There is a Chinese saying that a chicken cannot talk to a duck.
However, a duck is free to communicate with other ducks and the chickens in the farmyard have no way of knowing what is being said.
Donald Duck, Vladimir Duck and Jing Ping the Beijing Duck speak the same language, even though they don’t, because they are all narcissistic, insecure males whose only goal is to cling to personal comfort, wealth and power and to hell with the rest of the population. Hilary Rodham Chicken does not speak Duck so the Russian and Chinese Ducks are unlikely to be keen to engage with her and more likely to see her clucking and pecking as some sort of surrender.
Eight years ago, at the start of the Obama administration, this was not a problem. China was a grimy kid who was desperately trying very hard to shake off the childhood memory of not having shoes by buying the most expensive shoes that he could afford. Money was spinning and money-spinning ideas were the rubric of legislation. Russia was also seeing a rise in the middle classes. The newly minted capitalists could be seen enjoying their first holidays in South East Asia and Egypt and the super-rich oligarchs were buying up yachts, soccer teams and overpowered SUV’s like a child buys ice cream. All was well with the capitalist dream of never-ending growth.
Things are considerably different now, of course. China is headed for a future that looks remarkably similar to Japan’s, where the only way out of a deflationary spiral seems to involve raiding the government coffers to keep the population in jobs. The new middle classes have suddenly realised that they are no more than two paycheques from the street and the working classes who continue to scrape by are beginning to wonder if it was all just a dream. Russia has been crippled by the fall in oil prices and an increasingly romantic yearning for the old Soviet times has been widely documented in recent years. The middle classes here are also looking for a way up and out of the uncertainty.
What the Russian and Chinese ducks need are plausible certainties that they can sell to their middle classes. A fellow Duck in the White House might be just the type of lie that they could sell.
Chinese thinking is simple, beyond the imagination of anyone who has not lived for an appreciable amount of time in eastern Asia. It allows no remorse, no inspiration and no pity because it has no grammar that allows the expression of these concepts in a way that is logical.
Unlike European and North American societies, which proclaim themselves to be nominally inspired by liberty, equality, fraternity and the pursuit of happiness, Chinese society is completely and unashamedly driven by fear, greed, the preservation of ignorance through education and the pursuit of the end of the nose. If you consider this comment racist, I am absolutely sure that you have never lived in a Chinese society. Chinese emigrants regularly document their nation’s callous cruelty and coldness in both English and Chinese media. It’s not difficult to find. Go take a look.
Foreigners who live in Han societies look askance at the endless trains of tourists who somehow manage to concoct a personal image of serenity and harmonious tranquillity for which there is no evidence whatsoever. If you are one of those tourists, please leave now, for dreams are important and I do not want to be responsible for smashing them, however delusional those dreams may be.
The Russians and Chinese understand each other very well. Despite sharing a very long border, conflicts between the two nations have rarely escalated beyond the scale of a skirmish. Both are aggressive and while China does not consider the future to be a product of the past because Mandarin Chinese does not allow this type of analysis, the Russians have expertly cajoled their neighbours into alternate eras of peace and instability using nothing more sophisticated than a chess player’s regard for the likely future consequences of his or her actions.
The international court of arbitration recently ruled that the Chinese occupation of the Paracel Island chain of reefs in the South China Sea is unlawful. The predictable Chinese response was to immediately dissociate the present from the past or the future by refuting the right of the rest of the world to have any opinion on this matter. This tactic is perfectly acceptable in Mandarin Chinese, which has no words for yes or no and no way to link the present to the past or the future.
