Bloomberg is determined not to call Xi Jinping a dictator:
In a CNN town hall on Wednesday, Bloomberg declined to call Chinese President Xi Jinping a dictator, saying “it’s a question of what is a dictator,” and that while China is not a democracy, leaders are still chosen by a small group of people and are replaced periodically.
“I think the question is, if your definition is a democracy where people vote and pick their leaders, that is not what China is about,” Bloomberg said. “They like their system, and I think they’re wrong, I think they’d be better off opening things up.”
Bloomberg’s unwillingness to use the word dictator to describe the head of a one-party authoritarian state is strange. This isn’t a matter of diplomatic politesse. It is possible to call things by their right names and still pursue cooperation with another government when our interests and theirs overlap. The former mayor is sticking to his Politburo defense:
Well it’s a question of what is a dictator. They don’t have democratic — a democracy in the sense that they have general elections, that is true. They do have a system where a small group of people appoint the head, and they churn over periodically.
If you go back and look at the last two or three decades there’ve been a number of people that had the same position that Xi Jinping has.
It’s true that Xi has had predecessors in the same role. It’s also true that this periodic change in leadership doesn’t make their system any less of an authoritarian dictatorship. Bloomberg also ignores how much Xi has consolidated power over the last seven years. Under Xi, they have removed term limits, so he will probably be able to remain in that position for the rest of his life. Xi has cultivated a cult of personality around himself more than any previous leader since Mao:
President Xi Jinping, poised to rule over China indefinitely, is at the center of the Communist Party’s most colorful efforts to build a cult of personality since the death of People’s Republic founder Mao Zedong in 1976.
Xi’s image dominates the front pages of state newspapers, hours of state television broadcasts, magazine covers, posters sold at markets, billboards around parks and signs posted along sidewalks.
On television, Xi is often depicted as being wildly adored by anyone from factory workers and farmers to space engineers and soldiers who typically applaud Xi for several minutes.
This is common knowledge, and it has been going on for years. Bloomberg must know this, but he hides behind this idea of a periodic “churn” in leaders as if that matters. The problem here is not just that Bloomberg refuses to use the accurate term, but that his refusal reflects an unwillingness to tell the truth about what the Chinese government is because so much of his business is tied up in their market. This is not Bloomberg’s failing alone, but he is representative of business leaders that bend over backwards to avoid offending the Chinese government. Bloomberg’s perception of the Chinese government is unavoidably warped by his dealings with them, and it raises the fair question of why anyone should trust his judgment about the U.S.-China relationship.
The U.S. escalation occurred days before the airstrike that killed Iran’s Quds Force General Qasem Soleimani.
Soldiers of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment conduct a breaching training operation, at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, March 20, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland) (Photo Credit: SFC Charles Highland)
Approximately 4,750 American troops are slated to deploy this week to Kuwait, a traditional U.S. staging ground for conflict in the Middle East. They will join the 14,000 American troops already deployed to U.S. Central Command on a mission to confront Iran’s malign behavior in the region, Pentagon officials confirmed.
The U.S. escalation of troop forces came Tuesday evening, two days before the U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed General Qasem Soleimani, leader of the Quds Force division of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
“At the direction of the Commander in Chief, I have authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq,” said Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in a written statement Tuesday evening. “Approximately 750 soldiers will deploy to the region immediately, and additional forces from the IRF are prepared to deploy over the next several days.”
Analysts disagree on the effect the airstrikes and U.S. deployments will have, however.
“Let’s be clear, while the United States and Iran have been locked in a cycle of confrontation for four decades, neither side has been prepared to engage in full-scale and direct conflict with the other. And yet that is a step that may very well follow from these actions — if cooler heads don’t quickly prevail,” said Chris Preble, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.
Jim Antle, editor in chief of The American Conservative, writes that “such a war isn’t inevitable.”
Killing Soleimani may have the desired effect of crippling future Iranian attacks. But, “our continued, if reduced, occupation of Iraq is the main thing exposing Americans to risk of harm at Iranian hands. It remains to be seen how much that calculus now changes.”
The quiet buildup of thousands of American troops and military assets in the region significantly increases the number of targets for Iran to choose from, should it choose to counter-strike.