Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Xi Jinping and his China, and their conflicted relationship with Hong Kong – an unfolding Part 2 event: 1

Posted in macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on June 19, 2019

I have recently been offering a progression of postings on Donald Trump and on Xi Jinping, where I have been analyzing, and comparing and contrasting their approaches to leadership. And as part of that larger effort, I have been writing about how and something of why they have both turned to authoritarian approaches to both define their leadership goals and to realize them. My more recent postings in that still ongoing narrative, have focused on legacy building, first as president Trump seeks to pursue that historically defining goal, and then as Xi Jinping has. And my most recent installment to that, as can be found at:

Some Thoughts Concerning How Xi and Trump Approach and Seek to Create Lasting Legacies to Themselves 6,

was a third consecutive posting there, to discuss historical forces and events that have come to shape Xi’s approach to this, and with a goal of shedding light on both his understanding of effective leadership per se, and on how he sees his role as a leader in today’s China.

My initial intention was to continue that posting progression as a next step offering concerning Xi and his China, with that continuing that ongoing historical timeline based narrative of issues and understandings that appear to have shaped Xi and his drive to succeed. And I will write and offer that posting here in this blog soon. But I have been following a succession of recent events in Hong Kong that would prompt me to interrupt that narrative, for its timely relevance and both in understanding modern China and where that nation seeks to go, and Xi and how he seeks to lead it there.

I have identified this posting in its title, as “… an unfolding Part 2 event.” And I begin its narrative by explaining that wording, as a starting point for putting what is to follow in it into an at least recent historical perspective. And I do so by noting that the Part 1 event that can be seen as prelude to the current events that I would write of here, was the Yellow Umbrella Movement (雨傘運動) of Hong Kong protestors that came to a head and erupted across the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 2014, and that was most actively carried out from roughly September 28 through December 15 of that year.

Angry if passively resisting peaceful crowds, and in large numbers, shut down key areas of Hong Kong and its government services, among other areas of activity, in protest over widely perceived interference from Beijing in what should be local Hong Kong elections. And this, in many respects was the first real testing challenge that Xi Jinping faced as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and as leader of their overall government.

I wrote two postings as current events updates to a series that I was developing at the time: China and Its Transition Imperatives, that dealt with this then-still very actively unfolding news story: Part 12.5: an inserted news update re Hong Kong and Part 12.6: a continuation of that. And my reason for adding those extemporaneous additions to that series, and for adding them in as such, was simple. I saw a direct and immediate challenge to the government of China in Beijing, and to the Communist Party of China, and to Xi Jinping and his leadership emerging, and as a globally visible spectacle. And I found myself viewing and thinking about this, in light of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and the crackdown and massacre that ended that ordinary citizen based reform movement attempt. I felt real concern that Xi’s China might react to and suppress this attempted reform movement through military action too, just as the China of Deng Xiaoping did in Tiananmen Square.

Xi Jinping, however, found more peaceful, if equally effective ways to curtain and then shut down that call for reform, leaving smaller numbers of protestors to carry on the struggle with their yellow umbrellas for months and even years to come, after the main protests of 2014 ended. And then a decision was made to change Hong Kong’s legal system to allow the Beijing government and its courts to impose extradition of people who would otherwise face legal trial in Hong Kong and under Hong Kong law with its legal protections, to other venues including Beijing itself and Taiwan, and at the complete discretion of the Beijing government and its courts. And this in fact came about as a generally applicable decision and action, that was intended at least for immediate use, to allow extradition of a specific individual who was accused of committing murder, to a Taiwan court – not to mainland China and not to a Beijing court at all!

For purposes of this discussion, it does not matter if that intended change had its origins in Beijing, or in Hong Kong and its government and particularly as Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong since 2017, is widely known to have been hand-picked for that job by the government of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing and by the Communist Party there, and as an abrogation of local authority and control as called for in the treaty under which Great Britain returned Hong Kong to China.

What is currently happening in Hong Kong, that would rise to a level of impact and of possible action, so as to make this a Part 2 continuation of the Part 1 Yellow Umbrella Movement? I would begin addressing that question, by repeating a detail that I offered earlier in this posting in passing, here noting its current immediate significance. The Tiananmen Square Massacre: an event that is considered so toxic in the People’s Republic of China that it is all but illegal to even publically acknowledge that it happened, took place in 1989. And the current protests taking place in Hong Kong are taking place as its 30th anniversary fast approaches and at a time when that cautionary note event is back in the news again, and globally so. The people of Hong Kong certainly know at least in outline what happened then. And recent revelations as to what actually happened then and with new details emerging for that, have brought all of this into very sharp current interest focus.

You can find a brief sampling of current, as of this writing, references to this now-emerging side to that 1989 story at:

New Documents Show Power Games Behind China’s Tiananmen Crackdown,
Photos of the Tiananmen Square Protests Through the Lens of a Student Witness and
He Stayed at Tiananmen to the End. Now He Wonders What It Meant.

And you can find also-recent accounts of how this event has been all but officially obliterated from memory in mainland China, even as it is know, discussed and thought about in Hong Kong at:

Witnessing China’s 1989 Protests, 1,000 Miles From Tiananmen Square (in Hong Kong) and
Tiananmen Anniversary Draws Silence in Beijing but Emotion in Hong Kong.

And for a lessons learned news piece, as to how China’s People’s Liberation Army: the force that moved on Tiananmen Square, creating that massacre, views what they did and what came of it, see:

30 Years After Tiananmen, a Chinese Military Insider Warns: Never Forget.

And I would round out this first half to this posting by offering a brief selection of in the news links concerning this Part 2 protest movement itself:

Fearing China’s Rule, Hong Kong Residents Resist Extradition Plan,
Hong Kong March: Vast Protest of Extradition Bill Shows Fear of Eroding Freedoms,
Hong Kong Leader, Carrie Lam, Says She Won’t Back Down on Extradition Bill,
Why Are People Protesting in Hong Kong?,
Hong Kong Residents Block Roads to Protest Extradition Bill,
The Hong Kong Protests Are About More Than an Extradition Law, and
Hong Kong’s Leader, Yielding to Protests, Suspends Extradition Bill,
China Backs Hong Kong’s Leader Despite Huge Protests and
Hong Kong Protesters Return to the Streets, Rejecting Leader’s Apology.

I will have more to say on this, and particularly on its impact on Xi Jinping and his rule in China in an upcoming installment to my series on Xi and Donald Trump as they approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves, as cited towards the start of this posting. But for now, at least I conclude this half of this posting’s narrative here, simply adding that:

• Little if anything of what I have offered here should come across as being startling new to anyone who follows the news at all, and certainly outside of the People’s Republic of China itself where this unfolding story is being officially censored from view by their Golden Shield Project: their Great Firewall of China
• But at the same time, it is impossible to fully understand the bind that China’s leadership sees itself in from all of this, and certainly since the Yellow Umbrella Movement and definitely today, without knowing and understanding something of the background history of all of this, and certainly for China as it has held and then lost and then regained hegemony over Hong Kong as part of its national territory.

I am going to delve into some of that history in a follow-up posting to this one, where I will selectively discuss trade-motivated foreign intervention in China, and particularly as that led up to the First Opium War there. And in the course of that, I will discuss how China was forced to cede ownership of Hong Kong to Great Britain as a point of humiliation imposed on the Qing emperor, under the terms of the Treaty of Nanking of 1842 that ended that conflict. And I will equally selectively discuss the treaty and its terms, that China had to agree to when Great Britain finally returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997. I will simply add here in anticipation of what is to follow in this, that the history that I will briefly outline there, holds a great deal of meaning for Xi Jinping and his China’s leadership, and certainly when considered for how it fits into and supports the two sided historical narrative mythos that by all appearance drives much of Xi’s understanding of where China is, where it can go and how it should achieve those goals (as addressed in my above-cited Xi and Trump postings.)

Meanwhile, you can find this and related Xi-oriented material at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation.

Innovation, disruptive innovation and market volatility 47: innovative business development and the tools that drive it 17

Posted in business and convergent technologies, macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on June 5, 2019

This is my 47th posting to a series on the economics of innovation, and on how change and innovation can be defined and analyzed in economic and related risk management terms (see Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, postings 173 and loosely following for its Parts 1-46.)

I have been discussing innovation discovery, and the realization of value from it through applied development through most of this series, and as one of the primary topics considered here. And I have sought to take that line of discussion at least somewhat out of the abstract since Part 43, through an at least selective discussion and analysis of a specific case in point example of how this can and does take place:

• The development of a new synthetic polymer-based outdoor paint type as an innovation example, as developed by one organization (a research lab at a university), that would be purchased or licensed by a second organization for profitable development: a large paint manufacturer.

I focused for the most part on the innovation acquiring business that is participating in this, from Part 43 through Part 45, and turned to more specifically consider the innovation creating organization and its functioning in Part 46. And at the end of that installment and with this and subsequent entries to this series in mind, I said that I would continue from there by:

• Completing at least for purposes of this series, my discussion of this university research lab and outside for-profit manufacturer scenario.
• And I added that I will then step back to at least briefly consider this basic two organization model in more general terms, where for example, the innovating organization there might in fact be another for profit business too – including one that is larger than the acquiring business and that is in effect unloading patents that do not fit into their own needs planning.
• I will also specifically raise and challenge an assumption that I just built into Part 46 and its narrative, regarding the value of scale in the innovation acquiring business in their being able to successfully compete in this type of innovation as product market.

