Today I want to talk about Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, and why China will win the trade war.
Let’s start with the obvious – Boris Johnson just became the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. At this point, I don’t even know what that means anymore. So what does it mean -for one, Brexit is definitely happening. That much is clear.
But beyond that does anyone really know what he stands for? What do we actually know about Boris? We know he was Margaret Thatcher’s favourite journalist back in the day, and his end goal was always to become PM. We know he puts on this fake persona of the bumbling oaf but he’s secretly a big bully.
I want to clear the air on that by the way, his scruffiness is definitely an act.
I’ve now spoken to two people who have worked for Parliament and they’ve both confirmed that in-between meetings he’ll rough up his tie and his hair.
Does anyone even know why he does it? I can understand that many middle-class children often like to cosplay as homeless people but what’s the point. So people underestimate him? I really don’t know.
But now that he’s PM it’s important we familiarise ourselves with what we’re dealing with here.
So what else do we know about Boris?
He’s got the standard whiff of colonial racism that many British people smell of let’s be honest. But at least they all pretend their noses are blocked because it’s 2019. He definitely has the extra strength EDP version of that particular scent though. Any time he opens his mouth the colonialism just jumps out.
But let’s be fair. You can’t lead a party full of people who don’t mind saying the n-word in the House of Commons if you don’t at least refer to brown people as pickaninnies once in a while.
I was actually looking for that pickaninnies quote because I didn’t want to take anything out of context and then I stumbled across mountains of stuff Boris has said over the years.
Memory is a strange thing when combined with the British instinct of being blind to anything we don’t want to see.
The rhetoric surrounding Boris is and has always been mixed. When he was Mayor of London he was the people’s champion and everyone loved him.
But as soon as he got a whiff of blood he went into attack mode and started his assault on the most powerful position in the land, and in the last few years we’ve seen him go from Mayor of London to leading the Leave campaign; to coming back into the fold under Theresa May, and then stabbing the back, running off in the middle of the night and starting his own campaign against her, and now he’s the Prime Minister. If he had all of that planned out from the beginning then you’ve just witnessed an absolute masterclass in politics.
And now that he’s in power lots of people will complain about his being racist or sexist and a lot of people will dismiss that because – well, people love to complain. But I don’t want us to get lost in the ameliorative glaze of the past. I’m going to remind you of the facts and you can make your own decisions.
So that pickaninnies quote…
…is from an article Boris has defended as being wholly satirical. It was in a Telegraph column in 2002 where he referred to Tony Blair’s visit to Africa. And I quote:
“It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies,”
In the same article, he later referred to African people as having “watermelon smiles.”
Even before then, in the same newspaper column he wrote about the resignation of Peter Mandelson, the Labour Business Secretary at the time. Peter Mandelson also happened to be gay.
Boris wrote that the announcement would lead to the blubbing of “tank-topped bumboys” in “the Ministry of Sound” nightclub, and “the soft-lit Soho drinking clubs frequented by Mandy and his pals.”
A few years later
Boris went on to condemn Labour’s appaling agenda of – in his words – encouraging the teaching of homosexuality in schools, and all the rest of it.
Lest you think that quote was taken out of context in any way, in his own book Boris wrote “If gay marriage was OK — and I was uncertain on the issue — then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men, or indeed three men and a dog.”
The list goes on and on. This year Boris pledged to tackle the Islamophobia in his party, even though just last year he wrote for the telegraph saying “it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes,” adding that any female student who appeared at school or in a lecture “looking like a bank robber” should be asked to remove it.
Then we get to the topic of sexism.
We’ll start with the fact that when Boris worked as a journalist he kept a nude calendar by his desk and on his departure, in a now-infamous hand-over letter to his successor he said:
“Once the fire is going well, you may find your eyes drifting to the lovely striped chesterfield across the room. Is it the right size, you wonder, for a snooze. . . ?”
“You come round in a panic, to find a lustrous pair of black eyes staring down at you. Relax. It’s only Kimberly with some helpful suggestions for boosting circulation.” [Kimberly Quinn, by the way, was the Spectator’s publisher at the time].
