Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Managing Gen Z

Financial Times columnist Pilita Clark suggests that older people have always complained about dissolute and degenerate youth. But, is it different this time? Is Gen Z, the cohort of under 25 workers different from its predecessors?

I am inclined to think that it really is different. Young people today, the products of a broken educational system and a culture that values therapy before instruction, have become a band of insolent brats, chronic whiners who consider that work is beneath their capacious intellects.

In the midst of an economic downturn, one that seems only to have just begun, this attitude will consign these young people to poor career prospects.

Take the example of a recent meeting held by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Clark reports:

Not that long ago, Mark Zuckerberg logged in to a Q&A session with his staff that I would very much like to have seen. Specifically, I wish I had witnessed the Facebook founder’s face when an employee in Chicago named Gary asked if the extra days off that were brought in during the pandemic would continue in 2023. Zuckerberg looked “visibly frustrated” by this question, according to an account of the meeting on The Verge news site. 

He had just explained the economy was probably tanking. TikTok was a competitive menace and he’d had to freeze hiring for some jobs. So no, Gary in Chicago, the extra holidays would not last and nor would the days of pampering employees. People had to work harder and Zuckerberg didn’t care if some decided to quit. “Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here,” he said. 

Every manager today has heard the same whiny, disrespectful tone, the notion that what really matters on a job is the moment when you get off work and go out to party.

Clark explained:

As work returns to something approaching pre-Covid normality, I have lost count of the complaints I have heard from managers, most in their late thirties and forties, about their coddled, disengaged and indifferent 20-something employees. 

Quite right. Everyone who coaches managers, and at times even Gen Zers, has heard the same complaints. This time they are dealing with something new. In the now distant past no employee would have whined to the CEO about vacation time. He would have known that he was creating the wrong impression and compromising his career prospects.

As for examples, Clark has  few of her own:

There was the flummoxed investor who had told junior staff they should be in the office when clients visited, only to have those staff say: thanks for the feedback but I would rather keep working from home. There was the television executive who was told that young staff working on a long shoot would prefer shorter hours if they had to leave head office. A consultant told me of a younger colleague who refused to travel abroad to client meetings any more, insisting they could be done online. And a financial adviser who fumed about young people logging in to important internal meetings where they kept their cameras off and said nothing.

Clark says that these young people have been overparented-- a nice phrase:

The upshot of this is that a lot of younger, over-parented staff arrive in their first job with little idea of how much better it is than serving beer — and little faith it will meet their life-long financial needs.

As for how to manage them, consultant Eliza Philby recommends that managers listen attentively, but not concede to them:

Filby’s advice: listen to them. Offer great training. But do not, on any account, heed their every whim, because “you’re not actually helping them through life”. 

The unfortunate problem is that there are so many dysfunctional young people, overparented, coddled and swaddled. The good news, Clark concludes, is that those young people who are willing to work hard and to respect their managers, who do not correct other people’s pronouns, are looking at a bright future.

I also think there has never been a better time to be an ambitious, hardworking young employee. Finding a great job isn’t easy but if you can do it, you may well find yourself surrounded by a lot of people your age setting an unusually low bar. 

Producing an Idiotocracy

As we reported here, it’s been going on for decades in serious colleges and universities. Affirmative action admissions, coupled with grade inflation, have produced large numbers of credentialed college graduates who are incompetent and incapable. Unfortunately, if you say so, you are denounced as a bigot.

Now, the same principles are being applied in New York City public schools. Teachers who cannot or will not teach hand out good grades to their pupils. As Wei Wah Chin remarks in a New York Post op ed (via Maggie’s Farm) the graduates of these schools end up knowing nothing. How does anyone believe that they will be able to participate in the economy?

The impetus is coming from the top:

Recently, teachers at William Cullen Bryant High School in Queens complained that administrators forced them to pass failing students. Last year, a long-stalled investigation revealed that Maspeth High School in Queens repeatedly faked passing grades. In 2020, at Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill High School where more than 70% of the students were failing, the principal was secretly recorded instructing teachers to just pass kids. This happens not just at isolated failing schools; data on middle schools show widespread grade fraud in New York City public schools, and the worst often occur in predominantly black communities.