And I begin addressing this topics list with the first of those bullet points and with my real world, but nevertheless very specialized university research lab-based example. And I do so by noting a point of detail in what I have offered here up to now, that anyone who has worked in a university-based research lab has probably noted, and whether that has meant their working there as a graduate student or post-doc or as a lead investigator faculty member. Up to here, I have discussed both the innovation acquiring, and the innovation providing organizations in these technology transfer transactions as if they were both simple monolithic entities. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the often competing dynamics that play out within these organizations are crucially important as a matter of practice, to everything that I would write of here.

I begin this next phase of this discussion with the university side to that, and with the question of how grant money that was competitively won from governmental and other funding sources is actually allocated. For a basic reference on this, see Understanding Cost Allocation and Indirect Cost Rates.

Research scientists who run laboratories at universities as faculty members there, write and submit grant proposals as to what they would do if funded. And they support their grant funding requests for this, by outlining the history of the research project that they would carry out, and both to illustrate how their work would fit into ongoing research and discovery efforts in their field as a whole and to prove the importance of the specific research problems that they seek funding to work on, as they fit into that larger context. As part of that, they argue the importance of what they seek to find or validate, and they seek to justify their doing this work in particular and their receiving funding support for it, based on their already extant research efforts and the already published record of their prior and ongoing there-relevant research as can be found in peer reviewed journals.

They do the work needed to successfully argue the case for their receiving new grant funding for this research and they carry out the voluminous and time consuming work needed to document that in grant applications. And they are generally the ones who have to find the funds needed to actually apply for this too (e.g. with filing fees where they apply and grant application related office expenses.) Then the universities that they work for, demand and receive a percentage off of the top of the overall funds actually received from this, that would go towards what are called indirect costs (and related administrative costs, etc., though many funding agencies that will pay these types of expenses under one name will not do so under another, so labels are important here.)

My above-cited reference link, points to a web page that focuses in its working example on a non-research grant- in-aid funding request, and on how monies received there would be allocated. But it does offer basic definitions of some of the key terms involved, which tend to be similar regardless of what such outside-sourced grant funding would be applied to, and certainly where payment to the institution as a whole is permitted under the range of labels offered.

And with that noted as to nomenclatural detail, the question of how funds received would be allocated can set up some interesting situations, as for example where a university that a productive research lab is a part of, might in general require a larger percentage of the overall funds received for meeting its indirect costs, than the funding agency offering those monies would allow. For a university sourced reference to this and to put those funding requirements in a numerically scaled perspective, see Indirect Costs Explanation as can be found as of this writing on the website of the Northern Michigan University. Their approach and their particular fee scale here are in fact representative of what is found in most research supportive colleges and universities and certainly in the United States. And they, to be specific but still fairly representative here, apply an indirect cost rate of 36.5% as their basic standard.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to cite a grant funding source that objects to that level of indirect costs expenditures, limits permitted indirect cost rates to 10% – a difference that can be hard to reconcile and certainly as a matter of anything like “rounding off.” And that leads to an interesting challenge. No university would willingly turn away outside grant money and certainly from a prestigious source. But if they agree to accept such funds under terms that significantly undercut their usual indirect costs funding guidelines, do they run the risk of facing challenge from other funding sources that might have accepted their rates in the past but that no longer see them as acceptable? Exceptions there and particularly when they are large-discrepancy exceptions, can challenge the legitimacy of higher indirect cost rates in place and in the eyes of other potential funding agencies too.

• Funding agencies support research and have strong incentives to see as many pennies on the dollar of what they send out, actually directly going towards the funding of that research. Excessive and perceived excessive loss of granted funds for more general institutional support, very specifically challenge that.

Universities that have and use the type of innovation development office that I wrote of in Part 46 for managing the sale or licensing of innovation developed on-campus to outside businesses and other organizations, generally fund them from monies gained from research grants in aid received, as payment made to them in support of allowed indirect expenses. And this makes sense as they are university-wide research lab and research program-supportive facilities. But indirect expenses also cover utilities and janitorial services and even what amounts to rent of the lab space used – among other expenses.

To round out this example here, I add that one of the most important parts of any grant application is its budget documentation in which it spells out as precisely as possible what monies received will be expended upon. This includes equipment and supplies and related expenses that would directly go towards fulfilling a grant application’s goals but it also includes salaries for postdoctoral fellows who might work at that lab and it usually includes at least part of the salary of the lead investigator faculty member who runs the lab too, as well as the salaries of any technicians employed there. And I freely admit that I wrote the above with at least something of a bias towards the research lab side of this dynamic, and at least in part because I also find the one third or more cut taken by the universities involved for its use, to be excessive. And this sentiment is reinforced by the simple fact that very little of the monies coming into such a university as a result of innovation sales or licensing agreements actually goes back to the specific labs that came up with those innovations in the first place, and certainly as earmarked shares of funds so received.

• Bottom line: even this brief and admittedly very simplified accounting of the funding dynamics of this example, as take place within a research supportive university and between that institution and its research labs and its lead investigators, should be enough indicate that these are not simple monolithic institutions and that they are not free of any internal conflict over funding and its allocation.

Innovation acquiring businesses are at least as complex and certainly as different stakeholders and stakeholder groups view the cost-benefits dynamics of these agreements differently. And that just begins with the questions and issues of what lines on their overall budget would pay for this innovation acquisition and in competition with what other funding needs that would be supported there, and what budget lines (and functional areas of that business) would receive the income benefits of any positive returns on these investments that are received.

• Neither of these institutions can realistically be considered to be simple monoliths in nature, or be thought of as if everyone involved in these agreements and possible agreements where always going to be in complete and automatic agreement as to their terms.
• And these complex dynamics as take place at least behind the scenes for both sides to any such technology transfer negotiations, shape the terms of the agreements discussed and entered into, and help determine who even gets to see those negotiating tables in the first place.

I am going to continue this discussion, as outlined towards the top of this posting by considering a wider range of organizational types and business models here, and for both the innovation source and the innovation acquisition sides to these transfer agreements. And as part of that, I will at least begin to discuss the third to-address bullet pointed topic that I listed there, and organizational scale as it enters into this complex of issues. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And also see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3 and that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 18: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 6

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on May 31, 2019

This is my 18th installment in a progression of comparative postings about Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership per se. And it is my 12th 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 focused on Donald Trump and his legacy oriented narrative in Part 14 and Part 15 of this, and have continued from there to correspondingly consider Xi Jinping and his legacy oriented actions and ambitions too:

• In Part 16 with its focus on the mythos and realities of China’s Qing Dynasty during its Golden Age, as a source of visionary legacy defining possibilities,
• And in what has followed, leading up to the reign of Mao Zedong as China’s first communist god emperor, with that narrative thread pointed to at the end of Part 16, and with an initial, more detailed discussion of it continuing on through Part 17.

I began that second narrative thread in 1830’s China as the Qing Dynasty began what became a slow but seemingly inexorable decline that led to its end in 1912 with the abdication of its last emperor: Puyi. And I focused in Part 17 on challenges and responses to them that China and its leadership faced through at least the first decades of that period, that can for the most part be seen as endemically Chinese and as arising from within their nation and their system of governance.

That, I explicitly note here includes my Part 17 discussion of a source of challenge that in all fairness at least originated outside of the country and outside of anyone’s control there, and either individually (as for example through the actions or decisions of an emperor) or collectively (as for example through the actions or decisions of a state bureaucracy that would, or would not function in accordance with the dictates of a more central authority in creating a commonly held, unified response to larger scale societal challenges faced.) That source of challenge consisted of the twin stressors of climate change and of environmental degradation as they adversely impacted upon agricultural productively and the basic food supply that China’s many millions would turn to. The adverse climate changes that I wrote of came from outside of China, or at least from outside of any possible direct human control there, even as they took explicit shape there for how they specifically affected that nation and its peoples. But their government’s failure to effectively respond to this seemingly ever-expanding challenge and in a way that might have at least limited its negative impact, was in fact endemic to the nation and its leadership. That failure of effective systematic response was human created and sustained.

And a great many of the environmental challenges faced, and certainly in China’s agriculturally most important lands, were in effect home grown too and even more so than any climate level changes were. But that only tells one half of this story; I focused in Part 17 on endemically Chinese pieces of the puzzle of what happened to end the Qing Golden Age and bring China as a whole into decline, and I have continued addressing that side of this here too, at least up to now in this posting. But China’s history and certainly since the Qing Dynasty cannot be understood, absent an at least equally complete narrative of and understanding of their relationship with the world around them. And I begin addressing that set of issues with some demographics and with what for purposes of this series and its narrative flow, can best be seen as old and even ancient history.

The Ming Dynasty ruled China from 1368 to 1644, and it was the first ethnically Chinese led dynasty to rule that nation in centuries. And it also proved itself to be the last ethnically Chinese dynasty to rule there, at least if “ethnically Chinese” is construed to mean Han Chinese; the Qing Dynasty that followed it as China’s last hereditary dynasty was led by ethnically distinct non-Han outsiders as well. But this is not the type of outside influence that I would primarily write of here when raising and addressing the issues of foreign influence and impact upon and within China.

