Vignettes, moments and meditations on
China and America, 1861-2021
The following exchange between Jianying Zha 查建英 and Katō Yoshikazu 加藤嘉一 comes at the end of the final chapter of Freedom Is Not Free — A New Decameron, the record of a conversation between the two writers, one from China, who is an American, and the other from Japan, who has been a long-term resident of China. Their discussion took place in Beijing over a ten-day period in August 2018, the text of which was revised and updated in 2020, prior to publication. A translation of the introduction to the Zha-Katō dialogue appeared in China Heritage under the title ‘Adieu, China!’. We subtitled that translation ‘Jianying Zha’s Long Farewell’ (see China Heritage, 10 November 2020). As Jianying remarked therein:
As recently as ten years ago, I never would have imagined that my feelings about China would end up where they are today. Yet, to be perfectly honest, although I had to go through a process of grieving to arrive at this point, I also feel as though a burden has been lifted. There’s a famous expression that sums up my emotional state perfectly, it’s ‘a tangle of sorrow and joy’ [悲欣交集]. Over the long years since I took up American citizenship in 1992, I’ve experienced a deep-seated, yet hard-to-describe, sense of guilt. It was as though I had somehow betrayed my family, or that I was weighed down by an unrequited debt, one that I carried over from my old home.
Three decades have passed in what seems like the twinkling of an eye, and now here I am wondering if I haven’t just been going around in circles, emotionally and intellectually ending up in exactly the same place I found myself after the Fourth of June [in 1989]. Aren’t I that person again, one who [following the 4 June Beijing Massacre] was completely dispirited and at a loss?
Though now there’s a difference, and that’s because I can proudly tell my old self from thirty years ago that I have travelled a path that I chose for myself and I’ve done what I wanted to do. And, in the process, I really feel that I have said what I can and I have written what I could. No matter how limited my abilities or modest my accomplishment, there is one thing about which I am absolutely clear: I haven’t betrayed myself nor have I sold out my conscience. That, in itself, is something.
So, I say: Adieu, China! You are no longer mine, and I am no longer yours.
As we previously noted, Freedom Is Not Free 《自由不是免費的——新十日談》, Jianying Zha and Katō Yoshikazu’s ‘new decameron’, is a rare work in that it offers from Beijing an open and heartfelt exchange between two engaged cultural figures about the state of China, the Sino-American conundrum, the future of East Asia and how their own lives have been and still are intermeshed with all of these issues. In what we have frequently referred to as Xi Jinping’s ‘Silent China’, this conversation adds to our account of what is known in modern China as the ‘Independent Spirit and the Mind Unfettered’ 獨立之精神，自由之思想.
I am grateful to Jianying for granting me permission to translate and publish the following discussion, one that focusses on the United States of America during what would turn out to be the dying throes of the Trump administration.
This translation is a chapter in Spectres & Souls, the 2021 issue of China Heritage Annual. In the chapters of this series, which will appear throughout the year, we posit that many of the spectres and shades, as well as the enlivening souls and lofty inspirations, that assert themselves both in China and the United States in 2021 present an even more compelling aspect when considered in the context of the 160-year period starting in 1861. In late 2020, we prefaced the series with four interconnected chapters:
- Leonard Cohen, ‘Democracy & The Future — 3 November 2020’, China Heritage, 3 November 2020;
- John Lithgow, ‘A Trumpty Dumpty Denouement’, China Heritage, 6 November 2020;
- Jianying Zha 查建英 & Katō Yoshikazu 加藤嘉一, ‘Adieu, China! — Jianying Zha’s Long Farewell’, China Heritage, 10 November 2020; and,
- Lil Nas X, ‘Ho-Ho Holiday — Lil Nas X & New Sinology’, China Heritage, 24 December 2020
We are grateful, as ever, to the photographer Lois Conner who has granted us permission to feature her work in China Heritage.
— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
26 April 2021
Also by Jianying Zha:
China’s Heart of Darkness — Prince Han Fei & Chairman Xi Jinping
- Prologue: ‘Qin Shihuang + Marx’, 14 July 2020
- Part I: ‘The Dark Prince’, 16 July 2020
- Part II: ‘Mao’s Abiding Legacy’, 18 July 2020
- Part III: ‘The Revenant Han Fei’, 20 July 2020
- Part IV: ‘The End of the Beginning’ & ‘Chairman Xi Jinping’s New Clothes, an editorial postscript’, 22 July 2020
‘The Tenth Day’
— an excerpt from the conclusion to
A New Decameron: Freedom is Not Free
Zha Jianying 查建英
in conversation with
Katō Yoshikazu 加藤嘉一
Translated & annotated by Geremie R. Barmé
Katō Yoshikazu (Katō):
The only time I’ve ever heard you swear was when you said, ‘We are America, bitch!’ What did you mean?
Jianying Zha (Zha):
Actually, it’s not my line at all. I was quoting the title of an article that appeared in The Atlantic Monthly by a journalist who’d interviewed a senior official in the Trump White House.
They’d said that the Trump Doctrine [as it related to US engagement with the world] could best be summed up in the line ‘We’re America, bitch’.
The best distillation of the Trump Doctrine I heard, though, came from a senior White House official with direct access to the president and his thinking. I was talking to this person several weeks ago, and I said, by way of introduction, that I thought it might perhaps be too early to discern a definitive Trump Doctrine.
“No,” the official said. “There’s definitely a Trump Doctrine.”
“What is it?” I asked. Here is the answer I received:
“The Trump Doctrine is ‘We’re America, Bitch.’ That’s the Trump Doctrine.”
It struck me almost immediately that this was the most acute, and attitudinally honest, description of the manner in which members of Trump’s team, and Trump himself, understand their role in the world.
— Jeffrey Goldberg, ‘A Senior White House Official Defines the Trump Doctrine:
“We’re America, Bitch” ’, The Atlantic Monthly, 12 June 2018
One of the original meanings of ‘bitch’ is ‘female dog’, although it has long been used as a pejorative term when speaking about or abusing a woman as ‘a whore’. It’s egregiously chauvinistic, but it’s also used when the speaker wants to denigrate someone or something that they think of as being weak, inferior or subservient.
‘Trumpism’, be it in regard to its overweening posture or actual policy settings, is summed up as ‘USA First’, the US is Number One, capo dei capi. We’re the strongest and the toughest and if you bitches don’t behave yourselves, we’ll show you just what’s what. In Beijing slang you’d say something like:
‘Listen up, you fuckers, the Boss Man is back in town, so get down on your knees!’
Trump was outraged by what he thought of as the weakness of the Obama administration. Once he took office, he made a big show of pulling out of alliances and dissolving agreements [with other countries]. He was convinced that everything Obama had done only served to make Americans feel bad about themselves; all those painstaking negotiations with other countries demonstrated nothing so much as American weakness. [According to Trump,] Obama’s was a presidency in retreat; it was one during which he constantly admitted fault. In the Syrian conflict, for example, although the Assad regime had clearly crossed the red line set down by Washington [to the effect that the US would take action against Damascus if chemical weapons were deployed against Syrian civilians], still Obama didn’t react. Trump believed that this was a betrayal of what America is all about.
[Note: On 20 August 2012, Barack Obama used the phrase ‘red line’ when referring to the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war. He said: ‘We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.’ At the time, John McCain, Obama’s political opponent, observed that the red line was ‘apparently written in disappearing ink’.]
The line ‘We’re America, Bitch’ is an example of a quintessentially crude and bullying machismo. It proclaims, in effect, that, first and foremost, our enemies should fear us; we don’t need them to like us, let alone love us.
America has always presented two contrasting realities. On the one hand, its army is the best on the planet, its military budget the largest. Then, on the other hand, American soft power — its ideals of freedom and democracy, its openness and inclusivity, its leading universities and popular culture — are the envy of the world. The ‘America First’ approach promoted by Trump is about brute force pure and simple, not soft power.
Some of the hawks in the Trump administration remind me of people like Donald Rumsfeld during the era of Bush fils. [Note: That is, George W. Bush, 43rd President of the USA, who is referred to as ‘Baby Bush’ 小布殊 in Chinese.] After 9/11, the Bush administration hankered for revenge and obsessed about lashing out. It set its sights on invading Iraq. I’ll never forget Rumsfeld on TV, with that eternally knotted brow and a dark expression of foreboding. What was the upshot of it all? A brutal military action that merely served to stir up a hornet’s nest.
