Michael Yon (@Michael_Yon) is an author, columnist, and award-winning independent war correspondent who gives us a frontline view of the current civil unrest between Hong Kong protestors and the government of mainland China.
What We Discuss with Michael Yon:
- What Michael means by his oft-truncated and misunderstood quote: “If a writer wants to make money, he should avoid truth and tell people what they want to hear. Yet to win the war, tell the truth.”
- The difference between riots, protests, general civil unrest, and insurgency — and what’s really going on in Hong Kong right now in contrast with the official story.
- Why Michael considers himself a war correspondent and not a journalist — and how the two differ.
- Why the long-simmering relationship between China and Hong Kong is only now coming to a boil, and what the rest of the world should take away from this.
- How the current movement in Hong Kong compares to Poland’s Solidarity Movement of the ’80s — and why this especially worries the Chinese Communist Party.
- And much more…
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Hong Kong is in the news a bunch lately. If you’re like us, you watch with interest but perhaps not a deep understanding of what’s actually going on and why this is important to the rest of the world.
Michael Yon is an award-winning independent war correspondent who joins us for this episode to share not only some background on Hong Kong and the protests going on there, but why these protests may already be an insurgency capable of destabilizing the Chinese Communist Party itself.
Michael has been embedded in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Hong Kong, hitting the streets nearly every single night to film and document civil unrest, police brutality, political action, and violence. His work is a unique blend of war reporting, journalism, and deep research and study of all the issues surrounding this unique event in world history. Shortly after we recorded this, Michael was barred from entering Hong Kong — so something about his message must be striking a nerve with the powers that be. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
THANKS, MICHAEL YON!
If you enjoyed this session with Michael Yon, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Michael Yon’s Website
- Michael Yon at Instagram
- Michael Yon at Facebook
- Michael Yon at Twitter
- Sea Venture: Shipwreck, Survival, and the Salvation of the First English Colony in the New World by Kieran Doherty
- Forrest Gump
- The Aghori: An Ancient Religion with Dark Rituals, CNN
- General Stanley McChrystal | Deconstructing the Myths of Great Leadership, TJHS 111
- Photos: Hong Kong Protesters Break Into Legislative Council Building, The Atlantic
- Gates of Fire, Michael’s Dispatches
- Saving Private Ryan
- What’s Behind the China-Taiwan Divide? BBC
- Uyghur Human Rights Project
- How Hong Kong’s Complex History Explains Its Current Crisis, National Geographic
- Five Things About the People’s Liberation Army, The Wall Street Journal
- Is Tibet a Country? Free Tibet
- Robert Spalding | How China Took Over America, TJHS 268
- What Is Hong Kong’s Extradition Bill? The New York Times
- Poland’s Solidarity Movement (1980-1989), International Center on Nonviolent Conflict
- Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, Congress.gov
Transcript for Michael Yon | China's Big Trouble in Little Hong Kong (Episode 314)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:04] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with producer Jason DeFillippo. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most brilliant and interesting people and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you. We want to help you see the Matrix when it comes to how these amazing people think and behave. We want you to become a better thinker. If you're new to the show. We've got episodes with spies and CEOs, athletes and authors, thinkers and performers, as well as toolboxes for skills like negotiation, public speaking, body language, persuasion, and more. So if you're smart and you like to learn and improve, you'll be right at home here with us.
[00:00:42] Today, Hong Kong is in the news a bunch lately. If you're like me, you watch with interest but perhaps not a deep understanding of what's actually going on and why this is important to the rest of the world. Michael Yon, an award-winning independent war correspondent joins us here on the show to give us not only some background on Hong Kong and of course the protest and civil unrest there, but why these protests may already be an insurgency capable of destabilizing the Chinese Communist Party itself.
[00:01:09] Michael has been embedded in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Hong Kong hitting the streets nearly every single night to film and document civil unrest, police brutality, political action and violence. His work is a unique blend of war reporting, journalism, and deep research and study of all of the issues surrounding this unique event in world history.
[00:01:29] If you want to know how I got folks like this on lock in my network, well, I'm teaching you how to do the same. Check out our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show actually subscribe to the course and the newsletter. So come join us, you'll be in great company. Now, here's Michael Yon.
[00:01:51] One comment that I thought was kind of funny, your last name sounds Asian, and my wife was like, "Make sure people know that he's not Asian because it might sound like he has a biased perspective," which I thought was funny coming from an Asian woman.
Michael Yon: [00:02:02] Yeah, because the name Yon is Korean as well, and it's also French. My mother's side came to America in 1609 actually. We traced them back. Last name was Easton. They got shipwrecked on Bermuda and then finally made it to Jamestown after being shipwrecked for about six months. And then my father's side came more about a hundred years later. So we've been back in the United States forever. I mean, my grandfather -- several fought in the revolutionary war. It's like a Forrest Gump history, war of 1812, civil war. The whole works, man.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:34] So you have a military background yourself. Your nickname was Bam Bam. Is that true?
Michael Yon: [00:02:39] Yeah, it was Bam Bam. When I was in Special Forces because I was very, very strong. It was during the ‘80s Reagan military buildup, and so they let young people try out for special operations units like Green Berets, which is what I did. Actually, I almost went Seals, but then I decided to go Green Berets because I wanted to go to things like language schools and that sort of thing. I got into Green Berets at age 19 and they just called me Bam Bam because I was so young and I was extremely strong, so they called me Bam Bam.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:08] When you were in Special Forces, where were you based primarily?
Michael Yon: [00:03:11] Different places. I went through the initial training at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and then I went to a language school in California for German, and then I was stationed in Massachusetts. I was in the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Devens, and then I was stationed at a place called Bad Tölz in Southern Germany, which was like a little heaven.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:28] Wow. Yeah. I can imagine being in Germany in the ‘80s and I was there in the ‘90s after the reunification and I was in the East, and I think that must've been kind of a special time to be deployed over there.
Michael Yon: [00:03:38] It sure was. And then I was there in the ‘90s as well, but not in the army. So I was in East Germany when it was still East Germany and then Czechoslovakia when it was still that, and Hungary, Romania, all that. And finally, I lived in Poland for two years, but that was after the army.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:54] You've covered some crazy stuff that, I mean, one thing that really stood out as you covered this obscure Hindu cult that -- is this even true that they eat human flesh to supposedly gain magic powers? Is that a real thing? That's so creepy.
Michael Yon: [00:04:07] Hell, yeah. I went to India and I came across that sect called Aghoris. And I realized that there were some Americans and Italians and others who were involved, and I thought, well, that's very strange. Some Americans are involved in a cult of cannibals in India. So I started tracking them. Oh, it was epic. It was the most incredible man hunting I've ever done and that went for two and a half years actually. I tracked them through India and Nepal. I went to Tibet and China and Hong Kong and back to India. And then I resumed the tracking there and ended up in Kashmir. Just unbelievable. It was more intense and serious than anything I saw in the wars. And you know, I was in a lot of combat and different wars. Cannibal hunting was just something else.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:54] That sounds like a conversation over a beer, but probably no snacks just because you're talking about something so gross.
Michael Yon: [00:04:58] Yeah, there's certainly no pork skewers. I mean, they say it tastes like -- they call it long pig.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:05] Oh man, that's a whole world of nasty. You're an independent journalist, which it's a unique animal you guys are. You've been quoted as saying, "If a writer wants to make money, he should avoid truth and tell people what they want to hear. Yet to win the war, tell the truth." What do you mean by that? That's kind of a bold statement and, and I'm sure it ruffled a lot of feathers.
Michael Yon: [00:05:25] It did especially because when enemies came out of the woodwork that cut that second part. I wrote that in 2006. Later when I've started attacking General McChrystal, he was running the war in 2010. People then found that quote cut off the second part where I said, "But tell the truth if you want to win and use that like a bludgeoned." But what I was signaling when I wrote that -- very clearly signaling like you know when your teacher stomps on the floor -- I was saying, I know you want to hear that we're winning the war in Afghanistan, but we're not. And that was 2006 back when it was like received wisdom that the war was won. And so I wrote 12 major dispatches in 2006 saying that we were losing the war in Afghanistan.