Still, officially, according to the Beijing government of Xi Jinping, China currently contains within it 56 separate and distinct ethnic groups as of their Fifth National Population Census of 2000, with Han Chinese accounting for approximately 91.59% of the entire population and with the remaining 55 ethnic groups accounting for the remaining 8.41% (and also see this official government release on China’s 2010 national population census.)

Yes, there are grounds for debate there, where a variety of smaller ethnically distinguishable populations are not afforded separate recognition in those demographics surveys and their accompanying official analyses. And that lack of official recognition means a lack of legal protection of those ethnically distinctive groups and their peoples, as such. But even so, China includes within it a range of ethnic diversity that it does officially recognize and that it does offer officially protected status to, for their unique cultural identities. And the non-Han peoples that emperors of earlier dynasties sprang from, that have in their days ruled over China, have for the most part been assimilated as recognized minority groups in what is now the official 56. And they can be and are seen as belonging to a larger single, overall Chinese citizenry. China’s current government certainly sees matters that way, as is recurringly indicated by their efforts to retain and control and mainstream any and all ethnic diversity within their country, and certainly where that might be seen as representing separation in self identity that might become a push towards some form of independence.

And with that all noted, I raise three crucially important points:

• For all of the official acceptance and inclusion of the official census in China with its 56 culturally and ethnically distinct recognized groups, the Han Chinese are still considered in a very fundamental sense to be the only “true Chinese,” and in a way that members of the other 55 have never been afforded. They have always been seen as being different and other, and even when members of those groups have gained hereditary dynastic leadership over the country as a whole.
• And even as the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party that leads it recognize a controlled measure of diversity in their nation and its overall citizenry, they still consider as a matter of paramount importance that all Chinese citizens and of whatever ethnicity or cultural persuasion must be Chinese first and foremost, and that they must believe and act accordingly and with their primary loyalties aimed towards China’s one government and one Party.
• But at the same time, Han primacy of place as representing the true Chinese people, places very real practical day-to-day and ongoing constraints on what members of the other 55 minority groups can achieve, and both as measured by Party membership and opportunity to join, and by opportunity to advance up the Party’s ranks if allowed in as card carrying members. And these de facto restrictions have impact on status and opportunity in general, and throughout Chinese society. For a particularly striking example of how this plays out in practice, and certainly as of this writing, consider the restricted status and the restrictions on opportunity faced in China by their Uyghur minority today.

I am not addressing the issues of ethnic diversity here as a primary source of us versus them of foreign impact on China. But I offer this discussion thread here in specific preparation for delving into that complex of history and ideas. And I do so because it would be impossible to fully understand that, let alone address it absent a clearer understanding of what “us” means in China with at least an outline awareness of something of the historically grounded nuances that enter into that determination. Are Han and Chinese synonymous? No, but there are contexts where they become close to that, even as Party and government calls upon all Chinese nationals to be Chinese, and effectively entirely so and regardless of ethnicity or local cultural self-identity.

I will come back to reconsider the complex of issues that I have raised and at least briefly touched upon in this posting, later on in this series and its overall narrative, and certainly in the context of Xi’s within-China legacy building ambitions and actions. But for what is to more immediately follow now, I am going to focus on what might be considered true outsiders, some of whom as national and culturally distinct groups are and will remain outsiders and foreign nationals (e.g. European and American trade partners and their governments) and some of which, at least for my earlier historical references to come here, were eventually brought in and assimilated – but with nothing like that possible during the times under discussion. And I begin addressing that by turning at least closer to the beginning in China’s early history.

China has faced challenges from outside peoples and foreign cultures that go back at least as far as the construction of the first sections of fortifications that were eventually incorporated into their Great Wall (their 萬里長城), that were themselves initially built starting as far back as the 7th century BCE. (Construction of the Great Wall of China itself is generally dated as having been started by the historically acknowledged first true emperor of China: Qin Shi Huang (220–206 BCE), expansively building out from those earlier more locally limited protective efforts.) I say “… at least as far back” here because foreign attacks and incursions and even outright invasions, were a scourge to the people of then China for a long time before the building of those early walls and their supporting fortifications.

Stepping back from this China-focused narrative for a brief orienting note: I have written in this blog of Russia’s long history of invasion and threat of invasion and from many directions. See in that regard, my posting Rethinking National Security in a Post-2016 US Presidential Election Context: conflict and cyber-conflict in an age of social media 13, where I lay a foundation for discussing Russia’s current foreign policy and some of the essentially axiomatic assumptions that help to shape it from that nation’s past. Foreign invasion and threat of it have held powerful influence there for a great many centuries now. China is not unique in having faced foreign invasion and threat of it, any more than Russia is, or any of a wide range of other nations and peoples that I could cite here. But this history and this type of history is and has been an important source of influence in shaping China for its ongoing impact and persistence, and certainly over the years that I write of here, from the 1830’s on where threat and possibility became an ongoing reality.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will look at China’s international trade and other relations starting in the Qing Golden Age, and how they spiraled out of Chinese control for their side of all of that as the Qing Dynasty began to fail from its center outward and from its periphery inward. I will of course, continue that narrative thread with an at least brief and selective discussion of the first Republic of China, as formally existed from 1912 until 1949 with its final overthrow at the hands of Mao Zedong’s communist forces. And I will equally selectively discuss the Mao years of his Peoples Republic of China, as he developed and envisioned it as a response to what had come before, and that in turn helped shape Xi Jinping into who he is today, with his legacy goals and ambitions and with the axiomatic assumptions that he brings to all of that.

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.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 17: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 5

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on May 14, 2019

This is my 17th installment in a progression of comparative postings about Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership per se. And it is my 11th 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 focused on Xi Jinping and his story in Part 16 of this series progression, and on the first of two historically based narratives that I would argue fundamentally shape Xi’s image of the possible and the necessary for China, as he seeks to build his own personal legacy there as an historically significant leader in his own right.

That first narrative thread can be found in the history and the myth of the last hereditary dynasty to have ruled China: the Qing dynasty, and certainly as it held sway during its now recognized Golden Age as the Great Qing. This was a period of expansive reach and authority, when China as a whole reached one of its apex points of power, size and influence. And the other equally impactful narrative thread that I would cite here is one that in a fundamental sense came to a head during the reign of Mao Zedong as the founding leader of Chinese Communism and of the Peoples Republic of China as a nation.

The golden age of Qing greatness, and certainly as presented in its idealized form as outlined in Part 16, can be seen as representing a pattern that any modern leader of China with global ambitions would seek to emulate, and even hope to exceed. I briefly and I admit, very selectively outlined some of the defining-ideal features of this Great Qing myth (and something of its actual reality as well) there, as representing one half of the dynamic that drives Xi as he seeks to reach beyond his current self to become the center point of China’s next Golden Age mythos.

I also at least briefly began setting the stage for outlining what in many respects can be considered a model of dystopian possibilities there too, and of how China has both suffered from challenges faced, and risen above them. And that historically grounded narrative is one that I would argue has held at least as powerful an influence over Xi Jinping and his thoughts and actions as this positive image of Golden Age Qing greatness has.

My primary goal for this posting is to at least begin to outline and discuss this second side to the influence creating dynamic that I write of here. And as I noted at the end of Part 16, I will begin that at a turning point in history that arose during the same Qing dynasty that I have just written of in its Golden Age context. But for purposes of this narrative thread I begin in the 1830’s when the power and authority of that dynasty had already very significantly begun to wane. Some of the details that I will make explicit note of in what follows here, have direct counterparts in the China of more recent years, as have taken place under Chinese Communist rule, and I will at least briefly acknowledge that in order to highlight their relevance and as more than just details of academic historical note.

I wrote in Part 16 of the Kangxi Emperor, his son the Yongzheng Emperor, and his son the Qianlong Emperor, and of their collective reign as it lasted from 1661 through 1799 (counting five years at the end of that period when the Qianlong Emperor remained de facto ruler of China from when he formally stepped down from the Dragon Throne until his death. The China of 35 and 40 years after his death was very different than that of his lifetime, or that of his two immediate predecessors in power.

• The China of the Qing Golden Age was, as noted in Part 16, a nation of law and not just of men with most all legal and other matters adjudicated according to the Great Qing Legal Code. But the emperors who ruled over that China were directly involved, and they ruled through clearly defined lines of authority as validated from above, and ultimately from the Dragon Throne on down to local governmental levels. This system began to significantly break down in the years immediately following the death of the Qianlong Emperor and there were significant disconnects in what had been a more solidly dynastically, centrally controlled system of governance by the 1830’s and certainly by the end of that decade – just 41 years after the Qianlong’s death.
• This represented an at least damaging blow to the power and the longer-term prospects of the dynasty as a whole, and particularly given the way that local self-interest and the local accumulation of power outside of the Forbidden City (故宫) and throughout China at large, continued to expand and at the cost of the emperor losing both power and authority, and real understanding of the true state of his nation. The people who came to hold more significantly regional and local autonomy at the expense of the emperor, did not in general keep him or anyone directly reporting to him informed on what they were doing or how or why. And they did not share information regarding challenges faced and throughout China, as will prove important later in this posting.
• But this only represents one piece to a larger toxic puzzle. And I add a second piece to that here, noting that while it might sound unrelated to the first, these now-two puzzle pieces strongly interacted, and with a very damaging synergy. The overall population of China was dropping. The how and why of that are important, but I would set that narrative aside here, however interesting it is in its own right. Importantly for this narrative, that led to significant drops in the taxable revenue that government officials could collect as this population drop expanded out demographically to include Chinese citizens of working and peak working ages. This would have adversely affected the then sitting Qing emperors in place if tax revenues were following their expected, centrally mandated routes. But an increasingly locally autonomous, fissiparous bureaucracy with its increasing number of increasingly more and more independent local power centers, all took larger and larger amounts of what monies where going into government coffers for themselves, further bleeding and weakening the center.