Trump seemingly moved in the opposite direction; he couldn’t quit alliances or withdraw troops fast enough. Strategic withdrawal aimed at consolidating one’s forces as opposed to embarking on military ventures in every direction is a policy that doubtlessly has its merits. If truth be told, many Obama-era policies were aimed at just such a recalibration, a strategic falling back. But, despite all of his claims, to me Trump seems to mirror the hawkish attitude traditionally found among Republicans — a simplistic and brutish understanding of the world that invariably results in unilateral acts of bellicosity. That’s what seems to be coming to the fore again.
Americans often describe the Republicans as being the country’s stern ‘Daddy Party’, compared to the softer ‘Mommy Party’ of Democrats. As a result, American political life is supposedly a complementary admix of the two. Nowadays, although many Republican elders might find it difficult to stomach Trump’s crazy ways, and despite the fact that they are repelled by his moral turpitude, they recognise that when it comes to economic policy and a raft of social issues his behaviour is still well within the bounds of their conservative tradition. As for China policy, he not only has the support of the Republicans, even the Democrats are now favouring a more hard-line approach. As things presently stand, China might be the only policy area in which there is relative bipartisan agreement. Trump thinks China has always taken advantage of the United States and made fools of its leaders; now it’s time to show the ‘bitch’ just who’s boss.
You’re right, the most significant, and perhaps the only, point of agreement in Washington — one shared by the two main political parties, as well as by the two houses of congress, the administration and the various think tanks — is a determination not to be soft on China any more and the need to reiterate demands that the People’s Republic abide by the rules of the global system. Trump wants China to learn a lesson; he wants Beijing to be both intimidated as well as compliant. As for the Chinese authorities, they are being tested as to how they respond to a drawn-out trade conflict with the United States in ways they simply haven’t experienced at any point during their recent economic transformation. It’s a test that involves numerous variables. It seems to me that the China strategy that’s evolved during the Trump presidency will continue after [the presidential inauguration on 20] January 2021. What do you think?
I agree. No matter who wins the election [in November 2020], the US-China relationship won’t be going back to status quo ante the Trump era. Perhaps the most significant achievement of the Trump presidency will be that America has now jettisoned all pretence in its dealings with the Communist regime.
According to that article in The Atlantic [quoted above], the senior White House official who summed up the ‘Trump Doctrine’ as ‘We’re America, Bitch’, had direct access to the president and his thinking. When the journalist asked the official to expand on the subject, he said:
‘Obama apologized to everyone for everything. He felt bad about everything. [President Trump] Doesn’t feel like he has to apologize for anything America does.’
Moreover, a friend of the new president described the Trump Doctrine succinctly:
‘There’s the Obama Doctrine, and the “Fuck Obama” Doctrine. We’re the “Fuck Obama” Doctrine.’
‘Of course,’ he said, laughing. ‘The president believes that we’re America, and people can take it or leave it.’
Superficially, the song ‘America, Fuck Yeah!’ bristles with American machismo but, in actual fact, it’s a parody, a satire of the obnoxious bullying temperament of the Americans.
Although the chief baddies in the movie are a dictator [Kim Jong Il] and the terrorists, it also makes fun of a raft of soft-headed leftie Hollywood entertainers, as well as lampooning the braggadocio of knuckle-dragging American ‘cowboy heroes’. Both groups are blind to the result of their saviour complex, both have repeatedly made an absolute mess of things.
The people behind Team America: World Police [Trey Parker and Matt Stone] are also the creators of South Park, a modern cartoon classic. They spare no one in their send ups, including themselves, be they corporate ‘masters of the universe’ or politicians, liberals or conservatives — they have the lot in their sights.
An [October 2019] episode of South Park [titled ‘Band in China’] lambasted the American corporations that kowtow to Beijing in their craven pursuit of the China market, as well as NBA stars and Hollywood producers. There’s lots of similar programs that ‘take the piss’ in America; they include shows familiar to Chinese viewers such as House of Cards [a feeble American remake of a BBC original]. In the States, both audiences and the government are used to such satires, they’re part and parcel of American’s ‘cultural confidence’ [to use a term promoted by Xi Jinping, who champions Chinese cultural confidence].
On Wednesday [2 October 2019], “South Park” released an episode called “Band in China,” which featured the clueless Randy Marsh, the most prominently featured parent in the show, detained in a Chinese prison and labor camp for trying to sell the marijuana he grows on his Colorado farm to what he thinks will be a large, untapped market in China. Meanwhile, his son, Stan, battles with a film producer over the script for a biopic about his death metal band as Chinese advisers request rewrite after rewrite to appease the government’s strict content standards.
“For this movie to really make money, we need to clear the Chinese censors,” the producer tells Stan. “You gotta lower your ideals of freedom if you wanna” do business in China, he adds, punctuating the joke with a graphic metaphor.
In a scene at the beginning of the episode, several NBA players, including one wearing a Houston Rockets jersey, and recognizable Disney characters — including Elsa of “Frozen” and Thor of “The Avengers” — fly to China as brand ambassadors to entice Chinese viewers to tune in to their American programming. Randy goes to extreme lengths to satisfy the Chinese officials and regain his freedom, eventually strangling Winnie the Pooh, another victim of the country’s suppression of speech. His son rejects the censors’ demands, boldly proclaiming that he cannot sell his soul to make money in the Chinese film market.
“It’s not worth living in a world where China controls my country’s art,” Stan eventually tells the producer as he abandons the biopic.
— Katie Shepherd, ‘ “We too love money more than freedom”: South Park creators issue mock apology over Chinese censorship’, The Washington Post, 8 October 2019
When you say that satire and self-mockery are ‘part and parcel of American “cultural confidence” ’ it brings to mind that term ‘Great Power’. Maybe great powers really do need a kind of latitude and broad-mindedness.
But, allow me to change the subject: I know that Trump is from New York and that there’s a Trump Tower in Manhattan. As a New Yorker yourself, can you say something about Trump’s presence in the city?
Let me say right up front that, even though Trump Tower is smack in the middle of Manhattan [on Fifth Avenue, between 56th and 57th Streets] and, although I’ve passed by many times, I’ve never been inside. I have zero curiosity about that gaudy golden monolith.
But your question brings to mind a story I did for The New Yorker back in 2005. It was an extensive profile of Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, the Beijing husband-and-wife real estate developers. I called the piece ‘The Turtles’ [海龜懟土鱉, a reference to the fact that Pan was a local boy while Zhang had returned to China after studying overseas]. Though, when I got my print copy of the magazine, I discovered that on the cover the title had been changed to ‘The Trumps of Beijing’ [Note: in the magazine itself, the title remained unchanged].
It’s an anecdote that highlights a couple of things: in the first place, it is an indication of the prominence of the Trump name in New York, long before he ran for president. The Chinese are familiar with many famous Americans; though not many Americans know any famous Chinese; some know the names Mao and Deng but no one else, let alone people like real estate developers or entrepreneurs.
Secondly, for New Yorkers, the name Trump conjured up the image of a practiced self-promoter even then. His story has always only been about business and his name was always a brand that evoked a particular lifestyle and kind of taste. In my New Yorker profile, I said that those upcoming Beijing developers were canny and knew how to play to the media and package themselves so they could sell their properties at a premium. Not only were Pan and Zhang expert at all of that, they’d even thought about producing a show like Trump’s The Apprentice. I guess, that’s why the editors of The New Yorker thought the pair had something of the Donald J. Trump about them.
I get it. Though I’d note that in this ‘New Era of Xi Jinping’ even the most famous and influential Chinese entrepreneurs like Pan Shiyi are trying to keep a low profile. To my mind, their political acuity and adaptability reeks of rank opportunism.
You’re spot on, of course. Moreover, who’d ever imagine that opportunists like that would show any mettle? They know how to trim their sails to the prevailing winds. China’s entrepreneurs are infinitely more faint-hearted than Trump.
