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2022.01.16 16:56 TreeBear007 'China May Have Won World War 3 Without Firing a Shot - Part 1/2'
u/MarkLawH wrote this piece for Superstonk last year. Reposting with permission, because this might just be exactly how it's gonna go in a macro sense and is NOT just about GME...
‘The following is a paranoid, gonzo, theory-based endgame Op-Ed based on data from credible sources and should in no way be construed as financial advice.’
Hi guys. Vix Guy here. Version with links and source work coming soon, but it looks like a theory I've been playing with might be coming to pass, so I'm putting this up, as it relates to what I believe will be the catalysts for GME MOASS.
EDIT: IF YOU DON'T FANCY THE HISTORY AND/OR DYNASTIC SETUP, SKIP TO 'HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONS' OR 'C'EST LA VIE' SECTION
TLDR: Xi Jinping is now in total control of the entirety of the world's capital markets, and this is what will cause MOASS.
Three things I'll ask you to remember. 1 - I was a professional historical researcher for a very long time for some fairly high-profile authors and documentary makers. 2 - I work in TV telling stories, written to be entertaining but exist within the realms of possibility. 3 - I've been writing this for a little while, and the situation is VERY fluid, so the most recent elements can date rapidly. This below is a paranoid gonzo theory-based endgame OpEd based on data from credible sources, and should in no way be taken as financial advice. I am, first and foremost, a XXX Ape.
‘China May Have Won World War 3 Without Firing a Shot’
If there’s one nation on earth that truly understands the long game, it’s China. I mean trulyunderstands the long game. China has existed as a relatively defined territory with a unified cultural identity for more than 3600 years, a period in which Greece was pre-democratic, Sparta hadn’t yet been founded, and storytellers were conjuring the labours of Heracles and Noah.
Perhaps we can think of a nation not in geopolitical terms, but as a loose collective who share a unity of purpose, a narrative history blended from myth, lore, legend, and art, born of ancient, tribal affiliations, epochs of trade and cultural transactions, and brought together by a portmanteau language and urban sprawl. Importantly, these entities are governed by their own kind who conduct diplomatic relations with foreign governments on their behalf. These loose collectives will either develop to a point where their purpose achieves greater singularity – war, trade, manufacturing – and their identity strengthens, or they will wither or fracture. Winners have strong leaders. Strong leaders have foresight. Foresight breeds dynasties. And dynasties have a tendency to think eternalistically. Obviously, most are wrong, a misapprehension usually ending with a spectacular, megadeath-scenario implosion.
Considered the founders of China, the thing that made the Shang emperors good at ruling was their ability to appear equalitarian without ever having to concern themselves with the fripperies of democracy. They appointed councillors and bureaucrats based on their abilities to administer government effectively, they liked to diversify, they fostered an academic, liberal, free-thinking culture, making astonishing early advances in astronomy and mathematics whilst wholeheartedly embracing the Sopranos diplomatic philosophy of ‘Come heavy or not at all’. The general consensus was not to fuck with them, and most who ignored the consensus came to a gnarly ending.
Crucially, they permitted freedom of religion and held no misguided belief in the divine right of kings. They knew that empires needed bloodlines, and any weak link in the genetic chain was, in all likelihood, game over. Following a highly productive 500-or-so-years, it was the Shang emperors’ slack religious tolerance and all-consuming concern with external enemies that was their undoing. Right under their noses, the Zhou Estate, loyal citizens for centuries, codified a singular religious doctrine and gave the Shang empire pretty much the first beating they ever took at the Battle of Muye with the purpose of unifying China under the ‘Mandate of Heaven’. But by retaining all of the Shang’s advances, they now had the tools, the smarts, the military hardware and they’d excised the one frail weakness, humanity, by installing new and improved emperors, now with extra heavenly clout. Now with no need for the populace to worry about which faith to follow, it was the Zhou Dynasty’s turn to became the longest reigning in Chinese history.. So far. Thus began the waxing and waning of Chinese dynasties. Warrior, Intellectual, Merchant, Chaos. But the people remained unified.
