Wednesday, October 11, 2017

China Witch Hunt Warning…Courtesy of Steve Bannon and Miles Kwok

I have an interesting story up at Newsbud concerning Miles Kwok, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), and Chinese agents at Voice of America a.k.a. VOA.  

As a parallel narrative, I also touched on Steve Bannon's rather sinister interest in the BBG.


...the stories intersected on October 10 with this tweet from Kwok:

Miles and Steve do lunch!  

And maybe discuss some unfinished business i.e. the timidity of the prestige media outlets in amplifying Miles Kwok's rather interesting allegations about the PRC, the CCP, and Chinese spook and influence ops inside the USA.

A few days ago, in an appearance at the National Press Club, Miles Kwok responded to what looked like a planted question in order to “name a name”, rather bluntly giving the name of a manager at Voice of America who is, he alleged, an agent of the Chinese security services.

I didn’t name the name for the simple reason that I don’t do witchhunts.  Gimme a crime, a court, and due process, not outrage and innuendo funneled through the media is what I say.

The flock of journos from the national media in attendance (at least moderator Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon, and reporters from the Wall Street Journal and NPR, who identified themselves when asking questions) chose not to lead their reports with this rather juicy allegation, even without naming any names.

Wonder why. I don't think the US media is down on witch hunts of foreign influence in our media and politics.

I’ve been following the witchhunt against Chinese influence down in Australia and consider it a template/trial run/warmup for a similar effort by China journos up here.  In Australia they fling mud with a free hand and name names; but so far, in the case of China, the US media hasn’t.

In this instance, one possible reason is that Miles Kwok is so polarizing and, quite frankly, skanky a figure that nobody wants to rely on him as a primary source, at least in public…at the same time every national outlet has been in contact with Kwok, his large, well-funded team, and his lovingly curated dossiers on CCP sleaze, either leaked to him by his allies in China or gathered by his investigators overseas.

Instead, I’m guessing the big outlets are busily engaged in parallel construction, that is taking the name Miles Kwok put out and trying to put together a story based on their own reporting and steno from the security services…and that doesn’t mention Miles Kwok.

The New York Times has apparently taken this route in the past, having run at least one story about Wang Qishan and his allegedly corrupt and arcane financial holdings that parallels what Miles Kwok had been talking about…but didn’t mention Miles Kwok.

Understandable, perhaps, because one PRC strategy to silence Kwok seems to be a firm and convincing promise that anybody and everybody who mentions Kwok’s allegations are going to get sued.  

So, better part of valor-wise, it’s smarter to run with Miles Kwok’s allegations without being seen to be running with Miles Kwok.  And no cause for the VOA manager with a bulls-eye on his back to breathe easier just because an allegation, with or without a name attached, wasn't in the papers the next day.

In addition, there might be some journalistic omerta going on, since the VOA is a US government-affiliated organization with lots of buddies in the media world.  

Maybe the Broadcasting Board of Governors were able to prevail upon journalists not to take the incendiary step of starting a witchhunt inside VOA until the story was absolutely locked down…and/or the BBG had ample time to clean its own house/prep for the public relations fallout.

This genteel, old school crisis management may not prevail because Steve Bannon has his eyes on China, Voice of America, the BBG…and Miles Kwok.

With Steve Bannon involved, I’d say we might be looking at torches and pitchforks instead of a nice, orderly kangaroo court…and something other than the inspiring story of a noble struggle against insidious Chinese influence that China hawks hope to use as a framing device for their political and policy campaign.

Watch the whole episode by joining Newsbud.  Or you can watch it simply by renting the Vimeo feed for $1.95.  

The a la carte Vimeo offering is a nice feature for cheapskates, tirekickers who want a testdrive before they pay the Newsbud subscription fee, or for people who have a specialized interest in the witchhunt against Chinese influence looming over American politics, media, and academia.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Chuck Hagel's Demise...and James Fanell's Rise...and Australia!