[00:06:07] Now it's common knowledge, but if you rewind the tape to 2006 and see what I wrote, it was quite controversial. And then in 2010 a lot of people are like, "Yeah, we knew it all along." No, you didn't. Insurgency is something I know quite well, both from my Green Berets days and then I spent years out in various insurgencies, whether it's Afghanistan or Iraq or Nepal. I can talk about insurgency at a PhD level. So in other words, I can go into a place like Hong Kong, which I've done, and I can tell you very quickly, are these just protests or are these riots, is this civil unrest or is this actually an insurgency.
[00:06:44] By the way, I've never called myself a journalist. I'm just a war correspondent and a writer, but I'm not a journalist because I do things that journalists should never do, like pick up a weapon during a firefight and actually was firing and that sort of thing. But it was life and death stuff. But anyway, journalists aren't supposed to do that. I'll do it without hesitation, and I won't apologize for it. You know, a lot of the freelancers and journalists that you see on the ground, let's say in Hong Kong, they're doing very good work. They're very courageous, but I haven't found any of them out there that know anything about insurgency other than the word. There'll be like, is that guerrilla warfare? You know, that sort of thing but they've never been in insurgencies. And even most of the people who have, still could not come into it and analyze it and then explain why it's growing and the symptoms.
[00:07:30] So when I went to Hong Kong in June -- you know, it really kicked off in June. There was that protest on June 9th and I was sitting here in my office where I'm at now, and I said, "Oh, that could be serious. I'm not sure. Let's watch the pattern." I saw a couple of more big protests, and I thought, "Well, that might be civil unrest." So I jumped on an airplane. After about the third big protest, I was there
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:50] In Hong Kong.
Michael Yon: [00:07:51] Oh yeah. I got there in Hong Kong in late June because I've been watching Hong Kong and I've written two books on China. I'm working on my third book on that. I won't get on an airplane for riots or protests. I don't care about those. That's background noise, but in a place like Hong Kong, if you have general civil unrest or insurgency, I need to be there cause it would be the most important place to be in the world. And so I went there in late June. By July 1st, I saw a clear sign of insurgency at the LegCo break-in, which is a legislative council, which is basically like their parliament. So I was inside during the break-in. I went upstairs, I was with them. So I thought, "Wow, this is very strange. They just broke into the equivalent of the Hong Kong Parliament LegCo," and I went in there. I was like, "I can't believe this. This would be like breaking into the Capitol Building in the United States," and so if this is legitimate and not some sort of false flag, this would be a clear sign of insurgency. So everything has to be taken into context.
[00:08:51] Like if I saw that happen in some other country that they broke into a parliament, I might say, "Well, that was just a riot." Everything must be taken into context, but anybody that calls those riots in Hong Kong either is working for say CCP or something -- the Chinese Communist Party -- or they just don't know anything about the difference between riots, protests, general civil unrest, and insurgency. These are all different animals. This is actually an insurgency and it will not just stop. It may reduce for periods of time. It will wax and wane but it will not just stop for something like that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:27] Okay. I do want to back up a little bit because you said that you're not a journalist, you're a war correspondent. What do you think is the primary difference? Yes. You've gotten into some shit, and we'll talk about that too, but what is the primary difference from, if I'm a journalist in a war zone versus a war correspondent, what are my job duties? Why are they different?
Michael Yon: [00:09:45] More specifically combat. I do a lot of combat. There's a lot of work correspondence that really don't do much combat. Combat correspondents and war correspondents are a little different as well. There's a lot of people that go to the wars, but they mostly stay in the more safe areas, going to the briefings, and that's actually most, and they might stick their toe into combat. I just do huge amounts of combat. It's really a wonder I haven't been killed 10 times.
[00:10:10] In Hong Kong, some of the people are like, "Oh, we've read some of your work online. We'll stick with you where it's safe." And I'm like, "Hmm."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:17] Maybe you haven't read enough work.
Michael Yon: [00:10:18] Yeah, exactly. It's not safe with me. I do dangerous stuff and I try to take every precaution. I do have a lot of training and I do have a lot of experience in combat, but one thing that will tell you is that at least 50 percent of this is just luck. You know, just straight up luck.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:34] Like I had mentioned, you got into some trouble. You are embedded in Mosul and something went down and you have crossed the line.
Michael Yon: [00:10:41] Yeah. Actually, you're talking about the Gates of Fire incident and basically, one of our guys got hit with a sniper. His name was Daniel Lama. He was okay. He got hit in the neck, but it was just a graze. He was okay. Then we were looking for the snipers. Long story short, we got into a firefight and then Commander Kurilla -- he's a three-star general now actually, but at the time he was a lieutenant colonel. He was a battalion commander of the Deuce Four, which is the most incredible combat unit. I spent five months with them. They were unbelievable. I love those guys. But Erik, the commander got shot three times right in front of me while I was taking photos. You got hit three times. One of the bullets broke one of his femurs in half, so he rolled and he's on the ground and he comes up and he continued to fight. There was a lot of shooting going on and then we were in a kind of a small alleyway. It was quite loud and the firefight was quite tight. Sergeant Major Rob Prosser showed up and he shot an Al-Qaeda dude four times in the abdomen and blew one testicle off and he continued to fight. He was still standing actually after being shot four times.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:39] He had a testicle blown off. That sounds horrible.
Michael Yon: [00:11:42] Oh yeah. You know, he was still standing and he was shot at like three feet away. We're not talking 300 meters. He was shot right there, man. Like a distance that you could literally spit on him. Rob fired 30 rounds. It is Iraq, super-bright sun. But inside that little place where he was shooting was quite dark. So Rob, when he was firing his M4, he couldn't see the Al-Qaeda very well, and he shot 30 rounds that Al-Qaeda dude kept standing, trying to fire a pistol, which was jammed or something. It wasn't working. So Rob threw his rifle down. And it landed at my feet. It was empty. And so Rob's in there doing hand-to-hand combat with the guy. And then I picked up Rob's rifle and got some ammunition. It was game on, man. We thought there were several other Al-Qaeda dudes there. So I jacked the magazine in and started firing to try to draw fire because it was dark in there. I wanted them to shoot at me so I could see where they're at so I can kill him. I had been shooting photos up until I picked up the rifle and then I started firing the rifle. And then when some more soldiers came, I started shooting photos again, so I'll put the rifle back down and started shooting photos. So I've got photos of the entire event leading up to it, still firing, going on hand to hand combat, and then I pick up a rifle. I started firing. Everything's finished and I start shooting the photos again. I switched back to war correspondent.
[00:13:03] So what's the difference between a journalist and a work correspondent in that situation? You know what I mean? There were plenty of opportunities to run away. I could have run to safety because I was an army unit, not far away. I think most journalists probably would not have had the skills and the training and just the aggressiveness to engage in combat to save American soldiers lives. So yeah, there's a big difference between a war correspondent and just a freelance journalist. If somebody's going to kill you, as a soldier I'm not going to sit there and just document it. I'm going to do my best to stop it, even if it means I have to do things that you're not supposed to do as a quote-unquote journalist.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:40] It's incredible, and I'm not trying to minimize your contribution here, but I got to say the guy who got shot several times and then engaged in combat, that guy was one bad mofo too. That is insane.
Michael Yon: [00:13:50] Erik survived and went right back to combat the next year. He's the baddest dude I've ever met. He's a three-star general now. I hear people all the time are like, American generals don't have any combat experience. I'm like, "You're out of your mind, man." I mean, that may have been true 15 years ago or something, but I mean, right now some of the American generals, I know they've seen more freaking combat than Saving Private Ryan. We have been at continuous war since 2001. Think about that. This is 2020. We've been in continuous war since 2001. There are guys out there that have done six, eight, 10 combat tours like Erik. He did combat every year that I know of from 2004 to about 2016 or so, something like that. There may have been more, but like every year combat, even as he increased in rank, he would still be out there
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:40] Wow. Yeah. Well, let's discuss Hong Kong a little bit since that's your current focus and that's where you are essentially based now. We all know there are some big protests going on there right now, but I want to start with a little background on Hong Kong itself. It was handed off from Britain after what a hundred years. Can you tell us a little bit about that kind of thing because a lot of people don't really understand how Hong Kong is China, but also kind of not?