I noted above, that I would draw points of comparison between the China of that era and the China of Mao’s time and of post-Mao China as well. And I will begin doing so with those two challenges. I have in fact been writing of local control and autonomy in China, as masked by proclaimed loyalty to and adherence to centrally controlled Party rule, for as long as I have been writing about China at all in this blog. See for example my 2010-2012 series: The China Conundrum and its Implications for International Cyber-Security (as can be found at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time, as postings 69 and loosely following there) for its discussion of China’s open “white” market, its “black” market and its vast “gray” market, each effectively supported by its own entire economy. Even a cursory study of rare earth minerals mining in China as discussed there, should suffice to justify my assertions as to the power disconnects that China still faces, where the vast majority of that globally impacting industrial effort has been black market and black economy in nature.

I have written of Mao’s Cultural Revolution and of his Great Leap Forward. And both of those ultimately self-destructive initiatives, and more of what he started and led as well, can in fact be seen as attempts on his part to assert centralized authority over a vast system that was if anything more disruptively disconnected from central control than could be found in the Qing dynasty and even at its ultimate weakest. And it was self-interest, plus fear on the part of more local rule that held China together under Mao’s rule, and certainly under the rule of his Party chairman successors.

That only notes one area of similarity between one fundamental problem that wracked the late Qing dynasty, and a more recent iteration of it that is fundamentally built into the current Peoples Republic of China of Mao’s days and of today as well. The Mao era and its more recent counterpart to my second, demographic implosion puzzle piece as drawn above from the late Qing era, is the stuff of nightmares for today’s China leadership. And it stems from their disastrously failed one-child policy, as I have written about in detail in earlier series here.

But those two puzzle pieces to understanding the late Qing and its downfall, only begin to address a larger set of issues that collectively made that dynasty’s failure essentially inevitable. I continue this narrative by citing one more out of many possible puzzle piece entries here that added to the toxic synergies that I noted above: climate change and environmental degradation.

• China can be roughly divided into two large regions as far as climate is concerned: its vast northern plateau and plains that tend to get too little rain even as they are a major source of food supplies for the national as a whole, and their vast southern reaches that tend, if anything to get way too much rain and certainly in their agricultural areas. Their North is always challenged with the possibilities of devastating droughts, and their South with floods from the overflowing of their many rivers. Good years, and even challenging years can yield good harvests – at least if those challenges are limited enough in scope so that irrigation in the North and flood control in the South can be made to work. But the decades of the late Qing were marked by climate challenges that could not be so controlled. And at least as importantly, very challenging problems began to emerge that could not be ignored or glossed over, coming from inefficient and even directly environmentally damaging farming practices in place, that in good climate years had reliably put food on China’s table, but with growing, accumulating damage consequences. And these agricultural practices as handed down from generation to generation from when China was more sparsely populated, began to more overtly fail as climate shifts continued and good farming years became rarer.
• I mentioned drops in both population and taxable revenue sources that might go towards government funding. Those changes in China’s circumstance and this are related. And modern China’s counterpart to that, and certainly where damage to it environment is concerned, is more extreme than anything faced by the Qing dynasty or any of its predecessors in power. The possibility of climate change and a sudden succession of years with significantly reduced agricultural crop yields is another nightmare for China’s current leadership as that, like the climate shifts of the late Qing, could push their country over the edge into unrest and societal instability. And with global warming as a general global issue facing every nation on every continent, this is a prospect that today’s China has to address, if it is to avoid the type and degree of decline that led from the end of its Qing Golden Age and to the end of the Qing dynasty itself.

I have only considered three pieces to a larger and more comprehensive puzzle here, and all of them have been China-sourced, arising for the most part from within the nation itself. That perspective, I would argue, largely applies to my climate change puzzle piece as offered here too. The fragility and instability built into China’s essential agricultural base and related critical infrastructure systems, leading up to and continuing during the years of the Qing dynasty, were all China-sourced; climate change per se that the late Qing faced was not endemically Chinese but their failure to in any way prepare for it or deal with it with any real overall national response was.

I am going to look outward past China’s borders in my next installment to this series where I will discuss challenges and resulting breakdowns in China and its rule, as coming from their contacts with the outside world. And after discussing how this played out in the late Qing, I will at least briefly outline some of the relevant history leading from the abdication of the last Qing emperor: Puyi in 1912, up through Mao’s rule as China’s first communist god incarnate. And I will reconsider both of these influence-defining historical patterns for how they shape modern China and its leadership and for both the positive aspirational possibilities they bring and for the cautionary notes they bring too.

Then I will more directly discuss Xi Jinping and his legacy aspirations. In anticipation of that, and with the issues arising from my here-noted historical puzzle pieces in mind, I will among other details discuss three recent developments in China as they enter into Xi’s own emerging puzzle:

• Xi’s campaign against crime, and particularly against crime that has a significant politically challenging element to it at that,
• Xi’s Little Yellow Book and his collected thoughts: his counterpart to Mao’s Little Red Book, and
• China’s new cult building and reinforcing, indoctrination as online game app: Study the Great Nation.

I will also, of course discuss his inwardly facing China rebuilding ambitions and his foreign policy-oriented Belt and Road Initiative too.

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.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 16: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 4

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on April 28, 2019

This is my 16th installment in a progression of comparative postings about Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership per se. And it is my 10th 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 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 labeled 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 have focused more recently on Donald Trump and his approach to both authoritarianism and to legacy building. And I have discussed Xi Jinping and his approach to all of this, in those installments from a more comparative perspective. Then I laid a foundation for more explicitly discussing Xi and his story at the end of the immediately preceding installment to this one in this narrative progression: Some Thoughts Concerning How Xi and Trump Approach and Seek to Create Lasting Legacies to Themselves 3.

I began that anticipatory note by identifying two very powerful but conflicting sources of influence that I would argue have both significantly shaped what Xi does in his here-and-now, who he seeks to be and become, and what he seeks to accomplish longer-term as his lasting legacy. And both of those sources of influence very clearly serve to shape his vision and understanding of how he will be remembered, at least insofar as he succeeds in his authoritarian ambitions and in his authoritarian legacy building objectives. Both can be seen as playing significant and even defining roles as Xi seeks to both develop and realize his more personalized understanding of his overarching China Dream: the defining core of his more publically stated Zhōngguó Mèng (中国梦.)

• One of those sources of ambition-defining influence can be found in the myth and history of China’s last hereditary dynasty: the Qing Dynasty, and particularly as it achieved what is now thought of as its Golden Age under the rule of the Kangxi Emperor who ruled from 1661-1722, and the Qianlong Emperor who ruled from 1735-1795 and who remained in power as a de facto “emeritus emperor” after officially stepping down from the throne and until his death in 1799. (The Yongzheng Emperor: the third Qing emperor to rule over what was seen as China as a whole, who served during the interregnum between his father and his son: the Kangxi and Qianlong Emperors, primarily sought to achieve effective government as a continuation of what his father had built, and as a legacy that his son who would follow him on the Dragon Throne would inherit.)
• And the other seminal source of influence on Xi and his thought and action that I would cite here can be found in the imperial, and even seeming god incarnate rule of Mao Zedong, as he founded his at least proclaimed proletarian empire under his Communist Party rule, and more importantly, under his own personal direct all powerful rule.

And I proceeded from there to divide my discussion of Xi and his ambitions into three admittedly tightly interconnected aspects: three faces of his Zhōngguó Mèng as he would make it his, and China’s, and the world’s reality:

• Xi’s 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 and that is of his creation, serving as a defining linchpin that all of this ongoing New would be built from.

My goal for this posting is to begin preparing for a more detailed analysis of these three pieces of Xi’s Zhōngguó Mèng: his China Dream, by more fully outlining and discussing those two defining sources of influence that he has acted and reacted in terms of: his perhaps more idealized understanding of the Golden Age of the Great Qing and his equally idealized, or at least stereotypically reshaped understanding of Mao as he served as god emperor of China in his day. And I begin with the Great Qing and by pointing out one of its defining details. The Qing was a dynasty of outsider rulers, of Manchu descent. And they brought new ways and new ways of thinking to China as a whole. Cutting ahead of myself here for a moment, I would note that the Communism that Mao Zedong claimed as the supportive justification of his rule, was even more outsider in its origin, coming initially from Karl Marx, a German European who lived for many years in Great Britain and who developed much of the theory behind Communism there. But the basic narratives that I would build from here, in at least briefly discussing those sources of influence diverge from that seeming point of similarity and on many if not most of the key points that I would raise here. And those points of contrast will prove significant.

