Why Trump can envy, but not imitate, China

One of President Trump’s 2018 goals is to pump $1 trillion into America’s decrepit infrastructure of highways, bridges, airports and power stations. With Democrats already lining up to block anything the president wants, Trump should take note of  China’s audacious plan to become the world’s most modern and efficient society, leaving the United States in the dust.

This week, China announced it would spend $112 billion in 2018 to extend its already state-of-the-art rail system by 2,500 miles. That is only the latest mega-investment the ruling Communist Party has approved, on the orders of President Xi Jinping.

Xi, quite simply, wants to become Beijing’s most influential leader since Mao Zedong, the founding father of communist China. Xi has an enormously ambitious agenda: first, to eliminate – literally – poverty in China; and second, to make China the epicenter of a 21st Century Silk Road of trade, travel, production and commerce.

Unlike Trump, Xi is not hampered by partisan opposition to his plans, meaning he can enforce his pledge to make China the world’s most robust economy by mid-century. His real, if not obvious goal, is to surpass the United States, first economically, then militarily.

Unlike Trump, Xi is not hampered by partisan opposition to his plans, meaning he can enforce his pledge to make China the world’s most robust economy by mid-century. His real, if not obvious goal, is to surpass the United States, first economically, then militarily.

Last year, Xi jump-started what he termed “One Belt, One Road,” a decade-long project to build highways, bridges, airports, power plants, ports, factories in 68 participating countries across Eurasia. China has pledged to spend $150 billion a year for ten years to modernize the infrastructures of participating nations. The catch: all those routes and the products they carry will go through China.

“The leadership is gung-ho dedicated to doing this,” says Sourabh Gupta, a senior policy analyst for the Institute for China-America Studies. “The Belt and Road is seen as Xi’s personal project to cement his legacy. And no one is standing in his way.”

While his ambitions are global, Xi is also taking care to improve the lives of his countrymen. At the Communist Party congress last year, Xi solemnly promised to eradicate poverty nationwide. That includes bringing new road, rail and air access to Chinese hinterlands like Sichuan province, a mountainous, landlocked region that largely relies on agriculture to feed its 150 million people, many of whom exist on $2 a day.

“Unlike the U.S.,” says Gupta, “the central government has run a tight fiscal ship. There’s not much debt. So they can spend pretty liberally on these projects without getting anywhere close to a debt problem.”

Xi’s government has also run a tight ship when it comes to eliminating political dissent. A spate of corruption trials and political purges has weeded out potential rivals, leaving Xi unchallenged. It is a position of authority that Trump, who cannot control even his own Republican Party, let alone the opposed-to-everything Democrats, can only envy.