Michael Yon: [00:15:03] Okay. It's not China. The whole what is China and what is not is a huge brainwashing operation from China. They're redrawing maps. A lot of the maps that are sold in the United States are made in China. For instance, the MOVA Globes, those gloves are actually made in China and China force that company to include Taiwan, for instance, as part of China and fined them $40,000 because they had been making globes that did not include Taiwan as part of China. So this whole map redrawing and history redrawing sort of thing, people started coming over from the Mainland about 450 years ago or so into Taiwan.
[00:15:43] My family started coming to America in 1609. I'm not British. I'm American. And the Taiwanese who went there 400 years ago and 450 years ago around that time frame, they're not Chinese anymore. And then there were others, of course, who came after World War II due to the Nationalist Communist fight. China, they're constantly lying. They just covered up this virus, for instance, as much as they could and now there's no way to cover it up. It's like the Soviet Union tried to cover up Chernobyl for awhile, but you know, they rewrite history. Any show of support for Hong Kong or Taiwan if the Chinese Communist Party can get to you in some way, they'll do it, whether it's economic or political, or in some cases put you in jail if you happen to be in their country. They'll certainly do it with the Chinese on a daily basis.
[00:16:33] And so, yeah, so the idea that it's part of China. It's not up to what the Chinese Communist Party decides. It comes down to how you can enforce your will or not. Ultimately, the world still plays on the law of the jungle. Bottom line. If you don't have the power to defend your land and there's somebody that wants to take it, they can take it and they will take it if they're that sort of person. So China is expanding, they've taken Tibet. You know, what they're doing in Xinjiang with Uyghurs -- genocide -- they're trying to take Taiwan, which is clearly a sovereign nation.
[00:17:05] You see many people frequently, they're like, "Why doesn't Taiwan just declare independence?" I say, "Well, think about it. That would be like New Zealand declaring independence from South America." First of all, South America. It's not a country, it's a place like China, but somebody could come together like the South American Communist Party, let's say, and say Paraguay and Uruguay and Ecuador and all these places are all one country -- that's basically what China has done over in Asia. And they could say, "New Zealand is our old territory." They could say that. And then people would say, "Well, why doesn't New Zealand declare independence?" It is because they were never part of South America and Taiwan has never been part of China. Never ever.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:45] So to declare independence would be to sort of acknowledge that you were at one point part of that country, which gives credence to the claim that they were originally your government.
Michael Yon: [00:17:54] Yeah, exactly. That would be counterproductive to declare independence when you just are independent. They say, "But yeah, but you have our genes. You're basically, we're of the same genetic stock, and therefore you fall under our authority." That's what they say to Chinese in America as well.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:10] That's terrifying. Having a kid who is half Taiwanese and a wife who is a full Taiwanese American.
Michael Yon: [00:18:16] Yeah. And think about what they can do if somebody works for an American company or in a university that does serious research or whatever. You've been in America for three generations or whatever, but you're really Chinese. And you still have family over here. "You owe us through your genetic line. You still are Chinese from China." That would be like the British coming to me and saying, "I'm still British and I should still be loyal to the Queen." I'm not British. I'm American. The same with the Taiwanese. They're not Chinese unless they say they are, and then they feel like that in their heart. You know what I mean? Like Hong Kong, as an example, just since June, there's been a dramatic decrease in the number of people in some of these polls -- if you can trust polls -- that Hongkongers who now identify themselves as Hongkongers, they no longer identify themselves as Chinese, but as Hongkongers. And you'll even see it on t-shirts, they're starting to get that national and group identity, which they need if they're going to at some point that Hong Kong could be independent.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:17] I want to give people a little bit of a sense of history here because Britain was in control of Hong Kong for a century. People need to know why Hong Kong, although adjacent to China, was not part of China for such a long time because that's key to the history of what's going on here. The background of what's going on here. So what happened in Hong Kong that made it a protectorate of Britain for so long?
Michael Yon: [00:19:39] Well, right, let's widen that out. There is never any truth in the world without context. Context is absolutely crucial. And at that time in history, there was a huge amount of colonization going on in Africa and America, South America, all over the world, including all over Asia, French, of course, Germans, the old party was there, the Dutch, the Spanish, Portuguese. British were doing it, and so they were in Hong Kong for a very long time, and finally, they turned it over to the Chinese Communist Party in 1997. Now, the Chinese Communist Party likes to spin up, now that they've got this ancient history that goes back 4,000 years or whatever, but Hong Kong is much older actually. The Republic of China did not form until the late ‘40s as you know. So, I mean, we're talking after World War II. This is a post World War II country. And so the China that we see now is hobbled together much in the way that the Soviet Union was hobbled together. And so a lot of disparate peoples in very different histories like for instance, the Tibetans or the Uyghurs and so many, I mean huge amalgam of peoples, but they've tried to hobble this together and try to pretend that they have domain over 1.3 or 4 billion people or whatever. But in reality, the promises of the Chinese Communist Party for generations have been security and prosperity.
[00:21:02] Think about that for a minute in context of what's going on now with the economy, security, and prosperity. Think about that in context to the Wuhan virus now. They don't have security and they don't have prosperity. It's plummeting right now. And so this is some of the main glue of holding them together is security and gold. And so if that gold dries up and the security is no longer there and the PLA doesn't have the power that it had.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:30] PLA is the People's Liberation Army for people who don't know the terminology here because I think a lot of people don't know that. That's the Chinese Army. They're thinking, what the heck is that?
Michael Yon: [00:21:40] The People's Liberation Army who has 17 or 18 little bases in Hong Kong actually -- a lot of people say that PLA can invade Hong Kong. Don't they know? I'm like I can see them right in front of me. There's a base, I can see it from my hotel room. They're here, the People's Liberation Army. Often people will say, as the Chinese Army, in reality, it's the army for the Chinese Communist Party. In reality, an American equivalent would be like the Republican or the Democrat army. A one-party system where the Republicans have won, or the Democrats have one, and now the army is theirs, or it was an army that they stood up, to begin with. And so think about that for a minute. If the Democrats or the Republicans owned the entire US military and police system, the other party would be gone. You know what I mean? You would either be gone or you would be co-opted. Imagine if the Republicans or the Democrats had complete power over all of our police and army and intelligence services. The other side would be gone. And so that's what you have in China. The People's Liberation Army is not the army for the People's Republic of China, it's the army of the Chinese Communist Party.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:47] Why then after being a protector of Britain, did Hong Kong then go back to China? That was the agreement, right? This is kind of like the lease, the century-long lease ended. What happened here is that now Hong Kong is set to become a part of China. I didn't mention this before, but I want it to become an exchange student in the ‘90s I did. I ended up in former East Germany, but I originally chose Hong Kong and my parents vetoed the idea because they said, "Look, Hong Kong is slated to go back to Chinese control of the year that you're there. And my parents, of course, had the memory of the Berlin wall where they built the wall in Germany and people who are trapped behind it, working or visiting family were told they could go back and then we're told, "No, you're not. You're not going anywhere. You're stuck here forever now." And that's terrifying. So my parents thought there's no way we're sending our kid to Hong Kong. And then having them become part of communist China while he's there on an exchange year in high school like not going to happen. So what was going on at that time where this suddenly switches hands from Great Britain to China? What's going on there?
Michael Yon: [00:23:44] Oh, not just at that time. Remember China had already taken Tibet in the ‘50s. China is expansionist. They are the ultimate at this point, they are the new colonizers. They're like the new Britain only even more powerful.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:57] So was Tibet a separate country until then, I had no idea.
