Saturday, April 1, 2023

China's military, economic and psychological risks to Guam


Guam rendered by DALL E 2. Prompt: "A picture of Guam rendered in pastel."

They say that generative AI may put writers out of work. Perhaps. Nonetheless, it's a good tool for answering general questions that don't require a lot of depth or nuanced analysis. Using the latest GPT-4 engine, I asked ChatGPT this question: If China attacks Taiwan, what are the military, economic, and psychological risks for Guam, and include sources of information. I asked the question in several different ways; what's below combines the responses.

If China attacks Taiwan, there could be significant military and economic risks for Guam. While I am an AI language model and cannot access real-time data, I can provide a general analysis based on information available up to September 2021.

Military Risks:

  1. Proximity to conflict: Guam, a U.S. territory, is located approximately 1,800 miles southeast of China and is home to Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam. As a key strategic location for the United States military in the Asia-Pacific region, it could become a target for Chinese military operations.

  1. Increased regional tensions: If China attacks Taiwan, it could escalate regional tensions, leading to a potential military conflict involving the U.S. and its allies. Guam's strategic location could result in the island becoming involved in military operations, increasing the risk of attack or collateral damage.

  1. The strain on military resources: A conflict between China and Taiwan would likely demand additional military resources from the United States, which could strain Guam's existing military installations and personnel.

Economic Risks:

  1. Disruption of trade: A conflict in the Taiwan Strait would likely disrupt trade routes in the region, affecting Guam's economy. Guam relies on the smooth flow of goods and services as a hub for trade between Asia and the Americas. Disruptions to these routes could negatively impact the island's economy.

  1. Impact on tourism: Guam's economy relies heavily on tourism, particularly from East Asian countries. A conflict between China and Taiwan would create regional instability, potentially leading to decreased tourist arrivals from the region, and negatively impacting the island's economy.

  1. Cost of conflict: The financial burden of military engagement and the potential need to repair or rebuild infrastructure could strain Guam's economy. In addition, the island might need to accommodate an influx of military personnel and equipment, further impacting its resources.

Psychological Risks:

  1. Increased fear and anxiety: The threat of military attacks and the possibility of being caught in the middle of a conflict could create a heightened sense of fear and anxiety among the population. This could lead to mental health issues, decreased productivity, and strained relationships within the community.

  1. Impact on social cohesion: An increased military presence and the potential influx of military personnel could lead to social tensions and impact the cohesion of the local population. Additionally, the potential for discrimination or prejudice against individuals of Chinese or Taiwanese descent may arise.

Sources of information:

  1. U.S. Department of Defense: The official website of the Department of Defense ( provides information about U.S. military installations, including those in Guam, and may publish updates about military activities and potential threats.

  2. U.S. Department of State: The State Department ( may release statements or provide information about the U.S.' stance on any conflict between China and Taiwan, as well as potential impacts on regional allies.

  3. News agencies: Reputable news agencies like BBC, CNN, and Al Jazeera can provide up-to-date information and analysis about a potential conflict between China and Taiwan and its impact on Guam and the region.

  4. "How Could a U.S.-China Conflict Affect Guam?" by Ankit Panda, The Diplomat, May 17, 2017.

  5. "Guam and American Security in the Asia Pacific" by Jennifer D. D. Skidmore and Dean A. Falkner, Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies, November 2015.

Keep in mind that these sources were up-to-date as of September 2021, and the current situation might have evolved. 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Guam, Marine Corps Drive, 1975

South Marine Corps Drive, Guam, circa 1974-75
This photo is was taken in 1974-75 from the GITC building looking south on Marine Corps Drive. The most prominent building on the right with the columns is now the Bank of Hawaii building.  The link will take you to Google street view. 

This photo was taken from the top floor of the GITC Building (Bank of Guam) just up the road. 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Where was this Guam photo taken? (Solved!)

I took this photo in either 1974 or 1975. When I first posted it, I couldn't recall exactly where this photo was taken. Thanks to the help of a wonderful reader, I now know where. This is the GITC building,  at 590 S Marine Corps Drive in Tamuning. The view is to the north toward Tumon at the intersection of Chalan San Antonio or GH 14.  I took the elevator to a top floor to get this shot. It had to be one of the tallest office buildings on Guam.