The dismissal of an unwilling Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense in 2014 was, I think, a watershed in the fortunes of the China hawks, both in the Pentagon and at Pacific Command.

Perhaps because it is bad form to explore the possibility that Hagel was purged for insufficient enthusiasm for a pro-active China confrontation agenda, nobody went there.  But I did.  Natch.

In 2015, I buried my analysis in a tediously long piece that was meant to give an overview of the evolution of US China policy, and provide a corrective to the "Chinese aggression" meme that China hawks like to lean on.

The narrative of escalating Chinese aggression is central to the China hawks' thesis that we need an escalating response. 

Rather interestingly, today a lot of this narrative is coming out of Australia. Google "Chinese influence Australia" and you'll get an idea of the barrage of local and global coverage keying on the skillfully shaped message that Chinese influence--though it is not illegal--must be feared.

I've recently come to the conclusion that spate of panic stricken reports emerging from Australia concerning the China menace in economics, politics, and academics are a belated and improvised substitute for what was supposed to be the real deal: a pivot from Obama namby-pambyism to steely Clinton resolve to confront China in 2016.

The unexpected Trump victory--and the determined gutting of the State Department by Team Trump--has temporarily put paid to dreams of running a united and highly coordinated global anti-China initiative out of a Clinton White House drawing on allies and assets in Asia and Europe. 

Instead, the aggressive anti-China alliance is being improvised in exile and, in Australia, with the support of James Clapper, who did a visiting scholar thing down there, the unflagging efforts of the Lowy Institute (which, in addition to serving as the FP mouthpiece of the Lowy family, which bundled for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and contributed coin to the Clinton Foundation, also employs Hillary Clinton's foreign policy major domo Jake Sullivan), and the assistance of a local flock of eager pro-US China hawks at Australian unis and think tanks and in the media.

More significantly, I'm guessing Team Clinton might be getting more than a little help from the king of PACOM's China hawks, Admiral Harry Harris, in supporting the Australian natsec establishment in eliciting a remarkably aggressive anti-China posture out of previously dovish Malcolm Turnbull.

Admiral Harris, indeed, is rumored to be ready to retire from the US Navy to take over as US Ambassador to Australia next year, which would give him the opportunity to get hands-on in coordinating the China confrontainment mission.

With this perspective, it's interesting to read what I wrote in 2015 after Chuck Hagel hit the bricks:

Now, of course, the DoD has a new boss—Secretary of Defense Ash Carter; and PACCOM has a new commander—Admiral Harry Harris, and the general consensus is that the muscular defense sector has wrestled China policy away from the milquetoastian White House.  Interestingly, Admiral Harris was previously the Pentagon’s liaison to to the State Department under Hillary Clinton as well as John Kerry, which reinforces my impression that Hillary Clinton and her foreign policy advisors have pre-loaded China policy with her supporters, and I expect things to get ugly quickly so that the nasty and awkward business of starting the confrontation can be done under Obama before Clinton enters office.
As I put it elsewhere: Hillary wants to inherit her China crisis from Obama, not foment it herself.
And maybe now we've had to outsource the crisis to Australia!
For those who want to go through a lengthy and taxing account of how the China hawks developed their narrative and strategies since 2010, there's the full 2015 piece: It's Official.  America Has a China Containment Policy

For those who want to read about Chuck Hagel getting shivved (a story I don't think anybody has told in full) read on in this tasty excerpt:

The Chuck Hagel years (Feb 2013-15) are a sore point for US hawks, and perhaps explain why they like to date the South China Sea crisis to 2012 and a period of accommodation/appeasement/common sense during which the PRC ran amok in the South China Sea, and not 2010 when the carnival really started.