• The Golden Age of the Qing marked a point in history in which China held as large and diverse an overall territory as it ever has with that including all of what is the China of today, along with all of what is now the independent nation of Outer Mongolia, areas of Manchuria that are now part of Russia and more.
• And while this was a nation ruled by imperial decree from the Dragon Throne, it was also very much a nation of law, with that firmly based and certainly for day-to-day decisions and actions upon the Great Qing Legal Code. This was based in large part on the legal code of the Ming Dynasty as it was held to at its peak of power and authority, but it was greatly expanded in scope and it was far more evenly and uniformly resorted to in developing what for most circumstances was more a rule of law than of man.
• And crucially importantly here, and certainly as a point of contrast to what would come under Mao’s rule, the China of this Golden Age was outwardly facing and outwardly engaged. This was a period in China’s history when that nation held wider ranging and more impactful hegemony over what we now think of as the South China Sea and the East China Sea and their nations and peoples than it ever has since then, and with the Dragon Throne and China’s governance effectively holding sway over most of South East Asia as a whole, as a part of that too.
• The China of this age traded globally, and held the strongest voice and the surest power in all of Asia for that, effectively leading all such Asian contact and commerce with the West.
• And the China of this age was a leader in innovation and in the development of new ways of thinking and with an allowance for diversity that would actively support and enable that.

Am I simplifying a more complex reality there? Yes, but that image is important as it maps out a great deal of what makes people look back upon this phase of dynastic rule in China as a true golden age. And here, perception is in fact more important and impactful than the messier details of the reality that this image seeks to encompass. Perception of the past as an idealized starting point, drives and even significantly creates our current reality here.

To take that point out of the abstract with a specific example of how it is currently playing out, the China of today: the China of Xi Jinping, claims direct historically justified ownership of the Spratly Islands, the Paracel Islands and beyond, extending all the way to the Philippines and their Scarborough Shoal. And his government’s claims there are based in very large part on China’s historical territorial holdings and claims, as can be found in early texts and on old and even ancient maps. And some of their most compelling claims there, at least from their perspective, date from the Great Qing and its Golden Age when China in effect owned much of that entire region and actively so. Yes, Xi’s China offers a much longer historical record as justification for many of their current territorial claims, going back to what are now presented as initial island discoveries that trace back as far as their Han Dynasty (of 206 BCE to 220 AD). But these islands were actually held as parts of China by the great emperors of the Qing Dynasty, and their more recent documents are more geographically precise and accurate, and their claims are more forcefully argued because of that. See Territorial disputes in the South China Sea and in the area of the Scarborough Shoal for more detailed if still selective accounts of islands, and atolls and coral reefs that have been built up to become islands, that Xi now claims Chinese ownership of, based on those historical records.

So the Qing Dynasty of the Kangxi Emperor and his grandson the Qianlong Emperor, and of the interregnum ruler of China who governed between them: the Yongzheng Emperor, serves as an expansive and outreaching role model for Xi, and one that validates all of his globally reaching ambitions. In a fundamental sense Xi seeks to be such an imperial ruler and the father of such a golden age: a new golden age that would realize the farthest reaches of earlier Chinese imperial ambition and more.

And what of Mao and the second defining source of influence that Xi labors under that I would write of here? I at least begin to turn to that here, with that earlier and with-time more idealized golden age image in mind. But more importantly, I begin discussing Mao’s influence creating legacy to Xi here by addressing the size of China and perhaps more importantly, its overall stability and hold on the territory that it could still claim, in the decades leading up to Mao and the years that he lived through. This will of course mean my discussing World War II and China’s experience of it, as a territorially ambitious Japan laid claim to much of their land and all of their resources and at the cost of millions of Chinese lives. That narrative lies at the heart of Mao’s personal mythos as he rose to power in the face of adversity and as a leader in rebellion against it. But I will set the stage for that so carefully developed a legacy story, starting in the same Qing dynasty that I have written of here in this posting – but as that once great dynasty began to grow tired and unravel. I will begin that line of discussion with China as it was in the 1830’s and leading up to the abdication of China’s last hereditary emperor: Puyi in 1912. And in the course of that I will at least briefly touch upon such searing events as the Opium Wars, as forced upon China and its government and peoples by foreigners. And I will write of the often chaos of China’s post-dynastic years leading up to World War II and the conflicts that Mao himself rose to power through. All of that shaped Mao and who he was, and it made him the type and source of influence that he in turn has become.

Mao Zedong was shaped into the man he became, and into the ruler of China who he was and who he is seen to have been, by a very different historical dynamic than would be found in the Qing Golden Age. And the points of difference between those two sources of defining influence make Mao’s story and his role model example a very different one from that of the Great Qing, setting up a second half to the conflicting dynamics that have made Xi Jinping who he is, as he seeks to find and pursue a best of both historically shaped worlds.

I will continue this posting’s narrative in a next series installment, as briefly outlined here and with a primary focus on Mao and his story, and on the history that more directly shaped that. 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.

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.

Innovation, disruptive innovation and market volatility 46: innovative business development and the tools that drive it 16

Posted in business and convergent technologies, macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on April 3, 2019

This is my 46th posting to a series on the economics of innovation, and on how change and innovation can be defined and analyzed in economic and related risk management terms (see Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, postings 173 and loosely following for its Parts 1-45.)

I began discussing some of the core issues of this series in Part 43, in terms of a specific case study example that can serve to illustrate them. My goal for that has been to take a more general line of discussion than I have often pursued up to there, and at least somewhat more fully take it out of the abstract.

More specifically and to explicitly connect the immediate preceding installments of this series to this one, I have recently been discussing a new synthetic polymer-based outdoor paint type as an innovation example, as developed by one organization (a research lab at a university), that would be purchased or licensed by a second organization for profitable development: a large paint manufacturer. At least up to now, I have focused for the most part on the innovation acquiring business that is participating in this: on that paint manufacturer and its due diligence and related considerations as they would decide whether or not to proceed in this transaction, and how to do so if they decide that they should.

My goal here is to at least begin to more fully consider the issues raised here from the perspective of the innovation-originating organization: that university with its innovation development office as set up to manage all patent and licensing agreements that would arise in that institution, and the research lab there that this innovation was actually created at. And I begin doing so at the starting point for all of the activity and potential activity that I have been discussing here: that innovation discovering research lab itself and the people who run it and who work there.

• A university research lab is both a place where research and discovery are matters of defining purpose, and a place where graduate school and postdoctoral level training are centrally important too. Ongoing efforts to achieve these dual goals inseparably interconnect, with most of the hands-on research that is done carried out by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and with the research and the teaching and mentoring that take place in them, enabling and shaping each other and on an ongoing day-to-day basis. I write this, thinking back to my own years of working in this type of setting, and from my longer timeframed efforts to more fully understand the capabilities and the dynamics of these organized systems in general.
• And I stress here, the significance of their being “research laboratories.” Their goal for the most part is to develop new knowledge, working on and at least ideally resolving one question or problem or set of them, to move on from there to work on a next question or problem or set of them that could only arise if preceding ones had been successfully worked upon, building a knowledge base needed to proceed forward. These are not applied research oriented product development facilities, except perhaps in a special and limited sense, where that would specifically support more basic research. Their goal is not, for the most part, to take the largely more-basic knowledge that they develop and verify and translate that into specific practical marketable applications. They are not geared to do that and the people who work there are not in general seeking out opportunities to do that either, at least while they are pursuing this part of their overall career paths. And these facilities do not in general even have the resources or funding needed for practical specific-product oriented development either.
• And one of the driving forces that would shape that reality comes from where so much of the funding for this research and training comes from: outside-sourced grants and with a great deal of that coming from government sources and certainly in countries such as the United States. I applied for and competed for funding from the US National Institutes of Health for much of my university-based research as most of my early hands-on research certainly, was biomedical in nature. In a case study scenario of the type that I write of here, it is likely that the professor who runs that lab would turn more to agencies such as the National Science Foundation for funding as that lab’s principle lead grant writer and applicant. Though a significant amount of research funding that goes to universities and their research labs comes from private sources too, and both from nonprofit foundations and from corporate sources. Either way, this funding is essentially always earmarked for more fundamental research and not for applied research or specific product development, and certainly when government funding is significantly involved.
• In this case study, the nature of the research problem worked upon strongly points to specific possible types of application: here the development of new outdoor paints as based upon new developments in the underlying polymer chemistry that would lead to them, that this lab has been working on developing. But this is still basically a more fundamental knowledge oriented university research lab that created this paint chemistry breakthrough – and if it is to be developed into specific profitably marketable products, that would have to mean bringing in a more applications oriented business that would take the next steps for that, and for final applied technology testing and certainly for product manufacturing.
• And from the developing lab’s perspective and that of the university that it exists in, the dynamics of the above-outlined system and the financial potential that it might hold, would in effect be thrown away if those new innovation-based technology transfers where not entered into and efficiently so. Traditionally, this type of loss of opportunity was in fact fairly standard for most universities as they saw the innovations created on their campuses either remain fallow and unused, and drift out their doors with little if any real return value gained from them. And that led directly to universities developing offices within their own systems for setting up and managing such technology transfer agreements, and with that carried out in as standardized and efficient a manner as possible so as to gain as much from these opportunities as possible – and both for the researchers involved and their labs, and for these universities as a whole.
• And yes, the contractual agreements that researchers enter into when applying for and accepting outside grant money and from both government agency and from private sector sources, enter into this too. And one of the core functions of a university’s innovation development office is to more efficiently navigate any terms or restrictions that might be included there, when dealing with and coming to agreement with businesses that might purchase or license technologies developed there, so as to meet those restrictions, if any. To take that out of the abstract, when foreign owned or operated businesses are involved and international technology transfer restrictions are in place as is often the case for dual-use technologies that can be used in both civilian and military contexts, that can and does include determination of even just what business organizations that university can be allowed to negotiate with and come to agreement with, and for which specific innovations that might be on the table.