Michael Yon: [00:24:01] A separate area for sure but Tibet is another thing that I watch as well, I watch very closely. The point is, is that China is very expansionist and colonial, and they are the worst colonialists ever. I mean, they've murdered unknown numbers of Tibetans and Uyghurs and others, including the inside of what you might call the core of China. They want to take Hong Kong. In 1997, of course, the British empire, it's not much of an empire anymore. It's more of a neighborhood that's still falling apart. So they didn't have the power to stand up to the Chinese Communist Party. So Britain knew that the writing was on the wall. They couldn't militarily keep it. And this is the law of the jungle. If you don't have the power with a big P to keep it, then you're going to lose it. If you're faced up with a voracious wolf-like Chinese Communist Party. So Britain basically bowed out and was basically like, "Okay, we're doing the right thing. And the Chinese Communist Party is taking back what is ours for thousands of years." Well, the Chinese Communist Party just formed after World War II, People's Republic of China, and so it's not as if they have been around that long. It's a synthetic construct is what it really comes down to. They made the one country, two systems lie. The diplomats at the time who actually agreed to do this and said, "Okay, one country, two systems." They were at least as sophisticated then as I am at this age now. And there's no way that they did that in good faith knowing that Hong Kong was actually going to get a nice, smooth welcome into our big family. Hong Kong is extremely wealthy. It's strategically placed. There is no way that CCP was going to let that roll away. That's a pearl that they're going to grab.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:25:49] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Michael Yon. We'll be right back.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:53] This episode is sponsored in part by ZipRecruiter. Kodable founder Grechen Huebner experienced how challenging hiring can be after unsuccessfully searching for a new game artist to grow with her education tech company. Hiring people as a humongous pain. I know that firsthand. I think we've gotten pretty lucky with the exception of a couple of production people. Yeah, I would say, but then Grechen switched to ZipRecruiter, saw an immediate difference, and you can see that difference too, by signing up for free at ziprecruiter.com/jordan. ZipRecruiter doesn't depend on candidates finding you. It finds them for you and they have this powerful matching technology, which I don't think they probably needed to trademark, but you know what? Why not? You've got lawyers, use them. Grechen found it easier to focus on the best hires because of their screening process and then found the right one. In fact, after posting her job on ZipRecruiter, Grechen said she was honestly surprised she found qualified applicants so quickly and hired a new game artist in less than two weeks. Game artist seems like a random job. I don't know how you would even start finding someone like that, maybe on ZipRecruiter actually. Jason.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:33] By way of background, a lot of people don't know what one country, two systems means. So when Hong Kong was handed off from Britain back to the Chinese Communist Party as a part of China, the province of Hong Kong, they were a huge percentage of the Chinese economy. I think at one point the GDP of Hong Kong was like one-third of China as a whole. So they were allowing this one country, two systems where Hong Kong would have their democratic elections and be able to control things and have autonomy because they kind of didn't have a choice. Now, China has developed so much economically that I think Hong Kong has only 3 percent of GDP in China. So they have other cities and they realize, "Hey, we don't really have to play by your rules anymore because we don't really need you to be happy anymore in order to be a part of China. We can kind of do whatever we want." And so instead of having one country, two systems for I think the next several decades, China is starting to exert its influence in ways that are through the legislature and other ways in order to force Chinese way of life onto the citizens of Hong Kong, which beforehand were essentially a lot more free. Right?
Michael Yon: [00:30:39] Yeah. Well, that's problematic though. Yes, they are trying to force their ways. For instance, trying to force people to learn Mandarin instead of Cantonese. The language of Hong Kong is Cantonese, mostly by far, but it's not quite that simple. For instance, China does need Hong Kong because of the special status that Hong Kong has with countries like the United States. Basically, Hong Kong is Chinese Communist Party's ATM, as its bank machine. For hard currency, they need Hong Kong, and if the United States in particular, totally revoke special status for Hong Kong, that will be very, very damaging for Chinese Communist Party, for China in general, and for many people in the United States as well. Otherwise, we probably would have already done it. If they didn't need Hong Kong as badly as they do, they probably would have rolled in with tanks already. But the fact is that we can fire back without firing a shot just by making economic and political tweaks to the way we do business with them.
[00:31:36] The problem set, the Chinese Communist Party faces right now -- they just had swine flu, armyworms. They have problems with fuel prices at some point. They've had problems with their economy. They're unrelated to everything that's going on now, and then they've had the tariffs, with President Trump putting tariffs on them. Also going after Huawei, the telecommunications company and all sorts of other things to try to corral in, the BRI -- the belt and road initiative. They've overplayed their hand and they basically angered a lot of people who were letting them slide for years. They're now getting some severe pushback. That's why people like me have come out of the woodwork in recent years, and we've been focused on China because they are on the march. They're building these islands in the South China Sea. When they build these man-made islands, they just dredge up sand from the bottom of the sea. They build an Island and then they say, okay, everything around here is Chinese territorial waters. Think about that. They're busy seizing the South China Sea, which is a huge and incredibly important waterway. They can eventually, at the rate that they're going now, if they can take Taiwan, if they can take the South China Sea, they can eventually take Japan. And once they do that, the ultimate target clearly is the United States.
[00:32:55] So on the menu, clearly the South China Sea, Taiwan, of course, Hong Kong, and finally Japan. But that's a big one because there'll be able to cripple the Japanese economy if they control the South China Sea and some other things, and that's where they're headed. And so, for instance, the telecommunications, Huawei, you probably know what I'm talking about, this can greatly affect our relationship with the United Kingdom. Using Chinese telecommunications systems, they'll be able to spy on everything that we do, all of our corporations, everything, all of our communications like now. There is a lot of spying that already happens, but it will facilitate spying like has never been seen before and only in China's hands.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:39] Right. You're talking about telecommunication systems and technology, like 5G technology being run by China, but I want to focus on Hong Kong as well. Right now, Hong Kong's government is a little confusing for a lot of folks. Do you think the government of Hong Kong represents the people of Hong Kong because it sounds like their chief executive, they are able to run for office sort of only with the permission of the Chinese government, or how does it work?
Michael Yon: [00:34:01] Well, Carrie Lam, the chief executive, which would be sort of like the mayor of Hong Kong, if you will. She's clearly a puppet of Beijing as are the police about 38,000, the police force. Now, they still have elections. They do not have universal suffrage in Hong Kong but clearly, the government does not represent the majority of the people. That's clear. I've just spent six months of fighting there, and I'm going to be back soon. I wonder if they're even going to let me in. Before all this, until recent years, the average Hongkonger was very apolitical. They didn't like to talk about politics. It's like if it kept the money coming, people were making money, they like to go shopping and going on vacations and stuff. They weren't really into politics. It's all like a lot of Americans. It was like once you are in the military and you go to war, suddenly you're really in the politics when you come home. So a lot of Hongkongers are the same. Suddenly, when they started being abused by the Hong Kong police who are clearly puppets of Beijing. They started becoming extremely interested in politics like they never have been before. And so now, they're extremely interested and they do not believe that the bulk of the government, the current government represents the bulk of the Hongkongers.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:11] Now, there's a lot of weird stuff that seems a little sketchy going on with the Hong Kong police, and I know you're in the thick of it during these riots, protests and other things. You see these reports -- and I don't know how credible they are -- but there'll be some photo and it's like, here's the serial number on this cop, and it's the same as these other cops, and this one should be a female, but it's really a guy. There are, people are saying these are fake police or these uniforms had been slapped together, or the cops are watching gangs beat up protestors and doing nothing. What's going on with the cops in Hong Kong?
Michael Yon: [00:35:41] All of the above. A lot of people are saying that some of them are from the mainland and they're actually PLA soldiers, basically Chinese soldiers, and I don't know if that's true. I'm up very close to them all the time and videotaping. I've done hundreds of hours of live stream videotaping on my Facebook. What I'm right there. I never see actual evidence, and I'll ask people, "Do you hear anybody speaking Mandarin here amongst the police?" I'll come up with my real great Sennheiser 416 microphone that I'm doing this interview on and have it very close listening to the cops talking, and then I'll have people listening to it later. "Do you hear any accents that are not from Hong Kong? Do you hear anybody speaking Mandarin instead of Cantonese?" And I haven't picked it up from that on the ground level and so I don't have any proof of that. There are a lot of big cops there, which are kind of suspicious, but bottom line, no proof, but are they acting as puppets of Beijing? Obviously, that is like as clear as day. If you come over with me and spend a couple of weeks, I'll take you out of the fighting and you'll see for yourself.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:42] Hold on, let me book a ticket to Hong Kong right now. I would love to do that. The thing is just having a six-month-old baby, I'm like, "Ah, I probably shouldn't do that."
Michael Yon: [00:36:49] I wouldn't do that. The long-haired German will not going to let you do that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:53] No. My wife would be like, "I don't think so." That said Jordan of 10 years ago would have been on a plane tomorrow. What caused the current unrest? Why suddenly are people protesting? I think a lot of people don't understand it. They see the protest and they think, "Oh, it's something, something Chinese rule." But if they've always sort of been doing this Hong Kong quote-unquote went back to China in 97, 98 why now? What's going on now that triggered this?