And here is the best story:

One such school is the Eagle Academy for Young Men of Harlem, where in 8th grade, 95% of students failed Math proficiency according to New York State standardized testing, but the school passed 93.9% of them in that subject. The founder and former head of the Eagle Academy network, David Banks, is now Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. He quickly banished standardized tests from large swathes of NYC’s education landscape.

Yes, indeed, the head of the Eagle Academy is not the Chancellor of the City Department of Education. His first gesture-- abolish standardized testing and dumb down the best city schools. If you were wondering why there has been an exodus from city public schools, David Banks and his boss Eric Adams are a good place to start:

Acclaimed middle and high schools that offered rigorous academics to carefully matched students — selected in part by standardized testing — must dumb down because they now admit by lottery. And families who drew poorly in the admissions lottery are in tears as their children are assigned schools they’ve never heard of before, hours away from home. But educrats erect fancy facades in front of these train wrecks, calling them something they aren’t, trying to fool us.

The author concludes, somewhat wistfully. And yet, he merely wants to break the teachers’ unions and return to something like the past methods. One suspects that he is whistling past they graveyard. Such actions would require the parents of minority children to rise up against Democratic politicians and teachers unions. Don’t hold your breath:

We need standardized testing, attacked by Potemkin school defenders, because it so indisputably exposes their academic dumbing-down. We need school choice, so families can vote with their feet as educrats continue to lie while robbing their children of an education.

But the status quo of Potemkin schools is protected by teachers’ unions, which don’t give one whit that a transcript full of A’s is a lie.

Monday, August 8, 2022

The Semiconductor War

One of the virtues of blogging is that it affords the opportunity to opine on topics one knows nothing about. And yet, one understands that many of you are far more knowledgeable than I about topics like semiconductor manufacturing. And one also understands that the world economy today does not just run on energy resources-- where the Biden administration has been shooting itself in the head-- but on the availability of semiconductors.

One has read in the press, because one does read some of what is in the press, that we are now going to onshore semiconductor manufacturing, along with the other important tech production. Congress just passed a bill to ramp up semiconductor manufacturing in America.

As it happens, this cannot be done. It is a lie that has been promulgated in order to keep people ignorant about what is going on in the world.

Government officials have recognized that we cannot onshore it all, so they now talk about friendshoring. Given the complexity of the materials and the expertise required to produce today’s chips, it is unrealistic to imagine that we or anyone can go it alone. So, we want to rely on countries that are friendly to us. 

This too is likely to be a pipe dream, but a country can dream, can’t it.

Anyway, I will present herewith excerpts from an article in Nikkei Asia, reprinted by the Financial Times. 

The theory underlying the article is quite simple, and quite Adam Smith. So many different companies and countries contribute to the manufacture of semiconductors that it cannot happen under a mercantilist regime. It is all about free trade.

So, here is the story from Taiwan Semiconductor, the world leader in manufacturing of high end chips:

TSMC is in the midst of a $100bn expansion, spurred on by governments in the wake of last year’s alarming shortages of crucial chips. But the Taiwanese giant has found its own supply chains to be plagued by bottlenecks, affecting items that range from lenses so precise they could focus a laser beam on a pingpong ball on the moon, to apparently mundane valves and tubes.

The machines that TSMC ordered from the United States are simply not being shipped:

The June mission followed on the heels of a similar trip by the company’s supply chain management chief, JK Lin, and a task force to the US in March, to investigate why the chipmaking machines TSMC ordered there were taking up to 18 months to turn up.

Japanese companies are not doing much better:

In Japan, suppliers including Tokyo Electron, the country’s largest chipmaking equipment manufacturer, and Screen Semiconductor Solutions told TSMC they might miss even the elongated delivery times they have promised, sources familiar with the tricky meetings told Nikkei Asia. Screen — one of the few companies in the world making the chemical cleaning machines that are vital in chipmaking plants — reeled off a list of obscure components that it was having trouble securing from its own supply chain. Valves, tubes, pumps and containers made of special plastics — all are in short supply.

