Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 15: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 3

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on April 19, 2019

This is my 15th installment in a progression of comparative postings about Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership per se. And it is my 9th installment in that on Trump and his rise to power in the United States, and on Xi and his in China, as they have both turned to authoritarian approaches and tools in their efforts to succeed there. I began this line of discussion with three postings on cults of personality. And I continued from there to more fully address an approach to leadership that holds such cult building approaches as one of its most important tools, in what I refer to as the authoritarian playbook. Then I began to put all of this into a larger and longer-term historical perspective by turning to consider legacies in this type of authoritarian system. See Social Networking and Business 2, postings 367 and loosely following (there identified with accompanying tagging text that identifies these postings for their more Trump-related significance. I also offer links to them with corresponding China and Xi-oriented tagline text attached at Macroeconomics and Business 2.)

I began discussing legacies as they are conceived and shaped in an authoritarian system in Part 7 and again in the first half of Part 8 of this discussion of Trump’s and Xi’s rise to power. Then I turned from that general, organizing line of discussion in the second half of Part 8 to explicitly consider Trump and his legacy building efforts. My primary goal moving forward from here is to at least begin to discuss Xi Jinping and his legacy building, but to put that in perspective I am going to at least start it with a continuation of my discussion of Donald Trump and his. And I begin that by repeating a point of distinction that I made in Part 7 of this now nine installment progression that I will make use of moving forward in this. Legacy and legacy building can be conceptually divided into two roughly characterizable categories:

• Proclaimed legacy building as a tool for garnering continued support from a politically supportive base: legacy-oriented advocacy if you will as a marketing tool there, and
• Actively intended and pursued legacy building (which can also be used as a marketing tool but where actual building is also a key goal.)

Donald Trump has actively presented himself in terms of his legacy intentions, but at least up to now he has primarily sought to achieve proclaimed legacy, marketing oriented goals and certainly as president. And he has primarily done this to shore up his support from his base, against ongoing pressures and ongoing resistance that he has faced from his political enemies. Think of this as “lower case L” legacy for its overtly ephemeral nature. In anticipation of discussion to come, I will argue that Xi has primarily pursued a more actively developed “upper case L” legacy campaign, even as he has used the full power of both his Communist Party and his government in China to actively develop a proclaimed legacy too. And in that, he has made real effort to build his cult of personality-supportive, proclaimed legacy in ways that will endure too, illustrating how the boundaries between these two categorical types can blur.

But before delving into Xi’s story here, I will continue my discussion of Trump’s. And I will begin doing so by raising a second line of categorical distinction, that will prove to be crucially important for understanding Xi and his efforts when I begin discussing them.

• Legacy building can be pursued as a negative and as a means of breaking down and destroying what already is and has been.
• Or it can be pursued as a positive, and as an attempt to build an historically defining New.

Think of the first of those possibilities as “building,” if you will, to remove competition and other challenges from the present and past. And think of the second of them as being more entirely future oriented and as an attempt to build where no such qualifying caveats to that would be necessary.

Trump’s legacy building is much more negatively oriented than it is positive and for both his proclaimed legacy efforts and for his actively pursued, actual legacy building ambitions. Just consider how actively he has worked to demolish the Obama legacy, starting with his efforts to repeal the healthcare reforms that then president Obama was able to push through Congress and into law, and regardless of the consequences that that would have for tens of millions of American citizens who he claims to support and defend. And crucially importantly this negativity holds just as true for Trump’s efforts to actually build as it does for his efforts to break and remove, as exemplified by his long-sought xenophobia-driven attempts to fund and build his Southern Border Wall between the United States and Mexico.

Xi’s ambitions are both larger and further reaching, and much more positive in nature, even if tremendously dystopian for many of the details that he strives to put into place. And to clarify a possible ambiguity in my bullet point comment on positive legacy, New can mean building for things never seen or imagined but this can also mean realizing a perhaps largely idealized, fictionalized golden age past glory too. Xi is striving for both.