Michael Yon: [00:37:18] There were many things that actually triggered it. There was one final straw. That was the extradition bill, and that was a bill that would allow -- if passed into law -- that would allow suspects in criminal trials to be extradited over to China to face trial, which would be insane. That would be like somebody from, you know, Los Angeles or New York or Florida being extradited to China for trial from a sovereign area, one country, two systems. At least, they're supposed to have two systems right. There are bookseller stores over near Causeway Bay. I've been to it. It's close, but I mean, I've been to it numerous times. They were selling books there that the Chinese Communist Party did not like. And so what happened? They kidnapped them. They could not Hong Kong booksellers, they kidnapped some of them right out of Hong Kong and they kidnapped others who were on vacation in Thailand. They kidnapped them out of Thailand. They were on vacation in Phuket, I think, or Pattaya. They kidnapped them. The next thing, you know, they showed up in China. So, I mean, this is the sort of thing we're talking about prison rules. I mean, the Chinese Communist Party is absolutely criminal and everything that they do, they're basically a giant state mafia. They're trying to do things legal, like the mafia, wearing nice suits and ties and sending their kids to nice schools and stuff, but they're still mafia and they behave as mafia and Hongkongers greatly respect the rule of law. The Hongkongers greatly want the rule of law. They'll never get that with China. So at the extradition bill, that was a straw. That was the audible snap in June, and I got on the airplane.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:53] So this bill would allow Mainland China to extradite criminals from Hong Kong in China, where I think they have what, like a 99.9 percent conviction rate. And these are crimes that are not, "Well, this person murdered this other person, so we're going to extradite them." This is, "Well, you sold a book that detailed the affair that the prime minister had. So that's a crime against the state. We're going to go to your free city/country, take you out of there and throw you in a place where you're never going to get out of prison," which, of course, we heard about human rights violations in Chinese prisons as well and that's a whole separate subject. But that's terrifying. So people are saying, "No way," because even someone who's, let's say, not a criminal, if you can suddenly disappear from Hong Kong without due process, that's scary for everybody. A student who writes a paper that's maybe a little bit too aggressive towards the Communist Party. People who want democratic change, people who want democracy at all. This is a massive chilling effect, and I think it sounds like what you're saying is Hongkongers view this as the first of many steps towards essentially authoritarian rule over Hong Kong.
Michael Yon: [00:39:57] Oh, clearly the Hongkongers who've enjoyed freedom for so long, they don't want to lose that freedom. They're in this very tough situation. For instance, Poland used to be in. I compare it often to Poland and they were in a very difficult situation as well, where this authoritarian Soviet Union, Poland wanted to split off from it, bottom line. Poland did succeed in the end after a lot of struggle went on for years. I tell Hongkongers that all the time. Hongkongers are in a hurry to be in a hurry. You're Hongkonger so you're like New Yorkers, you're always like, "Ah, we'll get it done by noon." It's like you won't get this done by noon and it won't be done by June and it won't be done by Christmas. This is a long process. You will not suddenly win. That's just not going to happen. You have to be patient. You have to be courageous, which they are. They're learning patience. They're very super-intelligent people. I've never seen people fight with their minds as well as Hongkongers do.
[00:40:53] For instance, with their information campaign, they got the United States to pass the Human Rights and Democracy Act in record time between June and Thanksgiving of 2019 because President Trump finally signed off after the House and Senate made their very positive votes for the Human Rights and Democracy Act. And then President Trump signed off, I think Thanksgiving or right before, and that was record time. And that was all because the Hongkongers are so good at messaging and they got the key people in the United States to pay attention, and they got me on an airplane and others are still coming. So yeah, they're very good mind fighters, but they're going to have to be patient.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:31] Why might this destabilize China? You mentioned Poland. You mentioned similarities between what's going on in Hong Kong and the solidarity movement in Poland. I know that this is your area of expertise, but why might something that's happening in one little area destabilize China.
Michael Yon: [00:41:46] Okay. There's a problem set in Hong Kong that is just part of that problem set. There are so many problems on China's big board. For instance, right now they have the Wuhan virus. That's a serious problem. They've had the swine flu. They've had the tariffs, they've had Xinjiang problems. They've had so many problems. If their economy collapses as happened with the Soviet Union, then Hong Kong suddenly is in a position to become independent but the main thing to do is don't give up. And continue to struggle and wait for your moment of opportunity. Poland didn't just beat back the Soviet Union and get free. They didn't. Soviet Union had a huge problem set. For instance, Afghanistan -- they had invaded Afghanistan through the United States through the CIA and the US Military as well. We were supplying Stinger missiles and other things through Pakistan and a lot of aid. Saudis were helping with direct aid and they also manipulated oil prices because a huge amount of the Soviet economies based on oil. So we pinned a lot of their military there in Afghanistan and we were bleeding them.
[00:42:52] And then President Reagan, you know, his strategy on the Soviet Union was not containment but the destruction of the Soviet Union, not containment. Everybody else had been, "Let's just contain them." Ronald Reagan showed up and it's like, "Containment? Hell, we're going to knock them out." So he started doing all these different things, for instance, pinning them in Afghanistan and then attacking their economy in every direction that he could. We got help from the Saudis manipulating oil prices. He did the SDI Strategic Defense Initiative, which was Star Wars, did a huge buildup of the US Military. The Soviets tried to keep up with us on the military buildup. And they couldn't do it. And then we did sanctions against the Polish economy. So the problem set that the Soviet Union faced was enormous and it was growing and suddenly their economy just couldn't take it anymore and boom. And so hyperinflation kicked in, Soviet Union fell apart and without really firing a shot.
[00:43:47] Will that happen with China? Pretty high probability. Will it happen without firing a shot? Let's roll the dice. Nobody knows. Roll the dice. My guess is that it would be violent. My guess on the Soviet Union that it would have been violent, but it was not heavily violent anyway, but the bottom line is, is if we don't crack CCP now, they're just getting bigger and they're getting stronger. They're going to eventually at this rate, try to take Taiwan through military force if necessary, and eventually, they're just growing and so we're going to have to face them now. Now's the time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:22] So this is why Americans should care because this has economic implications. It has, frankly, freedom and democracy implications for not only our friends and allies in Asia but all over the world.
Michael Yon: [00:44:33] Oh, absolutely, absolutely. I mean, the Soviet Union, which at its peak, I think had maybe a third of the economy of the United States was still extremely influential, and China is almost on parody economically. They're very powerful economically. And they are extremely aggressive. A lot of people can say this or that about the United States who haven't really studied up much what's happened since World War II. The United States has always been in some war, of course, we are. We've been in war almost every year since the United States was born in 1776. But at the same time, our presence in, for instance, Europe has brought Europe from being basically the Middle East. Europe was worse than the Middle East. Today, we're always like, look at the Middle East. It's this. It's that. That's Europe before the United States planted troops all over the place. China's not like that when China's going to Africa in different places, they're just squeezing them dry. Whereas the United States -- you went to East Germany. I was in East Germany as well. The difference between East Germany and West Germany were incredible. I've spent about four years in Germany, Korschenbroich [00:45:40]. So I spent four years in Germany and another couple in Poland. Every communist country, they're just squeezed and just drained of everything. It's a terrible place to live. It's like one step away from actual hell.
[00:45:56] And so in China, when they're going to places like Africa, they're just squeezing on polluting the place. Look how polluted China is. When you go to China, it is unbelievable. It's like you need a machete to cut through the smog, even in Beijing, which is not their most polluted city. It's unbelievably polluted. Imagine what they'll do to rivers in Africa. Imagine what they'll do in South America and Mexico and other places as they try to gain influence. No, we need to crack them now and not put it in kids' terms either like, "Oh, we're just trying to contain them. We're just trying to teach them." We've tried to teach them for generations.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:31] Do you think the Coronavirus is going to put a damper on the protests in Hong Kong? We sort of touched on this earlier. Are people going to be scared to go out? I mean, this is already in Hong Kong. It's already in the area.