My understanding is that Trump’s reputation in New York has never been particularly stellar. He grew up in Queens, a borough in which housing is cheaper than either Manhattan and Brooklyn. As a result, it has a high concentration of middle- and lower-middle class immigrant families. Although Trump was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, his father was a developer of relatively low-rent real estate projects in Queens; he never managed to expand into Manhattan. Trump’s dream was to get into the Manhattan market by building luxury developments for the wealthy. Trump Tower was one such project. But, he actually achieved what he’d set out to do; he’s even ended up as president of the United States. Isn’t that the ‘American Dream’?
The problem though is that New Yorkers are all familiar with the stories about Trump’s father — from his questionable character to the underhand way in which he amassed his wealth. For example, I have an old family friend who’s a classic New York Jew. His father was in construction materials and, at one point, he was a supplier for Trump père. My friend delighted in sharing all the sordid details of the elder Trump’s boundless chicanery. One time, he said, his dad was so furious with the way he was being cheated that he shoved the old bastard into a corner and threatened to beat him up.
[Addition: On that occasion, friend’s father (the supplier) had delivered a large batch of plumbing supplies to Fred Trump’s building site. Then, under the cover of darkness, Trump Senior had his people move them to another site, reported that a ‘theft’ had taken place, collected compensation from his insurer and, to top it off, refused to pay the original supplier. — Zha Jianying.]
There’s far more scuttlebutt about the son: diddling customers, padding accounts, tax evasion, employing undocumented immigrants, welching on bills… Then there’s the string of bankrupt casinos and the endless law suits, not to mention the sex scandals. If all the stories and reports are true, Trump can only be described as a dyed in the wool thug.
Frankly, the New York real estate world has long been home to unbridled corruption, as well as being a haven for the mafia. Trump wasn’t the only slimy creature dwelling in that particular swamp. Apart from all that, those with serious money, people who tend to be fairly low-key, like Michael Bloomberg — someone who is far richer than Trump — always found his self-promotional antics to be on the nose. To them, Trump is a windbag par excellence, a completely unreliable operator.
Add that to the fact that the New York elite is remarkably snobbish. Not only was Trump a questionable character, even worse was the fact that he is so tacky, with taste that reeks of kitsch. He is nouveau riche himself and what’s more he builds ostentatious palaces for his fellow wannabes so they can flaunt their money. For the well-heeled and cultivated denizens of New York, such plutocratic newbies lowered the tone — they move in to glistening towers built in the luxury neighbourhoods of Manhattan in the mistaken belief that they were part of the real New York. In fact, they have nothing to do with the actual spirit of the city and their presence only serves to push up real estate prices. In the process, they trash the true quality and ambience of the place.
Speaking of ambience, that reminds me of another Trump Tower — the one he plopped down in the heart of Chicago. Buildings in downtown Chicago are noted for their modernist elegance but there, smack in the middle of those soaring exemplars, is a skyscraper that advertises itself with a massive ‘TRUMP’ emblazoned on its side. You can’t miss it; it’s typical of Trump’s overwhelming narcissism — ‘Forget taste, I only care about being seen!’
Lots of commentators have observed that although Trump doesn’t read, he has accumulated a wealth of experience as a ‘street brawler’: he’s crafty and decisive, and he has an endless appetite for pursuing his aims. He wasn’t a bad looking young man and he exuded a certain roguish charm. Regardless, he’s loathed by the intelligentsia of New York. The mere mention of the name ‘Trump’ at any literary gathering invariably leads to a furious outpouring — a stream of snide remarks and much rolling of eyes. It’s as though America has woken to find itself trapped in a nightmare, they cry, and it feels like it’ll never end. On those occasions, you’ll virtually never hear a good word about him, let alone any even vaguely objective assessment of the man.
New Yorkers never imagined that one day Trump would end up as their president. He got very few votes locally and, since no one really regards him as being part of New York anyway, no one feels any pride in the fact that he was elected. Throughout his presidency The New York Times, The New Yorker, along with most local media outlets have been consistently critical of him. There are frequent anti-Trump protests near where I live at Washington Square Park and on any given day you’ll find someone there selling anti-Trump badges. There’s also this musician who turns up with a piano once a week carrying a sign that reads ‘Down With Fascism!’.
The driver of a cab I recently took to JFK [Airport] spent the whole trip railing about Trump. He said, sure America has plenty of problems—the rich are greedy and there’s too many people on welfare—but Trump is the last person who’d ever be able to do anything about it. The only thing he cares about is himself. As I was getting out of the cab, he turned to me and said:
‘I’m a Jew, so you can believe me when I tell you that I know a Nazi when I see one.’
So, New Yorkers see Trump in a very negative light. Some have really gone off the deep end as a result. Following the news of Trump’s victory in early November 2016, the editor of the The New Yorker [David Remnick] published an editorial titled simply ‘An American Tragedy’.
The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. On January 20, 2017, we will bid farewell to the first African-American President—a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit—and witness the inauguration of a con who did little to spurn endorsement by forces of xenophobia and white supremacy. It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety. …
All along, Trump seemed like a twisted caricature of every rotten reflex of the radical right. That he has prevailed, that he has won this election, is a crushing blow to the spirit; it is an event that will likely cast the country into a period of economic, political, and social uncertainty that we cannot yet imagine. That the electorate has, in its plurality, decided to live in Trump’s world of vanity, hate, arrogance, untruth, and recklessness, his disdain for democratic norms, is a fact that will lead, inevitably, to all manner of national decline and suffering.
— David Remnick, The New Yorker, 9 November 2016
Thank you. There seem to be two main schools of thought about Trump. One argues that if someone like Donald Trump can be president then the American Dream is in serious trouble. The opposite view contends that the American Dream is alive and well precisely because a businessman like Trump was elected president. As an American citizen, what do you think?
Though I’ll probably be criticised for being a fence-sitter, I think there’s merits on both sides of this divide. One of the underlying features of the American Dream is that a person can make good by dint of their own effort, and regardless of their background or race. They can even aspire to become president. Both Obama and Trump’s presidencies are evidence of the broad spectrum of possibilities that still exist in America today. One was an outstanding person from a half-African immigrant background who boasted academic accomplishments, the other is a deeply flawed political newcomer who happens to have a unique kind of acumen.
The America Dream has been in a critical state for decades as the country has witnessed a decline in mobility, increased class stratification and exacerbated inequalities. Trump is the first president in American history who has had no previous political or military experience, yet these are among the factors that made him electable in the first place. Many Americans are sick and tired, not to mention mistrustful, of slick professional political hacks, establishment elites and interest groups that have grown fat on outsourced production and globalisation. That’s why so many voters went for an ‘outsider’, even if the candidate was an obstreperous nut job like Trump. [Note: In the 2016 presidential election, only 55.7% of the electorate turned out to vote. Trump won with 304 of the 538 electoral votes, although Clinton won the popular vote by a margin of 2,868,686 votes.] Trump wasn’t a politician cast in the usual mold; he promised to ‘drain the swamp’ in Washington and during the campaign he played up his status as a non-establishment figure.
When Trump became president I thought of the former Japanese prime minister Koizumi Junichirō. Despite his reputation as a maverick, Koizumi was from a family of politicians and his son, Koizumi Shinichirō, Japan’s thirty-seven year-old Minister of the Environment, seems destined to be prime minister in the future. But in his political career the father, Junichirō, was a lone wolf who steered clear of factional politics; he even championed the slogan: ‘Overthrow the LDP!’ [that is, the conservative Liberal Democratic Party of which Koizumi was himself a member]. Trump’s assault on Washington reminded me of that old Japanese political slogan. What’s different in Trump’s case is that he really is a political outsider; it’s impossible to think of any Japanese equivalent. Of course, Japan too has been experiencing a wave of populism, commercialisation and politics-as-entertainment not all that dissimilar from America. It’s disturbing to see more and more retired athletes, entertainers and even singers contesting parliamentary elections solely on the basis of their popularity.
But Trump really has the thickest hide of them all, and it’s impressive that he’s been able to get this far despite the relentless pressure on him from the media, the judiciary and the Democratic Party. It really is quite something! At the same time, as a Japanese, of course I feel that Trump is completely unreliable; he’s a profoundly flawed character. That such a ‘disabled individual’ could ever become president highlights the stark differences between America and Japan.