So, we arrive at an inconvenient truth. Trade tensions between America and China are proving to be very, very costly. Adding this to the Ukraine war and the pandemic has produced the current slowdown:

The difficulties underscore a series of inconvenient truths, not just for TSMC and its rivals and suppliers, but for policymakers around the world. Amid US-China trade tensions and pandemic disruptions, governments in China, the US, Europe and elsewhere have determined to “onshore” semiconductor manufacturing. So-called supply chain resilience has become a central aim of policy. But such resilience is a myth. 

The therapy world is awash in talk about resilience, about the ability of the mind to heal itself. Yet, the notion that we are going to replace free trade with mercantilist policy is a myth. It makes us feel good, but it does not come close to addressing the problem:

These new national efforts are backed by huge subsidies and state-backed investments. The US Senate at the end of July approved the $52bn CHIPS Act. Japan’s government will back TSMC to the tune of ¥476bn ($3.5bn) to build a factory there for the first time. 

The trouble is these efforts touch only the visible end of the semiconductor supply chain. Behind chip production sits a network supplying equipment and other items encompassing hundreds of raw materials, chemicals, consumable parts, gases and metals without which the bogglingly precise process of chipmaking could not function. China is directing a combined Rmb1.5tn ($221bn) of public and private investments to replicate a chip supply chain within its own borders, with modest results to date.

Again, semiconductor manufacturing has been a triumph for free trade:

While a globalised semiconductor industry used to run smoothly across dozens of countries, the effort to replicate this architecture inside single countries or regions has revealed and exacerbated bottlenecks in the supply chain, according to Nikkei Asia’s investigations and interviews with more than two dozen senior industry executives from the major chip economies of the US, EU, Taiwan and Japan over the past five months. At the same time, there are questions over the long-term wisdom of the policy, and fears about whether, if they can be gotten up and running, many of these factories might ultimately sit idle.

Among the problems are the source of materials-- not always in friendly countries-- and the ability to transport them:

“It’s not only the [factories] that manufacture the chips but it’s everything that goes in there,” said Jens Liebermann, vice-president of semiconductor materials at the electronic materials business unit of BASF, the German chemical group.

 “All the materials, chemicals, gases and their raw materials. All have to be there. It comes down to, where is the source, where is the raw material, where is the manufacturing, and who can handle the logistics?”

The former chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor was blunt:

Morris Chang, an elder statesman of the semiconductor industry who founded and formerly chaired TSMC, put it most bluntly in remarks addressed to the US.

“If you want to re-establish a complete semiconductor supply chain in the US, you will not find it as a possible task,” he said at an industry forum last year. “Even after you spend hundreds of billions of dollars, you will still find the supply chain to be incomplete, and you will find that it will be very high cost, much higher cost than what you currently have.”

The problem goes back to the Trump administration-- as I am sure you know but refuse to admit. The Trump trade war, coupled with sanctions and tariffs against China, damaged the supply chain and halted a large amount of chip manufacturing:

The call for chip supply chain resilience emerged amid the US-China tech war when former US president Donald Trump’s administration clamped down on Chinese tech champion Huawei Technologies in 2019 and blocked its use of American technologies, especially chips, citing national security. The drastic move spurred an aggressive nationwide Chinese campaign across sectors to cut dependence on the US and build a secure, self-controllable supply chain. 

The self-sufficiency movement evolved into a global campaign in late 2020, as unprecedented chip shortages stalled car production and hurt a wide range of industries, crimping global economic growth and threatening jobs. The US Department of Commerce said the shortages wiped an estimated $240bn off the country’s gross domestic product in 2021. The automobile industry alone made 7.7mn fewer cars than the year before.

There is almost no part of the chipmaking process that does not require deep specialisation and no part of the supply chain that can be simply and quickly duplicated.

The challenge of onshoring, even of friendshoring is daunting:

“If you want a resilient chip supply chain, you not only need chip plants, you also need a whole string of suppliers from critical chemicals and precision components all coming along,” said an executive at Japan’s Daikin. “Building a semiconductor plant takes several years, but building chemical plants will take even longer given the extensive environmental assessments and regulations for handling chemicals.”

So, the free trade that was producing unprecedented economic growth seems to have come to an end. This will continue until some of our leaders come to their senses:

Simon HH Wu, president of San Fu Chemical, a Taiwanese chipmaking chemical supplier, reckons geopolitical conflicts and trade barriers are prevailing over globalisation, upon which the chip industry was built. “It’s no longer an era of free trade,” he told Nikkei, warning that policymakers and the industry should be under no illusions about the difficulties ahead.

