Purveyor of Truth
Finally after a few days of network issues Rational Nation USA is back on grid. As expected the always constant right -vs- left childish tantrums that one can chuckle about daily continues. Having made the point it is now time to move on to discussions of substance for those desirous of contemplative thought.
Donald J. Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee and a "man" of odd character, is the topic of discussion tonight. Having received via e-mail an interesting article published in The New Yorker we decided to present it on the pages of this weblog. After reading the article and considering it's content please feel free to share your thoughts. The next 24 hours will be open thread. However, we ask that comments are relevant to the posted subject mater, that ALL commenters refrain from cursing, and no personal attacks on commenters with whom you disagree are made.
In February, 1957, eight years after the founding of Communist China and nine years prior to the Cultural Revolution, Chairman Mao Zedong made a speech at the eleventh meeting of the Supreme State Conference, entitled “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People,” that defined his political philosophy. In the speech—arguably his best known—the Great Helmsman drew a distinction between “the people” and “the enemy.” The people were effectively the in-group, while the enemy was nothing but a collection of demons and thugs to be vigilantly resisted. The us-versus-them dichotomy, a cornerstone of Maoism later enshrined in his Little Red Book, effectively painted the world in black and white, banishing diversity, difference, or considerations of civil liberty. Yet that worldview has found curious potency sixty-odd years later in the mouth of another bombastic demagogue, reared in a wholly different political system, who shares Mao’s knack for polemical excess and xenophobic paranoia. America may still be reeling from Trump’s victory as the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee, but many Chinese, watching from the other side of the world, view his ascent as natural: the rise of another strongman whose politics of exclusion and rhetoric of hate both reprise and reflect China’s past and present anxieties.
In the United States, Trumpism seems like a chilling wake-up call for members of both parties forced for the first time to confront the deformed dynamics of their sociopolitical system. But in China the appeal of ChuanPu, the Chinese rendering of Trump’s name, is readily apparent. From the start, Trump’s campaign relied on a core constituency of beleaguered blue-collar voters—“the people,” Mao would have surely termed them—whose economic distress he masterfully channelled toward the creation of loathsome villains, the enemy. The ease with which Trump erected and proselytized this divide speaks to what the Chairman would have labelled a ripeness for “class struggle.” As Eric X. Li writes in a thoughtful essay in Foreign Affairs, the comparison is unsurprising given China’s Marxist heritage. In Li’s words, “As the Chinese suffered tremendously from extreme class struggles in their recent history, Western democracy seemed to have reached an enviable position by erasing class lines. But the Trump campaign is showing the world that this may be an illusion. America’s working class is angry.”
On the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, a few days from now, the current generation of the governing political élite, none of whom were immune to the savagery of the sixties, is more alert than ever to the threat of proletariat resentment. It is little wonder that President Xi Jinping, whose father was brutally tortured during the Revolution and whose half-sister committed suicide out of sheer despair, has tried to make an anti-graft drive the defining pillar of his Presidency. It is the most visible and systemic crusade a sitting Chinese leader has launched against the ruling class, and plays to the popular sense that corruption has gotten out of hand—in American terms, that the system is rigged. “In China, there is sympathy for the Trump phenomenon because the Chinese are familiar with the feeling of resentment against establishment,” Daniel Bell, a political philosophy professor at Tsinghua University and the author of “The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy,” told me. “For all the curtailing civil and political liberties that Xi is doing, he is also successfully fighting political élites engaged in corruption. This is the main reason why Xi is popular in China, especially among ordinary people.”
In many respects, ordinary people in China, or the “old hundred names,” as they are called—a colloquial catchall for those commoners who didn’t make it into the history books—are not unlike the largest segment of Trump supporters: of limited education, dispossessed, and frequently overlooked because of their distance from power. Abstract principles, which Hillary Clinton has been known to proclaim in China—of human rights and women’s rights—seem less relevant than the practical economic challenges facing the average citizen. “Trump is an exceedingly smart man who has had remarkable success in making hotels and towers and TV shows,” a Chinese blogger posted on a Web forum devoted to American politics. When someone else asked about Trump’s trade policies, many of which are hostile to China, the same blogger responded dismissively that Trump is “a businessman first and foremost” and “will do what is in both countries’ economic interest”—giving voice to the sentiment, perennially popular in China, that pragmatism inevitably reigns in the end.
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