Stepping back from this line of reasoning and from the systems that I am discussing here, to consider these two businesses again: the innovating university that is functioning as a business here, and the manufacturer, both critically depend on and require sound finances to continue to operate. And both depend on financial performance for that, that is highly performance based with the manufacturer here depending on its own cash flow and reserve-building capabilities, and the university depending on the effectiveness of its research as its driver for bringing in more funding. Both sides of this transaction capability have to operate in very competitive arenas, with small numbers of the more successfully innovative researchers on the university side of this gaining a disproportionately large share of the grant money that is out there to apply for, and with more successful marketable product developers and manufacturers often finding themselves in a stronger position to successfully enter into these agreements too. And that shapes the environment that all of the above plays out in.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment where I will complete, at least for here, my discussion of this university research lab and outside for-profit manufacturer scenario. I will then step back to at least briefly consider this basic two organization model in more general terms, where for example, the innovating organization there might in fact be another for profit business too – including one that is larger than the acquiring business and that is in effect unloading patents that do not fit into their own needs planning. I will also specifically raise and challenge an assumption that I just built into the immediately preceding paragraph here, regarding the value of scale in the innovation acquiring business in their being able to successfully compete in this type of innovation as product market.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And also see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3 and that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 14: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 2

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on April 2, 2019

This is my 14th installment in a comparative progression of postings on Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership per se. And it is my 8th 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 that 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 context by turning to consider legacies in this type of authoritarian system and its use. 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 concluded Part 6 of the authoritarian-oriented thread of this narrative, stating that I would turn from there to consider Trump and Xi and their specific legacy building stories. Then upon further reflection, I added Part 7 as a more general, orienting discussion of authoritarian legacies per se, that I would use as a starting point for discussing Trump and Xi and their more individual efforts in this.

My goal for this posting is in fact to explicitly discuss Donald Trump and his legacy building efforts, with a corresponding discussion of Xi Jinping and his to follow. But before doing so, I will offer a few more thoughts concerning authoritarian legacies in general, in order to put my more case study-specific discussions to come into clearer perspective:

• I wrote in Part 7 of this progression, of how the dynamics of authoritarianism itself can make lasting legacies ephemeral, and particularly where a would-be authoritarian succeeds in following the playbook by actually making themselves truly indispensible as a stabilizing force in their nation’s society and in its governance. Success there might ensure their holding onto power and on an ongoing basis, while they live. But their very success there is all but certain to lead to power vacuums and societal instability when they do finally leave office, and whether that is at a ripe old age and through natural causes, or earlier and as a consequence of violence. And this type of instability and the conflict that it can lead to, is not conducive to developing or even just preserving lasting legacies per se.

But what of authoritarian systems that are set up so as to create more peaceful succession in power, with next in line supreme leaders chosen from among inner circles of authoritarian insiders? I cited Hitler and Tito as my working examples in Part 7, for their ambitions and efforts at creating lasting legacies for themselves as more “stand alone” authoritarians. And I turn to consider Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili) here as a third case in point authoritarian example, and as an example of an authoritarian who rose to power through a more succession-oriented system of the type that I discuss here.

Stalin rose through the ranks of the Communist Party that Vladimir Lenin (born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov) led in its creation. And he succeeded at that, partly from his cunning and tenacity and partly from his ruthlessness and his willingness to employ any level of violence needed in order to achieve his goals, and the goals of his Party while he was still rising through its ranks. Then Lenin died and Stalin navigated his way to taking essentially absolute power in both the Soviet Union’s Communist Party, and through that of the Soviet state itself. And at least superficially, Stalin and his fellow leaders of their Communist Party, built Lenin’s legacy, expanding and glorifying it and him until Lenin was revered as if a god: a true Communist god. Lenin’s body was preserved when he died on January 21, 1924, for public display. And his body remains on public display in a special mausoleum build for that purpose in Moscow to this day, carefully re-embalmed on a regularly scheduled basis to keep him looking as lifelike as possible as he lays in perpetual state.

There is at least some evidence that would suggest that Lenin did not die of natural causes that day in 1924 at the age of 53. And an ambitious Stalin might have played a hand in that. Regardless of that sort of detail, Lenin’s god-like legacy was build and maintained from then on and by all of his successors in power and it still is in the post-Communist, post-Soviet Union Russia that exists today.

Lenin the man was very quickly replaced with Lenin the stereotyped symbol and with Lenin the administratively supportive tool that his successors could and did use. And that transformation began even more quickly than was needed to drain the blood out of his now lifeless body and replace it with his first course of embalming fluid. And when Stalin – a veritable self-anointed Soviet Communist god in his own life died, he was similarly embalmed and displayed too … at least until his successors decided to reexamine his legacy and (selectively) publicize “all” of his flaws and errors. Then he was buried and so was much of his legacy, and certainly as he himself had sought to create and direct it.

Yes, there are still many in today’s post-Communist Russia who still hew to the communism of their youth as if to a religion. And many if not most of them still honor Stalin as one of the brightest stars in their Communist firmament. But even there, questions can be asked. How much of that veneration represents a genuine effort to maintain and preserve the legacies of Stalin or of Lenin for that matter, or of any of their increasingly stolid apparatchik successors as leaders of the Soviet era Russian Communist Party? (As for that question and its second half, how many people remember Leonid Brezhnev for his gravitas or as a new and emergent legacy builder?) And perhaps more importantly here for purposes of this narrative, how much of that continued reverence is an expression of a desire simply to preserve a piece of the past, even if just a cartoon representation of it with all rough edges smoothed off? And focusing on Stalin in all of this again, how much of that reverence (and how much of the denigration that followed it) actually represents a preservation of and a continuation of the legacy that he wanted to leave in his people’s collective memory of himself, and how much of it is an invention that would be oriented towards benefiting his still living successors in power, and their legacies as such?

I offer this in terms of a specific example, but would argue that I am in fact discussing more general principles here. Even when an authoritarian lives and functions as such in a context that would create a directly dynastic continuity of power, next generation leaders tend to reframe and revision their predecessors and their legacies to promote and advance their own agendas and their own legacies. For a genuinely familial dynasty example of this, consider the current de facto royal family of North Korea with its founder, Kim Il-sung succeeded by his son: Kim Jong-il and with him now succeeded by his son: Kim Jong-un too. And the grandfather Il-sung was turned into a cartoon figurehead and an instrument of power for his son as he advanced his own agenda. And a still more refined stereotyped cartoon image tool of him, as well as a cartoon reimaging of Jong-il himself, now serve as tools of power that Jong-un uses today as he wields control over what is now his nation.

Donald Trump rose to his current position of power and authority as president of the United States through what is ostensibly such a succession of power-enabling system, advancing to his current position in government through a political party system that is legacy and power perpetuation-based. It is an unwritten but nevertheless potent plank in the Republican Party platform, and one of long-standing, that the long term goal of the party is to gain and hold onto power, and in perpetuity if possible and in all possible elected and appointed offices attainable.

And as an authoritarian of the type that I have been discussing here, Trump has been directing his energies to prevent anyone else in his sphere of influence from developing a power base within “his” Republican Party that might make it possible for them to in any way challenge him (or de facto to succeed him either.) In that he is following the authoritarian playbook in a pure form with no pretext of doing otherwise.

In this context, I cite how even Trump’s strongest supporters defensively argue his case by proclaiming that he thrives on chaos, as an explanation as to why his inner circle of high level appointees is in such turmoil with such a high turnover rate among them, and why he so actively undercuts anyone on his team who fails to praise him sufficiently – and certainly if they in any way publically disagree with him. And a similar line of argument is used to explain and justify why Trump attacks fellow Republicans in Congress and in state level office if they do not fully, automatically follow his lead and on all matters. Congressional pushback, including Republican resistance there regarding the funding of Trump’s signature piece Southern Border Wall is one of the most pressingly visible examples of that, and it is also one that is particularly appropriate in the context of this posting as that is the largest and most impactful piece to the Trump legacy that he is attempting to actually build. For three examples of how this set of issues have been discussed and analyzed by others, at least in general terms, see:

Trump’s Chaos Theory for the Oval Office Is Taking Its Toll,
Trump’s Chaos Engine Finds a New, Higher Gear and
The White House is in Meltdown.

And with all of that noted as background, let’s consider president Trump’s specific legacy building ambitions and efforts, at least up to now as I write this posting in early April, 2019. And I begin that by noting a categorical distinction between two fundamentally different areas of intention if not action, that would fall under an overall legacy rubric here:

• 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.)

President Trump has in fact actively pursued both of these approaches, and particularly visibly in the first of those two categories. In that, he has for example actively championed the cause of coal miners in West Virginia and other marginalized communities, whose basic historically supportive industries have ceased to be viable in a modern world. And he has done this despite the objectively very real fact that most if not all of those particular industries are heavily polluting, increasingly uneconomical and financially failing or both. Turning back to reconsider those coal miners and their communities in the rural Appalachia of West Virginia, their marginalization has arisen for both economic reasons and environmental reasons, with fossil fuel’s impact on the global warming debate and with mountain top removal strip mining (as is now used in coal mining) viewed as a poster child example of how to do it wrong and on all counts.

