Will Donald Trump Be the American Deng Xiaoping?
To mention Donald Trump in the same breath with Deng Xiaoping — the man who led China out of the Dark Ages of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution and into the modern world — sounds ludicrous on its face. And to a great degree it is. Deng, after all, is — not just arguably, but actually — the man who personally is responsible for improving more human lives than anyone in history, lifting hundreds of millions of Chinese out of abject poverty and undoubtedly saving untold millions from starvation by upending Maoism. (Historians believe Mao was responsible of 45 million deaths during the four years of the Great Leap Forward alone.)
Deng, like all of us, was not perfect, but he clearly had a political genius and incredible courage in his ability to battle and ultimately defeat the monolithic power of Mao Zedong, who had jailed him and had his son pushed out a window (the son has spent the rest of his life as a paraplegic). It's the stuff of great novels. (Yes, I realize Maoism still lingers in China, but, as I mentioned, nothing's perfect.)
Back in 1961, at the height of Mao's reign and three years before the publication of the Chairman's Little Red Book, Deng slyly and metaphorically attacked the ideological rigidity of communism with one simple statement (dare I call it a tweet? If so, it was the most potent tweet of all time): "I don't care if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice."
Simple as it is, that bears repeating: "I don't care if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice."
There are minor variations in the various translations but they all have the same pragmatic, anti-ideological import. The Chinese evidently never forgot it, because, although many still may pretend-profess to be communists, they are in reality Dengists. This has led to the world's most succesful crony capitalism, but, again as I said, nothing's perfect. Whatever the case, modern China is a giant improvement with Deng Xiaoping's fingerprints all over it. The unbelievable Shanghai skyline — that's Deng.
So is Donald a Dengist? As yet, of course, his impact is extremely minor by comparison and even making such a comparison of someone who was born a peasant in impoverished rural China, became a communist and then lived to subvert communism in the most populace country on the planet with a to-the-manor-born scion of a Queens real estate mogul is, shall we say, a bit of a stretch.
Nevertheless, the Deng analogy suddenly jumped into my head when I saw a video the other day of a smiling (yes, smiling) Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) — normally a bitter enemy of anything Republican — emerging from a White House meeting with the president. Cummings had been talking with Trump about the high cost of pharmaceuticals and apparently, evidently to Cummings' surprise, there had been another meeting, this time of the minds. It didn't matter if the cat was black or white (Democrat or Republican — no racial implication intended here). People were having trouble affording their meds, the one item they needed above all besides food.