Fast forward about 3500 years, and China was going through one of its waning cycles. Chaos, the final dynastic stage, was hitting all the peak values. To say that the Chinese were being tested would be radically understating the depth of ill-feeling and unrest. The Japanese had not yet morphed into their current wise-but-humble, industrious iteration and were making general Chinese misery their sole mission in life. A military coup in 1911 had toppled the last dynasty, the Qing, and established the Republic of China, but even this new, more egalitarian identity did not break the simmering tension. World War 1 raised the temperature further, seeing Japan move to permanently colonise the mainland, demanding control of everything from the economy to the judiciary. Diplomatic interventions even came from the US and UK – and consider the stunningly shady shit you had to be into to earn thatduring this period – but the Chinese government was so deeply in debt to Japan that they were forced to agree to many of Japan’s brutal ‘Twenty-One Demands’. The end of what the Chinese call their ‘Century of Humiliation’ was the build-up to a second world war. Many aren’t aware that more than 15 million Chinese died during their war with Japan and what would become World War 2, a shocking number only surpassed by the horror unfolding in the Soviet Union.
A minor skirmish between Chinese and Japanese troops in 1937 sparked a tinderbox fuelled by a nationally felt sense of injustice, penury, and usury. China, however, was entirely unable to fund a war with their neighbours, and by 1938 was near total collapse. With 100 million refugees and the nation racked by famine, the Nationalist and Communist parties set aside their own feuding and met to discuss the fate of China. This conference produced an agreement that few foreign leaders could fathom: There would be no surrender to Japan. Outgunned, ill-equipped, starving, and with no way of knowing that another conflict would distract Japan from their mission of total subjugation, they retreated inland to continue a hit-and-run guerrilla campaign. Think on this; if the Chinese had done the rational thing and surrendered in 1938, the Indian and Soviet theatres would have had another front, with a well-armed, well-trained, well-funded, 600,000-strong aggressor radically changing the dynamic. The war could have been lengthened considerably. Or there could have been a different outcome entirely. Unity of purpose.
The Embiggening of Small Men
Throughout this period, two men were starting to emerge as figureheads from the intractable melee. Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong had been leading the Chinese Communist Party and their army during a state of virtually constant civil war with the Nationalist Party. While the Japanese invasion made them temporary and uneasy allies, it also levelled the playing field, exhausting much of the Nationalist leadership’s cash reserves and manpower. Zedong had been busily establishing a staunch following in the Chinese countryside, even forming his own breakaway state, Jiangxi Soviet, as a fuck you to the government and a masthead for his politics. As World War 2 concluded decisively in the Pacific with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Communists and Nationalists wasted no time in celebrating and returned to their vicious civil war. Proxy funding by the Soviets and the Americans began in earnest, with cash predictably distributed. Manchuria, 1948, and the Nationalists went into the Battle of Liaohsi as odds-on favourites. But fate had other ideas, and shit started to go rapidly downhill for the government. The Communists, more experienced in rural guerrilla tactics, divided then surrounded their opponents, before surgically cutting off their supply lines. Tian’anmen Square, 1949, and now-Chairman Mao proclaimed the war won and a new nation founded; the People’sRepublic of China. The remaining Nationalists and many of their sympathisers fled to Taiwan, declaring the island the (new) Republic of China, and the two states remain, to this day, officially at war.
Chairman Mao attempted various economic jump-starts during his tenure, but he’d perhaps spent too long as a guerrilla, secreted in the undergrowth, knife between teeth, and seemed much more content with plotting wars, vengeance, and purges than with forming any cohesive plans for reform. Following the destructive and expensive stalemate in Korea, Mao’s first attempt, ‘The Great Leap Forward’, was a masterplan to industrialise China; Factories, Not Farms! Unfortunately, the ‘not farms’ part was never adequately replaced, and famine once again began to take hold. One of the Party’s most dependable men, however, remained Deng Xiaoping, and Xiaoping was a considerably safer pair of macroeconomic hands. Just as China was recovering from the 5-year famine, Zedong again went looking for aggravation, sparking off the Cultural Revolution; a violent, paranoid purge that Zedong finally had to send in his own troops to quell. The bloodshed was so frenzied and pervasive that no accurate records exist of the death toll, but most estimates are in the millions. Despite his unfathomably brutal efforts to regain total control of the Communist Party, senior officials were forced to break it to the Great Helmsman that the 10-year revolution had failed to make the country into the shining Communist utopia that he had planned. Entirely foreseeably, famine, poverty, and further economic damage followed.
But by the end of the Revolution, the Chairman was in desperately poor health, his heart failing, and the elite had begun to furtively glance around for a successor. See, there are no hard-and-fast rules to this process in China. Sometimes it’s about securing yourself the most Chairs of the most box-office committees – the Military Commission, the State Council, the Standing Committee, etc – sometimes it’s about building coalitions of Party support, sometimes it’s about assembling the most guys with guns willing to do your bidding. There’s not really even an official title that comes with running China. It’s like playing 3D chess against Deep Blue while really, really high. You’ve gotta be be-yond the top of your game to win.
