Weekly Letter to the President
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INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
May 29, 2020
Mr. President: China is a large country. It has a large population, a productive
population. It has the largest Gross Domestic Product of any country in the world
including the US on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis. It was $27.307 trillion. A
nominal GDP basis does not reflect the actual buying power of the currency. China's
nominal GDP of $14,140 trillion is much less than the US, which is $21.44 trillion, both
nominal and PPP as the dollar is the benchmark. Since 1871, the US has been the
world's largest economy without question. Now there is a question although the real
question might be, so what?
Britain used to be the world's foremost power. No longer, yet Britain remains wealthy
and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future, as will Europe and North
America. A couple of hundred years earlier to that the great powers were: China,
India, Persia and the Ottoman Empire. The world changes.
Among the problems President Trump has with China is its friendship with Iran. Why
that is a problem with Donald Trump is not some nefarious plan Iran has concocted to
harm the US but the impression he has generated of he himself being a wholly-owned
subsidiary of Benjamin Netanyahu and his LIkud party.
Thus Mr. Trump's dead-on-arrival peace plan, to all appearances, had its birth on the
drawing boards of the LIkud. Iran happens to be Netanyahu's nemesis and surprise
surprise is also Trump's. A perfectly reasonable nuclear agreement bearing the
imprimatur of the UN and the major European powers has been jettisoned by Trump
in favor of saber rattling. Europe is not cheeringly on board in this solo venture.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu feels free to start annexing the West Bank -- at least the
choice parts -- and using it to shore up political support while he goes on trial for
corruption. He is the first sitting Israeli prime minister to be so besmirched in the
The implacable Xi Jinping and the stubborn Donald Trump happen both to be making
their respective countries great again. Donald Trump claims he has succeeded using
a metric known to him alone: China's effort is more prosaic. Between 2014 and 2018
it put to sea more ships for its navy than the British, German, Spanish and Indian
navies combined. And it has embarked on a campaign for tighter control of its coastal
waters. The ship-building program betrays a clear intent to project power beyond
coastal waters to the open seas in a challenge to the U.S., the present policeman
maintaining open sea lanes. China prefers complete independence.
Then there is China's bid to be a prominent player in the world of high-tech industry,
a role that can influence future economic power. Huawei and its 5G capability is one
example. But the Trump Commerce Department has issued new rules designed to
choke off Huawei's access to chips and semi-conductors that it needs to manufacture
5G cellphones and infrastructure. These are made made mostly in Taiwan and South
Korea, and the new export rules issued May 19, 2020 forbid chipmakers from using
US machines and software to make and sell chips to Huawei. It closes a loophole
allowing such sales as long as the manufacture was outside US territory. While
Huawei plans alternatives, its customers in Europe and globally are likely to be
affected by higher prices and delays.
The cold battle goes on.