Consider yourself better informed.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Soldiers Committing Suicide

Here is some very bad news. There is no way to make this feel good. And we have no difficulty explaining why the American military has been suffering an epidemic of suicides. This comes to us from the Epoch Times:

The U.S. Army lost 176 active duty soldiers to suicide in 2021, figures show.

According to combined data from the Defense Suicide Prevention Office and a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that’s the highest number of active duty Army member suicides on record since 1938.

Might this have something to do with the new woke policies instituted by the Biden administration? Might it have something to do with the new policy whereby military commanders make themselves into junior Staasi officers, the better to hunt down the white supremacists in the ranks

Might it have something to do with the policy of removing any soldier who refused to take the Covid vaccine, thereby undermining group cohesion and morale?

In any rate, this problem has been festering for nearly a decade, if not more:

Suicide rates within all military branches have continued to rise since 2015.

Compounding this trend is the number of U.S. soldiers and veterans who have taken their own life in post-9/11 wars.

Brown University published a study indicating that 30,177 active duty members and veterans have committed suicide. By comparison, the number of soldiers actually killed in post-9/11 war operations is 7,052.

What is causing this problem? We do not have to look very far for the solution. The American military no longer cares about winning wars, or even about achieving a strategic purpose. The political class has taken over the military and is using it for its own purposes, that is, to make itself look tough:

Dr Tracy Latz is an integrative psychiatrist and author with 35 years of experience dealing with suicide risk and PTSD suffering patients. She told The Epoch Times feelings of a lack of purpose also contribute to the problem.

“Veterans I have seen over the past few years report feeling like they and their comrades were used primarily as pawns for governmental political power rather than feeling [a] sense of real purpose in their duties.”

Well said, and surely true.

Naturally, the therapists in the military do not understand the problem, and besides offering therapy pets, they are offering mental health care, the kind that might be appropriate for college students. It comprises Super Bowl parties and shared meals. 

No kidding.

Combined with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and United Service Organizations (USO), free tools like crisis hotlines for military members struggling with mental health are available 24 hours a day.

The USO also offers services to deployed military members like Super Bowl parties, shared meals, and movie nights to help increase social connectivity and reduce feelings of isolation while overseas.

Latz noted that people suffering from PTSD could be dealing with an array of symptoms like poor sleep, flashbacks, and intrusive memories of the trauma they experienced.

The truth is, either the military will have a defined mission and will be allowed to complete its defined mission, or the problem of soldier suicides will persist. One place to start is: fewer lawyers making combat decisions. The Clinton administration filled the Pentagon with armies of lawyers, people whose preference was to fight wars where no one got hurt.

Now, legalism prevails and we are more interested in diversity and coedification than we are in winning wars.

Nancy on the Beach

Perhaps you missed this. It was so thoroughly cringe-worthy that you can be forgiven for pretending that she did not say it.

If you thought that Kamala Harris was a perfect fool, and an idiot, to boot, what about Nancy Pelosi. Naturally, one assumes that Pelosi is elderly, like senile Joe Biden, so we do not take what she says too seriously.

But still, when it comes to being an international embarrassment, Pelosi was up to the task.

During her trip to the Far East, Pelosi seems to have been channeling Kamala Harris. She made this remark:

When I was a little girl, I was told at the beach if I dug a hole deep enough we would reach China. So we've always felt a connection there.

As many people have noted by now, what good is having political power if you cannot make the country look like a declining, decadent backwater, led by corrupt and ignorant officials.

People who make remarks like that should not be representing America on the world stage. Let's hope that the Republican Party does not mess up too badly and that Pelosi is removed from her speakership. Then again, having faith in today's Republican Party is a bit of a stretch, don't you think?

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Killing American Medicine

For all the anguished debates about medical care no one ever really considers a decisive aspect-- the intelligence of doctors. You can have the fanciest, best-equipped hospital with the most advanced medicines and with the best robot surgeons, but if the physicians in charge have been chosen for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability, you are not going to be receiving the best medical care.

