Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century – 3

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on March 25, 2018

This is my 57th installment to an ongoing series that I have been offering here concerning Xi Jinping and his still emerging and expanding leadership role in China. See China and Its Transition Imperatives, as it can be found at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, as postings 154 and loosely following.

This can also be considered to represent my 30th installment to what has become an ongoing series of postings in which I seek to address politics in the United States as it has become, starting with the nominations process leading up to the 2016 presidential elections. See in particular, my subseries: Donald Trump and the Stress Testing of the American System of Government, as can be found at Social Networking and Business 2, posting 244 and loosely following, of that.

And for reasons that I hope to make clear in this and succeeding postings to this here-combined effort, I offer this posting and its immediately planned successors as if making a new start in this overall narrative. Events have developed and both for Donald Trump and the American system of governance and for the US economy too, and for Xi Jinping and his Communist Party and government, that have led us all to a turning point, and for these people as individuals and for their countries and globally.

My goal in this posting is to focus on the new and emerging in all of this but I begin by at least putting what is to follow in the larger context of what I have been writing and offering here, and for years now. I began writing about Trump in this blog around the time that he first began his run to secure the Republican party nomination as their 2016 candidate for president, as would be decided in that year’s November elections. And I began writing about Xi in this blog, in the above cited China series after his initial elevation to a position of supreme leadership in the Communist Party of China and of China’s government and military. Though I was very aware of both of these people, from well before I began to make explicit note of them in my writing.

I followed Trump’s profligately ill considered and ineffectual business career with his string of what can only be considered high profile failures, such as the collapse of his foray into Atlantic City gambling with his failed casino there. And I followed Xi for his single minded, strategically calculated rise in power and authority, as he swept aside all possible opposition and build a power base that has grown to take him to where he is now.

American capitalism has spawned a large number of failures, just as it has brought forth a great many successes. Donald Trump has stood out among the former, and both for his family wealth and for his family name support in his repeated business endeavors, and for the pompous flashiness of his failings. China’s communism has brought forth a great many ambitious party apparatchiks and at all levels in their party’s hierarchical ranks, and many who have sought to systematically carve out bases of personal power and authority for themselves in that system. Xi has stood out from the others in that crowd, and from early on in his career path, for his calculatingly effective and even brutal-as-necessary approach there, and looking back at least as far as 2003 for the impact and reach that he has been developing from this.

I have always developed and offered the two above-cited series of postings as separate endeavors and as separate self-contained narratives. And I have developed each of them around the personality and career of their particular one of those two personalities: Trump for the US oriented series and Xi for its China counterpart. But over the past almost two years now, I have at least occasionally written in each of them of how the other’s central character has created what might be called cross-over impact that would connect those series together. And that cross-over impact has certainly held significance since Trump won the 2016 presidential election in the United States and since he began to take actions that as the 45th US president, have had direct international impact.

Cutting ahead of myself in this here-and-now conjoined narrative for the moment, and focusing on a single thread of detail in a much more complex and nuanced reality, president Trump has sought to vilify and limit China and Xi, going so far recently as to publically call Xi’s China an “economic enemy” of the United States: a level of opprobrium that he would not even consider allowing from his government if directed to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, whose led an effort to suborn and undermine the 2016 presidential and state officeholder elections in the United States. But while these challenges offered have raised at least some negatives for Xi Jinping and his government, they have on the whole strengthened Xi’s hand and even tremendously so on some key fronts, and have helped to stabilize and reduce risk faced by his Communist Party back home, from the accumulating impact of their economic and other failings. Trump has in fact given Xi a new and strengthened lease on political and leadership life. (I have in fact already written about these issues and have offered both references and analyses of their findings and data to support them in earlier installments to these two series, though I will at least briefly delve into them again here too and certainly in what is to follow over the next few installments to this narrative progression.)

And with that offered in background to this posting and to what is to follow, I add that I am specifically building this narrative from two earlier series conjoining postings:

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the Contrasts of Leadership in the 21st century – 1 and
its Part 2 continuation.

And I offer this and the Part 4 and Part 5 continuation pieces that will follow, starting in a few more days, with all of this background in mind.

