Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century – 4

Posted in book recommendations, macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on March 29, 2018

This is my 58th 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 31st 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 my series: 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 as a significant component of that.

I recently offered a Part 3 of this subseries on Trump and Xi, and on leadership as they pursue it and define it for themselves in practice, with that installment going live on March 25, 2018. And my goal in that was to begin an at least brief discussion of how both Xi Jinping and the China that he rules over, have just entered into profoundly fundamental change. I began a line of discussion there, that I will build from here, both to more fully explore what has just happened and to lay a foundation for discussing emerging consequences that will arise from this.

Then, after completing that half of this update, I will turn to consider Donald Trump and an equally profound transition that he is approaching, and that he has in effect made inevitable from decisions made, or backed into, and actions taken. But I begin this with Xi and with what I referred to in my March 25th posting as his apotheosis to unchallengeable and even lifelong leadership over his country, and its Communist Party, military and government.

Let’s consider the context that this is taking place in. On the one hand, China’s economy and organizational infrastructures are in chaotic, graft and corruption driven disarray and in ways and for reasons that are in fact structurally embedded in their system of one Party rule, and in the unquestionable command economy approach that the Party and its officials pursue. I have been writing about this complex of issues in this blog for years now, beginning in December 2010 (see posting 69 of my directory: Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time.) And in the course of that, I have offered an ongoing stream of multiply sourced supportive references for the data that I have cited and built my analyses of all of this upon.

To bring that up to date here, I cite a new, and I have to add very well researched and very troubling book on China’s current bubble economy, as it offers a backdrop for understanding Xi’s elevation in power, and the changes made to China’s system of governance that would allow that:

• McMahon, D. (2018) China’s Great Wall of Debt: shadow banks, ghost cities, massive loans, and the end of the Chinese miracle. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

To be blunt and specific here, Xi and his Communist Party in China were heading towards the edge of a cliff: for them the edge of an abyss and certainly for when – and I stress when, not if, their bubble bursts. Then Donald Trump came along and created a global power vacuum through his ineptitude, and from his pulling back from foreign commitments and obligations, that have given Xi and his Party and its system of governance a new lease on life.

This seeming collapse of an internationally facing presence from the West that was spearheaded by American influence and power until Trump became president, has significantly served to enable Xi’s claims to the South China Sea and the East China Sea among other consequences. China’s neighbors in this large overall region have never seen themselves as being able to stand up to China and its territorial ambitions on their own, so American involvement and support there have always been needed, and even when those countries were not themselves directly collaborating with the United States. An American presence in the region served to keep China in check there. And I cite Vietnam and its troubled history of relations with China as a perhaps poster child example of the history and dynamics of that (see my series: Vietnam, Đổi Mới and the Search for Business and Economic Strength and Global Relevance, as can be found at United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID) as postings 34 and following.)

This is all vitally important here because the pull-backs that I write of have reduced any possibility of larger and more organized challenge to Xi’s and his nation’s claims to hegemony over this region, which they have so actively pursued and with a goal of offsetting their economic failures at home through the development of new wealth streams. There is more to this story that I make note of here, and there are other reasons and other objectives in this de facto territorial expansion that fall outside of the scope of this discussion. But the economic reasons that I do make note of here are very important to China, and ultimately to the West too for their consequences.

But focusing on the economics of this complex of issues, even this face to what China is doing under Xi is only one part of a larger economics-driven puzzle that I would make note of here. The United States’ pull-back from leadership and influence and on a global scale as is taking place under president Trump, has also helped facilitate Xi’s goals of developing business and economic reach, and globally, that does not depend upon or even necessarily significantly include an American presence and on a number of other fronts too.

Consider for example, Xi’s ambitious goals of recreating a this-time China dominated 21st century remake of the old Silk Road trading system, as once directly connected China and their markets with Europe and theirs: Xi’s One Belt one Road Initiative. This is actually a much more ambitious plan than just indicated, as the original Silk Road trade route was in fact built around a single complexly interconnected trade route between Europe and the East. But Xi’s plans also include very prominent maritime components too, bringing in and including nations spread across the Western Pacific that include and go beyond Australia and include African nations as well. In fact this new Silk Road initiative would, if fully implemented include six and possibly more separate and distinct land and maritime route components, directly connecting Chinese markets to a vast foreign population and their national markets as spread across Europe, North Africa, the rest of Asia and well out into the Pacific – and all without US participation.

For a more detailed discussion of this, I recommend:

• Kaplan, R.D. (2018) The Return of Marco Polo’s World: war, strategy and American interests in the 21st century. Random House. And see in particular,
Chapter 13: On Foreign Policy, Donald Trump Is No Realist (as first appeared
in the Washington Post, November 13, 2016) and
Chapter 17: Traveling China’s New Silk Road (as first appeared in The
National Interest, September/October 2015.)

And this is only one of several concurrently developing initiatives, coming out of Xi’s China, that are intended to propel China into a position of global leadership, while shoring up their internally failing economy in the process.

This narrative up to here, suggests and briefly touches upon some of the relevant context that Xi faces and that he has in fact significantly and directly created leading up to his assuming Mao-like status, as China’s unquestionable and unchallengeable leader as discussed in Part 3 of this posting progression. I did not offer any specific in-the-news references to this event itself in Part 3, so to round out this posting I do so here with a select few:

President Xi Jinping’s Rise in China, as Covered by The Times,
China Moves to Let Xi Stay in Power by Abolishing Term Limit,
With Xi’s Power Grab, China Joins New Era of Strongmen and
China Enshrines ‘Xi Jinping Thought,’ Elevating Leader to Mao-Like Status

I have, of course, made note of Donald Trump and his decisions and actions in Part 3 and in this Part 4 to this posting subseries, at least as they relate to Xi Jinping and his China. But I have not discussed president Trump’s emerging, more negative counterpart to Xi’s apotheosis-like rise in power here yet. I will offer a briefly and selectively framed background explanation for proposing that type of change to come in Donald Trump’s fortunes, in a soon to come Part 5 to this.

Meanwhile, I am certain to continue adding new installments to both 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 to 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 some of that, like this posting and others of the set discussed here, will belong to both of those series.

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