The Power of Xi

Photo by Magda Ehlers on

He sits alone in his office. Reflecting on the condition of the world, his position, the war in Ukraine, the futility of free speech and other matters.
He’s feeling strong. China has emerged. He’s just been elected to a third 5 year term as leader of China. A fourth term will likely follow, and maybe a 5th, if he feels up to it, as he’s sure he can keep his rivals in check. In fact, he would like to die in office, like Mao Zedong before him.
He can imagine the entire China going into mourning for a week, whenever he dies, with continuous speeches paying homage to his greatness as multitudes wail uncontrollably.
He thinks of Elon Musk, his travails with Twitter, and how he’s lost the position as richest man in the world.
Musk was the richest but he, Xi Jinping, is the most powerful, for he commands the second strongest economy, soon to surpass America’s and leave them far behind.
He, Xi Jinping, a name that is already part of the history of mankind and about whom books and books will be written, does not have to worry about the legalities that constrain the president of the United States.
For instance, he can call up Elon Musk and tell him, ‘You need to appoint a Chinese administrator to lead Tesla here in China. You’re getting a little too distracted with your affair with Twitter and I don’t want to worry about that.’
Musk might answer, ‘Well, I have my people who I have confidence in…’
‘You’re not hearing me,’ Xi would interrupt, “I need a Chinese administrator with full executive privileges… Now… and my preference is that he be a member of the Chinese Communist Party. You have a great company, one that we can keep learning much from, but you’re spreading yourself too thin and I don’t like it. Understood?’
To which Musk might reply, ‘I hear you… but I have investors I have to answer to… complex technical matters to address… it’s not as easy as you think…’
‘That’s why you would be at his disposal,’ Xi would say, ‘so you can answer what questions he/she may have during the transition…’
Musk would counter, ‘The change you propose is equivalent to a transfer of power… I’m not ready for that… and that would not go over well with the foreign business community in China… there would be significant repercussions worldwide… it would affect the entire Chinese economy…’
But Xi would insist, ‘Mr Musk… we are ready… China is ready… we fear no one… we have the markets and all the nations of the world who prefer to be governed by autocracies, who don’t want to be bothered with the details of free speech… and who are in the majority.’
Musk might reply, ‘I would need time to think about it… I can’t give you an answer now…’
‘This discussion does not have to be made public… If it pleases you…’ Xi would continue.
‘Do you intend to have this type of arrangement with other foreign businesses?’ Musk may ask.
And Xi would return, ‘You do not need that information.’
Musk again, ‘I mean, Tesla has been very cooperative with China… so I don’t see why I should be treated this way…’
Xi would then play hard ball, ‘The world is changing rapidly Mr Musk… and you have chosen to provide valuable Star Link support to the Ukrainian resistance, enabling satellite communications for their military, which is hurting my good friend Putin’s heroic effort to defend his beloved Russia from the brutality of Western aggression.’
Musk stalling, ‘I see… and if I stop providing such satellite support you would not be interfering with Tesla?’
Xi, smelling victory, ‘It just might affect my judgment, let’s put it that way. There comes a time when businesses must choose, in the interest of the future of the world. China and Russia have common goals. We believe that personal freedoms must be surrendered for the higher purpose of having a caring, benevolent ruling class. Autocracies are the way forward. We are right and democracy is wrong. Ukraine must be squashed. Eliminated. Your assisting them is not aligned with our overall objectives. But you do not have to reply this minute. I will give you 24 hours. Have a good day.’

Xi reflects on the conversation he might have with the former richest man in the world.
He feels ready for it. And why not?
Nothing will stop China. Soon enough he will take over Taiwan. Much sooner than the West is expecting. And following the example of Putin, he will rain thousands of missiles on the island. Never mind where they land. Until they drop to their knees.
Long live, Xi!