Michael Yon: [00:46:42] It may put a damper on temporarily just due to the normal biological reasons. But it's not going to end it because there is an insurgency and the Hongkongers are so energized and mobilized at this point that they're just not going to suddenly quit. The other insurgencies that I've been in and the others that I've studied that have not been in, sometimes you'll see periods, for instance, Poland, you'll see periods where they kind of wax and wane. You might even argue that 2019 in June was not the real kickoff for this. Look at the 2014 umbrella revolution in Hong Kong. So, I mean, that was kind of really a big kickoff there. And then there were other things before in like 2009 there were other things that's happened in Hong Kong and they just keep growing and getting bigger and bigger. So even if this were to go dormant for awhile, you would be making a bad bet to think that it's over. It's like thinking the San Andreas Fault is finished.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:37] You mentioned before, the Chinese information war and to understand information where you have to understand insurgency. Trying to understand one without the others, like trying to understand physics without math is what you told me before we kicked things off here. I know you wrote an entire book about this, so it's going to be tough for you to probably put this in a little container here, but tell us about what Chinese information war means. This is beyond like broadcasting radio stations or having a couple of news reports or a newspaper. There's more to the story here. This is like such a massive global effort,
Michael Yon: [00:48:09] Right. More specifically to understand insurgency, you must understand the information war. There is no insurgency without an information war. There are many information wars without an insurgency. Information wars are going on. We are in the middle of them all the time.
[00:48:22] Information wars around us are like going into a crowded stadium and all those different voices you hear, but there's some that drown out all the others or most of the others. And one of those is the Chinese information war. Like for instance, persuading the world that Taiwan is part of China and that Hong Kong has part of China, persuading Hongkongers that Hong Kong is part of China. A lot of it's a Jedi mind trick, right? Well, the South China Sea is actually Chinese because of this, that and the other. And the thing is they get maps redrawn. They sponsor museums. I've been to many of those museums. They will build an information ecosystem that is so vast, so wide and deep and tall, you don't realize that you're in it. The information war from China is about gaining world dominance. So there are many sub-campaigns to either split Japan from Korea. I've written about that extensively and then to split Korea from the United States and to split Japan from the United States because that defense triangle between Japan, Korea, and the United States is crucial for Asia.
[00:49:24] And so they targeted that in particular. They have not been successful in their targeting of the relationship between Japan, the United States. Our relationship is very strong and it's not getting weaker. It's as strong as it's ever been.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:37] When you say museum exhibits and things like that before we did the show, you were mentioning that there are museum tours where the Chinese Communist Party will invite museum curators from all over the world and show them alternative facts, like a Chinese version of world history that's so subtle and so none obviously propaganda, but still completely skewed. You don't really detect the bias because in many ways the history is more or less sound. It's just very, very skewed. And it sounds innocent enough like it sounds like every country probably does that for their own reasons. But you're saying this is more nefarious?
Michael Yon: [00:50:12] Oh yeah. The information campaigns are so big. One of the things that they do is they pick subjects that cause you to automatically start fighting about that subject and stop talking about what they're doing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:25] Like Holocaust denial. If somebody says, "That never happened." I'm like, "You're a freaking moron right wing," or like, "I'm not listening to anything you say."
Michael Yon: [00:50:33] Exactly. Exactly. To understand the current narrative, you have to understand the context. Again, without context, there's no truth. Most people believe that the Japanese actually kidnapped 200,000 women, which is complete bullshit. It did not happen. There were comfort women. That's true. Comfort women are called ianfu in Japanese language and the brothels are called ianjo. They had [indiscernible] [00:50:54] as well, and as you may know, Korea was part of Japan between 1910 and 1945.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:01] There were Korean women that were used as prostitutes during the war, and it's a very sensitive issue for Koreans and Japanese both. And it's a hot button issue. And it sounds like what you're saying is China is using this issue to foment at a wedge between Korea and Japan because a weaker set of Asian allies means a stronger China, relatively speaking.
Michael Yon: [00:51:26] Right. The Chinese created this issue, which did not even exist. It really started in the ‘90s. In 1979, a Japanese author named Yoshida Seiji. He wrote a book called My War Crimes. He said that he kidnapped, I think about 203 women on Jeju Island, which is an island of the southern tip of South Korea. Now immediately, a bunch of Korean historians and Japanese journalists went to Jeju and tried to find out if this is true. Now, remember, there is no statute of limitations on war crimes. So if somebody had actually kidnapped and raped women, there's a lot of records that still exist. They could actually go to prison. Koreans and Japanese were like, "No, that's not true. It never happened." And then the guy Yoshida Seiji, who wrote the book My War Crimes, he admitted to it. He goes, "Oh, okay, sorry about that. I was trying to sell books. You know you got to puff things up a little bit to sell books." Long story short, it died, and then it picked up again when he wrote a sequel in 1983 or so, and then the Asahi Shimbun published more than 50 stories as if it's true at this point. You know later they say the Japanese kidnapped all these women from Japan and the Japanese Army. You're like. They were comfort women, comfort women were quite real.
[00:52:40] But the fact is, now we get back to China. A lot of people know what happened on June 4th, 1989 Tiananmen Square, right? So there was an uprising in China against the communist and the Chinese put it down brutally, and the world said, "What are you doing?" Europe, United States, the whole world was like, "What are you doing? You just murdered all these young people." The Chinese Communist Party actually had serious political internal problems at that point, and they almost fell apart. So what China did, they do what they do all the time. They lie and they change the subject after Tiananmen Square. China started in the early ‘80s going, "What about Japan? What about those comfort women? What about Nanjing? What about this? What about that?" And people are like, yeah, what about Japan? China is like, "Why doesn't Japan apologize for Nanjing?" And then the Japanese doing what Japanese do. They apologized in 1993 with the Kono statement. He actually apologized and said, "Oh yes, we apologize for the comfort women thing," because Japanese apologizes. Like if you spill something on me, I will apologize to you immediately. I'll just be like, "Oh, I'm sorry." Even though you spilled it on me, English will do that as well and so will Japanese because that's their social smoothing, Kono specifically apologized.
[00:53:55] Well, that doesn't smooth things out with Koreans or with mainland Chinese. When you apologize to them, they're like, you just admitted guilt. There's a big difference. They take it as an admission of guilt. "And we want another apology and we want money for it," and the Japanese are like, "But we just apologize." And the Koreans are like, "You apologized. You just admitted to it."
Jason DeFillippo: [00:54:17] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Michael Yon. We'll be right back after this.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:34] It sounds like what you're saying is then Tiananmen Square was such a massive wake up call for the Chinese Communist Party because things almost fell apart that they decided, "Look, what we need to do is redirect the conversation to how we've been wronged, how other people have been wronged by other countries in Asia, namely Japan so that people aren't just focusing on human rights violations in China. The idea that we have all these internal problems." They wanted to change the narrative through using these information war techniques. Right?
Michael Yon: [00:59:01] Oh yeah. They changed the narrative and they were very effective at it. They did a lift and shift. In the beginning, they have a clear appearance of being just deflections. They then evolved from just deflections into, "Hey, this is working. People pay attention to this." Then they seem to have shifted from deflection to attacking specific lines. For instance, relations between Korea and Japan or relations between Korea and the United States. Think about the long game here.
[00:59:31] Now, if you're the long game and you're Chinese or you're Koreans and you're like, try to get the Americans on the Korean side and tell the Japanese that you need to apologize, which "We've done," which angers the Japanese. And attacks our relationship and then eventually lift and shift and say, "Well, America, you told Japan they should apologize. Look at the things you did with sex slaves in World War II. Look at the things you did to Koreans after World War II and the Korean war and the brothels that were run right beside American bases up until like now in 2020." One of the papers I think we found some years ago was that the University of New Hampshire, they were talking about that, about shifting over and starting to Sue the United States.
[01:00:15] I mean, these information wars are deep and they're very complex and they're so big that it's very difficult to tell that you're in it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:23] When you say you can't really tell that you're in it, you mean things like they're so all-encompassing. They're attacking in so many different channels that it's not just an obvious piece of propaganda. It's not just somebody standing on camera saying everything's fine here and there are buildings on fire in the background. It's like. Wikipedia, museum exhibits, textbooks, things are all changing the narrative in a very all-encompassing way, including this 50 Cent Army. Can you speak a little bit about that? Because I feel like I've been in countering these 50 Cent Army soldiers, if you will quite a bit, when I go online and look, read, talk, discuss China, and they end up in my inbox, this is something new for me.
