Kicking Xi Jinping While He’s Down

On a beautiful midsummer day, roughly six months ago, two distinguished men, of distinguished stature, crossed paths under precarious circumstances.  They are very much alike, these two distinguished men.

Both are men of enormous ego. Both are filled with ambitious delusions for the future. Both are masters of persuasion. Both offer a cause and conviction people can rally behind.

Both deliver frequent promises of greatness. Both hold up historical allusions of eminence and do so with confidence and flair. Both claim destiny is on their side.

Does one read The Wall Street Journal? Does one not? We don’t know.

But we do know there’s one great big significant difference between these two men. A difference far beyond either of their control.

One has an eye to the past, and a futile desire to return to greatness. The other has an eye to the future, and a burning ambition to own it. The difference, in other words, is that between descent and ascent. And the intersection of this difference is a natural point of conflict.

As one star falls and one star rises, their two paths inevitably cross. There’s no way around it. Once the rendezvous has been made, there’s no turning back.

The First Day of the War

On July 6, 2018, if you recall, the first of President Trump’s trade tariffs with China took effect. These included a 25 percent tariff on $34 billion of Chinese goods entering the United States. Chinese President Xi Jinping quickly countered with retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans and automobiles.

Billionaire investor Ray Dalio commemorated the exchange by tweeting: “Today is the first day of the war with China.”

Was Dalio exercising hyperbole? Was he being starkly somber? Perhaps he was merely recognizing that a trade war can lead to a fighting war…should Trump and Jinping push hard enough.

Roughly a year ago, President Trump commented that “trade wars are good and easy to win.” So far the trade war has been more bark than bite. Several additional rounds of tariffs were imposed or threatened, following the first day of the war. Then, over dinner at the G20 Buenos Aires summit, Trump and Jinping agreed to delay planned tariff increases for 90 days, from December 1, 2018.

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