When Chairman Mao shuffled off this mortal coil, he went with the blood of countless millions on his hands, much of it entirely non-metaphorical. Xiaoping had been a faithful soldier, leading the Party’s forces in countless campaigns, gun in hand. But Zedong had long suspected that Deng’s politics were, if not quite centrist, then centre-left at best. Their complex relationship saw Deng twice purged from the party and imprisoned during the Revolution before rising again to become Secretary-General and Vice Premier under Mao, the man who had ordered his jailing. Mao had tapped up Hua Gofeng to succeed him when he died, but Hua was nothing if not unimaginative. He promised more Mao, the same Mao, a continuation of Mao, even dressing and cutting his hair to look like the boss. He bought himself a short spell in charge by removing the generally disliked radical clique, the ‘Gang of Four’, although this was entirely accidental. Naturally, Hua was then accused of colluding with a new cabal, the inventively titled ‘Little Gang of Four’, who were later charged with failing to combat the originalGang of Four… Yadda, yadda, yadda. The problem with totalitarianism is it can get cyclical. The problem with Hua was he lacked charisma.
Deng Xiaoping, however, was an altogether more astute and interesting player. He outmanoeuvred Hua and was appointed leader, supposedly bringing clear ideas for collectivism and introducing mechanisms that would prevent one-man cults of personality. The landscape was, as usual, not a hard read, especially for an old hand: the people were sick of famine, poverty, purges, and possibly even communism. He very quickly deployed his ‘Boluan Fanzheng’ program, literally translating as ‘eliminate chaos and return to normal’, then set about re-drafting the Chinese Constitution to demote Maoism and elevate economic pragmatism. He embarked on a global charm offensive, in 1979 becoming the first Chinese leader to be invited to the White House by Carter. While in the US he showed himself to be a world-class charming bastard, sowing further distrust in the Soviets and sealing the deal to get American troops out of Taiwan. He scored tours of Ford and Boeing factories, inspecting the production lines closely. After a lifetime in the killing fields, he was entirely unfazed by an assassination attempt in Texas by a knife-wielding Klansman. Amateur hour. One can only assume that protests by both Maoists and Nationalists drew a wry smile.
Back home, Deng reformed education, reopened schools and founded the ‘863 Program’ to educate China’s brightest in science and technology. But his first big announcement to the world was the ‘opening up’ of China. The government would begin relaxing things, selling off some of the vast state-owned portfolio, eventually welcoming equity investment, private manufacturing, even banking. Perhaps, if records are ever published or witnesses could speak freely, Deng will be viewed as simply another emperor who learned lessons from his predecessor to bolster his personal grip on power. But it was now the 80s, and the rest of the world cared only for cocaine, money, and breakdancing.
Dead Red Redemption
So, after the dull, mechanical early stages, such as agricultural reform, were complete, China was wide open, and there seemed to onlookers to be no organised system of market oversight or regulation, just a naïve assemblage of insular, ageing political idealogues. Suffice to say that gleeful hands were being rubbed vigorously together in the Western financial hubs. This was virgin territory, ripe to be taught the fundamentals of capitalism by slick, hard-nosed Wall Street guys with money to spend and tough lessons to impart. If anybody could knock this backward agrarian economy into shape, it was the City and Wall Street. With Western lead in the economic pencil, the early 80s saw China do three consecutive years of double-digit GDP growth, and in ’88, Ping An Insurance and The China Merchants Bank were founded as joint-stock entities. Corporate finance had arrived. In 1990, Deng reopened the Shanghai Stock Exchange and founded the Shenzhen Exchange. The problem now was archaic State-run industries lagging behind the private sector, garnering unwelcome attention. Government subsidies began to flood in to plug the inefficiencies and pin back inflation.
1997 proved a pivotal year for China for a multitude of reasons: Deng Xiaoping died, Hong Kong was returned to Chinese control, and a huge proportion of the remaining state-run concerns began to be sold off. Shocked military grandees were told by Beijing that even the Army could no longer run businesses. By 2005, cracks had begun to appear. The ardent reformers had grown old and faded and the private investors had cut away the dead wood from former State concerns, leaving hundreds of thousands who could legitimately blame their unemployment on capitalism and foreign actors.. Again. Unaffordable property prices and stark wage inequalities were beginning to foment unrest and, as per the playbook, the leadership was expertly reading the national mood, paying heed to what had gone before.
