President of China, Xi Jinping, in a recent speech to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), announced that China plans on opening a “super-sized” economy. The APEC forum also includes twenty other members two others include the United States and Russia. In broad terms, this forum ensures a “sustainable and inclusive Asia-Pacific”. This is not the subject of this article, however. A “super-sized” economy. That is the goal of the People’s Republic of China. Does that phrase, a “super-sized” economy, remind you of anyone? Who else would love to sit on stage and announce they were about to open a “super-sized” economy? President Donald Trump perhaps? The man behind “Space Force” is not gifted when it comes to naming. However, looking past the similarities between President Xi and President Trump’s naming techniques we notice something in their relationship. President Trump seems to be obsessed with China’s authoritarian leader. Why is this and how is it threatening to our Democracy? How does President Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the election results clue us into his obsession with authoritarianism?
One of Trump’s campaign messages, when he ran in 2016, was that we have to stop letting China “rape our country”. However, his views changed after meeting President Xi in 2017. “President Xi is a terrific guy, I like being with him a lot, and he’s a very special person”. This sudden switch is not uncommon in the relationship between Trump and other strongmen leaders like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. President Trump cozies up to President Xi because he is an authority. Trump is fascinated by the control that his Chinese counterpart has over his people. President Trump is intrigued by many actions taken by President Xi. For example, in 2018, President Xi passed a law that changed the Chinese Constitution and removed presidential term limits. President Xi Jinping became president for life with a final vote of 2,958 in favor with two votes in opposition and three abstaining. Who were those five heroes? When President Trump was asked about this news he said, “He’s now president for life, president for life. And he’s great,” and he went on to say at a closed-door fundraiser, “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.” This is a blatant disregard for democracy. Even if President Trump had been making a joke, this is still incredibly undemocratic and shows us even more insight into his obsession with authoritarian rulers like Jinping. His attraction to authority is blatant.
President Trump seems to like the sounds of being president for life. Since the passage of this change to the constitution in China that eliminates term limits, Jinping can essentially, do whatever he wishes and not have to worry at all about any repercussions to his actions. He does not have to worry about being re-elected. As many sources close to President Trump have said he would do anything for re-election. In Ex-National Security Advisor, John Bolton’s recently released book, he revealed some rather damning evidence into President Trump’s relationship with President Xi as well as his disregard for democracy and rule of law. According to Mr. Bolton “[President Trump] pleaded” with the Chinese President to buy United States agricultural products and help President Trump win re-election. Bolton writes “Trump commingled the personal and the national not just on trade questions but across the whole field of national security,” and he went on to say that he is “hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn’t driven by re-election calculations” (Bolton). This is abhorrent. A president obviously needs to be thinking about re-election, however, guiding every single decision made in The White House is an incredible conflict of interest.
The election has come and gone. President Trump’s fight for The White House, which should be over by now, is far from it. Now we begin to see glimpses of both President Xi as well as the “executive aggrandizement” Nancy Bermeo talks about in her piece “On Democratic Backsliding” (Bermeo). President Trump is denying the results of the election. He has launched lawsuits in various swing states around the country in hopes that, with a recount, he may win. Every day we find out that Joe Biden has won again. At this point, it feels as if President-Elect Biden has won countless times. Still, nothing from The White House to acknowledge the victory. Months before this election, President Trump has been attempting to undermine the election by facilitating the dismantling of the United States Postal Service. On top of this, he has been spreading constant rhetoric regarding fraud and unfounded claims sewing distrust in our basic democratic institutions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been the single most frightening thus far. He stepped up to the press podium to give a rundown of what has been happening. This was shortly after the election so of course there were going to be questions about why President Trump has not accepted the results of the election yet. When asked if the White House was prepared to peacefully transition to the Biden and Harris Administration. Mr. Pompeo stated they were prepared to transition to four more years of Donald Trump. Denial of election results feels like the beginning of a “President for Life” situation that President Trump has been so interested in. President Xi and maybe President Trump, Presidents for life, together. Back in September, President Trump pitched the idea at one of his rallies that “we’re gonna win four more years in the White House, and then we’ll negotiate” he finished by saying “we’re probably entitled to another four years after that” (Trump).
In Bermeo’s piece, she discusses the changes in coups. “Executive aggrandizement” is when “elected executives weaken checks on executive power one by one” (Bermeo). As in President Xi’s example, President Trump has sought to do the same. Lies and unfounded accusations, President Trump has been trying to tear the victory away from Biden and Harris. Everything this president does is in attempted mirroring of President Xi. “President for life” sounds pretty nice he says. His continued dismantling of the basic democratic structure is blatant and despotic. All of these actions President Trump has taken in his presidency have been to secure an election. Now that he has lost the election he is scrambling to find a way to win even as the likelihood decreases every day. President Trump is a one-term president and even with his lofty goals and ambitions to be the first authoritarian this country has ever seen he has failed. Or at least we should all hope so.