Maine Writer

Its about people and issues I care about.

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Location: Topsham, MAINE, United States

My blogs are dedicated to the issues I care about. Thank you to all who take the time to read something I've written.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Dreamers - immigration opinion published in Tulsa OK "Tulsa World"

Oklahoma Seantor Lankford showed courage on immigration 

"Echo" letter to the editor of Tulsa World from Blanca Zavala*, of Tulsa
Senator James Lankford
Donald Trump’s rescinding of DACA has left the Dreamers — the 800,000 young men and women brought to the United States while they were children — in a horrible limbo, not knowing whether Congress will come to their rescue and save them from possible deportation and being ripped from their families.

Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford last September introduced the SUCCEED Act, a bill that while not perfect did provide protections that would have allowed most if not all of these bright young people a chance to remain legally in the only country they know as “home.”

Although his original bill does not appear to be among those likely to be voted on as legislators seek a final resolution for the Dreamers, Lankford must be commended for having the courage to put his name out front on an issue that has driven other members of both parties into positions so far apart as to make a solution at times seem unattainable. For a senator from the reddest of the red states this cannot have been an easy path to take.

It is our hope that Lankford will continue to recognize — as he has already demonstrated — the will of the majority of Americans and move forward in the spirit of wisdom and compassion by supporting legislation that will finally give the Dreamers the opportunity and legitimacy they deserve.

*Editor’s note: Zavala is president of The Coalition for the American Dream. Five other members also signed the letter.

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Americans are immigrants ~ Representative Joseph Kennedy

Politicians can be cheered for the promises they make. Our country will be judged by the promises we keep.~ Rep. Joseph Kennedy

From Fall River, Massachusetts:
"A justice department rolling back civil rights by the day. Hatred and supremacy proudly marching in our streets. Bullets tearing through our classrooms, concerts and congregations, targeting our safest and sacred places. This nagging and thinking feeling, no matter your political beliefs, this is not right, this is not who we are."
Massachusetts Congressman Joseph Kennedy
Every year, a member of the opposition party gives a response to the State of the Union. Tonight, Massachusetts Representative Joe Kennedy III, JFK's grand-nephew, made the speech from Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Fall River.

"Throughout its history, Fall River has been a resilient and proud city," Kennedy told the Herald News. "The 1,400 students of Diman embody that same spirit. As Democrats seek to build an economy that works for all Americans, Diman is an innovative and inspiring model. I couldn’t imagine a more fitting location to deliver the Democratic response to the State of the Union."

Rep. Joseph Kennedy response - transcript:

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. good evening, ladies and gentlemen. 

It is an absolute privilege to join you all tonight. 

We are here in Fall River, Massachusetts, a proud American city, an American city built by immigrants. (MaineWriter~ largely French-Canadians)

From textiles to robots, this is a place that knows how to make great things. The students who are with us here this evening from the auto tech program at Diman Regional Technical School, carry on that rich legacy.

Like many American hometowns, Fall River has faced its share of storms. The people here are tough. They fight for each other, they pull for their city. It is a fitting place to gather as our nation reflects on the state of our union. This is a difficult task. Many have spent the last year, anxious, angry, afraid, we all feel the fractured faultlines across our country. 

We hear the voices of Americans who are forgotten and feel forsaken and — forgotten and forsaken

Corporate profits fail to give their workers their fair share. 

A government that struggles to keep itself open. 

Russia, knee deep in our democracy. An all out war on environmental protection. A justice department rolling back civil rights by the day. Hatred and supremacy proudly marching in our streets. Bullets tearing through our classrooms, concerts and congregations, targeting our sake — safest and sacred places. This nagging and thinking feeling, no matter your political beliefs, this is not right, this is not who we are.

Folks, it would be easy to dismiss this past years chaos. Partisanship as politics, but it is far, far bigger than that. This administration is not just targeting the laws that protect us, they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection. For them, dignity is not something you are born with, but something you measure by your net worth, your celebrity, your headlines, your crowd size. Not to mention, the gender of your spouse, the country of your birth, the color of your skin, the God of your prayers. their record has rebuked our highest American ideals, the belief that we are all or the, we are all equal, that we all count in the eyes of our laws, our leaders, our God, and our government. That is the American promise.

Today, ladies and gentlemen, today that promise is being broken by in administration that decides who makes the cut and who can be bargained away. they are turning American lives into a zero-sum game. For one to win, a nether must lose. We can't guarantee America's safety if we slash our safety net. Where we can extend health care in Mississippi if we get it in Massachusetts. — We can cut taxes if we raise them on families to model. We can take care of sick kids if we sacrificed rumors. We are bombarded with one false choice after another. 

Coal miners or single moms, rural communities are inner cities. The coast or the heart line. The daycare worker in birmingham, bitter rights rather than mutual casualties of a system forcefully rigged towards those at the top. 

The parent who lies awake terrified that their transgender son or daughter will be beaten and bullied at school. 

Nothing is more shattering than being the daughter in the grips of an opioid addiction. 

Here is an answer that Democrats offer tonight. We choose both.

The fight for both, because the greatest, strongest, richest nation in the world should not have to leave anyone behind.

We choose the better deal for all who call our country home.

We choose a living wage and a paid leave, affordable tried your — a formal childcare that your family needs to survive. Trade tax that are fair, roads and bridges that will not rust away. A good education that you can afford, a health care system that offers you mercy whether you suffer from cancer, or depression, or a addiction. 

We choose an economy strong enough to post record stock prices, and brave enough to admit that top CEOs making 300 times their average worker is not right.

We choose Fall River. We choose that thousands of Americans communities whose roads are not paid with power or privilege, but with an honest effort of good faith, and the results to build something better for your kids. That is our story. 

It began the day our Founding Fathers and mothers set sail for a new world, fleeing oppression and intolerance. He continued with every word of our independence, the audacity to declare that all men are created equal. An imperfect promise for a nation struggling to become a more perfect union. It grew with every suffrage at step, every freedom writers voice, with every weary soul we welcome to our shores. To all the dreamers watching tonight, let me be absolutely clear, you are part of our story, we will fight for you and we will not walk away— we will not walk away.

America, we carry that story on our shoulders. You swarmed to Washington last year to ensure that no parent has to worry if they can afford to save their child's life. you probably marched together last weekend, thousands on the streets of las vegas, philadelphia and nashville. You set high atop your mom's shoulder and held a sign that read "build a wall in my generation will tear it down."

You bravely say, "me too." you steadfastly say, "black lives matter." you wade through floodwaters, battle hurricanes, brave wildfires and mudslides to save a stranger. You battle your own quiet battles every single day. You drag your weary bodies to that extra shift so that your families will not feel the sting of scarcity. You leave loved ones at home to defend our country overseas, patrol our neighborhoods at night. You serve, you rescue, you help, you heal. That, more than any law or leader, debate work disagreement, that is what drives us towards progress. It May leave a mark — bullies May punch and it May leave a mark, but they have never managed to match the strength of stash strength and spirit of the people united— strength and spirit of the people united.

Politicians can be cheered for the promises they make. Our country will be judged by the promises we keep.

That is the measure of our character. That is who we are. Out of many, one. Ladies and gentlemen, have faith. Have faith. The state of our union is hopeful, resilient, and enduring. God bless you. God bless your family's. And May God bless the United States of America. Thank you.

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Monday, January 29, 2018

America must stop the Trump lies ~ what can we do?

The Dallas Morning News ~ echo letter to the editor, January 28, 2018 

Deterioration of discourse
Here I am, wringing my hands as the discourse continues to deteriorate. We have always had factions in America; I simply, naively believed that the factions that spewed hate and prejudice had been relegated to the darkest corners.

I am certain I am not the only person who has felt my patience wither; who has to fight to find my courtesy; who has lost the hope that promised a better world, not just for America.

Watching men and women grovel, lie or merely fail to tell the truth — I guess that is the new standard for our elected officials.

Republicans who historically claimed the moral high ground are making statements diametrically opposed to their own rhetoric. What does this all mean? We have come to a point that a roomful of people cannot or will not "hear" what is being said!

