Photo illustration by John Lyman
While President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping appear to be polar opposites, their actions over the years, from consolidating power to reducing criticism, clearly show their similarities. However, the personalities of individual leaders have varying impacts depending on the system of government in which they work. Even as Trump continually challenges the norms of American foreign policy and engages in very friendly relationships with other strong men, such as Xi, Rodrigo Duterte, Vladimir Poutine, and Kim Jong Un, he could not obtain the same control as these leaders because of the democratic controls of the presidential power. However, in trying to emulate his strong comrades, Trump maneuvered to eradicate well-established restrictions at every turn, putting American democracy in jeopardy. With the Senate bowing to its will and staunch Trump supporters put in key positions in government, the sanctity of American democracy is being tested like never before.
Trump and Xi have made it clear that they will not put up with any negative press surrounding them or their decisions. Trump emphasized his aversion to criticism when he revoked the press passes for the great majority of journalists who wrote negatively about him. Even now after losing a trial which has forced some journalists to re-gain access, the administration can still revoke credentials at any time. Trump also weakened the media further by continually emphasizing his fake news story, successfully convincing thousands of Americans that they cannot trust the vast majority of the media.
More recently, intolerance of any form of criticism has prevailed when the State Department denied Jessikka aro, an honored journalist known for resisting Kremlin propaganda, an award she had previously learned she had won after finding her criticisms of Trump on social media. Washington Post writer commented these moves send a message to potential future critics that raising concerns about Trump… comes at a cost. Likewise, Xi imprisoned former senior party member Ren Zhiqiang for 18 years after allegedly writing an essay criticizing the Chinese leader. Make a CNN writer Note, this heavy sentence seems designed to send a message … either stand in line or face the consequences.
Further dismantling the opposition, Xi and Trump have treated the protests in a similar authoritarian manner. During the 2019 protests in Hong Kong, citizens of the island took to the streets in a pro-democracy march to face police brutality and violence encouraged by Xi. He later declared that whoever tries to separate a region of China will perish, with their bodies shattered and their bones reduced to powder. Trump also uses aggressive language to encourage violence at ongoing Black Lives Matter rallies with tweets like when the looting begins, the shooting begins. In addition, the two leaders are ready to separate the children from their parents. Xi is detained over a million Uyghurs, orphans thousands of children, while Trump took children away from them Parents at the border to discourage illegal immigration.
Moreover, Trump and Xi are showing a desire to stay in power by any means necessary. In 2013, Xi came to power and immediately led an anti-corruption program. campaign which has seen over a million party members punished. While originally increasing its popularity, it was little more than a purge of political rivals. Echoing that, Trump fired each ambassador politically appointed without exception at his inauguration in 2017. The start of his second term has seen him eliminate Two-term limit in China for presidents who had been part of China’s constitution since the 1990s. In response to this, Trump exclaimed, president for life… I think it’s great! You may have to try it one day.
In an effort to extend his presidency, Trump, during his impeachment trial, on several occasions fired those who investigate him, refuse to let the witnesses speak, and removed the people who testified against him from their positions. Now, after losing the presidential election, Trump, in a desperate attempt to cling to power, has deposit numerous court cases falsely claiming electoral fraud, have harnessed the power of the White House by calling on state and local authorities to to cancel certification of election results, and hurry election officials to exclude legal ballots.
Although Trump and Xi continually mirror the other antics, there are still some remarkable differences in their respective countries. Under the Xis rule, high-tech surveillance systems including security cameras with facial recognition software, location tracking and internet usage monitoring were put in place so that every citizen is subjected to a scrutiny like Big Brother. A Large firewall was also built to prevent Chinese citizens from being exposed to any criticism from Xi or the government.
In America, however, these mechanisms of social control are much weaker due to resistance from tech companies and the general public, why contact tracing has been so difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic that Trump continues to do so. minimize. Recently, Trump tried to ban TIC Tac and WeChat of US app stores using executive commands, however, both were blocked by divisions of the judiciary, emphasizing their ability to check the power of presidents. While the legislative branch also has this power, the majority Senate of the GOP, headed by Mitch mcconnell, constantly bends over backwards for the benefit of Trumps, even if that directly means contradict their precedent set just four years earlier. Now Trump has packed the Supreme Court, creating a 6-3 supermajority, effectively skewing one of the biggest obstacles to his power by stacking it with people who, like the Senate, will bow down to his desires.
Trump is far from the first US president to fight for more power many others have tried with varying degrees of success, however, no US president has succeeded in seizing power near Xis. As the end of the Trump presidency draws near, it’s clear how vital democracies are to ruling over power-hungry figures, as China demonstrates the importance of keeping the sanctity of America’s democracy alive. .
While the two presidents have systematically overcome the controls on their power, from now on America is still very democratic and hopes change are high with the Biden administration about to take office. But it’s not a party, like Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt to write, we must not take democracy for granted. There is nothing intrinsic to American culture that makes us immune to its collapse.
It is the responsibility of the American people to uphold democratic values, uphold democratic standards and demand that whoever is in office exercise restraint in the face of incredible power. Like these authors to affirm, the assassins of democracies use the very institutions of democracy gradually, subtly and even legally to kill it. This is what we have seen with Xi using a vote to eliminate term limits and what we are seeing with Trump’s fraudulent claims of a rigged election. Especially with all the doubt cast on this election, now more than ever, it is imperative that America remains a strong democracy and Trump is forced to admit defeat. Otherwise, the similarities between these leaders will not be limited to their personalities, it will also be their countries.
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