Michael Yon: [01:01:00] Well, when you're interviewing people like me or Brigadier General US Air Force retired Robert Spalding, you will be attacked by the 50 Cent Army. That's sort of a nickname for the people who may work for Beijing in one capacity or another. For instance, they come on my sites all the time, or you can see some articles come out that are clearly sponsored by them or somebody that's in that cloud structure. Those are people that engage in information warfare, for instance, in social media or let's say comments for in newspapers, letters to the editor. They got the moniker 50 Cent Army because people will say they get 50 cents for each post that they make.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:40] So why do that? Just to create a narrative that looks like everybody agrees on the same thing or that you're vastly outnumbered if you disagree.
Michael Yon: [01:01:47] Right. Many people, including Americans who are deeply inside of the information wars, will say, "Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. You're out of your mind. You're probably saying that conspiracy theory, you're probably saying Israel did 9/11 or something." You know what I mean? There's that level, but the thing is when the information wars are really successful like that if you stand out and start pointing to things, even though they're really true, you're bound to get a lot of pushback.
[01:02:13] And so the 50 cent army, we'll come back with their canned responses. That's why you'll probably notice this when they attack you. You'll probably notice a lot of the same responses in different words, but it will be the same talking points over and over and over. In fact, the same talking points, they hit you with will be the same talking points they hit me with. They just fill in the blank. And so you'll see that patterns are very clear. They'll do deflection for instance. If you start talking about what they're doing to Uyghurs, they'll come on and go, "What did the United States do to the native Americans? What did you do to the Indians? What the Japanese do here." They'll go after Japanese, they'll go after the United States, they'll deflect and then try to get you on the defense. It's just an argument tactic that lawyers use. It's a normal tactic.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:56] I know there've been some kind of obvious mistakes. Now, this is an all-encompassing info war strategy, so it's a little tough, but you mentioned examples of this going wrong, or tactical mistakes such as announcing news of an attack before it actually happens where somebody doesn't get the memo and releases the press release a day early and the attack happens later. Can you give an example of that? Because that's crazy. That's like something straight out of a movie or a spy novel.
Michael Yon: [01:03:20] We've seen some of it in Hong Kong. When it happened a few times, I've been out in the fighting. There's a lot of information coming at us because there's a set people and others that open-source intelligence, Twitter, and all these guys are watching all the feeds and they're feeding it out. Some of us on the ground are watching the fighting on the ground and we're watching what they're telling us. Every once in awhile it'd be like, "Hey, though it's just a report. There was a firebombing down in so-and-so." I'd be like, "I didn't see one. Did you not know?" "No, I hadn't seen one. Obviously, it didn't happen here." And boom, there's a firebombing. You're like, "What the--?" It's like, you know, it might've been just 30 minutes ago that that report came out, but it didn't even happen yet. I'm not saying all the Molotovs are false flags. They are clearly not. I think the vast majority are real because I'm out there with them when they do them. I'm watching them all the time, but there's clearly some are false flags or they're reported in advance, like mysteriously but has definitely happened.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:14] That's pretty funny. I would love a little news article or something where we can sort of bust him on that because that's almost something where when I read it I go, "Did that really happen?" Because that's such an obvious mistake that it seems like you would at least check. But I guess if you're coordinating an attack and you're not within visual or earshot of the attack, you might make that kind of mistake or the timeline is off by a few minutes or an hour and you just don't notice. What do you think is going to happen in Hong Kong? You mentioned this isn't just protests, it's an insurgency. It just doesn't look like what we see in Iraq or Afghanistan or elsewhere. Is this something that's likely to evolve into some sort of proper insurgency or will what we see now as just civil unrest and civil disobedience, will that just continue in its current form instead?
Michael Yon: [01:04:56] I don't know. It is a proper insurgency. Is it a clear insurgency?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:00] How do we define insurgency? Because it just looks like rioting to me, you know, to everybody who's watching.
Michael Yon: [01:05:05] Yeah, because they don't know what they're seeing is like taking somebody to the doctor and we see a headache and the doctor says, "I see -- "
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:14] There's a tumor. Yeah.
Michael Yon: [01:05:15] Yeah, yeah. It can be very different. If it were just riots, I wouldn't be there. I wouldn't waste my time. Rioting would be no threat to them. There will be no threat to the Chinese Communist Party specifically, and I'm not talking about China. Rioting is something separate altogether. Rioting is just a bunch of people doing hoodlums stuff. On the continuum, it starts at protest, and then from there you move into civil unrest and general civil unrest, and then on the continuum, you move into insurgency and there are all different animals and they can look the same, but they're actually quite different.
[01:05:49] There's a lot of protests in many insurgencies, and there can even be riots and insurgencies. A riot can be part of a protest, but a riot usually is something very finite. Somebody does something and then a bunch of people react in a very bad way, like burn something down or whatever or turn over a car. So that's a riot, right? And then it's over in the next day or few days or whatever it's finished. That's a riot. It's usually some highly emotional response to something.
[01:06:19] Protests are something else. Let's say teachers are protesting low pay and they want higher pay, so you often see teachers say going on strike. Strike as a form of protest or they're picketing or whatever, but that's healthy protest. Protests are part of a healthy country's background. We have protests all over the United States. That's why we have the first amendment freedom of speech. We have these release valves by having the freedom of speech and also Hong Kong is known as the city of protest. They have many protests that don't have anything to do with insurgency or China or anything else. They have protested over the cost of the ferry or something. That's just normal. That's background noise. Those are going on every day around the world. And so protests tend to be quite small as or short-lived as a function of the size of the population. Let's say 7.4 million people in Hong Kong and let's say 2000 people turn out to a protest that's fairly insignificant for the size of the population and usually once you fix that, they're finished. Like it's finished. You never hear from again, cause they get the pay they needed and it's done.
[01:07:26] Now, general civil unrest is something larger. That's where you've got 7.4 million people and a million people turn out for a protest. That's general civil unrest or it's a very massive protest, but if it's just a protest, if the government fixes something, if it's a specific item that they fixed, like the extradition bill in Hong Kong, then it might be finished. Now, this is important to remember what I just said. The extradition bill, if they fix that, it might be finished. But in general, civil unrest, often it's a large set of problems that people are protesting. Like it's this, it's that. It's the other five demand. It's not one less, it's not just five demands. If you really get there on the ground, it's like a whole laundry list of problems like housing and many, many issues. Five demands, not one less. It's just great messaging from the Hongkongers on letting people know that they're not just rioting. They have very specific demands. They don't have endless demands. They're saying we have five demands, not one less. That's it. So they're being very specific. So that's messaging that tells you something, "Oh, this is not about that extradition bill. Is it?" And then you get there on the ground and you're like, it's about all these other things and how did you get a 1.7-million people out for another protest when you've only got 7.4-million people? You got a broad cross-section of the people. And a substantial portion of the population out there protesting about many different things. The situation can't be solved with one thing.
[01:08:57] And so what's very important in civil unrest and delineates and separates civil unrest from insurgency is that in civil unrest, most of the people, we'll still see the government as mostly legitimate. They still see it as my government. Like when we protest, the United States government does something, I protest about them all the time and writing, but I'd still respect them as my government. I don't want to overthrow it and just make some tweaks here and there. Now, when you get into insurgency, you actually want to overthrow the government. So now you've got a huge section of the people that want to change the way the government fundamentally works, make universal suffrage and do many other fundamental changes. Now, you're in insurgency. Now they've already taken the extradition bill off the table and yet the Hongkongers are still on the streets because it's beyond that. It's inside of insurgency. That's why when people were asking me, "Okay, they're backing off of the extradition bill. Will the protesters quit?" And I'm like, "Well, they're not really protesters at this point. They're insurgents and insurgents are not going to quit for that because it's more profound. There's no one thing that you can do except for China and say, "Okay, you're on your own," which they're not going to do. There's no one thing that can ameliorate the situation and turn the insurgency back into just normal Hong Kong.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:21] They're attempting to smash this with the police, with the gang activity that we saw, what do you think China will do or what do you think they'll attempt to do about this if things continue or if things escalate?