This is a story about the end of American meritocracy. For decades now the academy has been dumbing itself down by admitting too many students who cannot do the work, and then inflating grades so that it appears that they can. As we have reported, the products of this diversity scam now hold jobs teaching in schools and universities, commenting in the media and preaching the gospel of wokery via television and the movies.

Until now, science has largely been shielded from this madness. When MIT decided to start admitting students according to holistic standards-- which meant affirmative action and diversity quotas-- it found that the diverse students could not do the work. Having failed freshman math, these students could not advance to sophomore level courses. So, MIT went back to using standardized testing. Surely, you do not want the engineer designing the bridge or tunnel to be incapable of doing the math.

And yet, the rage against meritocracy, the lust for idiotocracy, is so strong that the American medical profession has now gone completely woke. It is hellbent on producing physicians who do not know the science. It is excluding candidates on the grounds of race, that is, because they have white skin. Within a few years you will discover that large numbers of American physicians, who will be pronounced eminently qualified, do not know much of anything about medicine. But, they will know everything about racial justice.

So explains Heather Mac Donald in the Wall Street Journal this morning. It is a chilling tale.

Public and private research funding is being redirected from basic science to political projects aimed at “dismantling white supremacy” in medicine. The result will be declining quality of medical care and slowing scientific progress.

Virtually every major medical organization—from the American Medical Association and the American Association of Medical Colleges to the American Association of Pediatrics—has embraced the idea that medicine is shot through with racism and inequity. The AMA’s 2021 Organizational Strategic Plan to Embed Racial Justice and Advance Health Equity is a thicket of social-justice nostrums: Physicians must “confront inequities and dismantle white supremacy, racism, and other forms of exclusion and structured oppression, as well as embed racial justice and advance equity within and across all aspects of health systems.”

It’s not about science. It’s not about medicine. It’s not about advancing research. It’s about addressing grievances. And it’s about white physicians feeling guilty for being white.

Medical and scientific leaders, in the name of opposing racism, are apologizing for their own race. In June 2020, the journal Nature identified itself as one of the “white institutions that is [sic] responsible for bias in research and scholarship.” In January 2021, the editor in chief of Health Affairs lamented that “our own staff and leadership are overwhelmingly white.” The AMA’s strategic plan blames “white male lawmakers” for America’s systemic racism.

Evidently, the profession is addressing the problem by instituting systems of racial preference. That is diversity and affirmative action programs. Considering how poorly these worked in the humanities and social sciences, you wonder how these people, who are supposedly to respect the verdict of experience, can be so stupid:

The remedy, naturally, is racial and other preferences. The AMA strategic plan calls for the “just representation of Black, Indigenous and Latinx people in medical school admissions as well as . . . leadership ranks.” The lack of “just representation,” according to the AMA, is the result of deliberate “exclusion,” which will end only when “we . . . prioritize and integrate the voices and ideas of people and communities experiencing great injustice and historically excluded, exploited, and deprived of needed resources such as people of color, women, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+, and those in rural and urban communities alike.”

How is this happening? Mac Donald explains the medical licensing system:

At the end of their second year of medical school, students take step one of the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam, which measures knowledge of the body’s anatomical parts, functioning and malfunctioning. Topics include biochemistry, physiology, cell biology, pharmacology and the cardiovascular system. High scores on step one predict success in a residency; highly sought-after residency programs, such as surgery and radiology, use exam scores to help select applicants. But some students complain that the pressure to score well inhibits them from “antiracism” advocacy.

To put a finer point on it, this means that students who have been admitted to fulfill diversity quotas, who cannot keep up with the work, spend their time on antiracism advocacy.

The result is, they do poorly on the licensing exams-- as though this is a surprise.

Writing in an online forum, a fourth-year Yale medical student describes how the specter of step one affected his priorities. In his first two years of medical school, he had “immersed” himself in a student-led committee focused on diversity, inclusion and social justice, and he ran a podcast about health disparities. All that political work was made possible by Yale’s pass-fail grading system for classes, which meant that he didn’t feel compelled to put studying ahead of diversity concerns. Then, step one “reared its ugly head.” Getting an actual grade on an exam might prove to “whoever might have thought it before that I didn’t deserve a seat at Yale as a Black medical student.”