All the hullabaloo when President Barack Obama forgot his flag pin, yet the same folks see no problem with treason and anarchy in the White House. How can anyone condone the behavior of this president and claim that the rest of us are wrong to criticize him? 

I am asking — what are we going to do...?*

Diane Ramsey, Mesquite

*What are we going to do?  We must vote all Republicans out of office.

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Immigrants and Biblical "strangers"

"At issue are both broader and deeper questions about what it means to welcome the stranger," Mathew Schmalz

It's impossible to understand the hypocrisy expressed by Republicans who claim to be Evangelicals, Fundamentalist Christians, but refuse to admit that immigrants are metaphorically (and in fact) the "strangers" we are called to accept, as described in Holy Scripture.

Here is what the Bible says about welcoming refugees, as explained by Mathew Schmalz, Associate Professor of Religion, at The College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester MA, in an essay he published in January, 2017:

Donald Trump signed an (IMO - evil) executive order that placed a stay on refugees from seven Muslim majority countries.

Entrance of refugees from Syria, however, will be banned for the next 120 days.

Two days prior to that, he committed the United States to building a wall on its border with Mexico.

Soon after the order, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled a trip to the United States.

Trump has also proposed that Mexican goods be taxed at the rate of 20 percent to provide funds for building the wall. This would fulfill his campaign promise that Mexico would actually pay for the wall’s construction, in spite of America’s southern neighbor’s adamant protests.

For Christians, the questions about building the border wall or permitting immigrants and refugees into the United States involve a host of associated considerations not just about the specifics of immigration law, the economics of cheap labor coming across the border or potential terrorist threats.

At issue are both broader and deeper questions about what it means to welcome the stranger.

As a Roman Catholic scholar who lived in South Asia for a total of four years, I know what it is like to be initially considered a “stranger” but be quickly welcomed with open arms. And I, like all Christians, look to the Bible for guidance when asking about how to best welcome the stranger.

So, what does the Bible actually say?

We will all be strangers, sometime

The Bible affirms – strongly and unequivocally – the obligation to treat strangers with dignity and hospitality.The Old Testament.

In “Love the Stranger,” an article written for the annual meeting of the College Theological Society in 1991, biblical scholar Alice Laffey stated that in the Hebrew Bible, the words “gûr” and “gēr” are the ones most often glossed as referring to the “stranger,” though they are also translated as “newcomer” and “alien” or “resident alien,” respectively.

In the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, the word “gēr” appears almost 50 times, and the fifth book, Deuteronomy, delineates a number of specific provisions for treating “the stranger” not just with courtesy but also with active support and provision.

For example, the book of Deuteronomy sets out the requirement that a portion of produce be set aside by farmers every third year for strangers, widows and orphans. In the “temple sermon” attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, the Jewish people are exhorted to “not oppress the sojourner.”

Within the Hebrew Bible the requirements of hospitality are sometimes affirmed in very striking ways, as in the story from the book of Judges in which a host offers his own daughter to ruffians in order to safeguard his guest.

Of course, the Israelites themselves were “strangers” during their enslavement in Egypt and captivity in Babylon. The Hebrew Bible recognizes that every one of us can be a stranger and, for that very reason, we need to overcome our fear of those who live among us whom we do not know.

The stranger is Jesus in disguise

Within the New Testament, which Christians read in continuity with the Hebrew Bible or “The Old Testament,” the most often cited passage dealing with welcoming the stranger is from Matthew 25: 31-40.

This section speaks of the Final Judgment, when the righteous will be granted paradise and unrepentant sinners will be consigned to eternal fire. Christ says to those at his right hand that they are “blessed” because:

“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

The righteous then ask,

When did we see you, a stranger, and welcome you?”

Christ replies,

“‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

As Matthew 25 makes clear, the Christians should see everyone as “Christ” in the flesh. Indeed, scholars argue that in the New Testament, “stranger” and “neighbor” are in fact synonymous.

Thus the Golden Rule, “love your neighbor as yourself,” refers not just to people whom you know – your “neighbors” in a conventional sense – but also to people whom you do not know.

Beyond this, in the letters written by Paul of Tarsus (one of the most notable of early Christian missionaries), often known as the Pauline “Epistles,” it is made clear that in Christ,

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free, there is no male and female.”

From this perspective, being “one in Christ” should be taken literally as acknowledging no fundamental differences in kind among human beings.

Bible is unambiguous in its message.

Of course, in Christianity the strong admonitions toward treating the stranger with dignity have coexisted with actions that would seem to indicate an opposite attitude: pogroms against Jews, slavery, imperialism and colonialism have been sanctioned by Christians who nonetheless would have affirmed biblical principles regarding caring for those who seem “other” or “alien.”

Indeed, when it comes to the specific questions concerning building a wall on America’s border with Mexico or welcoming immigrants and refugees, some Christians would argue that doing so does not violate any biblical precepts concerning hospitality to the stranger, since the issue is one of legality and, of course, a good number of Christians did indeed support Donald Trump’s candidacy for the presidency.

Other Christians have taken a diametrically different position, and have called for cities and educational institutions to be set apart as “safe zones”for undocumented immigrants.

It is true that the application of biblical principles to contemporary matters of policy is less than clear to the many Christians who have taken opposing sides regarding how the United States should deal with immigrants, undocumented workers and refugees.

However, in my reading of the Bible, the principles regarding welcoming the stranger are broad-reaching and unambiguous.

Post Script by Maine Writer - I agree with Mathew Schmulz

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Meaningful World Economic Forum presenter ~ Angela Merkel

Two world wars and a genocide have a way of focusing the mind. Chancellor Angela Merkel gave meaningful remarks to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.  

Unlike Donald Trump, Merkel described factual economic and social challenges. (Donald Trump pandered to the WEF by begging for international investment to the US, in spite of the forum's focus being on improving the human condition.)

Her remarks to the WEF could be summarized in the cliche: "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it..."

"Lessons of the past”: German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. 

“100 years after the end of the First World War, and with eyewitnesses to the Second World War dying off, we must ask: have we really learned from this history, or haven’t we?”

In the era of Brexit, such statements are a reminder that the European Union (EU) was created not to tweak trade measures or to massage monetary policies, but to make Europeans stop killing each other. 

As Merkel noted, the generations born after World War II will determine whether those lessons stick. 

Merkel's implicit message was that the jury is still out.

Yet in Merkel’s remarks, the generational divide appeared most consequential not in attitudes toward the European Union or immigration, but rather in another context: digitalization.
The postwar generations

Merkel was born in 1954: a true representative of the postwar generation. Yet, she appeared at Davos, as she does in so many international settings, as the staid senior counterpoint to France’s flashier President Emmanuel Macron, who was born in 1970. 

To express concern about “postwar generations” is not necessarily to hand elders the moral upper hand: Today’s seniors as well as young people are products of postwar Europe.

The economic challenges of an aging society are familiar in Europe. Fewer working people paying into the system, more retirees drawing from it. 

Moreover, Merkel also lamented another pitfall of an aging population – a lack of appetite for innovation, particularly in regard to digital technologies. Germany, Merkel bluntly said, is far behind the digital curve. Yet delaying digitization because seniors are comfortable without it is a disservice to younger generations.

Nevertheless, Merkel held, Europe has a critical role to play in shaping the digital future by navigating the issue of ownership of data. As she put it: In the United States, private firms have nearly uninhibited ownership of data; in China, the bodies collecting data and the state function almost as a single unit. Europe’s social market economy offers a middle way: a more just digital order built on a balance between private ownership and state control of data.

The “social market economy” does not just evoke Europe’s more generous welfare and labor policies. It is also a historical reference: a nod to the architects of postwar West Germany, who sought a middle way between free market capitalism and a state-planned economy. In the 1950s, memories of capitalism’s failure in the Great Depression, and its catastrophic political consequences, were close at hand. The equally frightening counterpart was the repressive, state-command economy of the USSR and its satellites. Now, Merkel seemed to say, the social market economy not only remains necessary: It should be a model for solving a distinctly 21st-century problem.