I conclude my comments here on Trump and his legacy building by offering a brief in-the-news update to my comments of Part 8, on how he “thrives in chaos.” And this can also be seen as a news update as to how a narcissistic personality can be led around by the nose by anyone who can flatter and cajole effectively enough to be able to twist their own ambitions so as to make them appear to be adulation and praise.

First, some background update:

Trump Signals Even Fiercer Immigration Agenda, With a Possible Return of Family Separations.
Trump Administration to Push for Tougher Asylum Rules.
Trump Says the U.S. Is ‘Full.’ Much of the Nation Has the Opposite Problem.

Think of this as xenophobia and the cruelty of its discontents, and think of it as pursuing what is essentially a pure form of proclaimed legacy building and of negative legacy building in the process. It is important to note that one of Trump’s strongest supporters for his immigration policy and one of his strongest and most active enforcers of this, has been his secretary of Homeland Security: until recently at least, Kirstjen Nielsen.

Nielson zealously pursued and enforced the Trump administration’s family separation policy in which infants and toddlers, and children in general were pulled from their parents’ arms and put into separate detention away from them. And tellingly, this proved to be too much for many who would see themselves as Republicans, as well as for those who see themselves as Democrats and Independents. And that within-party discontent began even before the publicized deaths of several of these children in detention, as efforts to reunite families so separated proved to be all but impossible, bureaucratically. (Though even this has not put a real dent in Trump’s rock steady 40% approval rating as maintained by his core base supporters.) And with that all noted, I add:

Kirstjen Nielsen Resigns as Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary and
Trump Purge Set to Force Out More Top Homeland Security Officials.

Nielsen was forced to resign or be fired, and others from the Homeland Security Department’s leadership are on the way out too with still more to follow. And the basic pattern that Trump has created in his administration continues, with still-remaining members of his “team”, continuing their ongoing infighting against each other: an ongoing conflict that Trump in fact encourages among the senior members of his inner circle. And they have all continued to use their access to his ear to knife and eliminate their competition, with him remaining the essential source of power and control in the middle of all of that. And that has meant Trump losing the very people who have worked the hardest to actually carry out his immigration policy and other pieces of his legacy building ambitions.

I could as easily and accurately divide legacy into short term-oriented and immediately expedient, and longer term-oriented categories, as I seek to draw clarifying points of distinction here as to what legacy even means in this type of context. And with this noted, I begin to more explicitly consider Xi Jinping and his legacy building efforts. And I will begin that by offering an historical digression, going back to a point in time that might not seem at first to be a relevant starting point here, but that I would argue has had a powerful shaping influence on Xi and the people who most actively support him, and certainly from a position of office and authority: the leadership and the nation shaping impact of China’s last hereditary dynasty: the Qing Dynasty. More specifically, I will at least briefly and selectively discuss that period of China’s history and the so called golden age of the Qing Dynasty as I begin laying the groundwork for a more detailed discussion of Xi and his ambitions here. And I will also discuss Mao Zedong and his tenure in leadership too, comparing these two historic periods for the lessons that they offer today’s China and today’s leadership there.

And in anticipation of what is to come in this series, I will divide Xi Jinping’s legacy building efforts into three admittedly closely interconnected areas of activity and intention:

• His effort to reshape China through massive infrastructure changes within the country,
• His effort to reach out to the world, using infrastructure development among other political tools to make his China a globally recognized superpower,
• And his effort to reshape China’s culture and its societal perspective, and with a cult of personality that is built around his story, of his creation serving as a defining linchpin that this ongoing New would be built from. In anticipation of this narrative thread to come, this will mean discussing Xi’s China Dream: his Zhōngguó Mèng (中国梦), and his shaping and even defining role in it.

I will begin addressing all of this in my next installment to this series. Meanwhile, you can find my Trump-related postings at Social Networking and Business 2. And you can find my China writings as appear in this blog at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, and at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and Social Networking and Business 2.

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