But I’m interested to know whether your opinions of him have changed since his inauguration?
They have. I should preface my remarks by emphasising that my diastase for Trump’s style remains unaltered and I’m opposed, no, disgusted by much of what he says and does. However, I must admit that his uncanny sense for mass sentiment informs both his thinking and his aggressive behaviour. The shockwaves that his mere presence have sent out highlight a raft of issues; they’ve shaken many people out of their complacency and forced them to reflect on many sobering American realities. I can’t condemn all of his policies and actions out of hand. There have been some achievements along with the egregious failures.
Prior to Trump’s election in November 2016, I had a vague foreboding, a sense of the mounting grievances felt by many right-leaning Caucasians in the country. During a discussion about the rise of Chinese nationalism at a symposium on China organised by The New Yorker in December 2015 [and hosted by The Asia Society], I observed that: ‘Nationalism is also on the rise in the United States.’ David Remnick, editor-in-chief of The New Yorker, was in the chair, and he shot me a look of puzzlement. He asked me whether I meant the Republicans or Obama? I responded and said something to the effect that: ‘Obama is blamed for not being nationalistic enough. I’m talking about the right wing, including conservatives like Donald Trump who are giving voice to right-wing sentiment. They feel that Obama is too weak.’
Trump had only recently announced that he was going to be a contender in the presidential race and it’d be another six months before he won the Republican nomination. Since, apart from other things, we were discussing ‘nationalism’ at that ‘The New Yorker on China’ symposium, that’s the word I used rather than the expression ‘American populism’. What I was referring to was the evident change in national sentiment, the revival of a kind of American nativism.
[Note: The discussion on nationalism in China and the USA can be found at 47-55 minutes. The exchange between Jianying Zha and David Remnick occurs at 48-49 minutes.]
There’s no doubt that we have been witnessing what you could call the ‘contending nationalisms’ of China and the United States. It’s evident in the bilateral trade war, disagreements over Hong Kong and in the friction over COVID-19. Feeding off each other, the disparate nationalisms of China under Xi Jinping and America under Trump are now locked in a kind of vicious cycle.
Back then [in late 2015], however, I hadn’t put all that much thought into these issues. In particular, I couldn’t imagine that Trump would ever win the election, though I got the feeling that he might get the Republican nomination. I watched all of the debates and I was struck by Trump’s undeniably powerful stage presence, his ability simply to steamroll over all the other Republican candidates. It never occurred to me that he’d eventually go on to defeat Hilary Clinton. I was repulsed by Trump from the get-go — all of his grotesque, incendiary remarks, not to mention the smears targeting Clinton. One thing I found to be particularly unforgivable was that, in one of the televised debates, he had the gall to describe the 1989 Tiananmen protests as a ‘riot’ 騷亂 sāoluàn, a term that has an even more negative connotation than ‘turmoil’ 動亂 dòngluàn, the pejorative expression used by Chinese officialdom. Adding insult to injury, he referred to the repression of June Fourth  as evidence of the strength of the Chinese government, and contrasted it with the relative weakness of America. What absolute garbage! And that wasn’t the first time he’d ever spoken about June Fourth; he’d said similar things back in the 1990s. At the time I thought to myself: this guy will do absolutely anything to win; the only thing that he cares about is brute force.
So true. Trump will do anything to promote himself and gain an advantage. It’s something you can see in the way he’s handled such issues as the US-China trade conflict, the Chinese students studying in America and Hong Kong. When it comes to Hong Kong, there’s no evidence that he has any interest in human rights and freedom; he’s also completely ignorant about the history and role of the ‘one country, two systems’ governance framework. He’s just using Hong Kong as a bargaining chip in his dealings with Beijing.
There’s an old saying that ‘good intentions often lead to bad consequences’ but, in the way Trump has dealt with China maybe we could say that ‘evil intentions might have positive outcomes’.
Sure. In his recently published memoir [The Room Where it Happened, June 2020] John Bolton, a former National Security Advisor in the Trump White House, reported a number of China-related Trumpisms that are further evidence that the man has zero interest in Chinese human rights, unless of course they can be used as a pawn in the larger contest between the US and China.
Bolton’s revelations show that not only was Trump willing to praise Xi Jinping to the skies during trade negotiations if it might give him a slight edge in his efforts to be re-elected, but that he was also happy to sell out the freedom and rights of Hong Kongers and the Uyghurs in Xinjiang without a thought [Note: Bolton reveals that Trump remarked to Xi that the concentration camps in Xinjing were ‘the right thing to do’]. As for commemorating June Fourth, that doesn’t even rate a mention. And Taiwan? One of Trump’s favorite comparisons was to point to the tip of one of his Sharpie [markers] and say, ‘This is Taiwan’ then, pointing to [the Resolute desk in the Oval Office where he worked] he’d add, ‘This is China.’ It’s a powerful image — Trump probably wouldn’t care if the tip of his marker was ground into dust if only the Great Leader Xi Jinping agreed to buy a few more tonnes of American soybeans.
Having said that, I do agree that ‘evil intentions might have positive outcomes’. The Great Game between major powers is a complex one and US foreign policy isn’t simply the outcome of what any given president might want. There’s a number of hawks in the Trump administration who really do care about human rights in Hong Kong and China, including Young Turks like Matt Pottinger. [Note: See, Josh Rogin, ‘The Trump administration had a China strategy after all, but Trump didn’t follow it’, The Washington Post, 15 January 2021.]
Politicians are generally pretty relentless when they debate each other, but Donald Trump’s animus is extreme, he’s simply more vituperative and abusive than anyone else. It’s said he was a brawler at school and there’s even a story that he once gave his music teacher a black eye. Nowadays, words are his weapon of choice. During the presidential campaign [of 2015-2016] Trump came up with nicknames for all of his opponents, be they Democrats or Republicans. They were, without exception, vulgar and insulting; it was completely unprecedented. He’d verbally abuse opponents at his rallies and he regularly used misogynistic language to denigrate women. A friend of mine who attended a Trump rally in a conservative part of north Florida said that he had heard for himself the racist and sexist ways Trump slandered Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Words like ‘nigger’ and ‘bitch’ featured in chants like ‘Throw the nigger out!’ and ‘Lock up the bitch!’. Trump’s election rallies also saw physical clashes, something Trump praised. This too was unheard of in the history of modern American presidential campaigns. Such norm-breaking behaviour made the 2016 election particularly heinous.
Following Trump’s victory, many of his opponents, including many of my friends in New York, felt traumatised and were overwhelmed by feelings of anger and defeatism. They’d lash out at anyone who supported him, so much so that it seemed like borderline hate. Yet, at the same time, they were reluctant to detect any fault in themselves and that’s something that worries me profoundly. No matter how you see it, Trump won nearly half of all the votes cast and he was elected legitimately. This is the first time in many years that something like half of the American electorate [that is, poor whites who felt increasingly disenfrancised as a result of globalisation — Zha] has been taken seriously; until now their anger has generally been ignored.
Trump is a wily operator who was able to sense all the pent up frustrations out there and he was able to express himself adroitly via the new social media platforms. His tweets might be composed in something that’s little better than primary school language, but those outbursts resonate powerfully with large numbers of everyday voters. He follows [what Mao called] ‘the mass line’. He held rallies in many places that Clinton never went, in particular the neglected and de-industrialised areas of the country. He ‘goes down to the grassroots’ [to use another Chinese Communist expression] and knows how to channel the voices of people who have long felt alienated. He speaks in a plain and emotive language that enables him to ride roughshod over everything. It’s in stark contrast to the carefully crafted, rational and well-argued speeches of Barack Obama. So, the more the various elites despised him, the greater his appeal among his rough-and-ready supporters. To them he was as familiar and appealing as a crusty old neighbour who didn’t have much education. Trumpistas were saying in effect: Yeah, we like to see the rantings of this loudmouthed character as he spits in the face of all the elites. What a blast! Confronted by such raw emotions, rational argument pales in comparison. Added to all of this is the fact that the sense of grievance had been building up for years.
Trump’s presidency has been a wake-up call for the American establishment. Trump ‘groked’ on exactly the things that they’d been ignoring.
