March 4th: Trump itches for trade war after Hicks departure and Xi Jinping paves way for authoritarian rule...
Storms, political and meteorological, dominated the last seven days…
Trump had a tough week with one of his longest serving aides, Hopes Hicks, resigning one day after giving testimony to the House Intelligence Committee. Allegedly, she admitted to investigators that she had told “white lies” for the president, much to his ire.
There is some divergence of opinion on whether she was pushed out or chose to resign to pursue new opportunities. Either way, it will be a blow to the president as his tightly-knit group of key advisers seems to constantly diminish.
The frustration may still have been in his mind when he announced tariffs of 25% and 10% respectively on imported steel and aluminium. It seems to have come as a shock to many close to the president.
However, when questioned on the policy, Trump announced that “trade wars are good” and further threatened to place tariffs on EU imported cars. I won’t speculate on the potential impact of the tariffs yet (according to Reuters the US is the world’s biggest steel importer, buying 35.6 million tonnes in 2017.). The worrying part is the lack of long term thinking and strategy with minimal consideration for the reactive measure other key powers around the globe will take.
Early in the week, the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee announced that it would be removing the current two-term limit for Presidents. It’s seen as a major move towards authoritarian rule for Xi Jinping. It is a sharp contrast to the current chaos engulfing the United States leadership. However, in the long run it may increase unrest in the country.
China has continued to have a strong economic performance and this may have emboldened him to push for this power consolidation. As I’ve mentioned it may expose his leadership to future dissent. Putin got around the two-term limit by allowing a key ally, Dmitry Medvedev, to rule for one term back in 2007 while Putin served as Prime Minister.
China has done an excellent job of steady progress that flies under the radar as much as possible for the first or second (based on the metrics) largest economy in the world. A potential act of hubris like this may hinder the low key, consistent progress at some point in the future.
A hugely momentous week in British politics that focused on Brexit. I had written a preview here and will write the epilogue in the next two days. My immediate take away is that the Brexiteer wing of her party has been appeased for now…
A week in Ireland that was dominated by the coming together of Storm Emma and the “Beast from the East”. I’ll give it a pass this week and come back to the state of play in Irish politics in the coming weeks.