The Deification of Elon Musk

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Dear Elon:
You are being deified and you’re loving it. Which worries me.
Here are statements I read earlier in an Associated Press article published today.
‘You have a guy who probably has an unmeasurable IQ…’ said a professor in Michigan referring to you.
C’mon, man, don’t believe a word of it. Your IQ is measurable.
Here’s another, from a venture capitalist who worked with you at PayPal. ‘Elon, on his worst day, is probably 100 times more effective than anybody else in America.’
I had to pause to swallow that one.
Look around, Elon, all kinds of creative people are making contributions to mankind every day.
And non creative people, too. Who keeps the lights on?
Another praise from a few days ago, ‘Tesla is Musk.’
Really? If so, what happened to all the engineers and mathematicians, designers, technicians and craftspeople who actually make the vehicles you sell, or the rockets Space X launches?
One more. I read of someone who, dazzled by your aura, stated, ‘If we lose Musk, what’re we doing to do?’
Will the world come to an end if we lose you?
No, Elon, it will not.
So, please, it’s not good for you to believe those who wish to deify you.
It’s not good for TSLA stock, either.
Particularly now that you’re off on the quest to making Twitter the paragon of free speech.
Actually, you’ve not had a good start because to say like you did recently, that to ban Trump from Twitter was ‘morally wrong,’ is a big mistake.
Mr Trump was banned because he was inciting violence. Inciting violence is not free speech. It is a crime.
That you don’t get that, or don’t have people around you with enough sense to tell you that, is most worrisome.
The deification of others is a peculiarly human phenomenon. Highly intelligent people fall into it. I think it’s associated with an urge to surrender, to worship, to not accept that it’s all of us together who decide our fate. Every day. All of us – together – collaborating in ways small and large. Accepting such truth is hard, so it must be easier to surrender instead.
So please, try to keep yourself from being seduced by praise, for it will lead you to making mistakes. Guaranteed.
Here are a few suggestions: 1) take the reins. Remind people who adore you that you’re human. Not superhuman. You are very ambitious and capable, so thank you for that, but you have limitations also.
2) Stop smoking marijuana. It dulls your brain cells. 3) Recognize the work of others in bringing your ideas to market.
Hang in there, Elon. You can do it. Best.

Oscar Valdes,,, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts

Dear Mr Musk

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You’re off on an exciting quest – the acquisition of Twitter – to facilitate free speech in our polarized and often hostile world.
That you have embarked on this journey speaks of your adventurous spirit.
Thank you for that.
I have some concerns about the likelihood that you can make progress on the matter.
Having the enthusiasm and energy for the task is an essential ingredient but a broad non judgmental mind is equally important.
It worries me that you have praised China. You and Tesla have benefitted enormously from their hosting you but, in praising them, you slide over the profound negative impact the Chinese government is having on their people.
They are a repressive system that severely restricts free speech and monitors closely the activities of their citizens.
To call China anything other than a dictatorship is fooling ourselves.
When free speech is restricted as it is in China, the Chinese people are devalued. This is the same people who have been rooting for Putin and his troops as they have invaded Ukraine, bombing and killing thousands of people, while destroying their homes, hospitals, schools and infrastructure.
It is from devalued minds that such groundless praise emanates.
The China leadership speaks of having ‘no limits’ in their friendship with Putin, i.e. Putin may do whatever and they’re right there behind him.
Yet you praised them.
You did, even though their own atrocities on the Uyghur people in Xinjiang province were well known. And though you knew of this, your company opened a showroom in the province.
I am sure business is very good but I doubt you have the moral clarity to be a sound arbiter in the delicate matter of deciding what is acceptable and what is not as concerns free speech.
Extremes in politics, whether on the right or the left, are positions that have run out of arguments and thus choose to embrace violence, with their devastating consequences. These factions don’t want to talk for they fear their views may not hold. The results can be devastating, as in the assault on the Capitol on January the 6th. And in Myanmar, did the military want to talk to the opposition which had won the elections by a landslide before they chose to stage a coup and kill thousands of demonstrators? No.
As you start up on the effort to build a platform to facilitate free speech, modifying some algorithms may seem an expedient way to fix the problem, but changing attitudes requires much more than that. It requires reaching out to hardened human beings and patiently searching for what has shaped their hostility to the rest of us.
Your new venture may prove profitable, but it is unlikely to make a difference in strongly held positions. For that to happen the human touch is needed. And leaders with the courage to apply it.
Good luck

Oscar Valdes.,,, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts.