Indeed. Trump and Xi Jinping also share a few things in common, in particular their willingness to do whatever it takes to shore up their reputations and consolidate their gains. It’s interesting that, despite the sorry state of the US-China relationship overall, the two leaders have not stooped to engaging in mutual recriminations nor have they engaged in personal attacks. Perhaps it’s proof that they share certain traits in common.
They’re ‘partners in crime’. Trump has publicly praised Xi Jinping as the great leader of the Chinese people and, according to Bolton, Xi had remarked in discussions with Trump that he hoped they would continue to work together in the future [beyond Trump’s first term].
[Note: When, in early March 2018, Xi had the Chinese Constitution revised to allow him to stay in office indefinitely, Trump said: ‘He’s now president for life, president for life. And he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.’ His supporters at a fundraiser in Florida where he made these remarks responded with cheers and applause.]
Apart from Xi there’s a host of other questionable characters with whom Trump enjoys a chummy relationship: Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the British PM [Boris Johnson], the president of Brazil [Jair Bolsonaro] and the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi … These ‘macho types’ are like a mutual admiration society; there’s enough of them to form a club.
I’m now willing to admit that, despite my personal distaste for Trump, I actually hoped he’d win in 2016. I felt he’d bring about long-term change. Just like Koizumi had observed, only America can overthrow America.
The electorate was sick and tired of the merry-go-round antics of the establishment and the dilatory policies of the elite, be they in the form of a Hilary Clinton or a Barack Obama, and regardless of whether they were Republicans or Democrats. They weren’t voting for Trump so much as hoping for a different future. They didn’t care whether Trump was a thug or a gentleman, they just wanted to upset the status quo.
There’s no doubt that America is at a cross roads. The Trump presidency offers the establishment, as well as America more broadly, an opportunity to rethink things. But the problems are at the very top, in the national system itself and major changes need to be made. From a long-term perspective the Trump ascendancy offers an opportunity for the American Dream to be reimagined. I’d even dub the Trump presidency a ‘break-through transition’.
Certainly. Trump’s presidency has definitely been something of a ‘wake-up call’. Even though it’s been an ‘over correction’, at least it’s better than just letting things slide into a morass. In this regard alone, Trump’s victory will be seen as a profoundly significant moment in American history.
Above all, I’ve been particularly aware of the impact Trump’s rise has had on the Sino-American relationship. It’s also one of the reasons why my view of him has changed over time. He’s sounded the alarm about China not only in the United States, but globally as well. He has transformed the kind of American China policy that has been in place during all administrations for nearly half a century, from Nixon to Obama. Over time, that policy has been called various things like ‘engagement’, ‘cooperation’, ‘accommodation’ and a ‘negotiated relationship’. You could sum it up as having been a strategy that employed relatively moderate and friendly means to encourage China’s ongoing reform and opening up. The flaws of that approach were becoming increasingly evident. Actually, things had been changing from the time of Obama’s second term as part of a general reset of America’s post-9/11 strategy, starting in the Middle East and then involving Asia. Obama and [Secretary of State] Clinton called it a ‘pivot to Asia’.
The new strategy was expressed through a series of moves: joint military exercises with Australia; the deployment of the THAAD missile system in South Korea; an enhanced alliance with India; as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. When it came to China, however, Obama took a softly-softly approach expressed more in terms of measured and courteous discussions, the upshot of which was that China played him for a fool. He was repeatedly frustrated, be it in regard to trade policy, the militarisation of the South China Sea or ongoing cyber attacks [on US networks]. Trump saw what had been going on and declared that he didn’t believe what the Chinese said and that he wouldn’t engage with the PRC in the same way. Remember, as soon as he was in office he took that call from [Taiwan president] Tsai Ing-wen? At the time, many people put it down to the fact that Trump was a political novice who had no international relations nous. Events have proven that he was prepared and briefed, and that he had an overall policy goal to get tough on China.
The ongoing trade war has shaken the kind of complacency in China that had been built up over the decades as a result of their dealings with previous US administrations. Some of my old ‘liberal’ friends in China support Trump because they feel he has the Communists by the ‘short and curlies’. They believe that Trump and his advisers ‘get’ China and that they know just how to engage with it, as well as how to put it in its place. I tend to agree, at least in terms of Trump’s China policy. The attitude of the China hawks in the Trump administration could be summed up in one line:
‘Listen, punk, the boss man is back on the scene, so just try me and see what I’ve got in store for you!’
Genteel types will never get the better of street toughs. Sometimes in life, when you’re dealing with a hustler, you need a hustler on your side; a lout can only be put in their place by a bigger lout. Trump really has something of the mafia boss about him; even the advisers he surrounds himself with look like a gang of Sicilian mafiosi — I just about laugh out loud whenever I see Mike Pompeo or Rudy Giuliani on TV. But, then, the Communists are hardly a push over. Does anyone think they can be trusted?
Many economists are highly critical of the tactics that have been employed during the trade war. In particular, they argue that tariffs are an out-of-date policy approach that hurts your side nearly as much as the enemy, with only limited practical effect. But then, what are the actual long-term interests of the American and Chinese people? Should American corporations and consumers for the sake of securing certain short-term gains [such as corporate profits and made-in-China cheap goods] simply put up with the numerous systemic trade inequities that exist, as well as with China’s overall lack of reciprocity, transparency and a plethora of behaviours that ignore the rules of the game? Isn’t opening the door to a surveillance state like China determined to achieve hi-tech parity really a threat to US security? What does an increasingly robust China model mean for the world and humanity itself? Such questions are not only about business profitability, they relate to such basic issues as freedom, democracy and fundamental personal dignity.
Candidates in previous presidential campaigns alway said they’d get tough on China but, once they were in the White House they’d quickly start making concessions to the business lobbies both in China and the US. Up to the present moment, Trump has pretty much done what he said he’d do. It’s certainly made people sit up and pay attention. On the surface, it looks as though he’s only about business calculations, but behind that there’s also a steely view related to basic ideas and rules. I’m generally in favour of trade negotiations that are undertaken on the basis of equality, and I support an approach that is tough about rules and values.
[Note: see, however, David Rabouin, ‘Trump’s trade war on China was a failure in every possible way’, Axios, 1 February 2021, among others.]
I believe that all of this is actually also in China’s long-term interests. For some time there’s been what Ezra Vogel has called a certain ‘arrogance’ in China and the country is now learning some of the valuable lessons that it missed out on in the past. Trump is actually giving China some hope. Faced as it is with a range of serious issues it would be self-defeating for China not to be confronted by some a country that could stand up to it and simply say ‘No!’
That’s why people are talking about China now having to confront a period of ‘forced’ or ‘imposed reform’. Unfortunately, Trump has also been a harbinger of fracture and alienation, be it in America itself or in relation to the European Union, as well as for the whole Western world. In America there’s been a complete split between the Trumpists and those who oppose him, just as the mainstream media has bifurcated. Similarly, American’s relations with its allies are ruptured and testy. In China there are various schools of thought about all of this and my friends have been at loggerheads for some time. There’s no sign that anyone is willing to walk back from their entrenched positions.
From your perspective, is there any evidence that the Democratic Party has been engaged in a serious stocktaking since Trump’s inauguration?
I believe that there has been a measure of reflection in the Democratic camp, but it’s impossible to say how sincere it’s really been. Overall, it doesn’t seem to have resulted in anything particularly meaningful. The Democrats are convinced that they occupy the moral high ground, just as they believe that the forces of justice and progress are on their side. They instinctively reacted by denying Trump’s legitimacy and since then they have attacked him tirelessly. This highly emotive response has simply gone on far too long.
There’s also been a split within the ranks of the Democrats and some people have become increasingly ‘left wing’. Emotions are running particularly high among the young. That’s why, for example, the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, aka AOC, a twenty-eight year-old Latina in New York, over the incumbent Democrat [Joe Crowley] came as such a shock to the establishment. In the 2018 mid-term elections, a number of young minority candidates [subsequently known as ‘The Squad’], won in other states and have now joined Congress. There’s a view that this trend reflects the increasing numbers of ethnic minorities in the electorate, one that is relatively left-leaning and progressive.