Germany’s concern for privacy is also a legacy of the past. During the Great Depression, social workers’ collection of information to assist with clients’ medical and mental health needs seemed like a good idea – until the Nazis got their hands on all those records. For decades after the war, West Germany took painstaking measures to protect citizens’ privacy. The state-run telephone company, for example, did not keep records of numbers dialed by customers lest someone, someday be tempted to use those records to track a private citizen’s telephoning habits.

That was all well and good as long as the state had a monopoly on telephone lines.

If older Germans show little appetite for full-bore digitalization, younger Germans are as quick to post selfies in an age of facial recognition technology as their U.S. counterparts. Germany maintains stricter privacy laws than many other states, but German industry complains that such laws hinder innovation. As Merkel put it, “The Europeans haven’t decided how we want to handle data, and there’s a great danger that we may be too slow, that the world may steamroll us as we conduct philosophical debates about the sovereignty of data.”

Merkel’s metaphoric eye-roll at “philosophical debate” evoked a popular stereotype of Europeans - but one with queasy associations. The Weimar-era Nazis and Communists mocked parliamentary democracy as an impotent debating society. They, by contrast, were parties of action.

Merkel is not criticizing parliamentary democracy. She’s trying to save it from a re-emergent radical right. But in an era when firms like Google are more powerful than most states on the planet, liberal democracy faces a threat that is at least as potent as xenophobic political parties: preservation of the rights of the individual if individuals’ data is the property of private corporations or the state.

Merkel’s – and Europe’s – quandary is this: how to move forward in the digital age when Europe’s contribution is to seek balance between state power, individual rights and the dynamism of capitalism. Achieving that balance – achieving any balance – means slowing things down. It means philosophizing.

And so the question at hand may not be: Will postwar generations remember the lessons of the 20th century? Rather, the real question may be: Is this history an adequate guide to our present-day circumstances? And if it isn’t, can Germany, Europe or some other actor find an alternative in time to save us from the privacy-wrecking options already in play?

Additionally, Chancellor Merkel warned the audience:

Angela Merkel 

Germany is currently going through a political impasse — something that Europe wants to see fixed very soon in order for it to move forward with more integration.

Speaking at Davos, German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that Germany has problems of its own.

"Frankly speaking, the country I have the honor to represent and where I am chancellor has difficulties. And polarization is something that we see in our country as well, which we haven't had for decades," she said.

Angela Merkel at Davos: Even though she didn't mention him, was it all about Trump?

German Chancellor said we have not learned the lessons of history

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Sunday, January 28, 2018

America's labor shortage and help for farmers

Republicans are averse to investing in education and they also don't want farmers to have access to labor. There is no international company that wants to invest in helping Donald Trump when his only ambition is to make the rich more wealthy while farmers and middle class workers struggle.

Donald Trump was making a plea to the rich who gathered in Davos Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum, because he wanted their money invested in the United States. 

Unfortunately, the rich people who can afford to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) won't be enticed to help Donald Trump to bolster the American economy. Anybody who believes otherwise is delusional. Those rich who gathered in Davos were looking for economic prosperity, to feather their own philanthropist or governmental nests.

Nevertheless, in Donald Trump's "straight jacket" teleprompter speech delivered to the attendees who bothered to listen (to quote the description of his delivery style, reported by Peggy Noonan on Morning Joe).....he said "America is open for business".

Unfortunately, what Trump forgot to tell the audience was that the US labor shortage is acute. In fact, it's been worsened by Republican cuts to education that have made it difficult for potential workers to access the training needed to meet the needs of many employers.  

Rich people are looking for places to invest where highly skilled laborers are affordable for their purposes. That's not here in America, because Republicans have taken away the tax revenues that would be available to invest in growing our nation's workforce. In other words, if you want to open a business in America, the company must train the workers on their own payroll, plus pay for their health care.  Again, anybody who believes rich international investors want to make this deal with Donald Trump, must be delusional, especially when China and India have the infrastructure to make their businesses profitable.

Yet, American farmers need the help of unskilled laborers and Republicans are preventing them from hiring the people who will work in the harvests.  

Here is the opinion on this under-reported subject described in an editorial "echo", published in America Magazine.  

U.S. agriculture is facing a silent crisis. 

The Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants has sown fear among farmworker communities, making workers harder to find than ever. 

Farm owners across the country are anxious about meeting their labor needs. Millions of dollars worth of crops are at the risk of rotting.

The present labor shortage reveals U.S. society’s dependence on farmworkers. The hands that pick what Americans eat are hands the country relies on. And with almost no native-born Americans willing to do the job, Latino immigrants have become indispensable. Even in the midst of the severe fires in California, farmworkers could not stop working lest harvests be lost.

Yet the nation’s collective reliance on farmworkers is not reflected in the way they are treated. In California, which produces two-thirds of the nation’s fruits, rates of food insecurity for farmworkers and their families range from 40 percent to 70 percent. Farmworkers’ low wages directly contribute to growers’ profit, but farmworkers regularly cannot afford to buy the food they pick.

Working conditions for farmworkers can be (and are often) harsh. 

Even under the best conditions, a day of work is one of hard manual labor, with long hours and often high temperatures. The Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency has approved the use of a pesticide known to be harmful to human beings. Farmworkers have already gotten sick on the job as a result.

Society’s failures toward farmworkers extend beyond poor working conditions. The children of migrant farmworkers endure seasonal displacement that can make staying in school difficult. 

Social mobility is weak for those born into farmworker communities, creating a generational cycle of poverty. State and local governments resist attempts by farmworkers to organize for greater protections. And despite being dependent on farmworker labor, many local communities are openly hostile to migrant workers.

It does not have to be this way. 

In 2016, California recognized the right of farmworkers to equal overtime pay. In Florida, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers secured commitments from fast-food chains to buy only from agricultural sources that meet improved standards on pay and work conditions. That model of direct pressure on major companies is spreading. In Vermont, immigrant dairy workers just claimed victory in an agreement with the ice cream maker Ben and Jerry’s.

It is curious that so many Americans care about eating ethically (vegan, vegetarian, organic or free range) but do not think as much about the poverty and exploitation among the largely Latino farmworkers who are making their meals possible. 

Labeling programs, including the Equitable Food Initiative label, the Food Justice Certified label and the United Farm Workers Union label, support the fair treatment of farmworkers, but there is little indication that products carrying those labels are sought out by consumers.

The United States must do more to treat farmworkers with justice. A huge step would be to lift the threat of deportation that looms over many farmworkers by passing comprehensive immigration reform that recognizes both the need for labor in the United States and those laborers’ right to dignity and opportunity. Rectifying the injustice of the 1930s—when farmworkers were excluded from new federal labor standards—and finally offering farmworkers the same labor protections as other workers is also necessary. Farmwork, like all work, carries an inherent dignity and should be a viable path for immigrant families into the American middle class.

The common thread in all the challenges farmworkers face is a lack of urgency. Perhaps every time Americans say grace before a meal, they could spare a moment to remember those who make that meal possible.

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Winston Churchill echo about the arms race *danger*

As Winston Churchill* (1874-1965) warned, if we ramp up the arms race, we'll just "make the rubble bounce." ~ an echo** from The Dallas Morning News editorial:

The stakes are even higher today because so many countries have nuclear weapons - and they could set the world on fire. This moment calls for a strong, but nuanced and strategic policy, not incendiary bluster. (Attention, you-know-who).

In Europe, there's increased talk of a European Union nuclear weapons program that would refocus France's arsenal to protect the rest of Europe and operate under a common European command. Supposedly this plan would be enacted only if the Continent could no longer count on American protection.

Therein lies the problem. The world is rapidly moving away from reducing nukes toward adding nukes, an escalation in Europe's military power and a break with American leadership. This is one of the consequences of Europe's insecurity about the White House's relationship with Russia and Russia's more aggressive policies.

Similar angst is being stirred in Asia, where Kim Jong-un has forced the proliferation issue like a teen-ager playing "chicken" by firing four ballistic missiles toward Japan. 

