Through The Roof

Man, I don’t think that The Donald is draining the swamp, so much as he is roiling it! I have written this week’s ‘weekly’ (more or less) column twice already and deleted same because they were stale dated before I could press the “send” button.

Stress? Through the roof! How can anyone make future plans when the leader of the free world has the attention span of an addled brain gnat and the manners of an ill-bred boor? Chinese culture demands a sense of face – admittedly, the term is more and more loosely applied in today’s age, where education and integrity are less revered than the ability to have a Benz, a Rolex, and…and..and. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t go back to it as a bedrock foundation when it suits them, any less than Americans do the same with reference to The Founding Fathers, The Cornerstone of Democracy, and All Men are Created Equal. You just cannot talk to Xi Jinping the way that Trump did and expect him to take it.

Rather, Trump did not talk – he blustered, he brandished, he dictated, he pontificated – he acted the part of the loutish bully or, rather, he wasn’t acting. He is the star act as Ugly American #1 in the play called, The Syncophantic Shit-stuffers. Xi Jinping is walking a political and economic tightrope stretched between 2 sets of ideologies, proponents of whom are just waiting for him to make one slight misstep. Waiting, hell – they are hoping and doing their best to make it happen. The Financial Times reported on May 9th/19 that a colonel at the National Defence University (China’s version of The War College in DC)  believes that the best way would be to kick out all the American companies and bring the Chinese ones back. Sounds like the eunuchs in the 1400’s convincing the Chinese emperor to close China subsequent to the voyages of Zheng He….wait; change the position of “American” and “Chinese” in the previous sentence and it sounds exactly like what Trump and his good ole buddies are espousing, too.

David Fickling, a Bloomberg Opinion columnist, stated in the last week that “negotiators for both sides seem to be laboring under mistaken assumptions about each other” and that “each side has misinterpreted the other’s behavior as weakness”. Like, DUH! Yes, the Chinese presumably agreed and then apparently reneged – but agreed to what and reneged on what? All we have is the word of Trump, and ask his legion of creditors what that’s worth – and he is well known for hearing what he wants to hear when he wants to hear it. Speaking Mandarin is not just speaking a language, it is an art form – it is not only knowing what was said but knowing what was not said and recognizing exactly how it was not said. If you were there, how would you go about explaining this kind of manifest subtlety to a man whose belief in classy manners is reflected in an eponymous gold-colored monstrosity on 5th Avenue that, according to the Financial Post today (May 14th/19), is now ranked as one of Manhattan’s least desirable luxury buildings?

Sun Tzu said in The Art of War (written 2500 years ago) that, to defeat your enemy, you must first understand him. China and Xi have a plethora of problems – swine flu will probably kill more pigs this year than the USA has in total; the armyworm is now attacking dozens of crops essential to Chinese social stability, such as corn, soybeans, cotton, and rice (CNBC, May 9th/19); a year shaping up to record (financial) defaults (Bloomberg May 7th/19); inflation is up and food prices are “surge(ing)” (Reuters May 9th/19); and China is “fed up” with US complaints (also Reuters on the 9th) – for the Chinese Government to talk so directly, you have to know that they have given up on diplomatic subtlety and are hoping that someone capable of influencing/implementing policy is listening.

So sorry – no one at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is home – don’t bother leaving a message as no one can read and they already have enough toilet paper. On May 7th/19, The Wall Street Journal suggested that the yuan would get cheaper and, the same day, the Financial Times reported that the China Central Bank was buying more gold …can’t anyone put 1 and 1 together (2 and 2 required too much concentration to hope for)? They buy the gold now and then, when people lose confidence in paper money, who is going to be calling the tune? Russia and China have been quietly buying up gold for years using shell cut-outs.

In the meantime, our yugest, greatest, most wonderful President (just ask him and he’ll tell you – no, wait, you don’t have to ask; he’ll tell you anyway) has his proverbial thumb up his you know where, not worrying about imposing another tariff on an economy that has mixed indicators at best and warning China to not dare impose tariffs of their own. How would you react if China said that to you? Why should it be more palatable for them than it is for you? What happened to the Golden Rule – treat others as you wish to be treated? Oh, yeah, Trump didn’t read that book (The Bible) either.    

The Art of the Deal doesn’t posit relationships that have adjectives such as win-win, mutually beneficial, or even long-term attached to them. Canada, Japan, South Korea have all experienced what friendships and friendly relationships mean to Trump – somewhere between “nothing” on a normal day and “not much” on a good day, and good days seem to be awful scarce. China for sure read the book and has Trump’s number…if Trump won’t make a deal that’s good for both and that’s seen in China to be a good deal for both, then Xi Jinping will reasonably and naturally make sure that things are as good as possible for China, and only China. Wouldn’t you do the same?

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Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory!

The problem is that he is defining the term, “victory”, in a way totally different from you and I.

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