Much of what's pictured here is gone. The area to the upper left of this intersection is construction equipment and some stacks of supplies. Can't make out the name on the building next to it.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Guam, 45 years ago

This photo was taken in either 1974 or 1975 with a Nikkormat, a Nikon camera, most likely with my telephoto 200mm lens. I was in the Navy. This park was near Marine Drive, although I can't recall the exact location. I sure there are many who know what is going on here. Never saw a tree quite like it.

The reader who helped me with the photo above, also shared some details about this photograph, and writes:

"The second photo in your blog is at the Plaza D’Espana in Agana. The children are wearing uniforms from the former Cathedral Grade School, which was located in the background building, which also housed the Academy of Our Lady of Guam. That tree is long gone, but you brought back fond memories of playing in that area. I can’t recall if it were a monkey pod tree, or a flame tree, but there are still a few flame trees in the area which are beautiful when in bloom."

My sincere thanks to this reader.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Guam’s coronavirus strengths and vulnerabilities

Street Art, Washington DC, circa 2014

The government of Guam is posting daily updates of the status of the coronavirus. As of March 28, it has conducted 366 tests with 55 positive cases and 277 negative cases.

What do these testing results tell us?

Right now, I’m in Connecticut which, as of March 27, had 1,291 confirmed cases. This is equal 0.036% of the state’s population of 3.57 million. Connecticut borders America’s coronavirus epicenter, New York. (1)

Let’s compare the number of confirmed cases in Guam to Connecticut.

Guam’s population is 164,000. With 55 confirmed cases this equals to 0.033% of the population. (2)

The number of confirmed cases on Guam is close to Connecticut's percentage. Is this a meaningful comparison? The response says it is.

Connecticut has closed schools, and so has Guam. The state recently has ordered the closing of non-essential businesses, an action on Guam.

Connecticut also recently ordered stores to try to ensure customers “maintain six feet of distance.” It is asking stores -- if they can -- to use “touchless payment technology.” Most don’t have it at this point. It also prohibits requiring employees to place items in customers’ reusable bags.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero is being direct about the problem.

"Now is the time to act. We are not yet out of the woods. Not even close,” Gov. Guerrero said, according to a report in the Pacific Daily News.

Strengths, vulnerabilities

In fighting the coronavirus, what are Guam’s strengths and vulnerabilities?

Guam’s role as an Asian tourist hub is the biggest risk. The coronavirus was likely loose on the island before the threat was recognized.

Strong family connections are a hallmark of Guam. This includes frequent get togethers. This can put people at risk. But it is also a strength. Family networks both during the crisis and after will help residents.

Guam’s population density is a potential vulnerability. The military controls about one third of Guam’s 212 square miles. Much of the island’s population is in coastal areas. Large sections of the island’s interior are too rugged for development. (3)

Economic impact

One-in-four residents are either employed by the Guam government and federal government. Tax revenues will take a serious hit but federal help may buffer the impact.

But 75% of Guam’s employment is in the private sector. It’s unemployment rate was under 6%, pre-coronavirus. The island has seen high unemployment before. In 2012, unemployment was 14%, a consequence of the global downturn that began in 2008. (4)

Guam’s tourism accounts for about one third of the island’s employment. More than 1.5 million people visit the island each year. Tourism is now at or close to zero. (5)

Economic outlook

The relocation of 5,000 Marines and families from Okinawa to Guam, will help the economy. But this is a decade-long project. It won't bring immediate help, except in the construction industries. It’s also a divisive one. It increases the island’s militarization, something many on the island oppose. (6)

It’s impossible to know when tourism will resume and if hotels and stores can recover from lost business. If people are willing to travel to the Tokyo Olympics next year, that could be a positive sign.

The only certainty is the next 12 months, at least, it will be difficult on the island and everywhere else. 

Sources and notes:

(1) Connecticut's coronavirus portal. It's updating is similar to Guam's process. 

(2) Guam's data updates can be found on the Guam Homeland Security webpage.

(3) This Guam topographic map gives a good idea of where the population is located. 

(4) 2018 Guam Economic Report, Regional Center for Public Policy, School of Business and Public Administration, University of Guam

(5) The Economic Impact of Tourism on Guam, 2016, Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics Company. Posted on Guam Visitors Bureau. 

(6) There are many stories that look at the island's grassroots opposition to the military buildup. This 2010 piece of The Nation by Koohan Paik, Living at 'The Tip of the Spear' remains one of the best.