To counter the continuing recklessnessby Kim Jong-un, the U.S. is in the process of sharing its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense - known as THAAD - with South Korea, which is most immediately at risk.

Both China and Russia have yelped loudly in protest - they complain the THAAD radar might allow us to peep into their military activity. But the U.S. already has that capability in other radar systems and has every right to defend itself.

At the same time, Russia has escalated stakes in the region by launching a cruise missile in violation of the 1987 INF treaty.

The U.S. is being tested on multiple fronts. President Trump's statements have been divergent: He is on record saying, "Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all." He also talked of reaching a new arms agreement with Moscow that would reduce arms "very substantially."

A show of strength is warranted, but it's good to keep in mind the American arsenal is as much about reassuring allies as deterring enemies. Reassurance is about credible commitments backstopped by steady leadership. Both are now in question.

Projecting an image of sobriety and resolve must be at the core of our statecraft. We might not convince Russia and China of our best intentions, but we do have allies who want to be reassured.

And Trump should let his friends in Russia know - preferably by high-level talks rather than tweets - that we will make sure NATO's deterrence forces are well-prepared with the latest technology to counter a first-strike from Russia.

An arms race is hard to stop, but U.S. policy shouldn't speed it up.

*Winston Churchill- British statesman, army officer and writer, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955.

**MaineWriter "echo"- opinions published and re-blogged, found in randomly selected newspapers

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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Donald Trump is making China great again

China is filling the global leadership gap created by Donald Trump.
It's their national plan to influence the world order, but Donald Trump is giving the Chinese the chance to accelerate their schedule.
This The New Yorker article is a warning about the impact of the failed Donald Trump leadership and the consequences of his incompetent foreign policy.

Donald Trump isn't putting America first, as he claims. 
Rather, Trump is opening the door for China to be the world leader when Trumpist foreign retreatism creates a power void.

As Donald Trump surrenders America’s global commitments, China's leader Xi Jinping is learning to pick up the pieces. ~

By Evan Osnos (Making China Great Again) in The New Yorker

When the Chinese action movie “Wolf Warrior II” arrived in theaters, in July, it looked like a standard shoot-’em-up, with a lonesome hero and frequent explosions. Within two weeks, however, “Wolf Warrior II” had become the highest-grossing Chinese movie of all time. Some crowds gave it standing ovations; others sang the national anthem. In October, China selected the movie as its official entry in the foreign-language category of the Academy Awards.

The hero, Leng Feng, played by the action star Wu Jing (who also directed the film), is a veteran of the “wolf warriors,” special forces of the People’s Liberation Army. In retirement, he works as a guard in a fictional African country, on the frontier of China’s ventures abroad. A rebel army, backed by Western mercenaries, attempts to seize power, and the country is engulfed in civil war. Leng shepherds civilians to the gates of the Chinese Embassy, where the Ambassador wades into the battle and declares, “Stand down! We are Chinese! China and Africa are friends.” The rebels hold their fire, and survivors are spirited to safety aboard a Chinese battleship.

Leng rescues an American doctor, who tells him that the Marines will come to their aid. “But where are they now?” he asks her. She calls the American consulate and gets a recorded message: “Unfortunately, we are closed.” In the final battle, a villain, played by the American actor Frank Grillo, tells Leng, “People like you will always be inferior to people like me. Get used to it.” Leng beats the villain to death and replies, “That was fucking history.” The film closes with the image of a Chinese passport and the words “Don’t give up if you run into danger abroad. Please remember, a strong motherland will always have your back!”

When I moved to Beijing, in 2005, little of that story would have made sense to a Chinese audience. With doses of invention and schmalz, the movie draws on recent events. 

In 2015, China’s Navy conducted its first international evacuation, rescuing civilians from fighting in Yemen; last year, China opened its first overseas military base, in Djibouti. 

There has been a deeper development as well. For decades, Chinese nationalism revolved around victimhood: the bitter legacy of invasion and imperialism, and the memory of a China so weak that, at the end of the nineteenth century, the philosopher Liang Qichao called his country “the sick man of Asia.” “Wolf Warrior II” captures a new, muscular iteration of China’s self-narrative, much as Rambo’s heroics expressed the swagger of the Reagan era.

Recently, I met Wu Jing in Los Angeles, where he was promoting the movie in advance of the Academy Awards.

Wu is forty-three, with short, spiky hair, a strong jaw, and an air of prickly bravado. He was on crutches, the result of “jumping off too many buildings,” he told me, in Chinese. (He speaks little English.) “In the past, all of our movies were about, say, the Opium Wars—how other countries waged war against China,” he said. “But Chinese people have always wanted to see that our country could, one day, have the power to protect its own people and contribute to peace in the world.”

As a favored son of China, celebrated by the state, Wu doesn’t complain about censorship and propaganda.

He went on, “Although we’re not living in a peaceful time, we live in a peaceful country.

I don’t think we should be spending much energy thinking about negative aspects that would make us unhappy. 

President Dwight Eisenhower 34th president of the US, argued that America’s authority could not rest on military power alone
Rather, cherish this moment!”

China has never seen such a moment, when its pursuit of a larger role in the world coincides with America’s pursuit of a smaller one. Ever since the Second World War, the United States has advocated an international order based on a free press and judiciary, human rights, free trade, and protection of the environment.

America planted those ideas in the rebuilding of Germany and Japan, and spread them with alliances around the world. In March, 1959, President Eisenhower argued that America’s authority could not rest on military power alone. “We could be the wealthiest and the most mighty nation and still lose the battle of the world if we do not help our world neighbors protect their freedom and advance their social and economic progress,” he said. “It is not the goal of the American people that the United States should be the richest nation in the graveyard of history.”

Under the banner of “America First,” Donald Trump is reducing U.S. commitments abroad.

On his third day in office, he withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.), a twelve-nation trade deal designed by the United States as a counterweight to a rising China. To allies in Asia, the withdrawal damaged America’s credibility. “You won’t be able to see that overnight,” Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore, told me, at an event in Washington. “It’s like when you draw a red line and then you don’t take it seriously. Was there pain? You didn’t see it, but I’m quite sure there’s an impact.”

In a speech to Communist Party officials last January 20th, Major General Jin Yinan, a strategist at China’s National Defense University, celebrated America’s pullout from the trade deal. “We are quiet about it,” he said. “We repeatedly state that Trump ‘harms China.’ We want to keep it that way. In fact, he has given China a huge gift. That is the American withdrawal from T.P.P.” Jin, whose remarks later circulated, told his audience, “As the U.S. retreats globally, China shows up.”

For years, China’s leaders predicted that a time would come—perhaps midway through this century—when it could project its own values abroad. In the age of “America First,” that time has come far sooner than expected.

Barack Obama’s foreign policy was characterized as leading from behind. Trump’s doctrine may come to be understood as retreating from the front. Trump has severed American commitments that he considers risky, costly, or politically unappealing. In his first week in office, he tried to ban travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries, arguing that they pose a terrorist threat. (After court battles, a version of the ban took effect in December.) 

Trump announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris
Agreement on climate change and from UNESCO, and he abandoned United Nations talks on migration. 

Moreover, he might renege on the Iran nuclear deal, a free-trade agreement with South Korea, and NAFTA. 

His proposal for the 2018 budget would cut foreign assistance by forty-two per cent, or $11.5 billion, and it reduces American funding for development projects, such as those financed by the World Bank. 

In December, Trump threatened to cut off aid to any country that supports a resolution condemning his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. (The next day, in defiance of Trump’s threat, the resolution passed overwhelmingly.)

To frame his vision of a smaller presence abroad, Trump often portrays America’s urgent task as one of survival. As he put it during the campaign, “At what point do you say, ‘Hey, we have to take care of ourselves’? So, you know, I know the outer world exists and I’ll be very cognizant of that, but, at the same time, our country is disintegrating.”

So far, Trump has proposed reducing U.S. contributions to the U.N. by forty per cent, and pressured the General Assembly to cut six hundred million dollars from its peacekeeping budget. In his first speech to the U.N., in September, Trump ignored its collective spirit and celebrated sovereignty above all, saying, “As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first.”