Michael Yon: [01:10:33] Well, I mean, that's the big question. I mean, a lot of people are like, well, they'll just invade or whatever. I don't know. I mean, the Chinese Communist Party might not know. Xi might not know what he's going to do. He might make up his mind tomorrow, but you see, right now, the black swan just flew over and squirted Wuhan virus out over China. And so a black swan is a totally unexpected event. Now, they've got a pandemic on their hands that could reshape politics throughout the world. If the Wuhan virus spreads over to the United States, which it will. If it has a big impact in the United States, let's say 50,000 people die from it, and then people look back and go, "Well, President Trump, why didn't you do a travel ban? 50,000 people died from this," and he'll probably lose the election. And if that's going to happen, if 50,000 people in the United States are going to die from this, it'll probably happen before summer, so it will absolutely affect the elections.
[01:11:24] The same can happen internally inside of China. We don't know what's happening in there, but the Chinese have some ideas. They're there. It's difficult for any individual to know the bigger picture when they crushed down on their information internally and externally, but it could have a huge effect on the internal workings of China if the Wuhan virus goes out of control, because remember that's hitting the economy already. Tariffs have hit their economy. Swine flu hit it, armyworms and so many other things. Their economy is not in the best shape. If their economy collapses, my guess, the Chinese Communist Party will probably collapse.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:01] Why would the Chinese Communist Party collapse if they can't force their will on Hong Kong? How does that really work?
Michael Yon: [01:12:07] Oh, not Hong Kong specifically. For instance, when the Soviet Union collapsed, they didn't collapse simply because of Poland. It was a problem set. The courage of Poland spread, Czech people in the Slovakians, and the Hungarians, they're already pretty courageous to begin with. Courage and cowardice both spread. Any military leaders know this. If you show cowardice in front of your men or your women, it'll spread like a virus. If you show courage, it will spread like a virus. We saw what Poland did, their courage spread. You know where it spread to? It spread to Tiananmen Square. It's spread all across the east bloc, all the way over to China. That uprising, these general uprisings against communism is part of what led to Tiananmen Square. That's all part of a larger context. Tiananmen Square wasn't just an internal thing to China. That was a general uprising against communist everywhere, and they're back. Hong Kong uprising and the courage that they have shown.
[01:13:07] First of all, it's gotten a lot of tension. This very small group of people is standing up the VAT, standing up to China. That gets a lot of respect from people. Look how that virus spread over to Taiwan. Now, again the Taiwanese people are courageous, to begin with. The Taiwanese people are very smart. They're just as smart as Hongkongers. They're super-intelligent people, and they're also very courageous. Or they would not have stood up to China this long. But look at what happened on the January 11th elections. There was a landslide 57 percent went for the DPP, and it was clearly a huge amount of wash came out of Hong Kong and wash right over Taiwan and said, "Look, we need to stand up," and Taiwanese stood even stronger than they have before.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:51] So what can the rest of the world do if China starts to really clamp down on Hong Kong? I mean, watching this on CNN and seeing people beat down by their own police force, it's tough. And we realized when we see that in certain countries that we can't do anything. But when we look at a country that has a history of democracy and trade and is doing well economically, like Hong Kong, that's really tough to watch. Is there anything we can do as citizens that would make any bit of difference?
Michael Yon: [01:14:17] One thing is to encourage our elected officials in this case, the president, and of course our senators and representatives to clamp down politically and economically on China to support, for instance, the tariffs have been very helpful for us in many ways. Of course, we're in a war with China. It's just a low-grade war. And we have to be willing to take some abuse to take out the CCP. We're going to live with China, and times are going to go on the same with the Soviet Union and the Russians. We're going to live with the Russians, but we didn't have to live with the Soviet Union. We don't have to live with the CCP. Anything that we can do to undermine the prestige, the economy, and the power, the military, economic and political power and the prestige of CCP is something that should be on the table and we should be hitting on every day in big ways and small. And we don't have to depend on the governments to do it.
[01:15:07] Anything that individuals can do, for instance, not buy products from China. They don't have to get, but these days it's very difficult for Americans. Many of the products that we need to operate on are made in China and there's no other choice other than to get those from China. Many of the smartphones, for instance, are made in China. Many of the computers are made in China. Robert Spalding, whom you've interviewed before, he mentioned in his book Stealth War that our propellant for our Hellfire missiles, we are dependent on China for the propellant. I'm not sure the details there.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:42] I remember this vaguely. I think it was an ingredient in part of the propellant, and then there were other things like optics night vision. There's some sort of rare earth metal that's required that we get from China, even though the rest of the item is made in the United States, and we can't really do anything without that rare earth metal, it won't work the same. So they can just simply clamp down on these very rare earth metals, these specific ingredients that we need, and we've effectively broken the chain because the weak link is this supply chain from China. So we can stockpile it all we want, but in a protracted conflict, that won't matter.
Michael Yon: [01:16:15] No, it won't. Those are not game enders for us. They're just threats that we need to address. We've conjoined our economies such and China has attacked us in so many ways for so long that we can't just decouple suddenly. I mean, I would love to get out of the Apple ecosystem because I use Apple products even for an individual like me, it's not as simple as like, I'll just replace all my stuff with non-Apple. I can do it. It just takes time. Now, imagine that on a national scale and you've got trillions of dollars flying around.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:48] That's just an example though, right? Apple's not something that you need to get rid of because dot, dot, dot. China. You're just using the example of being in an ecosystem when you refer to Apple, right?
Michael Yon: [01:16:57] Both, I mean, they make a lot of their products in China. That's for sure. It's funny how Apple sometimes has these tussles with FBI about releasing, making backdoor so the FBI can get into Apple products. Does anybody really think the Apple being made and sold in China, iPhones being sold an Apple product sold in China? Do they really think that the CCP doesn't have a back door? Why would China be selling millions of iPhones allow them to be sold within China without a back door so that people can have secure communications? It doesn't even make sense. We know how China operates.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:34] So in closing here, how long do you think this is going to last in Hong Kong? Do you see this wrapping up after a few months or do you think the next few years are going to be punctuated with unrest in Hong Kong?
Michael Yon: [01:17:45] Probably years, but we don't know. I mean, what's the Wuhan virus is going to do what effects of all these other issues and the Chinese Communist Party's problem set? How much are they going to factor in? How well is the economy's going to do after this virus and the tariffs and the other things? Because of the Chinese Communist Party, if they can't maintain security and prosperity, which is the two things they promise, how much base are they going to have? What Hong Kong has to do is outlast the Chinese Communist Party.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:13] Michael Yon, thank you very much.
Michael Yon: [01:18:15] Anytime it's been great. Your questions are incredible. Anytime that you need me, just reach out.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:22] Big thank you to Michael Yon. His website will be linked in the show notes as well. Shortly after recording this, he was actually barred from entering Hong Kong. He is now an exile, so to speak, and that to me is a little bit crazy. I mean, you're obviously doing something right when you can't even go back to the place you recovering because you're making everybody a little bit edgy, getting everybody in a twist. Thanks to Matthew Glencoe for helping make this interview happen. Again, links to Michael's stuff will be in the show notes. Also, in the show notes are worksheets for this episode so you can review what you've learned from Michael Yon. We also now have transcripts for each episode, including this one, and those can be found in the show notes as well.
[01:19:00] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people like Michael and manage relationships using systems and tiny habits over in our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Don't do it later. Do it now. Got to dig the well before you get thirsty. Once you need relationships, you are too late. These drills take just a few minutes a day. I wish I knew this stuff 20 years ago. Find it all for free at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course and the newsletter. So come join us, you'll be in smart company. In fact, why not reach out to Michael Yon and tell him you enjoyed this episode of the show? Show guests love hearing from you, and you never know what might shake out of that. Speaking of building relationships, you can always reach out and/or follow me on social. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram.
[01:19:46] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. This episode was produced by Jen Harbinger and Jason DeFillippo, engineered by Jase Sanderson, show notes and worksheets by Robert Fogarty, music by Evan Viola, and I'm your host, Jordan Harbinger. Our advice and opinions, and those of our guests are their own. And yes, I'm a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer, so do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. And remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. And I think for this episode, anybody living or traveling in Asia, somebody who's interested in international or world events will get a unique angle from this one. Hopefully, you get something from every episode and please share the show with those you love and even those you don't. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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