The solution was obvious: abolish step-one scores. Since January, the test has been graded on a pass-fail basis. The Yale student won’t have to worry that his studying will cut into his activism. Whether his future patients will appreciate his chosen focus is unclear.

The unfortunate part is that once patients catch on to the scam they will probably manifest their knowledge in the way they choose their physicians-- assuming that they have the choice.

Of course, medical schools admit students who would never have qualified in the past:

Virtually all medical schools admit black and Hispanic applicants with scores on the Medical College Admission Test that would be all but disqualifying if presented by white and Asian applicants, and some schools waive the MCATs entirely for select minority students. Courses on racial justice and advocacy are flooding into medical school curricula; students are learning more about white privilege and less about cell pathology.

This means that the best white students are being systematically excluded:

A physician-scientist reports that his best lab technician in 30 years was a recent Yale graduate with a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and biochemistry. The former student was intellectually involved and an expert in cloning. His college grade-point advantage and Medical College Admissions Test scores were high. The physician-scientist recommended the student to the then-dean of Northwestern’s medical school, where the scientist worked at the time, but the student didn’t even get an interview. This “white, clean-cut Catholic,” in the words of his former employer, was admitted to only one medical school.

The result, on the ground, is that white college students have discovered that the medical profession is now rigged against them. Therefore, they are looking elsewhere. The best and the brightest undergraduates are avoiding the medical profession. In the future, if we want quality medical care we are going to have to start importing physicians, from India.

So, science will suffer and you will in the future be treated by physicians who know more about racial justice than about medicine:

The scientific method is a natural corrective to such fatal errors. Now, when it comes to the dubious hypothesis that racism is the defining trait of the medical profession and the source of health disparities, opposing views have been ruled out of bounds. Political neutrality, essential to the scientific method, is a racist dodge that risks “reinforcing existing power structures,” according to the editor of Health Affairs. The guardians of science have turned on science itself.

When we think of nations that are compromising meritocracy in favor of ideology, as someone wrote in the comments section yesterday, we do not need to look across the ocean. The problem exists in our very own backyard.

Friday, August 5, 2022

The Declining West

You will recall that Vice President Kamala Harris led an American delegation to a Munich Security Conference last February. She took the occasion to tell Russia not to invade Ukraine. A week later Russia invaded Ukraine. Apparently, it took the veep’s words, not to say the flabby rhetoric of the Biden administration, as an affront.

And while we are talking about the diplomatic failures that led to the invasion of Ukraine, why not say a word about another inept political leader, Britain’s then Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss. 

For having failed miserably in her negotiation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Truss is about to be anointed the prime minister of Great Britain. Or, should we say, Once-Great Britain.

For those who do not recall it, here is Anne Applebaum’s analysis, offered six months ago, via the Atlantic:

Oh, how I envy Liz Truss her opportunity! Oh, how I regret her utter failure to make use of it! For those who have never heard of her, Truss is the lightweight British foreign secretary who went to Moscow this week to tell her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, that his country should not invade Ukraine. This trip was not a success. At a glacial press conference he likened their conversation to “the mute” speaking with “the deaf”; later, he leaked the fact that she had confused some Russian regions with Ukrainian regions, to add a little insult to the general injury.

Being a lightweight, Truss did not know what was about to happen to her. But, Applebaum notes, she should have. Lavrov had done this many times before. His hostility and aggressiveness toward Western leaders, leaders he obviously considers to be weak, is not a secret.

So, Liz Truss allowed herself to be slapped down, put in her place, by a man who is highly skilled in such matters.

Now, Applebaum considers that Western leaders have misunderstood Russia:

Tragically, the Western leaders and diplomats who are right now trying to stave off a Russian invasion of Ukraine still think they live in a world where rules matter, where diplomatic protocol is useful, where polite speech is valued. All of them think that when they go to Russia, they are talking to people whose minds can be changed by argument or debate. They think the Russian elite cares about things like its “reputation.” It does not.

Here, Applebaum has misread the situation. In sending Kamala Harris to Munich or in dispatching Liz Truss to negotiate with Sergei Lavrov, the West was talking down to  Russia. It was projecting weakness and threatening face, that is, the public reputation, of Russian leaders.