In response to international indignation, Chinese army ducks decided to conduct war games in the area and who did they choose as partners? You’ve guessed it. The Russian Ducks turned up in force. This is rather a convenient scenario for Vladimir Duck, who has very little means of getting his Pacific navy out of port during the winter, because Vladivostok is in cold waters. The Russian navy used to rent Cam Ranh Bay from the Vietnamese during the cold war, but the port of Vladivostok is now its only option. If hostilities increase much past their present frenetic level, an some sort of military agreement that would at least allow Russian ducks to refuel in Chinese nests is inevitable. The cheery on the cake is that President Obama visited Hanoi two months ago to ratify an arms sales agreement that will allow Vietnam access to the same sort of technology that the US sells to less trustworthy Asian nations like Taiwan.
You will now see that the chessboard has recently become somewhat more complicated. While the Russian and Chinese ducks have always understood one another, they have never really been comfortable bedfellows and have avoided any meaningful fraternisation, but with the recent arming of Vietnamese duck-chickens, the spectacular re-opening of the chicken coop at Clark air force base in the Philippines, the sudden three-fold increase in the number of US chickens who are based in Japan, the recent decision by a Taiwanese government that is full of ducks who desperately want to be chickens to significantly increase the budget for the annual arms shopping trip in the US and the deployment of 5,000 marine chickens (which are definitely not to be confused with ducks) to Guam mean that Chinese ducks are feeling pretty threatened. The only other ducks in the neighbourhood come from Russia so needs must when the chicken devil drives. It’s not the ideal solution for the Chinese, but when your language comfortably allows you to dissociate the present from all other times, it is ludicrously easy to believe that any solution is perfect when you have no method of weighing the consequences of your actions.
On the other side of Russia, there is currently a duck infestation in Crimea, which also happens to be an old strategic Cold War naval base that never freezes. The leaders of the British and Swedish armies have both produced analyses that show that some sort of significant military conflict with Russia is inevitable in the next five years. The Norwegian and Finnish armies have never taken their eyes off the ball and continue to operate as if war is an imminent possibility. Last year, Russian attempts to test the integrity of these borders by flooding them with asylum seekers were summarily defied.
The ducks are nervous. Putting a Duck in the White house might be bad for the image of the US in Europe, where the chattering classes have the linguistic tools for analysis readily to hand, but relations with Russian and Chinese ducks might benefit and a particularly nasty fowl fight might be avoided in the western Pacific.
Trump is notoriously politically short-sighted, narcissistic, insecure and loud. He is the perfect duck. He is a duck whom the Moscow duck might waste time trying to manipulate. The Beijing duck will follow the Russian duck’s lead because every future possibility has equal weight in his language. If the Beijing duck visits the US again, a fellow duck is unlikely to let him in by the back door and keep him waiting there for two days while he shows a civilised visitor (the Pope) out the front entrance, as Barack Chicken did. Ruffled feathers will be smoothed and the sound of contented burbling will replace the cacophony of quacking and clucking that is the current soundtrack in the western Pacific.
Above all, money will begin to spin again. Have no fear that it will spin in your direction, though, unless you are one of the super-rich. The money will go to those who know how to keep it for themselves. There will be an arms race because the Russian, Chinese and US ducks know that making guns is a lucrative business that wins votes, because it creates jobs and increases the self-esteem of those who rarely leave their native country. In all three countries, these unworldly individuals are the bedrock of Donald, Vladimir and Beijing Duck’s support base.
Vladimir has taken the Crimea and has reached out to the Beijing duck in his time of need. He has his eyes on becoming another emperor. Jing Ping has taken over the military, crushed the media and now has greater political and social power than Mao Tze Dong ever did. If a duck with a lust for power makes its nest in the Oval office, the Russian and Beijing ducks might sleep a little more soundly and so might we all. If the White House becomes a luxury chicken coop, we had all better watch out.
This is not an analysis that pleases me. I have equal loathing for both candidates for the office of the US president. However, a vain, selfish duck who can speak to ducks in high places and who is unlikely to make noble personal sacrifices that could lead to violent misunderstandings is a less frightening prospect than a chicken with a swagger who wants to rule the farmyard and thinks that ducks should stick to their pond.
By the way; we are now 925 and the link is working fine. Keep writing. I enjoy every mail.