Dragon, Exit the Turkey (Formerly American Eagle)
Two very different faces of world
leadership were on display this week. In Beijing,
President Xi Jinping delivered a bold,
outward-looking vision of Chinese global leadership.
Meanwhile, in Washington President Donald Trump was
embroiled in yet more egotistical infighting and
tawdry claims of media lies.
Addressing the 19th
congress of China’s Communist Party, 64-year-old Xi
was reelected for a second five-year term. He is
being talked about as the greatest Chinese leader
since Mao Zedong who led the country’s founding
revolution in 1949. With dignified composure, Xi
spoke to the Great Hall of the People about “a new
era of modern socialism… open to the world.”
The Washington DC-based Council on
Foreign Relations headlined: “Xi Asserts China’s
Global Leadership Role”.
The BBC reported Xi
as telling the more than 2,000 delegates: “China has
entered a new era in which it should take
centre-stage in the world.”
“In what was probably an indirect reference to US
President Donald Trump’s America First policy, Xi
promised that China would be fully engaged with the
world, and reiterated pledges to tackle climate
change. Trump this year opted to withdraw the United
States from the Paris climate pact.”
“No country can alone address the
many challenges facing mankind; no country can
afford to retreat into self-isolation,” Xi told
delegates during a three-and-half-hour address.
Reuters again: “Xi set bold long-term
goals for China’s development, envisioning it as a
modernized socialist country by 2035, and a modern
socialist strong power with leading influence on the
world stage by 2050.”
Fair enough, cynics may balk at
“promise fatigue” and snipe that the Chinese
leader’s rhetoric was heavy on aspiration and light
on specific enabling details.
However, there is no denying that Xi
was this week offering a vision of ambitious
possibility for social progress and
Contrary to American leadership and
Trump in particular, Chinese characteristics of
global leadership are not marked by knuckle-dragging
domination, militarism and aggression. The emphasis
from the Chinese leader is on global cooperation and
multilateralism. In short, a peaceful and prosperous
Contrast that to Trump’s tirade
before the UN General Assembly last month when he
rhetorically swaggered and threatened nations with
In that regard, Russian President
Vladimir Putin shares the same leadership qualities
as China’s Xi. No wonder the two leaders are visibly
comfortable when they meet publicly, as they have
done more frequently than any other two current
heads of state. Quietly, with dignity, the two men
seem driven to create a more progressive, peaceful
world of co-development and co-existence – in spite
of American proclivities to create a world of chaos,
conflict and hegemony.
While Xi Jinping was conducting
himself with dignity and dedication, on the other
side of the world, physically and metaphorically,
Trump was behaving like the antithesis.
Again this week, Trump was bragging
about massive tax cuts for the already mega-rich;
about imposing stricter travel bans on foreigners;
about ripping up international accords (the Iran
nuclear deal); and showing appalling disrespect for
his own country’s military men and women – despite
at other times boasting about American military
Trump’s embarrassing boorishness is
getting so bad, senior Republicans are deploring the
country’s “lack of leadership”. Arizona Senator John
McCain lamented that “America’s leadership and
ideals are absent”. Last week, another senior
Republican Senator, Bob Corker, said Trump was
behaving like someone who should be confined to “an
adult care center” and whose reckless rants are
endangering the planet with World War III.
But it was Trump’s reported comments
to the young widow of a US soldier killed in Niger
earlier this month that sunk his reputation to a new
Trump apparently phoned Myesha
Johnson, the grieving pregnant mother of two on her
way to receive the casket of her dead husband, and
said: “Well I guess he knew what he was signing up
The president was referring to
25-year-old Special Forces Sgt. La David Johnson who
was killed along with three other US troops in an
ambush by Islamist militants in Niger on October 4.
incident of Trump’s phone call to the widow was reported by
CNN which has an anti-Trump editorial bias.
Nevertheless, it sounds credible.
Trump hit back, saying it
was more “fake news”. However, he made matters even
more ugly by doubling down to accuse his
predecessors Barack Obama and George W Bush of not
phoning families of fallen soldiers to offer
It was another unseemly spat in a
litany of spats involving Trump as president.
Spokesmen for Obama and Bush said Trump was “telling
lies again”. A firestorm erupted on social media
with veterans and other war widows denouncing
Trump’s insensitivity and lack of respect.
The row centering as
usual on Trump’s egotistical self-aggrandizement has
renewed criticism of the former real estate mogul’s
own personal history of avoiding military conduct
during the Vietnam War. Trump eluded being
drafted during that war because he obtained five
deferments due to “education” at an elite Ivy League
university and for allegedly having a “bad foot”.
Trump would later joke in interviews
that his “personal Vietnam” was avoiding contracting
sexually transmitted diseases while living the high
life in New York during the 1960s and 70s. He also
joked that he couldn’t remember which one of his
feet was the cause for obtaining a medical deferment
from the military draft.
So, here we have a draft-dodging
business tycoon-turned president who makes little of
a Gold Star widow’s grief, and who is itching to
start World War III with North Korea, while snubbing
international obligations, and accusing every other
nation of cheating American “generosity”. And, oh,
also relishing massive tax cuts for wealthy
oligarchs like himself.
It’s evidently not “America First”.
It’s “Trump First” – and all his billionaire cronies
on Wall Street.
American political leadership like
its society and its dwindling state of democracy is
no longer the proud soaring eagle it once claimed.
It’s a state led by hucksters and
charlatans. In a word, this is no eagle. It’s
leadership is like a grotesque gobbling turkey,
plumped up with pea-brained pomposity.
And it’s not just about Trump, one
individual. It’s a systemic problem of American
decadence. Trump is just an outgrowth from the
China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s
Vladimir Putin are at least showing some
responsibility and awareness of what real world
leadership requires. Even the sniping Western media
are beginning to catch on to the reality.
Cunningham has written extensively on international
affairs, with articles published in several
languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural
Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the
Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England,
before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He
is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20
years, he worked as an editor and writer in major
news media organisations, including The Mirror,
Irish Times and Independent.
article was originally published by