These are communities that have traditionally been centered around what have become marginalized, and technologically obsolete industries with some of that coming from the disappearance of anything like viable markets for what they used to produce, and more coming from the development of less labor-intensive technologies that have taken away jobs, and from outsourcing out of the country, and even from outright automation and on a massively large scale. And people caught up in all of this feel isolated and left out, with all of the anger and anomie that that would bring. This has made them and their communities, targets for Donald Trump’s form of populism and ready joiners of his personally supportive base.

Looking at his overall reach and his overall message nationally in developing and maintaining his base, Trump has in fact actively reached out to stoke the resentment and anger of the marginalized, and certainly in communities that see themselves as being left out, in order to gain their support. And he has succeeded there, and in ways that have ratcheted up the tension and the rage and the risk of violent action on the part of these supporters against those he identifies as their enemies. For a reference in support of that, see:

Trump ‘Fear-Mongering’ Fuels Rise of U.S. Hate Groups to Record.

But Donald Trump has done nothing to actually help any of these people or their communities, even as he claims that he will bring coal mining back in the United States, to continue with that example, and fully bring it back to the fullness of its now former glory. And on a larger and at least potentially more pervasive and far-reaching scale, he has proclaimed that he will expend over one trillion dollars of US Federal support to rebuild and update and strengthen the critical infrastructure of the United States as a whole. Then after running as a presidential candidate on that promise and after winning office, he began making references to private sector participation in this with federal matching funds possible. And now this is an issue that he has stopped talking about, though it is likely to reappear from him as he ramps up his 2020 reelection campaigning.

The most visible legacy building effort that president Trump has in fact pushed for, and even against the wishes and interests of his own political party’s members of Congress, has been his wall: his effort to keep out Mexicans and other Hispanics where he specifically targets them as “enemy other,” as he follows the authoritarian playbook with its us versus them approach.

But more importantly, even if less publically visibly, Trump has also made wide-ranging and all too effective efforts to roll back federal governmental regulatory oversight and on all fronts: environmental protection, banking and financial institution oversight that seeks to protect the interests of investors and more. And his and his administration, empowered by a Republican led US Senate have made real inroads in shifting federal courts to the right politically, and to the far right with that including both Appellate and Supreme Court appointments.

I essentially began my more general discussion of authoritarian legacies in Part 13 of this, by quoting one of Shelly’s poems: Ozymandias. What of Donald Trump’s intended or at least proclaimed legacy can and will he actually build, besides the monumental offerings of his Trump-branded buildings and golf clubs? And what of that will last beyond him, and actually serve as the stuff of his historical image and his historical legacy? It is too early to answer that now and certainly in anything like specific realized detail, but to cite one likely piece of it that he does not particularly speak of or acknowledge, remember what The Donald has done to the Party of Lincoln and the Party of Teddy Roosevelt, and even to the Party of Ronald Reagan. I have written in this posting progression of how successfully following the authoritarian playbook in one’s life, can only increase the chances of subsequent power vacuums and the turmoil that they create. Time will tell how this plays out in a post-Trump world, and as political sea changes take hold under the guidance of a new leadership.

I will have more to add to this narrative in subsequent postings to this series on Donald Trump and his story here, but will turn to more fully consider Xi Jinping next and his legacy building story. 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.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 13: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 1

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on March 24, 2019

This is my 13th installment on Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership per se and it is my seventh installment in what amounts to a shared subseries belonging to two longer narratives: one on Trump and his rise to power in the United States and the other on Xi and his China as they have both turned to authoritarian approaches and tools to succeed there. I began this thread to that overall 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, that I refer to as the authoritarian playbook. See Social Networking and Business 2, postings 367 and loosely following for Parts 1-6 of this, there identified with tagging text accompanying links to those postings that identifies them for inclusion here for their more Trump-related significance. (I also offer links to these postings with corresponding China and Xi-oriented tagline text in Macroeconomics and Business 2.)

My goal for the first six installments of this narrative was two-fold:

• To offer a brief orienting discussion of the authoritarian playbook as a whole, and of what is probably its single most important tool and certainly for elevating a would-be leader into a position of dominating power through it, and
• To at least briefly outline something of how Trump and Xi came to pursue power and authority in this way, and why.

I turn here to begin to apply some of what I have been developing there, as a conceptual model and a tool for thinking through and understanding these two people. And my goal in this is to raise the issues of legacies in an authoritarian context, and at least briefly analytically discuss legacy building as Donald Trump and Xi Jinping pursue it.

More specifically, I ended my third playbook-outlining installment to this progression of postings with this anticipatory note as to what I would follow it with, starting here:

• I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will turn to consider legacies and the authoritarian’s need to build what amounts to monuments to their glory that they might never be forgotten. In anticipation of that discussion to come I will argue that while the underlying thought and motivation that would enter into this for any particular authoritarian might be complex, much if not most of that is shaped at least as a matter of general principles by two forces: fear, and a desire to build for permanence and with grandiosity driving both sides to that. And for working examples, I will discuss Trump’s southern border wall ambitions, and his more general claims to seek to rebuild the American infrastructure, and Xi’s imperially unlimited infrastructure and related ambitions too.

And then I found myself thinking through that narrative-to-be in fuller detail, and I decided to take a somewhat different approach to it than I more usually would. To start, I decided to begin this posting by sharing the text of a poem that has been running through my mind for its relevance and yes, for its irony to:

Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

I found myself thinking of the hubris and folly of Ozymandias as he, through a succession of names, has recurringly appeared in history and seemingly throughout it. Adolph Hitler built his Third Reich to last for a full thousand years! And as a core element of this self-proclaimed empire building to be, Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939 as its first overtly military incursion into and overrunning of a separate foreign nation (see German-occupied Europe.) The National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) and the Germany that it dominated in fact usurped power from Austria before that, but even if you start Hitler’s 1000 year clock with the founding of his political party itself, that would mean judging his success at legacy building longevity with a 1920 starting date as an earliest possible Reich founding date. And the Nazi party died in 1945, and so did Hitler himself, by suicide as enemy forces closed in on him in the burning wreckage of his once proud nation’s capital. 1000 years, 25 years … and “round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare the lone and level sands stretch far away.”

I have written on occasion of Josip Broz Tito and his dictatorial ambitions. He sought to become the one essential power broker in his otherwise contentious nation with all of its historically culturally divided peoples. And he succeeded in that, and at least in part by killing off any possible competition to his personal leadership, any possible successors included who might have found a more peaceful way forward after Tito’s demise. Josip Broz Tito sought to build a lasting legacy for himself in the form of massively large scale monuments and building complexes, as a physical manifestation of his attempt to fundamentally reshape his Yugoslavia’s society in his own image. He sought to build what some have come to refer to as a “cement utopia,” for how he turned to reinforced cement as a favored building material that could be assembled and formed with ease and at low cost. For two of many possible references that set the stage for what came of that as Tito’s reign ended, see:

Yugoslav World War II Monuments and Memorials and
The Cement Mixer as Muse.

Yugoslavia hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics in and around its city of Sarajevo, four years after Tito’s death. And the promise of this event, and of their nation taking so visible a role in the world as a whole from hosting it, probably helped stave off the chaos.

It is important to remember in this regard that winning bids to host the Olympics are selected many years in advance, so that nations so honored can have the time they would need to prepare for what is to come. And because of that, all Yugoslavians knew what was coming from well before Tito’s death. But the Olympics came and went and the world looked away. And the beautiful sports venues and other monuments to unity and constructive effort that the people of this once single nation build, fell into the flames of chaos as long-held grudges and scores to settle between Yugoslavia’s diverse people turned to strident accusations and as that in turn led to civil war: genocidal civil war and the fragmentation of Tito’s dreams.

The vision of Yugoslavia as a nation as contained in its Olympic village and its Olympic sports venues and supportive facilities was destroyed in all of this carnage (see Sad Legacy of Sarajevo’s 1984 Winter Olympics as Games Venues-Turned-Civil War Battlegrounds Left in Ruin.) And in fact much of Tito’s grandiose monumentally scaled construction efforts were destroyed outright, or left to decay as is, during the wars that his failures in leadership led to, from his inability and unwillingness to build for anything like a post-Tito stability in government or in society as a whole, among “his peoples.” … And “near them, on the sand, half sunk, a shattered visage lies.”

I could cite other examples from history here in preface to what is to follow as I more specifically focus on Trump’s and Xi’s legacy building ambitions, visions, and efforts. And I will in fact touch upon a few more such examples as I continue this narrative. But with this two-example cautionary note as to the limitations of power in any one pair of hands, I will turn to consider Donald Trump and his build-while-breaking paradoxes and then Xi Jinping’s and his.

My goal moving forward here in this posting progression is to offer a set of thoughts and observations regarding Trump first, with that beginning in my next installment to this. Then I will turn to and similarly consider Xi and his legacy story. But before doing so I would end this posting with a few more general, organizing thoughts that address challenges for would-be authoritarians that cut to the heart of the playbook that they all variously seem to follow.

