West Papua explodes

Plus, the Other Trade War becomes a serious issue

The end of summer is here. Take a step outside, breath in the warm air and take a moment for peaceful reflection.

Go to the beach for a final hurrah, have a dinner al fresco or go to a local market. There is no need to feel despondent when time marches on, just make sure to take advantage of the fleeting season and have one more memorable moment.

Then, in the coming weeks, make sure to buy A LOT of apples. Yummy.


Quote of the Week: “As long as the two sides handle the South China Sea issue properly, the atmosphere of bilateral ties will be sound, the foundation of the relationship will be stable, and regional peace and stability will have an important guarantee.”

-Xi Jinping, talking about the Philippines claims to the South China Sea.


Protests in West Papua Have Turned Violent Amid an Internet Blackout. Here's What to Know

What Happened: Authorities in Surabaya, Indonesia created a national mess when they overreacted to a minor incident of vandalism. Reports emerged that someone had desecrated the national flag and fled. The police believed the source of the “crime” was a group of students from the island of Papua.

The cops arrested 43 people and in the process allowed for a mob to gather outside. The mob started chanting “monkey” at the Papuans — who tend to have dark skin.

Much like the Los Angeles Race Riots in the 1990s, this incident was the spark that set off a much larger explosion.

For the past two weeks, West Papua has been gripped by aggressive, and oftentimes violent, protests. The protests began as a condemnation of racism, but have grown to facilitate a long-simmering independence movement.

Papua joined Indonesia nearly 15 years after Indonesian independence and the UN believes the incorporation process was a sham. An independence movement has existed for awhile but this is a significant ramp-up of activities.

The government responded by blacking out the internet, which created further outrage and intensified the violence.

Unfortunately, unlike a similar movement in Hong Kong, people have died in this conflict, with reports suggesting around seven people have been killed in violent clashes.

Japan and South Korea Feud, but Breaking Up Is Hard

What Happened: Japan escalated the world’s “Other Trade War” by removing South Korea from its white-list of countries that receive preferential trade considerations.

The trade war has been supplemented with nationalistic consumerism from both countries that has resulted in boycotts of certain products.

However, as this article explains, the two countries are intertwined economically and a significant decoupling would create serious economic problems for both countries (sounds like America and China).

Another similarity between the Other Trade War and the US-China conflict is a realisation that the countries rely heavily on one another, which is followed by a decision to invest in self-sustainability.

On Thursday, South Korea drafted its most aggressive stimulus package since 2008 to try and combat trade headwinds.

Big Tech begins to shift out of China

What Happened: Two stories this week revealed some on-the-ground problems for China as it fights the trade war with America.

First, Google plans to move production of its Pixel phone to Vietnam. Second, Foxconn is investing heavily in India in an effort to reduce its dependency on China.

India and Southeast Asia are increasingly safe places to do business, so it is hard to imagine a reversal back to China once this shift happens — even if the trade war ends tomorrow.

One important note is that while the companies are moving out of China, they are not moving back to America. There exists a false equivalency that when the trade war hurts China it somehow helps America.

In this specific case, China is harmed and America sees no impact. India and Vietnam are huge beneficiaries.

Malaysia’s 1MDB trials create strange results

What Happened: The second of five public trials related to Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal is underway. Counterintuitively, the trial seems to be helping the public perception of former Prime Minister Najib.

He has successfully managed to portray the trial as a political conspiracy. That being said, the prosecution has yet to submit their case and they plan to paint a picture of Najib and Jho Low taking charge of the billion-dollar fraud.

Tropical depression gathers strength, now a storm; threatens China, Vietnam

What Happened: A tropical storm is making landfall in Vietnam to end this week. Another tropical storm is expected to develop in the Philippines. Typhoon season in Asia seems to be starting.

Some Levity

Wang Guodong, Who Painted Mao Year After Year, Dies at 88

Wang Guodong lived a fascinating life. He painted the most recognisable piece of art in the 20th Century (the famous portrait of Chairman Mao) and yet spent his life in complete obscurity.

As per communist values, Wang was never allowed to inscribe his name on the portraits.

He also had to redo the paintings every year because the elements faded the print, creating a cool historical lineage of Mao Zedong portraits that have slight alterations based on specific requests of that year.

Ironically, Wang came under fire during the Cultural Revolution for the perceived slight of “only painting one ear”. Apparently it implied Mao only listened to a select few.

This is a great read for history nerds.

Kevin’s Share

I ghost-wrote an article for the Singapore government explaining the concept of a ‘service blueprint’. It is a very useful approach to building a roadmap for the future.

A service blueprint forces decision makers to systematically analyse their ideas, and possibly decide not to move forward.

For the entrepreneurs in my readership, it is a system that is worth a trial.

Long Read

US-China Trade War: The Guns of August

This is one of the wonkiest articles I have ever shared, but it’s really important for understanding the actual economics of the trade war. I also wanted to share the following, extremely prescient, piece of writing:

Though no one can predict the future, it is worth recalling the historian Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, which provides a step-by-step telling of how leaders stumbled into the disaster of World War I:

“War is the unfolding of miscalculations,” she wrote.

One can only hope that Trump and President Xi Jinping step back from the guns of August 2019.

One NBA Post

The Sterling Affairs will be remembered as the seminal piece of NBA media for 2019. The five-episode podcast recounts the ownership of Donald Sterling — who was the worst owner in American sports history.

If you have any interest in the NBA, this is a must listen.

Hong Kong

This week, China performed a manpower shift of PLA troops in Hong Kong, which sent jitters throughout the city. It highlights just how sensitive politics have become in The Pearl. Even moves that are quite common are watched closely.

Also: Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, two faces of the 2014 Occupy movement, were arrested for inciting an unlawful assembly. These arrests are part of the reason why the 2019 protesters actively refuse to promote a leader of the movement.

Wong is a side character in the current political crisis — and many protesters think he does more damage than good — but, because of his publicity from 2014, he now finds himself arrested.

Macro-view: This interesting article compares China to ancient Mongolia, whereby the threat of violence was often enough to conquer entire cities.

One important note: On October 1st, the CCP will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its rise to power. Will Beijing allow Hong Kong to be disruptive during its big day? People are getting very nervous as this date approaches.

P.S.: This photo-essay from the New York Times is cool.