I’m concerned about what this kind of progressivist leftism may mean in terms of practical politics. I’ve long had reservations about ‘identity politics’ on university campuses, and I’m no fan of the fostering of ‘tribalism’ or anything that smacks of intolerance, mental narrowness, hyper-sensitivity or the simplistic labeling of people. To me such narrow-mindedness is bad across the board, be it on the left or the right. Of course, one appreciates that during any social movement it’s hard to avoid a tendency to over-correct, but I’m not convinced that economic or social issues can be meaningfully addressed by extremist posturing; at most it will only serve to exacerbate the existing divisions in American society. But, then again, for their part moderate Democrats haven’t come up with any solutions either. Both parties are controlled by an establishment that occupies a fixed position; no one is willing to sacrifice what they perceive as being their own interests.
Trump’s first term is nearly over. Do the Democrats have any positive policy initiatives to offer?
Although my observations are fairly limited, frankly, from what I’ve seen of the Democratic platform, there’s not much worth discussing. The problems are endemic and virtually intractable, added to which are a host of new issues created or highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic. The sense one gets from the media is that Trump is not only seen as having failed to deal with the pandemic, it continues to ravaging the nation unhindered while the economic outlook is increasingly gloomy. The international image of America has suffered. Even if Biden wins, given his age he’ll probably be a one-term president. If, as a transitional figure, he can restore some overall sense of balance and tamp down the feverish tensions that Trump has exacerbated both domestically and on the international stage, he’ll be doing pretty well.
Here I’m reminded of another piece in The Atlantic, one published in June 2018 titled ‘The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy’ [by Matthew Stewart].
In it, the author offers an impressive re-consideration of the issue of wealth distribution. A slogan of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement of 2011 was ‘We are the 99% and the 1% are exploiting us!’ This article points out the fallacy of such a view, and the writer provides a number of examples and an array of statistics to show that the upper-middle class in America (which includes most well-educated leftists) doesn’t belong to the majoritarian 99%, rather they form an upper echelon of the 9.9%. In fact, they are the direct beneficiaries of the present American system and, over the years of globalisation, they have increasingly benefitted from the resulting windfall. They are enmeshed with the establishment and are in part responsible for the increased stratification and inequalities of American society. Many of them are also long-term supporters of the Democratic Party and there’s no sign that they have been reflecting on their role in the present situation.
The meritocratic class has mastered the old trick of consolidating wealth and passing privilege along at the expense of other people’s children. We are not innocent bystanders to the growing concentration of wealth in our time. We are the principal accomplices in a process that is slowly strangling the economy, destabilizing American politics, and eroding democracy. Our delusions of merit now prevent us from recognizing the nature of the problem that our emergence as a class represents. We tend to think that the victims of our success are just the people excluded from the club. But history shows quite clearly that, in the kind of game we’re playing, everybody loses badly in the end.
— Matthew Stewart, ‘The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy’
The Atlantic, June 2018
Getting rid of Trump isn’t going to solve anything. Redistribution — how many things can you resolve by taxing the 1% more heavily? Would the upper middle class support dealing with some of the problems if you increased taxes on the 9.9%? They might be happy to attack the super wealthy, but they don’t want to deprive themselves of anything or have their interests impinged upon.
In that case, do people really think the broad-based outrage of the American poor can be meaningfully dealt with by bringing some traditional industrial production back home? There might be some marginal success in such ‘repatriation’ but, for the foreseeable future, most manufacturing jobs will stay in China or migrate to places like Vietnam where labor costs are low. Every corporation operates according to a profit motive so, no matter how hardline Trump might be, he can’t just order businesses to relocate to America. With the national debt already astronomically high, how many more tax breaks and subsidies can the government afford to give in its attempts to lure back businesses? Anyway, do you really think America will welcome back polluting, low-skill and backward industries?
The future is in AI and hi-tech industries, and that’s the nub of Sino-American competition. It’s also why American blue-collar workers are in a bind when trying to find gainful employment. So, how do you deal with their need to find work? Do you do what Andrew Yang says and hand out a living wage [the so-called ‘freedom dividend’]? People have proposed a UBI (universal basic income) in the past; now there’s also talk of UBC (universal basic capital), that is everyone gets some money to invest in something. But have any of these innovative ideas got sufficient broad-based backing to be viable?
None of these policy proposals seem to be particularly practical; anyway, they won’t ameliorate the profound wealth gap in America today. From my own limited understanding, be it at Harvard, MIT or the think tanks in Washington, the basic ideas of the majority of the intelligentsia chime with the existing power structures. This has pretty much remained the case throughout the Trump years. It’s hardly true in this instance that, as Edward Said would have it, intellectuals invariably represent the interests of the oppressed and take a stand against the power-holders — anyway, during my time in the States, I certainly didn’t encounter intellectuals like that.
Well put, and it’s a topic worth discussing. My sense is that Said was talking about intellectuals who were on the fringes of the system, those with a strong egalitarian sense who dared to challenge the mainstream as a social avant-garde, like the leading abolitionists and suffragettes of the past, or people like Karl Marx, or Martin Luther King more recently.
In America today the journalists who report on vulnerable communities and the poor, rights lawyers, human rights activists, advocates of consumer rights and the NGOs that fight for immigrant rights or the founders of social enterprises — aren’t they exactly that kind of intellectual? Their ranks include some academics, like the public intellectual Noam Chomsky. No matter how extreme you might think his views are, you can’t help admiring his dogged courage in denouncing Western hegemony and corporate capital. My publisher, André Schiffrin, was also a public intellectual in that mold. He quit a major publishing house and set up his own enterprise so that he could pursue his ideals. He published many books the value of which lay in their contribution to the public debate rather than in their profitability.
Having said that, I do concur with your observations about elite American institutions and think tanks. That’s simply the lie of the land, especially in the case of the departments or groups involved with public policy or economic analysis. They are all far too closely bound up with party politics, the corporate world and the interests of big business. They are located in the heart of the system and that determines the kind of work and analysis that they do.
I should add that I have no right to feel any sense of disappointment in the American intelligentsia, though I believe the phenomenon we’ve been discussing is extremely dangerous. It’s a situation in which university professors who are also researchers in think tanks also give policy advice to government. There’s tons of people involved in this kind of ‘revolving door’ relationship with power, and there’s little chance that any of them would say anything to challenge the powers that be.
Exactly, and the opposite also holds true. There are plenty of people in both parties who join a think tank, or a law firm or consultancy as soon as they leave government employment. Then there’s those who become commentators on network TV or host shows; some even set up their own media outfits. Take Steve Bannon [Trump’s chief strategist for the first seven months of the new administration], for instance. After he left the White House [in August 2017], he initially turned up as a talking head on various major media programs before he finally got the money together to set up ‘War Room’, an operation that is unabashedly partisan [Note: See here; YouTube banned the ‘War Room’ channel in the wake of the 1/6 Capitol Insurgency]. Most people who appear on his show are rusted on right-wing cheerleaders for Trump.
Since the two major political parties rule in turn, there’s no hope that this ‘ecosystem’ will change any time soon. After all, people don’t become wealthy by working for government, nor is a government job an ‘iron rice bowl’. This kind of political mobility has both negatives and positives. The most obvious flaw in such an arrangement is that it blurs the line between politics and the academic world, and it generates a tangle of interests involving people and their political affiliations. Both independence and neutrality suffer as a result.
In the wake of the destructive nature of the Trump presidency surely the intelligentsia has to reflect on the situation. The tired old strategies aren’t going to resolve any of the intractable and recurrent problems that exist.
True, though there’s no evidence so far that anyone is moving in a new direction. The two major parties are still at each other’s throats and no one is giving an inch and there’s no sense that the rupture can or will be healed.
I believe that this is a necessary process. Perhaps this is just what America needs: a period of transition and disjuncture, even if it is one in which many crazy things happen. Perhaps this is a lesson that the United States has to learn.
I agree. It’s necessary. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s better than refusing to recognise the illness. Even if things lurch towards extremes, America might just have to go through this process. Maybe God sent Trump to shock America out of its complacency?
Regardless, I’m still of the opinion that Trump was an historical inevitability, something necessary for the future of the country. Moreover, the issue of who will succeed Trump is also of vital importance. Trump has, for the moment, upended the system but if the ‘post-Trump era’ is just a return to the past, it will have all been for nothing.