2003 saw Hu Jintau get the corner office, and one of Deng’s distinctly conservative successor’s most successful policies was the to import a ‘National Champions’ program. Although late to the game, the boilerplate model got some typically Chinese upgrades. Ostensibly conceived to compete with foreign megacap corporations, the chosen companies would operate for-profit whilst benefiting from bespoke, protectionist benefits that only an autocratic national government could bestow. The less buzzworthy inclusions are outfits like the China Petrochemical Corporation, COFCO, CRRC Group, so on, so forth. Do some digging if you’re interested, but, for the purposes of this OpEd, suffice to say that, as an example, one of the hundreds of companies run by CRRC Group is CRRC itself. They make trains. In fact, they make more trains than anyone else, and they make more money making trains than anyone else. And acronyms you’ve never heard of becoming the biggest and wealthiest in the world at what they do is typical of China’s National Champions. What were formerly monolithic, dusty, State concerns, propped up by handouts and functioning only to keep unemployment low and cough sickly fuck yous to the capitalists, were now titanic international superpowers, owning assets globally that cannot be precisely, or even vaguely estimated, because.. secrets.
In 2012-ish, Hu Jintau tagged in Xi Jinping, an even more stringently conservative leader, and China’s National Champions evolved again. And these you’ll know well, even if you’re unaware of their champion status or the exact nature of the benefits of which they’re in receipt. Alibaba rocketed from $20 billion revenue in 2012 to $717 billion in 2021. Tencent went from $3.3 billion in 2011 to $68 billion in 2021. Huawei leaped from $146 billion in ’09 to $891 billion in ‘20. Because here you have to re-clarify ‘National Champions’. Suddenly it wasn’t the companies or sectors or industries that were chosen – been there, done that, locked it down, lessons learned – rather, it was the people. Whereas previous eras might have seen them purged as intellectuals or right-ists, these young men had travelled, observed, learned, then returned home to seek investment. And the government now had a lot of money to invest. Some were already loyal to the Party, others could be made loyal with a drop of start-up capital. The millionaires began to pile up in China. Then the billionaires.
After Jintau’s first draft, Xi’s polish saw China overtake Japan in 2010 to become the world’s second-largest economy. This year they took top spot for foreign direct investment from the US and are predicted to be the largest economy by 2028. After proving during the Shanghai equities collapse in 2015 that it could deftly and decisively handle a major wobble, the Chinese government seemed to be the gift that kept on giving. Gross inflows during the first quarter of 2021 totalled $590.1 billion, the highest comparable figure since 2010. $551 billion in Yuan bonds are held by foreign institutions and investors, with just 10% of government bonds in foreign hands.
C’est la VIE
Then a strange thing happened, kind of out of nowhere. The Chinese government began to increase oversight and regulation of a relatively small but highly valuable industry; online tuition. Middle class parents springing for an extra few hours of science lessons a week for their kids seems like an improbable spark for a financial crisis, but much like the skirmish with the Japanese at Marco Polo Bridge in 1937, the government rapidly escalated a minor event into something that could seemingly only end in their ignominious defeat. This time, however, the Chinese government’s war chests were chock full and the leverage was all theirs.
Something many Western fund managers had been speed-reading to the point of wilful blindness in Chinese investment prospectuses for nearly a decade was the Variable Interest Entity structure. Your Chinese company would register a holding company in, say, the Cayman Islands, then enter into a binding contract with its parent company in China. Legit US Depository Share structure. SEC compliant. So far, so good. But like any good scheme, the ROI on these equities and derivatives as China boomed was beyond all reasonable expectations, and, stress test passed, billions more flooded in.
The problem began with Huawei, and this problem boiled down to it being illegal under Chinese law for foreigners to own shares in companies whose business is technology and/or data. Which, when you think about it, is every company. The second problem was that the ‘binding contracts’ that the foreign offshoots selling shares in US and European markets had with their parent companies were legally ‘problematic’ to say the least. A not-very-deep dive into this second problem – which you would think is why banks have lawyers – revealed that foreign owners of Chinese stock had no legal right to attempt to petition or influence the boards of these companies. Simply put; no voting. And whether it be related to environmental issues, child labour, or corporate branding, being a nuisance – or ‘activist’ in today’s parlance – is the God-given right of all shareholders. Worse than this, the investors didn’t even own the underlying shares at all. I’m not talking about historically here. I’m talking about right now. Think on this; if you hold shares in a Chinese company that were purchased on US exchanges, this is on terms that are anathema to the theory of equities markets at the most fundamental level imaginable. Unless you bought on the Shanghai or Shenzhen Exchanges, you have little recourse. And even if you did.. Well, you still have very little recourse. But don’t sell Nio just because of that! The returns might get even more spectacular!