In an end-2013 piece on the South China Sea, Bull In The China Shop, Professor Pedrozo, the legal muse for China hawks in the navy,  (now at the US Naval War College, the go-to institution for US SCS lawfare) gave full rein to his China hawk side.  Beginning with an epigraph from Franklin Roosevelt, “When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck before you crush him”,  and concluding with an exhortation to America, with its allies, to “stand up to Chinese brinkmanship before it is too late”, Pedrozo’s piece is also remarkable for the venom it displays toward then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, PACCOM’s Admiral Locklear, and the Obama China team for its caution/appeasement in dealing with the PRC on the Cowpens incident, the East China Sea ADIZ, and the tussle over Scarborough Shoal.

A key event in 2014 was a speech given in February by a key Navy insider and China hawk, Captain James Fanell to a US Naval Institute conference, in which he stated: 

“[We] concluded that the PLA has been given the new task to be able to conduct a short, sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea, following with what can only be expected a seizure of the Senkakus or even a southern Ryukyu [island] — as some of their academics say.”

Maybe bullshit, as in Fanell seizing on the  “everybody has a warplan for every contingency” thing to make China-bashing hay.  But the key element was that Captain Fannel was the head of intelligence for PACCOM…and he had gone off rez.

And he had gone off rez at the same time that Secretary Hagel was prepping for a make-nice trip with the PRC.

Fanell’s comments come at the same time that Washington is arranging a trip for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Beijing, with the expressed goal of enhancing U.S.-China military-to-military relationships. U.S. military officials want this relationship, among other reasons, to prevent some of the tense encounters between U.S. and Chinese ships in recent years.

In that context, Washington officials, when asked about Fanell’s comments, dismissed them.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, who has been in Beijing laying the groundwork for Hagel’s visit, went a step further.

Asked about Fanell’s “short, sharp war” assessment, Odierno responded: "I've seen no indications of that at all."

And Fanell’s speech to an obscure conference about East Asian hypotheticals miraculously received the widest possible attention in the non-specialist media.

Fanell was reassigned i.e. demoted in November 2014 (took a while, didn’t it?  Admiral Harris, at the time the nominated but not yet confirmed Commander, Pacific Command, promoted from Commander, Pacific Fleet [and Fanell’s boss], did the dirty, perhaps as a condition of his new employment). 

Navy Times reported:

Fanell's views have supporters inside naval intelligence, and he has become a high-profile spokesman for a more alarmist view of the rise of China than those espoused by Navy senior leadership, an intelligence source who spoke to Navy Times said. Fanell's articles on China have been published by Hoover Digest, Naval Intelligence Professionals Quarterly and the U. S. Naval Institute's Proceedings.

So Fanell was gone, but guess what?  Two weeks later, Hagel was gone as well!

Supposedly Hagel was booted because he wasn’t up to the IS challenge, but I wonder.  I’m not alone.  Per US News & World Reports at the announcement of Hagel’s involuntary retirement:

“I can’t figure out what he did to merit being voted off the island,” says Eric Edelman, who until 2009 served as the undersecretary of defense for policy, essentially the No. 3 position at the Pentagon. 

 “He gave them the strategy and the budget they asked for and wanted,” Edelman says. The White House has planned for a military drawdown after wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a reset toward a renewed presence in the Pacific. “I understand there were a few occasions when he may have leaned a little too far forward on his skis with regards to ISIS. But it’s kind of hard to figure out what it is they found lacking in his performance.”

US Middle East policy in 2015 is, for lack of a better term, still totally for sh*t under Ash Carter and still characterized by conflicted flailing and an utter unwillingness by the US uniformed forces to re-embrace the jihadi tar baby, a sentiment that Hagel shared completely, but Asia policy…well, galloping along in the new hawkish direction.

Fanell retired too, but his January 31, 2015 retirement party was pretty much a victory lap and a sounding of the China threat tocsin.  In his farewell speech, Fanell said:

[T]he Communist Party of China’s designs stand in direct contrast to espoused U.S. national security objectives of freedom of navigation and free access to markets for all of Asia. 

This not only threatens our own national security, but is also very clearly upsetting the entire Asia Pacific region has enjoyed for over 70 years. 

