakness. I’m not sure what it will take for people both in the White House and on the street to fully comprehend that talk is not only cheap, but also very dangerous.

I hope it can happen without war. 

Chinese Markets

Don’t be confused by the architecture or the language or the way others look. We are all actually a lot similar than we might like to think. We all need the basics; food, shelter, water, love. We all worry about the future and the past.

But, sometimes, the color of one’s flag tends to confuse people. It can make us think that we are a lot more different than we actually are.

American exceptionalism.

Chinese copy-cats.

It’s all hot air.

In reality, the differences between our achievements come from how our societies are constructed and the resources which are available to us at a given time.

Americans aren’t necessarily “better” than everyone else. We have just consciously cultivated a place where cooperation, learning, and meaningful work are encouraged.

Chinese aren’t copy-cats by nature. It’s just that their educational system and this particular model suits their country at this point in time. And as the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Throughout past four years living in China and coming to understand it, I have fluctuated between wildly outlandish, racist notions, and a more realistic grasp of how basic societal differences shape the people. 

The best way to understand China as a market is to understand the details, while at the same time not letting these perceived differences intimidate or deter you. Yes, living and doing business here is very different from many other places. But, no, it’s not impossible.   

Cross the river by feeling the stones.

Looking outside for desirable things –

day dreaming about Caribbean beaches and sleek sports cars –

thinking about what could happen in the future – or what could have happened in the past.

We indulge ourselves in fantasy.

But what if we focused on making the things we have better, instead of thinking about far away places? Things like our relationships with other people, our daily crafts, and the way in which we go about our lives.

Just like the late Chairman Deng Xiaoping said: we must “cross the river by feeling the stones (摸着石头过河).”

Vanilla-Ice-Cream-Super-Seven-Eleven-Slurpee-Sugar-Rush-City

Running, running, running. After this, that, and the other thing. I want my fast-food-McDonald’s-double-quarter-pounder-dream today. Now. I also want the plastic toy, please.

And after I get it, I want a vanilla-ice-cream-super-seven-eleven-slurpee-sugar-rush-city. And the buy one get one free deal.

Today. Now. Faster.

This type of thinking can drive us up and over the wall. ‘Cause us to break down and leave everything behind… because we cannot accept  a reality in which things don’t happen at the pace of our minds.

But what happens when we realize that anything worth something got that way because of a long term investment of time, focus, and effort?

What happens when we realize that the “good things” are on their way… but they’re taking the back roads and stopping all the time to take photos?

 

Thanks for Reading My Fiction, Now Let’s Talk About FOMO

It’s hot again and as Friday winds down I am typing up this one from my apartment in Beijing, China. Luckily the air isn’t that polluted and I can open up all of the windows to get a little cross breeze going. So, in my gym shorts and with a half cup of ice coffee I sit down ready to open my heart to the world.

If you are visiting my site today because you read my recent flash fiction post on the Anthill, well, thank you! A lot of work went into that piece and I am more or less happy with how it came out. Although it was originally a bit more tongue and cheek, I think the edits did in the end make it better. If you haven’t check it out, then here is a link for you.

Now that all the PR stuff is out of the way I want to get around to a topic that has been on my mind as of late. Namely, FOMO (fear of missing out). This is something that writers and professionals alike need to think about because it is seriously wearing down our attention span. I am betting that I am not the only one who suffers from FOMO.

For those who don’t know, FOMO refers to constantly checking social media because of the feeling that something is happening which we aren’t privy to. This has always existed (think of the friend who comes out on a Friday night- even though he has a fever of 102 degrees), but now with the advent of technology it has been seriously amplified.

We get FOMO because of all these messaging services and social media accounts. The internet is incredibly interesting and there always seems to be more and more ways to access it. But it’s important to remember that these physical devices and their connection to the internet can be a potential black hole of procrastination.

Of course, it’s also very important to stay connected and interact with the world. So the question arises… how do we manage it?

One idea is to set up a time during the day which you commit to not being on social networks. You could, for example, disable all social accounts until after five pm when you leave work. This could be done with an adblocker or “good ol’ self control”. (Sidenote- I don’t think “good ol’ self-control” is actually effective as we might think. So, yeah, maybe adblocker is best).

Another way could be to cut down on our accounts. That means deleting all the useless accounts that we have and ultimately not signing up for the new ones in the first place. This is a hassle in the beginning, but there is also a strength in learning how to say no.

The reason I bring this up today is that I have noticed how much FOMO cuts into the quality of my own work. This is to say that I do my best work when I have no distractions and can focus from 2-3 hours uninterrupted on a project.

If you are reading this post and saying “Ah, jeez Will I am an excellent multitasker” well, I’m sorry but you are not. Research has shown that multitasking really just means switching our attention from one thing to another, and therefore reducing our overall span of attention on one particular thing.

But I digress.

I hope that I was able to bring up some awareness about the importance of managing your own attention span in relation to social media as well as the internet. Because while I mainly discussed interacting with people on social networks here, this also applies to just surfing the web in general.

I will go out on a limb here and say that I really haven’t learned that many useful things from just surfing the web aimlessly. Normally, the most useful bits of information come from conversations with other people, lectures, and books. The web is certainly an awesome tool, but you need to make sure that you are using it, and not the other way around.

Lynch’s Magellan Fund (Stock Picking and Stories)

Peter Lynch ran the Magellan Fund for 13 years and achieved a 29.3% average annual return from 1977 to 1990. He is a legend in the financial world. 

When investing, Lynch advises doing research and developing a story about the target stock. If through your research and analysis you can develop a good story about why the stock is a good buy, then chances are you are on the right track.

Stories and stocks? Yes, you read that correctly. That’s because stories are one of the oldest forms of communication and an excellent tool to examine our own thinking. 

Whether people are eating lunch, in the line at the grocery store, or just watching the game, they are always telling stories. Stories about success and failures. Stories about the ups and downs of life. It seems only natural that someone would adapt the technique for picking stocks. 

Stories and stocks? Well, why not. Hard to argue with Lynch’s track record.

PS. Lynch is also famous for saying to “Invest in what you know.” Reminds me of the phrase “Write about what you know.” There seems to be a pattern!

Every oak tree started out as an acorn.

Inch by inch by inch,

step by step,

we go,

further and further.

People want results fast. They want to find the short cut,  a bypass, or a diet pill. But shortcuts only lead to shortcomings. And did I mention that diet pills don’t work anyways?

Good things come to those who wait. Now, where have I heard that before?

Yes, it’s true. The best things in life take a long time to nurture. They also need water, sunshine, and positive thoughts.

Every oak tree started out as an acorn.