Friday, November 10, 2017

How to get a world power to grovel

The Times of India features a video showing that Xi Jinping welcomes US President Donald Trump with red carpet treatment. Watching the TV coverage yesterday suggested to me that the reporting on the “red carpet” treatment understated the pomp and military honors accorded to Trump.

Trump’s Visit to China Provides a Propaganda Bonanza reports the Times of New York in reporting on the Chinese press and internet stories about the visit and Xi’s welcome.

Mr. Trump was warmly received in China’s most prominent news outlets, which praised him as a pragmatic leader who, nevertheless, could be friendlier toward China. But in some forums online, the president was mocked, with social media users describing him as goofy, impulsive, clownish and cute.

On WeChat, China’s popular messaging app, users circulated posts analyzing the clothes worn by Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania. Some users described the president’s necktie as “shallow and exaggerated.”

A widely shared article delivered a lengthy analysis of Mr. Trump’s psyche, which suggested that flattery was the trick to winning him over.

It seems to have worked. Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports that In Beijing, Trump abandons years of tough talk towards China.

At a bilateral meeting in Beijing this morning, Donald Trump lamented the U.S.-China trade imbalance, but said he blames “past administrations.” In other words, in the American president’s mind, the trade gap is the United States’ fault.

He reiterated the point at a question-free press briefing soon after.

President Donald Trump said Thursday that he does not blame China for its economic success at the expense of the United States, what he called a “one sided” trade relationship.

“I don’t blame China,” he said at a business event joined by Chinese President Xi Jinping. “After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit.”

It’s hard to overstate just how dramatic a departure this is from the American president’s previous posturing. ABC News did a nice job rounding up some of Trump’s most notable quotes on China from the campaign, during which he insisted, among other things, that China is “ripping us off,” is an “enemy” of the United States, has perpetrated “the greatest theft in the history of the world,” and prefers to “lie, cheat, and steal in all international dealings.”

At one campaign event in May 2016, Trump went so far as to say, “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country and that’s what they’re doing.”

Even after the election, the Republican continued to puff out his chest and talk tough, suggesting he was prepared to abandon the “One China” policy and label China a “currency manipulator.”

But in a rather humiliating display, Trump abandoned this posture, and soon after taking office, started groveling towards Beijing. Today, he even blamed the United States for the trade policies for which he used to hold China responsible.

The weakness the American president is displaying is extraordinary. Trump has already faced insulting mockery in China’s state-run press, and these latest displays won’t help matters.

Postscript: China insisted that journalists not be allowed to ask questions at today’s press briefing with the two presidents, and Trump and his team gladly went along. In recent decades, American presidents have pushed back against this – Barack Obama and his team refused to participate in a joint event unless reporters were allowed to have a Q&A – but Trump didn’t bother.

As a result, Trump became the first American president since H.W. Bush not to take press questions during a trip to China.

Xi has Trump figured out. China, you see, does not have to confront the US with anything other than a military band and a red carpet. That’s enough to win over a US President who is invested only, narcissistically in himself.

What’s going on in the State Department? Why is the President doing this groveling and scraping on the world stage? The answer is scary.

Trump gutting of State Department hard to explain with politics.
Rachel Maddow points out that while some Donald Trump policies were expected as being within the framework of Republican ideology, the gutting of the State Department is hard to explain that way, and notes that a strong state department would help keep Trump from humiliating himself abroad. Duration: 19:17 is Present at the Destruction: How Rex Tillerson Is Wrecking the State Department.

The deconstruction of the State Department is well underway.

What is motivating Tillerson’s demolition effort is anyone’s guess. He may have been a worldly CEO at ExxonMobil, but he had precious little experience in how American diplomacy works. Perhaps Tillerson, as a D.C. and foreign policy novice, is simply being a good soldier, following through on edicts from White House ideologues like Steve Bannon. Perhaps he thinks he is running State like a business. But the problem with running the State Department like a business is that most businesses fail—and American diplomacy is too big to fail.

Scriber’s guess: It’s the X/anti-X formula again. Like other cabinet appointments in the Trump/Bannon era, if you would destroy agency X, hire as a leader an anti-X.

What is clear, however, is that there is no pressing reason for any of these cuts. America is not a country in decline. Its economy is experiencing an unprecedented period of continuous economic growth, its technology sector is the envy of the world and the American military remains unmatched. Even now, under Trump, America’s allies and enduring values amplify its power and constrain its adversaries. America is not in decline—it is choosing to decline. And Tillerson is making that choice. He is quickly becoming one of the worst and most destructive secretaries of state in the history of our country.

So no strong state department means that Trump is “humiliating himself abroad.” And the Beijing trip provided visible evidence of that.

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