The reason Huawei were making headlines was lawyers who didn’t work for people trying to sell you financial products started to make the point that, since 2012-ish, Chinese companies have been required by ‘law’ to share any data that the government or security services requested. Sanctions, lobbying, bellowing, and word salad from the then-President of the US somehow translated into a great deal of pause for thought worldwide. The UK government conceded that CGN, the state-owned China General Nuclear Power Company, had happily stepped forward when the British government were courting China for investment a mere 4 years previously, writing cheques to the tune of $4.3 billion dollars for two nuclear power stations in England, and with plans to build more. Not only that, Huawei had positioned itself as the only global player who could deliver the 5G network in the UK. Again, lawyers who neither worked for government nor people who sold financial products began to uncover shadowy articles in Xi’s ‘renegotiations’ with business that could essentially negate anycontractual clause in any of these agreements in any of the countries that they had been agreed in. Not only had the Chinese bought access to vast swathes of worldwide data traffic, some posited that pursuing a contractual dispute could end in both telecoms and power blackouts. If you hold the view as a free marketeer that the central role of government is to keep the utilities on and businesses business-ing, then that responsibility had been cheerfully handed to avowed communists with very murky motives. France, Australia, Sweden, and others quickly followed suit in locking out Huawei.
Another very interesting case study during this period is Luckin Coffee. Could there be a finer example of a US corporate success story springing forth from Jinping’s new China? Luckin raised billions selling depository shares on the NASDAQ from their registered office in – you guessed it – the Cayman Islands. Money goes in. More money comes out. Stress test passed with flying colours. Then, without word-one being said in China, Luckin revealed in an SEC filing that they were investigating an alleged $300 million fraud by a former executive involving the inflated reporting of revenue and GP. Shares plunged 80%, wiping $3 billion from the value in the US. Then it turned out that pretty much the entire board of Luckin Coffee and their family members had been pottering around New York securing vast loans against the US valuation. The Chairman alone had margin loans of over HALF A BILLION DOLLARS secured against his shares. He defaulted, and when Goldman Sachs disposed of the collateral shares, they did so at about 10% of their face value. Irrelevant, really, as Luckin’s US lawyers filed for bankruptcy protection shortly afterwards. Credit Suisse’s Singapore outfit was also on the hook for a substantial amount, so these were not babes in the wood that were being suckered in.
But the interesting thing here is the fallout, or really the lack of it. Luckin had taken the money and built a thriving business exclusively in China with a mission statement of toppling Starbucks, rapidly expanding to 4500 outlets. After the ‘scandal’, Luckin shrank just as rapidly.. to about 3900 outlets. They’re launching new products and are now successfully franchising the brand. Their customer base is not less loyal, but more loyal, and they built this base by aggressively giving out coupons for free and heavily discounted beverages to undercut the US giant entirely paid for by US investors. Ordering coffee is done exclusively through the Luckin app, and with news of the US meltdown – and for ‘meltdown’, read massive criminal conspiracy to defraud – app downloads rocketed into the millions. Big data.
Critically, the investigation into the fraud was entirely internal, the Chinese government expressing zero interest, despite it allegedly having occurred entirely within their jurisdiction. After a court hearing in – you guessed it – the Caribbean, the remaining shares were quietly transferred back to Beijing-based Centurium Capital – who expressed their profound shock – and the company cracked on. Chinese financial journalists combing social media detected more than a hint of smug sarcasm at the riotous success of the corporate smash and grab. The stress test wasn’t Wall Street testing China. It was China testing Wall Street.
Next - Part 2
The Black Hole of Opportunities
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2022.01.16 16:56 Skorpius_911 [Attack on Titan]
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2022.01.16 16:56 difftool Resources to study distributed and high fault-tolerant systems?
Background - I work in the development team of an enterprise SQL database (that you might have heard of). YOE - 2. My work is mostly focused on some trivial incremental features and I think I am missing the big picture.
How do I learn more about the architecture of highly distributed and high fault-tolerant systems?
I have figured out a book - "Designing Data-Intensive Applications" [Kleppmann, Martin]
But what else can I do? Is only reading enough? How about practical exposure?
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