For the moment, the hawks are in charge. Their aggressive mindset is inevitably also being taken up in the commercial and popular realms. The Huawei business and Meng Wanzhou are just the beginning. In terms of hi-tech, some American China specialists are already promoting the view that, just like WWII and the Reagan eras, the federal government needs to increase spending so they can work with Silicon Valley. Confronted by the China challenge, they argue, this is the only way to win the future.
I have little doubt that competition between the United States and China in sensitive areas like hi-tech and armaments will remain part of the overall strategic struggle to win the future. Japan needs to prepare itself accordingly.
Despite the partisan warfare and the continuing uncertainty of the situation in America, perhaps the only thing we know for sure is that, no matter what comes after Trump, we won’t be seeing a return to the Sino-American relationship of the Obama era.
- 查建英、 加藤嘉一，《自由不是免費的——新十日談》, 香港：牛津大學出版社，2020, 第612-631頁。
加藤嘉一 (加藤)：查老師，我聽您說過的唯一一句髒話是”We’re America，Bitch”。 這句話是什麼意思呢？
查建英 (查)：這不是我說的，我只是轉述美國《大西洋月刊》上的一篇報導，標題就是這句話。 記者採訪一個高級官員——特朗普政府的核心成員之一，他說，如果用一句話來總結我們這一屆領導要彰顯的美國氣質，那就是”We are America，Bitch”。 Bitch這個詞的本意是母狗，在英文裡也有婊子之意，用它來罵女人的時候，帶有一種男權的粗野味道，也可以借用來罵軟弱的物件。 特朗普的態度和政策，確實可以用這句話來解讀：我們美國是世界老大，實力最強、拳頭最硬，你們這些狗娘們兒最好乖一點兒，否則別怪我們不客氣。 嗨，用北京土話講就是：孫子（讀zei，四聲），你大爺回來了，快跪吧！
特朗普對奧巴馬政府的「軟弱」極其反感，所以一上台就不斷高調退群、解約。 他認為歐巴馬任上做的一切，都讓美國人感覺不好，和其他國家苦苦談判，顯得美國太軟弱，老是在退讓，老是在認錯。 在敘利亞衝突中，對方越過了紅線，歐巴馬卻沒有還擊，特朗普認為這也太不美國了。
“We are America，Bitch”這句話表現的是一種粗魯蠻橫的男子氣概——首先要讓敵人怕我們，而不是讓它愛我們。 美國一直有兩面性：軍事實力遙遙領先，軍費開支世界第一; 而美國的軟實力（自由民主、開放包容、高等教育、大眾文化等）又讓全世界嚮往。 但是特朗普現在不軟只硬，強調”美國第一”。 他手下的一些鷹派官員讓我想起當年小布殊的國防部長拉姆斯菲爾德。九一一事件發生后，小布殊政府不顧一切攻打伊拉克，要出一口惡氣，報仇雪恨都來不及找准靶子。 我至今記得拉姆斯菲爾德在電視上的樣子，永遠皺著眉頭，永遠一臉陰雲地威脅著什麼。 結果呢？ 魯莽出擊，捅了一個大馬蜂窩。 現在，特朗普反其道而行之，一上臺就急著到處退群、撤軍。 這種從四處出擊改為退守本土的戰略思維本身是有道理的（實際上奧巴馬的一些外交政策也是調整與退守），但共和黨鷹派那種簡單粗暴、單打獨鬥的毛病好像又犯了。
美國人有個說法，認為共和黨是爸爸黨，民主黨是媽媽黨，一硬一軟，需要合作互補。 現在，儘管很多共和黨大佬都受不了特朗普這個人，覺得他瘋瘋癲癲，還有很多道德瑕疵，但他畢竟是共和黨，在經濟政策和很多社會文化問題上與共和黨保守派基本一致。 而在中國問題上，不止共和黨，現在民主黨也支援他更強硬的態度，這幾乎是目前兩黨唯一立場一致的地方。 在特朗普看來，中國一直在佔美國便宜，耍了美國很多年，現在是給中國這個bitch一點顏色的時候了。
加藤：如您所說，美國從兩黨到議會，從政府到智庫，在對華政策上不軟弱，不斷要求中國遵守國際規則，已經成為最大的甚至唯一的共識了。 特朗普希望中國接受教訓，讓它又怕又愛。 中國在崛起過程中以及在中美貿易戰的長期拉鋸中該如何應對，是一個考驗，也充滿了變數。 我也相信，在特朗普第一任執政期確定下來的對華新戰略於2021年1月之後也將持續下去。 您覺得呢？
查：同感。 這次大選無論誰勝出，美中關係都不會再回到舊軌道上去了。 或許這是特朗普上臺的最大功績，就是終於徹底和中共政權撕破臉了。
據《大西洋月刊》這篇報導透露，那位將「Trump Doctrine」（指川普的外交理念）表述為「We are America, Bitch」的高官是一位可以直接見到並非常瞭解總統想法的人。 當記者請他解釋一下這個表述的含義時，他說：「奧巴馬為所有事向所有人道歉，他對所有事都感到愧疚。 特朗普總統不覺得他需要為美國做的任何事道歉。 “另一位特朗普的朋友在接受記者採訪時表述得更加直截了當：”有奧巴馬主義，還有’操奧巴馬’主義，我們就是’操奧巴馬’主義 ” 。
那個記者還向特朗普手下的另一位高官提到了一部搞笑木偶片「美國隊：世界員警」（Team America: World Police ），問他是否看過。 這部影片用調侃的手法描繪了一個美國反恐民警小隊四處奔波充當世界員警的故事。 那個官員笑著回答：「當然看過。 總統相信我們美國人就這樣，你們要麼接受，要麼拉倒。 ” (Take it or leave it) 話說得挺霸氣，不過影片其實也調侃了這種美國式霸氣。 片中最大的壞蛋是獨裁者和恐怖分子，但它也諷刺了天真糊塗的好萊塢左派藝人和一幫大大咧咧、簡單魯莽的美國牛仔英雄——這兩撥人都自以為在拯救世界，卻常常把事情搞砸。 影片主創是美國經典電視動漫系列《South Park》（《南方公園》，港譯《衰仔樂園》）的創作者，他們的美式自嘲和辛辣諷刺不放過任何人，不論是商人還是政客、左派還是右派，都在他們的射程之內。 新出爐的一集《南方公園》諷刺的就是那些為了到中國賺錢而對中國政府卑躬屈膝的美國企業，包括球星和好萊塢製片人。 這類”自黑”的文藝作品在美國多得很——比如中國觀眾熟悉的《紙牌屋》，公眾和政府對此都習以為常。 這恰好是美國式的文化自信。
加藤：自黑是美國式的文化自信。 聽到這句話，我立刻想到的詞就是”大國”。 或許，大國就該有它的氣度吧。