The challenge, as I have seen it, is for intelligence professionals to make the case, to tell the truth and to convince national decision and policy makers to realize that China’s rise, if left unchecked or undeterred, will necessarily disrupt the peace and stability of our friends, partners and allies.  We should not have to wait for an actual shooting war to start before we acknowledge there is a problem and before we start taking serious action.  The “Rebalance” is a good first step forward, but it must be backed up with a real, tangible deterrent force and we must stand-up to Beijing’s propaganda and bullying campaign, especially those that come at the expense of our allies and partners.

To continue the synchronicity of Hagel & Fanell’s careers, Hagel’s retirement ceremony took place three days earlier and was, we can say, shrouded in defeat & failure:

A senior Pentagon official told NBC News at the time that Hagel was asked to step down because the president no longer had confidence in his ability to lead the military as it struggled to defeat Islamic extremists waging war in the Middle East.

'He wasn’t up to the job,' the official said. 


Today Earnest's stand-in, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz, said 'friction' between the White House and the Pentagon is 'something that predates this administration.'

Schultz said the White House believes it has 'good relationships with the military leaders.'


With Hagel gone, the US on track to extract new defense guidelines from Japan, and with the DoD in the hands of the China hawks, it was clear to the PRC it was time to make hay while the sun shone and get its facts on the water for a prolonged period of China containment struggle, one that might endure for the next decade factoring in the possibility of two terms for Hillary Clinton.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Four Corners/Fairfax Levels Up to US-Class National Security Steno Work on China

There's a big to-do about an investigative thing by Australia's Four Corners/Fairfax Media concerning Chinese influence in Australia.

ASIO is the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, which curated the dossiers that Four Corners/Fairfax assiduously summarized and spun.

I think the series is highly significant, perhaps not in the way the journos hoped and intended, and the June 21 episode of China Watch will pick apart the details.  

That's a teaser, folks.  China Watch is behind the paywall, so you gotta open your wallets.  I'm proud of what I'm doing there, it's unavailable elsewhere, and its worth more than what you're paying to watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix.

So pony up.

A couple notes that didn't make it into the broadcast.

I found this nugget rather interesting:

Special Minister of State Scott Ryan has defended former trade minister Andrew Robb, who took an $880,000 part-time job as a consultant to a Chinese billionaire days after the 2016 federal election.

Robb was handled rather gently, even though the billionaire in question was the guy who took the 99-year lease on Darwin port, the one that gave conniptions to the US natsec community. 

Wonder why.

The second thing that struck me was the emphasis on "the Chinese Communist Party" instead of "the People's Republic of China" as the evil agency behind the Chinese billionaires.

The CCP doesn't do overseas espionage, as far as I can tell.  So that would seem to hinder the attempt to inflate the Chinese espionage menace.  And the other big deal was Chinese billionaires Huang Xiangmo & Chau Chak Wing were big bucks contributors to Australian political parties which is legal even for foreigners down there and Chau's even an Australian citizen.

I got no problem with allegations that China is buyin' and spyin' and oppressin' and surveillin' inside Australia.  But the report was more along the lines of choreographed threat inflation.

The bulk of the report was, to be unkind, third-rate national security journo-ing. 

On China Watch, I was going to cite the instances of crude, dog-whistling assertions trotted out instead of hard facts but the list got too darn long.  So I'm doing it here.

At the end of this post, I document the atrocities from just one of the articles, which obligingly passes along a report from the ASIO about a break-in it conducted on Sheri Yan's apartment in 2015.

Sheri Yan probably deserves a post for herself.  She ran what looked like a Clinton Foundation clone, the Global Sustainability Foundation, that got funds from Chinese moneybags and delivered access to and if possible allegedly favors from UN bureaucrats.  According to the U.S. government, in the person of NeverTrump celebrity Preet Bahara, Yan passed on some of that money as bribes to UN officials, including John Ashe, who became president of the UN General Assembly.