China. The Failed Project. Musk.

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In the early 1970’s, with the Nixon-Kissinger overture to China, we opened the doors for them to break out of their isolation and offer their markets.
Our interest was economical but political, too, for a friendlier China would help counter the then Soviet menace.
Money began to pour into China and, by virtue of their tenacity and industry, the nation now stands as an economic superpower.
We expected their political maturation to follow. It did not. And that has been the great disappointment for the West.
Whereas Japan, after fiercely fighting the West during WWII, turned around and rebuilt itself as both an economic superpower and a democracy, China instead avoided political growth and settled for remaining a dictatorship.
That has been their choice. The influence of Mao Ze Dong runs deep.
China’s economic rise has been fueled by enormous investment from the West. The Chinese have worked with and improved on it, so they deserve credit. But they also should acknowledge that they have stolen much intellectual property from the rest of the world.
Not only have they not acknowledged it, but to this day their efforts to steal more information are rampant, i.e., through cyberattacks.
When there is an imbalance between the political and economic development of a nation, or even of an individual, there is reason to worry.
And so it has come as no great surprise that China has chosen to side with Russia in their cruelty toward Ukrainians.
The Chinese have been doing the same thing with the Uyghurs in Xinjiang province. And they did it, too, with Hongkongers.
All that economic investment did not modify their political disposition to repress and brutalize.
The Chinese people have no freedom of speech and are constantly being monitored by the State, which is afraid of what freedom of thought can ignite.
I have no doubt, they want to spread their system to the rest of the world. If it’s working for us, why shouldn’t it work for others.
So what are western business interests in China to do about all this?
Do they ignore the political side of China and concentrate only on business?
They cannot. And they cannot because the profits from their businesses are helping support a repressive regime, a regime that is set on invading Taiwan and killing whoever stands in their way to accomplish their goal.
To the extent that western business interests in China continue to fuel their growth, to that extent they are accomplices in the rise of China’s military and their dreams of world conquest.

Enter Elon Musk, Tesla and Twitter.
Mr Musk has praised China. The Tesla factory in Shanghai is the company’s largest. China’s customers buy the greatest number of Tesla vehicles.
So far, China has been friendly to him. And why not? He’s a symbol of the businessman they want. Pliant. Someone who will applaud them, regardless of their political record. And, of course, the Chinese government will make some concessions. There has to be a bait.
The political record of a nation matters. If not today, then tomorrow. But it matters.
Mr Musk has now bought Twitter. From what I read, Twitter has gone to great lengths to stop access to their platforms by governments and extreme factions pushing their agenda. There is an Integrity Team at work in keeping the messaging clear of such meddling, including from bots.
Mr Musk talks of promoting free speech, anyone can say anything and if you have a better argument you will prevail in the end. But Twitter insiders, familiar with the subtlety of messaging, warn us of how crafty those pushing their agenda can be.
Judging by Musk’s record in China, I have no doubt that sooner or later, Chinese influencers will work their way into Twitter with whatever they wish to say.
‘No, there is no genocide in Xinjiang. We love Uyghurs. All those reports you have read are false.’ Alongside a photo of an Uyghur hugging and kissing an ethnic Chinese.
Little by little and before you know it, people will be saying, ‘well, if they committed genocide, maybe it was just a little. Not a lot’.
For all of Mr Musk’s talents, he will not control China’s influencers. Instead, they will control him. And he won’t even know it.
‘We want you to sell more Teslas in China. We love Tesla. Now here is something we need…”
And Mr Musk will say, ‘Only that?’
‘Only that,’ the Chinese official will reply, with a sly smile.
China’s record is clear. Standing in support of Russia in Ukraine makes it an accomplice.
To think that we can talk the Chinese government out of their style is madness.
It will be up to the Chinese people to revolt and affirm themselves. That is their developmental task as a nation.
As for us, we should start to pull out of China. We can do it. China isolated itself from the world for centuries. And the rest of the world still prospered.
Growing dependence on them is a bad idea.

Oscar Valdes,,, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts