Embracing Xi, Inflaming Populism

John Q. Public can hardly be blamed for joining the chorus of suspicion and resentment when he sees numerous business leaders greet Xi Jinping in San Francisco.
Embracing Xi, Inflaming Populism
Chinese leader Xi Jinping arrives for a meeting of economic leaders on the last day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco on Nov. 17, 2023. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)
Thomas McArdle
One of the most dangerous aspects of the populism that has emerged in the past decade among betrayed Republican-leaning voters and others is the way it tempts them to distrust the free market and buy the Marxist delusion that capitalism is greed in action.
They’re keenly aware of the destructiveness of the left, their policies of open borders, ever-expanding government, and radicalization steamrolling through our society. But when these citizens see well-established successful businesses accommodate that same anti-capitalist left—apparently in the interests of their bottom line—it has the perverse effect of coupling them with the left in the belief that intrusive government is essential, just with different people doing the intruding and restricting economic freedoms.
George Bernard Shaw declared that in capitalism, “the play of free contract and selfish interest on that basis” determine the mass division of income. Filmmaker Michael Moore, reportedly the owner of many personal residences and a fortune in the tens of millions, insists that “capitalism is an organized system to guarantee that greed becomes the primary force” in the economy, as it dupes the masses into believing that plenty is attainable to them through hard work.

Such fallacies stem from ignorance of economic theory and history, and they’re widespread among both the elite and the ordinary, because falsely believing that wealth is a finite pie to be divided among all makes sense on the surface, rather than the reality of wealth being an inexhaustible well fed by man’s ingenuity and drive. If it’s finite, the rich are exploiters to be mistrusted and restrained, not achievers to be applauded and encouraged.

Even one of the most successful investors in history, Warren Buffett, who has amassed more than $100 billion, has pushed for massive tax rates on the rich, which would keep countless billions of dollars from generating new private sector jobs and fueling innovation in all corners of the economy. Barring totalitarianism, we will have the rich always with us, but Mr. Buffett would deprive the poor and middle class of the livelihoods available to them in an economy that, via low taxes for the biggest investors, fulfills its full potential, simply for the sake of lessening “inequality.”
With the free market so widely unappreciated and misunderstood, and under such sustained attack, John Q. Public can hardly be blamed for joining the chorus of suspicion and resentment when he sees numerous business leaders not just meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in San Francisco earlier this month but hail him with a standing ovation. CEOs from Apple, FedEx, and Pfizer were all among the adorers.
GOP presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke for many of the outraged when he said at a campaign event: “American CEOs are just basically groveling in front of this dictator. Those guys make money on Wall Street and stuff, but they are empowering an adversary at the expense of the well-being of the American people.”

Perhaps what’s saddest is the likelihood that these and a great many other corporate titans, who “make money on Wall Street and stuff,” long ago concluded that the economic liberty that permits their success, and spreads prosperity to so many of their fellow man, isn’t worth championing and defending, not worth explaining to a populace indoctrinated into believing that business is all just avarice, bereft of any admirable sentiments.

One can imagine these CEOs saying to themselves: “The people out there think we’re just money grubbers anyway, so why not consort with the devil? Why guard my reputation when it’s been hopelessly stained all along?”

Some among the 300 attendees shelled out $40,000 to sit at the head table with Xi, and the names and affiliations of those purchasing an audience with China’s president-for-life seem close to being a state secret. House Select Committee on China Chairman Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican, fumed that all 300 names should be revealed by the event’s organizers since they were honoring and cavorting with a figure who, among other things, is presiding over the genocide of millions in Xinjiang Province.

It was populism that propelled Donald Trump into the White House in the election seven years ago. It attracted votes for him that were unobtainable for Mitt Romney and John McCain in the two previous presidential contests. It also, in the Trump presidency, saved the Supreme Court, which would have been radicalized for generations by three Hillary Clinton appointments. President Trump cut taxes and regulations dramatically, and he brought about a landmark peace agreement in the Middle East in the Abraham Accords.

But none of that guarantees the nature of the next manifestation of populism reaching the White House. President Trump was elected largely to end illegal immigration; his judges, fiscal policy, and approach to the Middle East could be aptly described not as populist but as “Reaganism on steroids.”

Another presidential candidate, by comparison, tapping into the same disaffected GOP-friendly sector of the electorate, might focus primarily on withdrawing U.S. military and economic power and our influence around the world, and maybe refuse to address the most pressing government expenditure issues facing America as our entitlement programs hurtle toward insolvency.
Ronald Reagan made it “morning in America” by getting the government out of the way of investors and entrepreneurs. Today, hundreds of major businesses, by practicing bad behavior that insults their customers, their workers, and their country, are practically begging to be demonized. They could help turn the Republican Party over to forces with little resemblance to Reagan in almost any policy.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Thomas McArdle was a White House speechwriter for President George W. Bush and writes for IssuesInsights.com