My goal for the rest of this installment is to at least start a next-step discussion of Xi Jinping, which I will continue and flesh out in Part 4, much as I did in Part 1 when focusing on him and his story. Then I will focus on Donald Trump in Part 5, much as I did in Part 2 and with an at least possible Part 6 continuation of that to come too.

But let’s begin all of this with Xi Jinping and with consideration of what might be thought of as his emerging all-but apotheosis (or ἀποθέωσις, as derived from ἀποθεοῦν to cite the wonderful old classical Greek source word) in China’s sociopolitical and power-base firmament. An apotheosis was literally a becoming divine and godlike. Mao Zedong was raised to what literally amounted to the status of god in Communist China’s firmament and he ruled with the heavy and demanding, and stress and challenge creating hand of a god as would be found in classical myths, and of most any classical culture.

China’s Party and government leadership came together in the aftermath of Mao’s reign to cobble together a system of checks and balances with term limits and age limits for supreme leadership and a firm expectation that any leader assuming a second (and final) term of office as such, would name their successor when being sworn in again. The goal of all of this and more that was done, was to prevent any recurrence of anything like Mao’s cult of personality, or anything like his Great Leap Forward or Cultural Revolution, and to retain a measure of overall Party and government control and oversight that would render leadership deification an impossibility.

Xi, unlike his post-Mao predecessors as supreme leader of Party and government, has successfully demolished all of that, opening the door for his continued and ongoing control over essentially all in China and for life if he so chooses.

Mao was god in China and all trembled before him as they held their copies of his Little Red Book over their heads in acknowledged, and I add obligatory adoration. I have been writing of Xi up to now in terms of what he has been striving for; now he has reached the doorway towards fulfilling all of that, and he has taken his first definitive step through that door too. Welcome to the apotheosis. (And yes, his counterpart to Mao’s Little Red Book has now been formally and officially entered into China’s constitution too, and even as he further consolidates his power there.)

Xi Jinping is well on his way to realizing many of his longest held, and I add most dearly held goals and aspirations. And my goal for this posting is to at least briefly discuss what that is coming to mean, and in practice rather than just anticipation, as I have discussed concerning him up to now. And I begin addressing that with a detail drawn from classical Roman history in mind.

When a Roman general returned home to his empire’s capital in triumph from a successful military campaign, it was common for them to be celebrated for their victories on behalf of the Senatus Populusque Romanus (the Senate and People of Rome), with a triumphal procession: a parade, and with a feast and with the citizens of Rome given a day off from their labors so they could celebrate too. And the triumphant general would ride in a large and ornate chariot at the front of their procession: their parade and they would wave and the adoring crowds would cheer. But behind them to their left, would stand a dignitary of age and wisdom who would keep whispering to them, and as loudly as needed for them to be heard, that fame and glory are fleeting, that lives are short, that we are all mortal, this hero included, and that no one is of lasting fame or merit and so on and so on.

I would not qualify myself as a “dignitary of age and wisdom”, even if I am getting a day older every twenty four hours and with a growing amount of practice at doing so. But I will begin addressing the overall narrative goal of this posting and of the next ones’ to follow, by noting the challenges: internal and external in nature, that provide the context that Xi’s elevation is taking place in. Then I will at least briefly consider how he has responded to those challenges and in ways that serve to enhance his own position and promote his advancement towards his reaching his personal goals. And of necessity, I will at least briefly touch upon how American policy and Donald Trump’s decisions and actions in particular there, have on the whole fit into Xi’s plans and their execution and enabled them. I will discuss all of these issues, and largely at least in that order, in my next installment in this narrative to come and with that at least roughly scheduled to appear live in this blog in a few days. Then I will turn to consider and explore an equally profound but differently-directioned turning point that Donald Trump has now brought into being for himself and how that fits into both the American narrative and a more global one too.

Meanwhile, I am certain to continue adding new installments to both Donald Trump and the Stress Testing of the American System of Government, as can be found at Social Networking and Business 2, posting 244 and loosely following, and to China and Its Transition Imperatives, as can be found at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, as postings 154 and loosely following. And some of that, like this posting and others of the set discussed here, will belong to both of those series.

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