We might believe that girl power is just the thing, and that it is good to have strong, empowered women running foreign policy. Apparently, the Russians consider it an insult to be lectured by a lightweight who owes her job to her gender. 

So, this bring us to Nancy Pelosi, another lightweight, who inserted herself into a dispute between China and Taiwan. Serious people, people who have some understanding of the stakes at play, advised her against going, but strong, empowered Nancy wanted to strut her stuff on the world stage. 

So, she decided to mess up American relations with China by visiting Taiwan. We should not fail to mention that such relations have been on a downward trajectory for several years now. The tough talk and tough actions of the Trump administration were not constructive. Macho bluster is not a good foreign policy move. It is a sign of weakness.

Anyway, the Biden administration, in its incoherent foreign policy, declared that it did not want Pelosi to go to Taiwan. She did it anyway. The Chinese government chose to believe that the administration’s words were inconsequential-- an effort to trick them into thinking that Nancy had gone rogue.

China has been responding to what they consider to be a serious affront, a threat to face. Those who are familiar with my own work on the question of “face” will have a better understanding of the state of play.

As of now, China has been conducting military exercises around Taiwan. It has effectively blockaded the island. For what it is worth, average Chinese citizens, for whom the unity of China is not a mere intellectual exercise, think that their government has been too soft.

Consider the analysis offered by Pepe Escobar, on Zero Hedge:

The day after, as the narcissist Speaker, so proud of accomplishing her stunt, was awarded the Order of Auspicious Clouds for her promotion of bilateral US-Taiwan relations, the Chinese Foreign Minister issued a sobering comment: the reunification of Taiwan with the mainland is a historical inevitability.

That’s how you focus, strategically, in the long game.

What happens next had already been telegraphed, somewhat hidden in a Global Times report. Here are the two key points:

Point 1: “China will see it as a provocative action permitted by the Biden administration rather than a personal decision made by Pelosi.”

How does Xi read the situation? He sees the United States as suffering from serious misgovernment. He sees us as yesterday’s power, staging theatrical events in order to pretend still to be in charge. While Pelosi is second in the line of succession, her position, however august it is, involves no real responsibility for making foreign policy.

And Escobar thinks that China is simply playing the long game regarding reunification. 

Point 2 concerns the consequences, reflecting a consensus among top Chinese analysts that mirrors the consensus at the Politburo:

 “The Russia-Ukraine crisis has just let the world see the consequence of pushing a major power into a corner… China will steadily speed up its process of reunification and declare the end of US domination of the world order.”

The latter involves the reserve status of the United States dollar.

Escobar suggests that President Xi has suffered a loss of face, and that he will certainly respond:

This may be seen as Xi playing Chairman Mao. He may have a point, but the rhetoric is pro forma. The crucial fact is that Xi was personally humiliated by Washington and so was the Communist Party of China (CPC), a major loss of face – something that in Chinese culture is unforgivable. And all that compounded with a US tactical victory.

So the response will be inevitable, and it will be classic Sun Tzu: calculated, precise, tough, long-term and strategic – not tactical.

That takes time because Beijing is not ready yet in an array of mostly technological domains. Putin had to wait years for Russia to act decisively. China’s time will come.

Dare we say that this is not very encouraging. Dare we add that the inept Pelosi has done damage to American foreign policy. One also notes that the president of South Korea, unwilling to threaten the face of his neighbor, refused to interrupt his vacation to meet with Nancy.

So, Eastern powers see the West in decline. We champion diversity by giving jobs to people on the basis of race and gender. And we care more about whether our military is diverse than whether it can win wars.

While Russia and China and India and other countries are working to ensure that their people will have a sufficient quantity of energy, we are shutting down energy production, and are fighting the good fight, against the weather.

We have not merely been projecting weakness on the world stage. We have also been showing gross incompetence. Look at who is running America today. Would you think that a nation led by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is in charge of its policy? Or do you think that it is merely going through the motions, lost and befuddled, incapable of pronouncing a coherent sentence without reading off of note cards.

Say what you will about the evil people leading our adversaries, they did not get their jobs to fill a diversity quota. They are professionals; they know their brief. When they deal with Western political leaders they manifest contempt, not so much because our leaders represent democratic nations, but because our leaders are grossly incompetent. It is insulting to have to deal with such people.