One billionaire she allegedly did errands for was Chau Chak Wing.  If that was the case, Yan took the fall--she's doing 20 months in federal prison--instead of rolling over on him.  Another was Ng Lap Seng, who was named and nailed in the indictment.

This Ng Lap Seng.

Ng's first brush with bribery in the US (but no conviction!) was in the 1990s.  He won fame in the United States in 1997 for funneling a few hundred thousand dollars to Bill Clinton through Little Rock restauranteur Charlie Trie, visiting the White House a few times, and helping lose Al Gore the White House with the "Chinagate" scandal.

An interesting data point is the allegation that the Clinton-related influence buying in the US was reputedly ordered by Jiang Zemin when Jiang was running the show and felt China needed a little more post-Tiananmen international political oomph.  

According to the indefatigably anti-Jiang Zemin Epoch Times, Chau Chak Wing is also a member of Jiang's Shanghai clique.  In my China Watch video I speculate that Australia has become a haven for Shanghai clique members seeking to escape the attentions of Xi Jinping and Wang Qishan, and their credentials as trusted PRC state actors are open to question.

Anyway, ASIO, the FBI, and whoever obviously has a hardon for these people, maybe along the lines of, Hey, they bribed Clintons so we'll get 'em for this! and believe they deserve to be nailed no matter what.  Four Corners/Fairfax obliged by cranking up the innuendo machine.

Here I am documenting the dishonest dossier hustling in the Sheri Yan piece, with my disapproving sniffing in boldface:

“The raid…reflects deep concern inside ASIO”

“it is the Chinese Communist party causing the greatest concern…”

“ASIO suspected…that Ms Yan’s activities extended well beyond bribery.  Classifed material shared between FBI counter-espionage officials and ASIO…suggested Ms Yan may have been working with Chinese intelligence.”

It is understood the investigation into Ms Yan involves suspicions she  infiltrated or sought clandestine influence in Australia and the US on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Professor Rory Medcalf…says the ASIO raid would not have occurred without…input from many parts of the Australian national security community”…”the targeting reflects a small part of a ‘deep and real concern’…Eight serving government officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, broadly confirmed Mr. Medcalf’s assessment…also confirmed …the agency had been collating intelligence suggesting…ASIO feared the campaign was succeeding…

[ASIO] prepared an extraordinary document…at the top was a diagram representing the Chinese Communist Party with lines connected this diagram to photos of two Chinese born billionaires [Huang and Chau].

Donors could be channels to advance Beijing’s interests: AISO.   

“[Lewis] said ‘be careful’…he was saying the connections between these guys and the Communist Party is strong”…

In the oh, for f*ck's sake column, here's the takeaway the head of ASIO offered the political parties while wielding his "extraordinary" picture-and-line filled document:

In his briefing, Mr. Lewis was careful to stress that neither Dr. Chau nor Huang Xianmo was accused of any crime and that Mr. Lewis wasn’t instructing the parties to stop taking their donations.”

Back to the smear stuff:

“We have to assume that individuals like that have really deep, serious connections to the Chinese Communist Party”.

“Mr. Medcalf said ASIO’s decision to come out of the shadows and identify Dr Chua in its briefings is “certainly unusual”…”it would reflect very real concern

If Dr Chau has taken a position on any policy issue in Australia he’s not done so publicly…But for parts of the Chinese Communist Party, access to the right networks may be worthwhile in and of itself.

This may be why Sheri Yan sought to compromise UN chief John Ashe, according to former CIA officer turned China watcher Peter Mattis.

The magnificent coda to this effort is provided by a Ford Foundation guy:

“John Fitzgerald, a former Ford Foundation director…told Four Corners and Fairfax Media of a warning he received from an “old friend in Australia’s security establishment” to “stay away from Yan”.

 “Once you know that, you don’t need to know much more.”

Well, Fitzgerald's sharing that corner with...Four Corners/Fairfax.

Watch my  June 21 episode to learn why this circus is going global.