Authoritarians seek to create contexts around themselves where they become the indispensible core for all that they would do and build. But what happens if they succeed in this? What happens then to any legacy building effort that they might have invested in and strived to build? If they are truly indispensible: if they really succeed at that, then it becomes inevitable that their passing and by whatever means and under whatever circumstances, would leave a power vacuum in which continuity of anything they built would become problematical at best.

The Western Allies of World War II, coming in from the West and Russia coming in from the East swept aside all that Hitler and his Nazi party and government had built, leaving fragments more than just passingly similar to the legacy that Ozymandias built for himself. And Tito’s legacy was the destruction of his architectural legacy, but more importantly of his nation, of Yugoslavia itself too. And in that, ironically enough: a stable unified Yugoslavia could have been his single greatest and most honored legacy of all.

• Can anyone genuinely, fully follow this authoritarian playbook and still build a lasting legacy that future generations will see as and acknowledge as theirs, besides whatever discord and even chaos that follows the “falling off of the edge of a cliff” ending to their rule, that following that playbook is so likely to lead to?

I offer this as a thought piece question, simply adding here that for Trump this means my raising questions as to what will happen to the Republican Party that he claims to lead, as well as my raising questions as to his lasting impact on the United States as a whole. I will raise equally freighted questions as to how this can and will play out longer-term for Xi and his legacy ambitions too. What, among other possibilities there, will happen to China’s, and his Communist Party when he finally leaves office, and certainly if he does in fact succeed in vacating the two term limit to Party leadership that was put in place to prevent the rise of another Mao, with his excesses. And what will happen to China from all of this? I will just add here that it is certain that no simple answer could possibly suffice in addressing that question.

I will at least begin addressing these and related issues in my next installment to this. 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.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 12: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to follow an authoritarian playbook 3

Posted in book recommendations, macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on March 17, 2019

This is my third posting to explicitly discuss and analyze an approach to leadership that I have come to refer to as the authoritarian playbook. See Part 1 and Part 2 of this progression of series installments, and a set of three closely related postings that I offered immediately prior to them that focus in on one of the foundational building blocks to the authoritarian playbook approach as a whole: the cult of personality, with its Part 1 focusing on Donald Trump and his cult-building efforts, Part 2 focusing on Xi Jinping’s efforts in that direction, and Part 3 stepping back to consider cults of personality in general.

I at least briefly outlined a set of tools and approaches to using them in my second installment on the authoritarian playbook itself as just cited above, that in effect mirrors how I stepped back from the specifics of Trump and Xi in my third posting on cults of personality, to put their stories into an at least hopefully clearer and fuller context. And I continue this now-six posting progression here with a goal of offering a still fuller discussion of this general approach to leadership, while also turning back to more fully consider Donald Trump and Xi Jinping themselves as at least would-be authoritarians.

I begin this posting’s discussion on that note by raising a detail that I said that I would turn to here, but that might at first appear to be at least somewhat inconsistent too, and certainly when measured up against my discussions of cults of personality and the authoritarian playbook as a largely unified and consistent vision and approach.

I have presented authoritarians and would-be authoritarians as striding forth in palpably visible self-confidence to proclaim their exceptionalism and their greatness, and to proclaim that they are the only ones who could possibly lead and save their followers: their people from the implacable, evil enemies that they face. This means these at least would-be leaders building their entire foundation for leadership on trust and on its being offered and on an ongoing basis: a leader’s trust that if they build their cults of personality effectively and if they take the right steps in the right ways in pursuing and wielding power, others: their followers, will trust and follow them. And this also arguably has to include their own trust that these, their followers will consistently remain true to them in their own beliefs too. Then I ended my second playbook-outlining posting by raising a crucial form of doubt that enters into and in fact informs all of this as it actually plays out:

• Trust, or rather the abnegation of even a possibility of holding trust in anyone or anything outside of self for a would-be authoritarian.

Ultimately, I would argue that an authoritarian’s trust in their followers, or in anyone else outside of themselves, rings as hollow as the cult of personality mask that they wear. And raising that point of observation, I turn to at least briefly reconsider the basic tools to this leadership playbook itself again.

I said at the end of my second playbook installment that I would turn back to reconsider Xi and Trump as specific case in point examples here and do so starting with Xi and his story in order to take what follows out of the abstract, leaving it imbued with a real, historically knowable face. And I begin that by returning to a crucially important point that I made when discussing Xi’s cult of personality and how he has sought to build one about himself: the trauma that befell his father and through that, himself and the rest of his immediate family too.

I began writing of Xi Jinping’s father, Xi Zhongxun in my discussion of the son’s effort to create a cult of personality around himself. Mao Zedong launched his Cultural Revolution out of fear that he was losing control of his revolution as other, competing voices sought to realize the promise of liberation from China’s nobility-led surf peasant society. He began this counteroffensive against what he saw as a challenge to his ultimate authority with his promise to listen and include: his let a hundred flowers bloom promise. But then he pulled back and all who did speak up, all who did offer their thoughts as to how and where the Communist revolution should go from there, were swept up as revisionists by the Cultural Revolution, declared by its zealot cadres to be enemies of the state and of the people.

Many were so caught up, with academics and members of China’s intelligentsia targeted in large numbers, as particular threats to Mao’s vision and to the revolution that he was leading through his cult of personality. And even people who had served Mao well and from early on in the revolution, form the long days of the Long March with all of its risks and uncertainties were caught up in this. Xi Zhongxun was a loyal follower of Mao and from the beginning. As such he was elevated into Chinese Communism’s new emerging proletarian nobility as Mao succeeded and took power. Xi Jinping, his son was raised as a member of China’s new Crown Prince Party and as an heir apparent to his father’s social and political stature there. And then Mao turned on them, just as he had turned on so many before them, and all fell into chaos with his father hauled up for public ridicule before screaming hoards in Cultural Revolution struggle sessions: public appearances in which the accused were beaten and ridiculed and forced to publically confess to whatever crimes they were being accused of at that moment.

Many who faced those gauntlets of ridicule and torture did not survive them and certainly when they were repeatedly subjected to these assaults. Zhongxun did survive, as he did confess and confess and confess. So he and his family, his young son Jinping included, were sent to a distant and isolated peasant community for reeducation.

One of the lessons that Jinping learned was that his survival meant his becoming more orthodox in his Communist purity than anyone else, and more actively ambitious in advancing through the Party ranks for his purity and reliability of thought and action. But a second, and more important lesson learned from all of this, and certainly for its long-term impact was that Xi learned to never trust anyone else and certainly in ways that might challenge his position and security, or his rising power and authority. I have written here in this progression of postings, of cults of personality as masks. Xi learned and both early on and well in this, to smile and to fit in and to strive to be the best and to succeed and with that expression of approval and agreement always there on his face. He learned to wear a mask, and to only trust himself. And his mask became the basis of his cult of personality as he advanced along the path of fulfilling his promise to himself and yes, to his father, and as he rose through the ranks in the Party system that had so irrevocably shaped his life and certainly starting with his father’s initial arrest.

How did this pattern arise and play out for a young Donald Trump? Turn to consider his father for his pivotal role in shaping his son too.

• What happens when only perfection is acceptable and when that is an always changing and never achievable goal, and when deception and duplicity can be the closest to achieving it that can actually be achievable?
• What happens to a young impressionable son when winning is the only acceptable outcome, ever, and when admitting weakness or defeat can only lead to dire humiliating consequences?
• Fear comes to rule all, and it is no accident that an adult Donald Trump sees fear and instilling it in others as his most powerful tool and both in his business and professional life, and apparently in his personal life too. (See:
• Woodword, B. (2018) Fear: Trump in the White House. Simon & Schuster, for a telling account of how Donald Trump uses this tool as his guiding principle when dealing with others.)
• And genuine trust in others, or trustworthiness towards others become impossible, with those who oppose The Donald on anything, considered as if existential treats and enemies, and those who support and enable him considered disposable pawns and gullible fools to be used and then discarded.

Cults of personality are masks and ultimately hollow ones for those who would pursue the autocratic playbook. And ultimately so is the promise of the autocrat and their offer of better for those who would follow them. And that is why they have to so carefully and assiduously grab and hold onto power, using the other tools of the playbook to do so.

I have focused in this posting on trust and on how it does and does not arise and flow forward towards others. Turning back to my initial comments on this, as offered here, a would-be authoritarian, a would-be tyrant or dictator calculatingly develops and promotes his cult of personality with a goal of gaining trust and support from as large and actively engaged a population of supporters as possible. So they calculatingly seek to develop and instill trust in themselves, in others. But ultimately they do not and in a fundamental sense cannot trust any of those others and certainly not as individuals. The closest they can come to achieving that is to develop a wary trust on the more amorphous face of their followers as nameless markers in larger demographics. And that, arguably just means their trusting themselves for their capability to keep those individually nameless and faceless members of the hoard in line.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will turn to consider legacies and the authoritarian’s need to build what amounts to monuments to their glory that they might never be forgotten. In anticipation of that discussion to come I will argue that while the underlying thought and motivation that would enter into this for any particular authoritarian might be complex, much if not most of that is shaped at least as a matter of general principles by two forces: fear, and a desire to build for permanence and with grandiosity driving both sides to that. And for working examples, I will discuss Trump’s southern border wall ambitions, and his more general claims to seek to rebuild the American infrastructure, and Xi’s imperially unlimited infrastructure and related ambitions too.

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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