Disturbing news from the U.S. Navy: 36 sailors on the U.S. Theodore Roosevelt tested positive for the coronavirus March 27. The entire crew of 5,000, diverted to Guam, is now being tested.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Climate change-related migration from Guam not an issue, yet

The impact of climate change on the Marshall Islands is, by now, well understood. Climate change is expected to eventually make the islands uninhabitable. It may already be prompting increasing relocation to the United States. The islands and atolls are home to about 58,000 people.

Increasingly, U.S.-based media is reporting about how Marshall Island residents are establishing communities in North America.

The stories, in some cases, tell of hardship.

Politico recently reported on a community of about 800 Marshall Islanders in Dubuque, Iowa. The title of the story is "They Did Not Realize We are Human Beings."

The Marshall Island diaspora is likely to get more attention, because this is one of the most at risk areas on the globe. It's a much different story for Guam.

Climate change isn't prompting relocation of Guam residents to the U.S. The island is well above sea level. It's water supply appears protected for now, and sea level rise has not had a major impact. For Guam natives, the major drivers of relocation are education and employment opportunities. Whether climate change becomes a reason for relocation may well be decided by the impact of climate on Guam's tourism industry. Tourism is a major contributor to island jobs.

Guam's climate change impact remains limited and hard to see unless you look at what's happening below the ocean waters. Coral bleaching is a issue and one that was explored in this recent news story.  It is a worrisome environmental trend around the globe. What it will mean for tourism in the decades ahead remains to be seen.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Completely off topic: My review of the Pixelbook Go

Pixelbook Go. Showing it next to an Apple keyboard and trackpad to give some sense of scale. 

Since I spend my working day, on computers, having a good, responsive machines if a high priority. 

A high battery life is also very important, especially if you are you doing 18 hours of travel, such as a trip from the East Coast to Guam. That made the Pixelbook Go a very attractive machine. 

I've been a big fan of Chrome operating system. When it was first introduce, bought one of the first chromebooks, an Samsung unit. It simplicity, fast boot up, was fresh air. No worries about viruses, and the machine is easy to reset. 

For a long time, Chromebooks were still stuff to use because the applications weren't there.

Here's a brief summary of what I like and don't like about the Pixelbook Go.
The pros:
Stellar piece of hardware. Incredibly solid.
Keyboard is as wonderful as all the reviewers have claimed. Best I've ever used.
Speakers are exceptional.
Fast charging works as advertised.
The M3 is very fast and responsive. After using it, really can't see a reason for buying the i5.
Battery life is exceptional. No reason to doubt the 12 hour claim.
Screen is bright. Very good glass. Sensitive to glare, but not an issue for me at least.
Touchpad seems great. And touch screen is very responsive.
The cons:
This is a big con for me. I am use to working on machines with higher resolution, such as Apple iMac, Microsoft Surface, Samsung CB Plus V1. All of them have a higher resolution than the Go's 1920 x 1080. This lower resolution has the letters, the blacks, look a little tad bleached and soft to me.
Minor thing: The unit seems to have trouble with the battery level reading.
I bought the Go knowing it's a clamshell. That's not a problem for me. No pen support, again no problem. Prefer an iPad for tablet use.
The Go would have been perfect if it had a higher resolution. Truly perfect. I'm not going to return it, although I'm tempted, because it will have value as a travel machine. But it's not going to be my main machine by a long shot.
I knew the resolution might be an issue but not as much as one.
The high-end model with the 4K resolution is retailing for $1,400 -- that's more than double the cost of the M3 at $650. Can't justify it.
If you are use to working on machines with a higher resolution than the Go, you may not be crazy about the Go or anything less than its 4K model. It feels like a step back.
I'm a little disappointed with Google here. They could have done a little better. It should have had a 2400 by 1600 option, instead of nothing but 1920 x 1080 or 4K. I imagine they made that tradeoff to maximize battery life because they are selling this as a "Go" machine. But still, considering all the excellent work that Google did on hardware, it just seems like a pretty big trade-off. Nonetheless, I really need a machine with long battery life for travel. Every other laptop I've owned -- no matter what the manufacturer claims -- seems to rarely make it past 5/6 hours. I am so sick of trying to find outlets in airports. The Go does deliver in that respect.
So maybe that's the trade-off (long battery life vs. resolution) that Google had to make to get the price it wanted on the base model. Maybe in its next iteration of the Go (two years from now?) it will be able to give the resolution a bump? Let's hope so, because otherwise, it's a darn good machine.