And what was Boris’ advice to his successor on how to deal with their boss? “just pat her on the bottom and send her on her way.”
This is your Prime Minister ladies and gentlemen, and there’s no getting around that. For good measure, he also once said that voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts.
I find that quote interesting because it tells you exactly who Boris sees as his electorate, and also where he sees the role of women in voting.
But I digress – at the very least you now have a flavour of what to expect under your new Premier.
Across the pond they have something similar
Although to be honest, while Boris and Trump very similar Boris is basically the LIDL own-brand version of Trump. As bad as Boris may seem it’s like comparing an Eiffel tower keyring to the Eiffel tower itself.
One is pushing for Brexit as a means of taking back control of one’s borders, while the other has concentration camps of screaming children. You get the idea. The goals are the same but the means are entirely different.
I would never dream of listing the transgressions of Mr Trump because we’d be here all day, so I’ll switch things up by talking about his foreign policy.
If you haven’t kept up with the China trade war let’s recap.
Strengthening America’s trade position was one of the main things Trump ran on. Then in 2017, after an investigation of Chinese trade policies, the US slapped billions of dollars worth of tariffs on Chinese products, and Beijing retaliated in kind.
The US started with 10 per cent tariffs on $200 billion dollars worth of Chinese imports, on things from food ingredients to construction material.
China hit back with tariffs on 128 product categories including pork, fruit, and steel pipes. Then the US raised its tariffs to 25 per cent, particularly on manufacturing components, vehicles, electric motors and machinery, batteries, engines, and so on.
In theory, tariffs on Chinese goods will make US-made products cheaper than imported products and encourage consumers to buy American products. But in practice that’s not how it works at all.
The thing is…
Chinese products are many multiples cheaper than American ones, so what really happens, is that for average Americans who still want to buy those Chinese products, they’re just more expensive.
That’s not to say China isn’t affected though. On the Chinese side, suppliers have to compete on prices anyway, so these adjustments could lead to liquidations, factory closures, job losses and falling incomes. That’s what Trump was banking on.
However, things are starting to change. President Trump recently gave in to Chinese demands and ended the restriction on ZTE, a Chinse technology company that was accused of threatening U.S national interest.
Behind the smoke, this is really all about who will control the future and who will be tomorrow’s great superpower. Realistically, whoever owns tomorrow will be whoever owns the best technology. What we’re seeing is effectively Cold War 2.0 as China and America scramble for control of technological resources.
Some of the biggest chip makers in the world are Chinese.
The world’s second-largest phone producer was Huawei. The bigger issue though is the fear that many of these huge Chinese companies are state-backed rather than being completely independent.
So imagine how concerned you might be if there were government officials working for Apple, and Facebook, and Netflix.
China has already built a huge ecosystem of R&D facilities and is well on its way to becoming a world leader in AI, robotics, electric vehicles and so on.
Huawei is (or was) building the 5G infrastructure for much of the world – something that could become the backbone of the information economy. But if they’re state-backed you’re effectively giving China control of the world’s information highways. That’s why Trump issued orders for US companies to stop doing business with them.
However, that resolve is quickly crumbling
This is part of why I think Trump will inevitably lose the trade war. My reasoning is very simple. Trump’s promise to the American people to Make America Great Again expires in 2020, while President Xi’s election promise – the Made in China 2025 campaign – still has a few years on the clock.
With elections looming Trump can’t keep pushing policies that will increase the cost of buying Chinese goods because the biggest victims in America will be farmers and trade workers. Automobile manufacturers. Essentially, all the industries who won Trump the last election.
If Trump is re-elected then I’m sure he’ll double down but for now, he’s backtracked on his hard stance with North Korea, conceded to China on tariff increases, reversed the sanctions on Huawei and lifted the ban on selling components to ZTE.
As MarketWatch columnist Howard Gold says, “We’ve had two cave-ins on major Chinese companies in one year. We don’t need an umpire to call strike three to declare this ballgame is over.”