China’s approach is more ambitious. In recent years, it has taken steps to accrue national power on a scale that no country has attempted since the Cold War, by increasing its investments in the types of assets that established American authority in the previous century: foreign aid, overseas security, foreign influence, and the most advanced new technologies, such as artificial intelligence.

China has become one of the leading contributors to the U.N.’s budget and to its peacekeeping force, and it has joined talks to address global problems such as terrorism, piracy, and nuclear proliferation.

And China has embarked on history’s most expensive foreign infrastructure plan. Under the Belt and Road Initiative, it is building bridges, railways, and ports in Asia, Africa, and beyond. If the initiative’s cost reaches a trillion dollars, as predicted, it will be more than seven times that of the Marshall Plan, which the U.S. launched in 1947, spending a hundred and thirty billion, in today’s dollars, on rebuilding postwar Europe.

China is also seizing immediate opportunities presented by Trump. Days before the T.P.P. withdrawal, President Xi Jinping spoke at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, a first for a paramount Chinese leader. Xi reiterated his support for the Paris climate deal and compared protectionism to “locking oneself in a dark room.” He said, “No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war.” This was an ironic performance—for decades, China has relied on protectionism—but Trump provided an irresistible opening. China is negotiating with at least sixteen countries to form the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a free-trade zone that excludes the United States, which it proposed in 2012 as a response to the T.P.P. If the deal is signed next year, as projected, it will create the world’s largest trade bloc, by population.

Some of China’s growing sway is unseen by the public.

In October, the World Trade Organization (WTO) convened ministers from nearly forty countries in Marrakech, Morocco, for the kind of routine diplomatic session that updates rules on trade in agriculture and seafood. The Trump Administration, which has been critical of the W.T.O., sent an official who delivered a speech and departed early. “For two days of meetings, there were no Americans,” a former U.S. official told me. “And the Chinese were going into every session and chortling about how they were now guarantors of the trading system.”

By setting more of the world’s rules, China hopes to “break the Western moral advantage,” which identifies “good and bad” political systems, as Li Ziguo, at the China Institute of International Studies, has said.

In November, 2016, Meng Hongwei, a Chinese vice-minister of public security, became the first Chinese president of Interpol, the international police organization; the move alarmed human-rights groups, because Interpol has been criticized for helping authoritarian governments target and harass dissidents and pro-democracy activists abroad.

By some measures, the U.S. will remain dominant for years to come.

In fact, the US Navy has at least twelve aircraft carriers. China has two. The U.S. has collective defense treaties with more than fifty countries. China has one, with North Korea. Moreover, China’s economic path is complicated by heavy debts, bloated state-owned enterprises, rising inequality, and slowing growth. The workers who once powered China’s boom are graying. China’s air, water, and soil are disastrously polluted.

And yet, the gap has narrowed.

In 2000, the U.S. accounted for thirty-one per cent of the global economy, and China accounted for four per cent. Today, the U.S.’s share is twenty-four per cent and China’s fifteen per cent. If its economy surpasses America’s in size, as experts predict, it will be the first time in more than a century that the world’s largest economy belongs to a non-democratic country. At that point, China will play a larger role in shaping, or thwarting, values such as competitive elections, freedom of expression, and an open Internet.

Already, the world has less confidence in America than we might guess. Last year, the Pew Research Center asked people in thirty-seven countries which leader would do the right thing when it came to world affairs. They chose Xi Jinping over Donald Trump, twenty-eight per cent to twenty-two per cent.

Facing criticism for his lack of interest in global leadership, Trump, in December, issued a national-security strategy that singled out China and Russia and declared, “We will raise our competitive game to meet that challenge, to protect American interests, and to advance our values.”

But, in his speech unveiling the strategy, he hailed his pullout from “job-killing deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the very expensive and unfair Paris climate accord.”

The next day, Roger Cohen, of the Times, described the contradictions of Trump’s foreign policy as a “farce.” 

In fact, some allies have taken to avoiding the Administration. “I’ll tell you, honestly, for a foreigner, in the past we were used to going to the White House to get our work done,” Shivshankar Menon, India’s former foreign secretary and national-security adviser to the Prime Minister, told me. “Now we go to the corporations, to Congress, to the Pentagon, wherever.”

On his recent visit to Washington, Prime Minister Lee, of Singapore, said that the rest of the world can no longer pretend to ignore the contrasts between American and Chinese leadership. “Since the war, you’ve held the peace. You’ve provided security. You’ve opened your markets. You’ve developed links across the Pacific,” he said. “And now, with a rising set of players on the west coast of the Pacific, where does America want to go? Do you want to be engaged?” He went on, “If you are not there, then everybody else in the world will look around and say, I want to be friends with both the U.S. and the Chinese—and the Chinese are ready, and I’ll start with them.”

Xi Jinping has the kind of Presidency that Donald Trump might prefer. Last fall, he started his second term with more unobstructed power than any Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping, who died in 1997. The Nineteenth Party Congress, held in October, had the spirit of a coronation, in which the Party declared Xi the “core leader,” an honor conferred only three other times since the founding of the nation (on Mao Zedong, Deng, and Jiang Zemin), and added “Xi Jinping Thought” to its constitution—effectively allowing him to hold power for life, if he chooses. He enjoys total dominion over the media: at the formal unveiling of his new Politburo, the Party barred Western news organizations that it finds troublesome; when Xi appeared on front pages across the country, his visage was a thing of perfection, airbrushed by Party “news workers” to the sheen of a summer peach.

For decades, China avoided directly challenging America’s primacy in the global order, instead pursuing a strategy that Deng, in 1990, called “hide your strength and bide your time.” But Xi, in his speech to the Party Congress, declared the dawn of “a new era,” one in which China moves “closer to center stage.” He presented China as “a new option for other countries,” calling this alternative to Western democracy the zhongguo fang’an, the “Chinese solution.”

When I arrived in Beijing a few weeks later, the pipe organ of Chinese propaganda was at full force. The state press ran a profile of Xi that was effusive even by the standards of the form, depicting him as an “unrivalled helmsman,” whose “extensive knowledge of literature and the arts makes him a consummate communicator in the international arena.” The article observed, “Xi treats everyone with sincerity, warmth, attentiveness, and forthrightness.” It quoted a Russian linguist who had translated his Party Congress speech: “I read from morning till midnight, even forgetting to have meals.”

Xi has inscribed on his country a rigid vision of modernity. A campaign to clean up “low-end population” has evicted migrant workers from Beijing, and a campaign against dissent has evicted the most outspoken intellectuals from online debate. The Party is reaching deeper into private institutions. Foreign universities with programs in China, such as Duke, have been advised that they must elevate a Communist Party secretary to a decision-making role on their local boards of trustees. The Party is encouraging dark imaginings about the outside world: posters warn the public to “protect national secrets” and to watch out for “spies.” Beijing is more convenient than it was not long ago, but also less thrilling; it has gained wealth but lost some of its improvisational energy.

Until recently, Chinese nationalists were crowded out by a widespread desire to be embraced by the outside world. They see the parallel ascents of Xi and Trump as cause for celebration, and accuse “white lotuses,” their term for Chinese liberals, of sanctimony and intolerance. They reject political correctness in issues of race and worry about Islamic extremism. (Muslims, though they make up less than two per cent of China’s population, are the objects of fevered animosity on its Internet.) Last June, Yao Chen, one of China’s most popular actresses, received a barrage of criticism online after she tried to raise awareness of the global refugee crisis. (She was forced to clarify that she was not calling for China to accept refugees.)

Back in 2008, I met a jittery young conservative named Rao Jin, a contrarian on the fringes of Chinese politics. Long before Trump launched his campaign or railed against the media, Rao created a Web site called, which was dedicated to criticizing Western news coverage. Over lunch in Beijing recently, he exuded calm vindication. “Things that we used to push are now mainstream,” not only in China but globally, he said. In Rao’s view, Trump’s “America First” slogan is an honest declaration, a realist vision stripped of false altruism and piety. “From his perspective, America’s interests come first,” Rao said. “To Chinese people, this is a big truth, and you can’t deny it.” Rao has watched versions of his ideas gain strength in Russia, France, Great Britain, and the United States. “In this world, power speaks,” he said, making a fist, a gesture that Trump adopted in his Inauguration speech and Xi displayed in a photo taken at the start of his new term.

China’s leaders rarely air their views about an American President, but well-connected scholars—the ranking instituteniks of Beijing and Shanghai and Guangzhou—can map the contours of their assessments. Yan Xuetong is the dean of Tsinghua University’s Institute of Modern International Relations.

At sixty-five, Yan is bouncy and trim, with short silver hair and a roaring laugh. When I arrived at his office one evening, he donned a black wool cap and coat, and we set off into the cold. Before I could ask a question, he said, “I think Trump is America’s Gorbachev.” In China, Mikhail Gorbachev is known as the leader who led an empire to collapse. “The United States will suffer,” he warned.

Over a dinner of dumplings, tofu, and stir-fried pork, Yan said that America’s strength must be measured partly by its ability to persuade: “American leadership has already dramatically declined in the past ten months. In 1991, when Bush, Sr., launched the war against Iraq, it got thirty-four countries to join the war effort. This time, if Trump launched a war against anyone, I doubt he would get support from even five countries. Even the U.S. Congress is trying to block his ability to start a nuclear war against North Korea.” For Chinese leaders, Yan said, “Trump is the biggest strategic opportunity.” I asked Yan how long he thought the opportunity would last. “As long as Trump stays in power,” he replied.

The leadership in Beijing did not always have this view of Trump.

Rather, in the years leading up to the 2016 election, it had adopted a confrontational posture toward the United States. Beijing worked with Washington on climate change and on the Iran nuclear deal, but tensions were building: China was hacking U.S. industrial secrets, building airports on top of reefs and rocks in the South China Sea, creating obstacles for American firms investing in China, blocking American Internet businesses, and denying visas to American scholars and journalists. During the campaign, China specialists in both parties called on the next President to strengthen alliances across Asia and to step up pressure on Beijing.

When Trump won, the Party “was in a kind of shock,” Michael Pillsbury, a former Pentagon aide and the author of “The Hundred-Year Marathon,” a 2015 account of China’s global ambitions, told me. “They feared that he was their mortal enemy.” The leadership drafted potential strategies for retaliation, including threatening American companies in China and withholding investment from the districts of influential members of Congress.

Most of all, they studied Trump. Kevin Rudd, the former Prime Minister of Australia, who is in contact with leaders in Beijing, told me, “Since the Chinese were stunned that Trump was elected, they were intrinsically respectful of how he could’ve achieved it. An entire battery of think tanks was set to work, to analyze how this had occurred and how Trump had negotiated his way through to prevail.”

Before he entered the White House, China started assembling a playbook for dealing with him. Shen Dingli, a foreign-affairs specialist at Fudan University, in Shanghai, explained that Trump is “very similar to Deng Xiaoping,” the pragmatic Party boss who opened China to economic reform. “Deng Xiaoping said, ‘Whatever can make China good is a good “ism.” ’ He doesn’t care if it’s capitalism. For Trump, it’s all about jobs,” Shen said.

The first test came less than a month after the election, when Trump took a call from Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen. “Xi Jinping was angry,” Shen said. “But Xi Jinping made a great effort not to create a war of words.” Instead, a few weeks later, Xi revealed a powerful new intercontinental ballistic missile. “It sends a message: I have this—what do you want to do?” Shen said. “Meantime, he sends Jack Ma”—the founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba—“to meet with Trump in New York, offering one million jobs through Alibaba.” Shen went on, “China knows Trump can be unpredictable, so we have weapons to make him predictable, to contain him. He would trade Taiwan for jobs.”

Inside the new White House, there were two competing strategies on China.

One, promoted by Stephen Bannon, then the chief strategist, wanted the President to take a hard line, even at the risk of a trade war. Bannon often described China as a “civilizational challenge.”

The other view was associated with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, who had received guidance from Henry Kissinger and met repeatedly with the Chinese Ambassador, Cui Tiankai. Kushner argued for a close, collegial bond between Xi and Trump, and he prevailed.

He and Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, arranged for Trump and Xi to meet at Mar-a-Lago on April 7th, for a cordial get-to-know-you summit. To set the tone, Trump presented two of Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s children, Arabella and Joseph, who sang “Jasmine Flower,” a classic Chinese ballad, and recited poetry. While Xi was at the resort, the Chinese government approved three trademark applications from Ivanka’s company, clearing the way for her to sell jewelry, handbags, and spa services in China.

Kushner has faced scrutiny for potential conflicts of interest arising from his China diplomacy and his family’s businesses. During the transition, Kushner dined with Chinese business executives while the Kushner Companies was seeking their investment in a Manhattan property. (After that was revealed in news reports, the firm ended the talks.) In May, Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, was found to have mentioned his White House position while she courted investors during a trip to China. The Kushner Companies apologized.

During the Mar-a-Lago meetings, Chinese officials noticed that, on some of China’s most sensitive issues, Trump did not know enough to push back. “Trump is taking what Xi Jinping says at face value—on Tibet, Taiwan, North Korea,” Daniel Russel, who was, until March, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told me. “That was a big lesson for them.” Afterward, Trump conceded to the Wall Street Journal how little he understood about China’s relationship to North Korea: “After listening for ten minutes, I realized it’s not so easy.”

Russel spoke to Chinese officials after the Mar-a-Lago visit. “The Chinese felt like they had Trump’s number,” he said. “Yes, there is this random, unpredictable Ouija-board quality to him that worries them, and they have to brace for some problems, but, fundamentally, what they said was ‘He’s a paper tiger.’ Because he hasn’t delivered on any of his threats. There’s no wall on Mexico. There’s no repeal of health care. He can’t get the Congress to back him up. He’s under investigation.”

After the summit, the Pangoal Institution, a Beijing think tank, published an analysis of the Trump Administration, describing it as a den of warring “cliques,” the most influential of which was the “Trump family clan.” The Trump clan appears to “directly influence final decisions” on business and diplomacy in a way that “has rarely been seen in the political history of the United States,” the analyst wrote. He summed it up using an obscure phrase from feudal China: jiatianxia—“to treat the state as your possession.”

After Mar-a-Lago, Trump heaped praise on Xi. “We had a great chemistry, I think. I mean, at least I had a great chemistry—maybe he didn’t like me, but I think he liked me,” he said on the Fox Business Network. Meanwhile, Chinese analysts were struggling to keep up with the news about the rise and fall of White House advisers. Following a report that Tillerson had disparaged the President’s intelligence, Shen, of Fudan University, asked me, “What is a moron?”

By early November, Trump was preparing for his first trip to Beijing. Some China specialists in the U.S. government saw it as a chance to press on substantive issues. “We have to start standing up for our interests, because they have come farther, and faster, than people thought, pretty much without anyone waking up to it,” a U.S. official involved in planning the visit told me. Among other things, the U.S. wanted China to open up areas of its economy, such as cloud computing, to foreign competitors; crack down on the theft of intellectual property; and stop forcing American firms to transfer technology as a condition for entry to the Chinese market. “It is time for a sense of urgency,” the official said.

Cui Tiankai, the Chinese Ambassador to Washington, billed Trump’s visit as a “state visit plus.” An American with high-level contacts in Beijing told me that they planned to “wow him with five thousand years of Chinese history. They believe he is uniquely susceptible to that.”

The strategy had worked before. In the mid-nineteen-eighties, the C.I.A. commissioned a China scholar named Richard Solomon to write a handbook for American leaders, “Chinese Political Negotiating Behavior.” Solomon, whose study was later declassified, noted that some of China’s most effective techniques were best described in the nineteenth century, when a Manchu prince named Qiying recorded his preferred approach. “Barbarians,” Qiying noted, respond well to “receptions and entertainment, after which they have had a feeling of appreciation.” Solomon warned that modern Chinese leaders “use the trappings of imperial China” to “impress foreign officials with their grandeur and seriousness of purpose.” Solomon advised, “Resist the flattery of being an ‘old friend’ or the sentimentality that Chinese hospitality readily evokes.” (Henry Kissinger, he wrote, once gushed to his hosts, “After a dinner of Peking duck I’ll agree to anything.”)

Following the Nineteenth Party Congress, Trump marvelled at Xi’s new power. “Now some people might call him the king of China,” he told an interviewer, shortly before his trip. Trump arrived in more modest standing. A few hours before his plane touched down, on November 8th, Republicans were thumped in state elections, losing governors’ races in Virginia and New Jersey. His approval rating was thirty-seven per cent, the lowest of any President at that point in his tenure since Gallup started measuring it. Three former aides had been charged with felonies in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. It was the first summit since 1972 in which the American President had less leverage and political security than his Chinese counterpart.

Xi deftly flattered his guest. Upon Trump’s arrival, they took a sunset tour of the Forbidden City. They drank tea, watched an opera performance at the Pavilion of Pleasant Sounds, and admired an antique gold urn. The next morning, at the Great Hall of the People, Trump was greeted by an even more lavish ceremony, with Chinese military bands, the firing of cannons, and throngs of schoolchildren, who waved colored pompoms and yelled, in Chinese, “Uncle Trump!” Government censors struck down critical comments about Trump on social media.

Trump and Xi met for several hours and then appeared before the press. “The hosting of the military parade this morning was magnificent,” Trump said, and he praised Xi as a “highly respected and powerful representative of his people.” He mentioned the need to coöperate with regard to North Korea, and to fix an “unfair” trade relationship, but he said nothing about intellectual property or market access. “I don’t blame China,” Trump said. “Who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens?” There were gasps from business leaders and journalists. “I give China great credit.” Some Chinese members of the audience cheered. Xi and Trump took no questions from the press.

In preparations for Trump’s meeting with Xi, the State Department had urged the President to bring up a human-rights case: that of the poet Liu Xia, the widow of the late Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is under house arrest, without charges. According to two U.S. officials, Trump never mentioned it.

Trump’s deference to Xi—the tributes and tender musings about chemistry—sent a message to other countries that are debating whether to tilt toward the U.S. or China. Daniel Russel said, “The American President is here. He’s looking in awe at the Forbidden City. He’s looking in awe at Xi Jinping, and he’s choosing China because of its market, because of its power. If you thought that America was going to choose you and these ‘old-fashioned’ treaties and twentieth-century values, instead of Xi Jinping and the Chinese market, well, think again.”

In concrete terms, why does it matter if America retreats and China advances? One realm in which the effects are visible is technology, where Chinese and American companies are competing not simply for profits but also to shape the rules concerning privacy, fairness, and censorship. China bars eleven of the world’s twenty-five most popular Web sites—including Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Wikipedia—because it fears they will dominate local competitors or amplify dissent. The Chinese government has promoted that approach under a doctrine that it calls “cyber-sovereignty.” In December, China hosted an Internet conference that attracted American C.E.O.s such as Tim Cook, of Apple, even though China has forced Apple to remove apps that allow users to circumvent the “Great Firewall.”

In Beijing, I hailed a cab and headed to the northwest corner of the city, where a Chinese company called SenseTime is working on facial recognition, a field at the intersection of science and individual rights. The company was founded in 2014 by Tang Xiao’ou, a computer scientist who trained at M.I.T. and returned to Hong Kong to teach. (For years, China’s startups lagged behind those in Silicon Valley. But there is more parity now. Of the forty-one private companies worldwide that reached “unicorn” status in 2017—meaning they had valuations of a billion dollars or more—fifteen are Chinese and seventeen are American.)

SenseTime’s offices have a sleek, industrial look. Nobody wears an identification badge, because cameras recognize employees, causing doors to open. I was met there by June Jin, the chief marketing officer, who earned an M.B.A. at the University of Chicago and worked at Microsoft, Apple, and Tesla. Jin walked me over to a display of lighthearted commercial uses of facial-recognition technology. I stepped before a machine, which resembled a slender A.T.M., that assessed my “happiness” and other attributes, guessed that I am a thirty-three-year-old male, and, based on that information, played me an advertisement for skateboarding attire. When I stepped in front of it again, it revised its calculation to forty-one years old, and played me an ad for liquor. (I was, at the time, forty.) The machines are used in restaurants to entertain waiting guests. But they contain a hidden element of artificial intelligence as well: images are collected and compared with a facial database of V.I.P. customers. “A waiter or waitress comes up and maybe we get you a seat,” Jin said. “That’s the beauty of A.I.”

Next, Jin showed me how the technology is used by police. She said, “We work very closely with the Public Security Bureau,” which applies SenseTime’s algorithms to millions of photo I.D.s. As a demonstration, using the company’s employee database, a video screen displayed a live feed of a busy intersection nearby. “In real time, it captures all the attributes of the cars and pedestrians,” she said. On an adjoining screen, a Pac-Man-like trail indicated a young man’s movements around the city, based only on his face. Jin said, “It can match a suspect with a criminal database. If the similarity level is over a certain threshold, then they can make an arrest on the spot.” She continued, “We work with more than forty police bureaus nationwide. Guangdong Province is always very open-minded and embracing technology, so, last year alone, we helped the Guangdong police bureau solve many crimes.”

In the U.S., where police departments and the F.B.I. are adopting comparable technology, facial recognition has prompted congressional debates about privacy and policing. The courts have yet to clarify when a city or a company can track a person’s face. Under what conditions can biometric data be used to find suspects of a crime, or be sold to advertisers? In Xi Jinping’s China, which values order over the rights of the individual, there are few such debates. In the city of Shenzhen, the local government uses facial recognition to deter jaywalkers. (At busy intersections, it posts their names and I.D. pictures on a screen at the roadside.) In Beijing, the government uses facial-recognition machines in public rest rooms to stop people from stealing toilet paper; it limits users to sixty centimetres within a nine-minute period.

Before Trump took office, the Chinese government was far outspending the U.S. in the development of the types of artificial intelligence with benefits for espionage and security. According to In-Q-Tel, an investment arm of the United States intelligence community, the U.S. government spent an estimated $1.2 billion on unclassified A.I. programs in 2016. The Chinese government, in its current five-year plan, has committed a hundred and fifty billion dollars to A.I.

The Trump Administration’s proposed 2018 budget would cut scientific research by fifteen per cent, or $11.1 billion. That includes a ten-per-cent decrease in the National Science Foundation’s spending on “intelligent systems.” In November, Eric Schmidt, then the chairman of Alphabet, told the Artificial Intelligence & Global Security Summit, in Washington, that reductions in the funding of basic-science research will help China overtake the U.S. in artificial intelligence within a decade. “By 2020, they will have caught up. By 2025, they will be better than us. By 2030, they will dominate the industries of A.I.,” he said. Schmidt, who chairs the Defense Innovation Advisory Board, added that the ban on visitors from Iran was an obstacle to technology development. “Iran produces some of the top computer scientists in the world. I want them here. I want them working for Alphabet and Google. It’s crazy not to let these people in.”

China’s effort to extend its reach has been so rapid that it is fuelling a backlash. Australian media have uncovered efforts by China’s Communist Party to influence Australia’s government. In December, Sam Dastyari, a member of the Australian Senate, resigned after revelations that he warned one of his donors, a businessman tied to China’s foreign-influence efforts, that his phone was likely tapped by intelligence agencies. Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, announced a ban on foreign political donations, citing “disturbing reports about Chinese

In August, Cambridge University Press, in Britain, caused an uproar among scholars after it removed from one of its Chinese Web sites more than three hundred academic articles that mentioned sensitive topics, such as the crackdown at Tiananmen Square, in an effort to satisfy China’s censors. Cambridge abandoned the move. (Another academic publisher, Springer Nature, defended its decision to censor itself, saying that it was necessary “to prevent a much greater impact on our customers and authors.”)

Foreign governments and human-rights groups have expressed alarm that Beijing is pursuing critics beyond its borders and bringing them to mainland China for detention. One night last January, unidentified men escorted a Chinese-Canadian billionaire, Xiao Jianhua, from a Hong Kong hotel, in a wheelchair, with a sheet over his head. (His whereabouts are unknown.) In several cases, beginning in 2015, the publishers of books critical of China’s leaders were abducted from Hong Kong and Thailand, without public extradition procedures.

Across Asia, there is wariness of China’s intentions. Under the Belt and Road Initiative, it has loaned so much money to its neighbors that critics liken the debt to a form of imperialism. When Sri Lanka couldn’t repay loans on a deepwater port, China took majority ownership of the project, stirring protests about interference in Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. China also has a reputation for taking punitive economic action when a smaller country offends its politics. After the Nobel Prize was awarded to the dissident Liu Xiaobo, China stopped trade talks with Norway for nearly seven years; during a territorial dispute with the Philippines, China cut off banana imports; in a dispute with South Korea, it restricted tourism and closed Korean discount stores.

In Beijing’s political circles, some strategists worry that their leaders risk moving too fast to fill the void created by America’s withdrawal from its global role. I dropped by to see one of the city’s wisest observers of America, Jia Qingguo, the dean of the Department of Diplomacy at Peking University. “The U.S. is not losing leadership. You’re giving it up. You’re not even selling it,” he said. “It seems Donald Trump’s view is: if China can take a free ride, why can’t we? But the problem is that the U.S. is too big. If you ride for free, then the bus will collapse. Maybe the best solution is for China to help the U.S. drive the bus. The worse scenario is that China drives the bus when it’s not ready. It’s too costly and it doesn’t have enough experience.” Jia, who has a wry smile and a thick head of graying hair, said that universities have not had enough time to train scholars in areas that China is now expected to navigate: “In the past, the outside world was very far away. Now it’s very close. But the change happened too fast to digest.”

Joseph Nye, the Harvard political scientist who coined the term “soft power,” to describe the use of ideas and attraction rather than force, told me that China has improved its ability to persuade—up to a point. “American soft power comes heavily from our civil society, everything from Hollywood to Harvard and the Gates Foundation,” he said. “China still doesn’t understand that. They still haven’t opened that up. I think that is going to hurt them in the longer term.” Nye predicts that Trump’s unpopularity will not erase America’s soft-power advantage, except under certain conditions. “Probably he won’t be seen as a turning point in American history but will be seen as a blip, another one of the strange characters that our political process throws up, like Joe McCarthy or George Wallace,” he said. “Two things could make me wrong. One is if he gets us into a major war. The second is if he gets reëlected and winds up doing damage to our checks and balances or our reputation as a democratic society. I don’t think those are likely, but I don’t have enough confidence in my judgment to assure you.”

At the White House, aides said that late last year a two-tiered strategy took hold, in which the President will seek to maintain congenial relations with Xi while lower-ranking officials introduce hard-line measures. By the end of 2017, the State Department, the National Security Council, and other agencies were considering policies to push back on China’s influence operations, trade practices, and efforts to shape the technology of the future. Michael Green, who was George W. Bush’s chief adviser on Asia, told me, “They’re looking at it like it’s a war plan: working with the allies, working with members of Congress.”

In its national-security strategy, the Administration suggested that, to stop the theft of trade secrets, it could restrict visas to foreigners who travel to the U.S. to study science, engineering, math, and technology; it dedicated itself to a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” which, in practice, will likely expand military coöperation with India, Japan, and Australia. Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative, is considering several potential tariffs in order to punish China for its alleged theft of intellectual property and dumping of exports on U.S. markets. “We’re not looking for a trade war,” a senior White House official involved in China issues told me. “But the President fully believes that we have to stand up to China’s predatory industrial policies that have hollowed out U.S. manufacturing and, increasingly, high-tech sectors.”

If the White House takes such actions, they could collide with Trump’s admiring relationship with Xi. In the meantime, many China specialists describe the Administration’s approach as inchoate. In the first eleven months of Trump’s Presidency, none of his Cabinet secretaries had given a major speech on China. The post of Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, the State Department’s top job for the region—once held by W. Averell Harriman, Richard Holbrooke, and Christopher Hill—remained unfilled. David Lampton, the director of China studies at the School of Advanced International Studies, at Johns Hopkins, told me, “I think this is like a bunch of drunks in a car fighting for the steering wheel.”

In dozens of interviews in China and the U.S., I encountered almost no one who expects China to supplant the U.S. anytime soon in its role as the world’s preëminent power. Beyond China’s economic obstacles, its political system—including constraints on speech, religion, civil society, and the Internet—drives away some of the country’s boldest and most entrepreneurial thinkers. Xi’s system inspires envy from autocrats, but little admiration from ordinary citizens around the world. And for all of Xi’s talk of a “Chinese solution,” and the glorious self-portrait in “Wolf Warrior II,” China has yet to mount serious responses to global problems, such as the refugee crisis or Syria’s civil war. Global leadership is costly; it means asking your people to contribute to others’ well-being, to send young soldiers to die far from home. In 2015, when Xi pledged billions of dollars in loan forgiveness and additional aid for African nations, some in China grumbled that their country was not yet rich enough to do that. China is not “seeking to replace us in the same position as a kind of chairman of planet Earth,” Daniel Russel said. “They have no intention of emulating the U.S. as a provider of global goods or as an arbiter who teases out universal principles and common rules.”

More likely, the world is entering an era without obvious leaders, an “age of nonpolarity,” as Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has described it, in which nationalist powers—China, the U.S., Russia—contend with non-state groups of every moral stripe, from Doctors Without Borders to Facebook, and ExxonMobil to Boko Haram. It is natural for Americans to mourn that prospect, but Shivshankar Menon, India’s former foreign secretary, suspects that the U.S. will retain credibility and leadership. “The U.S. is the only power that I know of which is capable of turning on a dime, with a process of self-examination,” he said. “Within two years of entering Iraq, there were people within the system saying, ‘Are we doing the right thing?’ ” He has seen the country recover before: “Three times just in my lifetime. I was in the U.S. in ’68, on the West Coast. I’ve seen what the U.S. did in the eighties to reinvent itself. What it did after 2008 is remarkable. For me, this comes and goes. The U.S. can afford it.”

Menon continued, “I think we’re going back to actually the historic norm, separate multiverses, rather than one, which was an exception. If you go back to the concept of Europe in the nineteenth century, people basically lived in different worlds and had very controlled interactions with each other. China is not going to take responsibility for everything that happens in the Middle East or South America.” In small ways, Menon said, we live this way already. “Technology has made it easy, because iTunes keeps selling you more of the same music—it doesn’t keep exposing you to something new. When you go to Beijing, you still listen to your own music, and you’re actually in your own bubble. So it’s a historical aberration and a rarity, where you say you’re ‘globalized.’ But what does that mean?”

Late one afternoon in November, I went to see a professor in Beijing who has studied the U.S. for a long time. America’s recent political turmoil has disoriented him. “I’m struggling with this a lot,” he said, and poured me a cup of tea. “I love the United States. I used to think that the multiculturalism of the U.S. might work here. But, if it doesn’t work there, then it won’t work here.” In his view, the original American bond is dissolving. “In the past, you kept together because of common values that you call freedom,” he said. Emerging in its place is a cynical, zero-sum politics, a return to blood and soil, which privileges interests above inspiration.

In that sense, he observed, the biggest surprise in the relationship between China and the United States is their similarity. In both countries, people who are infuriated by profound gaps in wealth and opportunity have pinned their hopes on nationalist, nostalgic leaders, who encourage them to visualize threats from the outside world. “China, Russia, and the U.S. are moving in the same direction,” he said. “They’re all trying to be great again.” ♦

Evan Osnos joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2008, and covers politics and foreign affairs. He is the author of “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China.”

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Making China Great Again

By Evan Osnos

In an unfamiliar moment, China’s pursuit of a larger role in the world coincides with America’s pursuit of a smaller one.

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