你問紐約居民對特朗普這個”紐約客”怎麼看，我想到一個與《紐約客》有關的小例子。 我曾經給《紐約客》寫過關於北京地產商夫婦潘石屹張欣的一篇長文，標題是”The Turtles”（”龜的故事”），文章上了那一期的封面，可我拿到雜誌才發現《紐約客》的編輯把封面上的標題改成了”The Trumps of Beijing”（”北京的特朗普”）。 那是2005年。
這個例子至少說明兩件事。 第一，特朗普在紐約太有名了，而且早在他參選總統之前。 很多美國名人在中國是家喻戶曉的，但在美國知名的當代中國人很少，有些美國人除了毛和鄧誰都不知道，更別提地產商和企業家。 第二，在紐約人眼裡，特朗普這個名字就意味著自我推銷，他最擅長炒作，他的人生故事就是生意，他的名字本身就是品牌，代表著一種生活方式和品味。 我在文章中提到新生代的北京地產商很會和媒體打交道，很知道怎樣通過包裝自己把樓價炒高，潘石屹和張欣不僅深喑此道，還一度考慮過做一個模仿特朗普電視秀的節目。 所以，《紐約客》的編輯大概覺得這類中國地產商有點兒特朗普的風格。
加藤：明白。 不過，無論是潘石屹還是其他很有知名度和影響力的企業家在中國進入習近平新時代後都低調很多。 他們對政治氣候的適應不得不讓我覺得他們身上的某種投機主義。
據我觀察，特朗普在紐約的口碑一直不怎麼樣。 他出生長大的皇后區是紐約中下層各國移民聚集的地方，地價低於曼哈頓、布魯克林。 雖說是富二代，但特朗普的爸爸一直沒有走出皇后區，沒有在曼哈頓蓋過樓，蓋的都是廉租房。 特朗普的夢想就是打進曼哈頓，給富人蓋樓，蓋最高的樓，於是有了特朗普大廈。 他實現了這個夢想，還當上了總統。 這不就是「美國夢」嗎？
問題在於，特朗普父子發財致富的路數和人品一直為人詬病。 坊間流傳著有關他們的各種醜聞，大家早就耳熟能詳。 比如我家的一個老朋友，土生土長的紐約猶太人，他爸是做建材的，曾經是老特朗普公司的供應商。 這個朋友給我們繪聲繪色地講過老特朗普當年如何坑蒙拐騙，說有一回他爸實在被坑慘了，一氣之下把老特朗普直接頂在牆角，威脅要揍他一頓老拳。 至於特朗普本人，醜聞就更多了：忽悠客戶，做假賬，偷稅漏稅，雇傭非法移民，拖欠工錢，賭場破產以及各種官司，桃色新聞更不在話下。 如果所有這些信息和傳聞都是真的，那說特朗普是個流氓並沒有冤枉他。
坦率地說，紐約地產界確實曾經黑幫橫行、腐敗猖獗，當年趟渾水的何止一個特朗普。 但除此之外，他那種自我推銷的方式，也被紐約的老牌富人、尤其那些比較低調的富人——例如紐約前市長、比特朗普身家高出很多的大地產商布隆伯格（Michael Bloomberg）——所不屑。 他們認為特朗普是一個吹牛大王，說話不靠譜。
說到格調，我想到了豎立在芝加哥市中心的另一幢特朗普大廈。 芝加哥市中心的建築樓群是以其優雅的高現代主義風格著稱於世的。 在那些摩天大樓當中，只有特朗普大廈在樓體上鑲嵌了一個巨大的、亮晶晶的”TRUMP”，很扎眼。 這就是特朗普式的自戀——什麼品位不品位，我就是要讓你們都注意到我！
種種報導顯示，特朗普是不太看書的，但是他有很多實戰經驗，果斷精明，鬥志頑強。 他年輕時長得也挺帥，身上有股江湖氣的魅力。 但是，紐約的文人學者們對他簡直反感、厭惡到了極點。 每次我去他們的聚會，只要一提特朗普的名字，大家就開始吐糟、挖苦、翻白眼，好像美國突然掉進了一場噩夢，不知道什麼時候才會醒來。 要在這個人群裡聽到對特朗普比較客觀的評價，幾乎是不可能的。
紐約人確實沒想到特朗普會當上總統，他在紐約的得票率很低。 因為不認同他，紐約人也沒有因為紐約人當上了總統的自豪感。 直到現在，《紐約時報》《紐約客》以及幾乎所有紐約的本地媒體仍在不停地批評他。 我家附近的華盛頓廣場公園裡常有抗議特朗普的活動，幾乎天天有人在那裡擺攤賣各種反特朗普的小徽章，還有一個藝術家每周推著他的鋼琴來廣場演奏，琴體上寫著”反對法西斯”的標語。 上次我去甘迺迪機場，計程車司機跟我罵了一路川普，說美國有問題不假，富人太貪婪，又有一幫揩油吃福利的懶蛋，但特朗普才不是真心要解決美國的問題，他在意的只有他自己。 最後這位老司機轉過身來對我說：相信我，我是一個猶太人，誰是納粹我一眼就能看出來。
加藤：明白。 關於特朗普，有兩種說法。 一種是連特朗普這樣的人都當了美國總統，美國看來是不行了，美國夢出問題了。 另一種說法是連特朗普這樣一個商人都能當總統，這恰好體現了美國夢的厲害之處。 作為一個美國公民，您怎麼看？
查：我大概要被罵成騎牆派了，我認為這兩種說法都言之有理。 美國夢很重要的一個含義就是無論出身、種族，人人都可以通過自己的奮鬥而成功，乃至成為美國總統。 從這個角度來說，歐巴馬和特朗普的當選恰好證明美國夢有著寬廣駁雜的光譜——一個是品學兼優的非裔精英，一個是名聲欠佳但精明強幹的政治素人。
大家都看到美國社會這二十年來流動性降低、階層固化、不平等加劇，美國夢好像真出了問題。 特朗普是美國歷史上唯一既沒有從政經驗、也沒有從軍經驗的美國總統，可這恰恰是他能夠當選的原因之一。 美國人現在對油滑的職業政客、建制派精英、靠全球化發財的利益集團有一種深深的厭倦和不信任，所以大家就要選一個另類，一個所謂的”局外人”，哪怕他是個混不吝的瘋子。 特朗普也很會打這張牌，在整個競選活動中始終強調自己不是建制派，不是政客，而是要代表美國人民去清理華盛頓這塊骯髒的沼澤地。
加藤：特朗普上臺的時候，我首先想到了日本前首相小泉純一郎。 小泉是政治家族出身，他的兒子小泉進次郎，才39歲，如今已經成為負責環境問題的大臣了，未來很有可能成為日本首相。 小泉純一郎不混圈子，他是一匹狼。 他的口號是：打倒自民黨。 這和特朗普的”打倒華盛頓”有些像。 不過，川普是徹底的政治素人，在日本幾乎找不到和他完全相同的例子，日本近年來也有政治大眾化、商品化、娛樂化的傾向，越來越多的前運動員、藝人、歌手等競選，靠著名氣和人氣當選為國會議員，令人深思。
我覺得特朗普是臉皮最厚的領導人，他隨時面臨著媒體、司法和民主黨的壓力，能做到現在這樣，很厲害。 與此同時，作為一個日本人，我又覺得特朗普很不靠譜，作為一個人來說他基本是失格的。 然而一個失格的人可以當選總統，說明美國和日本很不一樣。
他當選前，我對美國右翼白人的不滿情緒有一些隱隱的預感。 在2015年12月紐約亞洲協會主辦的一場關於《紐約客》作家報導中國的討論活動中，與會嘉賓都在談論中國的民族主義是不是正在覺醒，我當時說了一句” 美國的民族主義也在高漲”。主持討論會的《紐約客》主編聽后很驚訝地看了我一眼，問我所說的美國的民族主義，是指歐巴馬嗎？ 我說當然不是，我指的是那些右翼，包括特朗普在內的右翼代表著美國的民族主義情緒，他們覺得歐巴馬太軟了。 當時川普剛參選不久，還要再等半年多才會成為共和黨候選人，我們談論的主題是中國的民族主義，我也沒用本土主義這個詞。 我的意思是美國的國家精神正在發生變化，美國的本土意識正在重新高揚。
查：但那時我對這些問題並沒有深入思索，更沒想到川普真的會當選，我只是覺得他可能會獲得共和黨的提名。 我看了所有的競選辯論，特朗普的確氣場很盛，碾壓了所有共和黨參選人，但他能在最後與希拉蕊的對決中勝出，是我沒想到的。 我的第一感覺是震驚，因為他太多的表現讓我反感——他種種醜陋的煽動性言論以及對希拉蕊的人身攻擊。 我尤其不能原諒的是，他在一次電視辯論中提到八九民運時居然把它形容為一場”riot”（”騷亂”），用詞比中共用的”動亂”還惡劣; 而且，為了嘲笑美國政府的軟弱，他居然讚揚六四鎮壓顯示了中國政府的強有力。 這是什麼混帳話！ 這不是第一次他這樣講六四，九十年代他就公開講過類似的話。 當時我就想：這個人為了贏可以不擇手段，在他眼裡實力遠遠比權利更重要。
加藤：的確如此。 特朗普為了贏得個人聲譽和利益不擇手段，這也深深地體現在他處理對華貿易戰、留學生、香港問題等議題之中。 比如香港問題，根據我在現場的觀察，我一點不覺得特朗普關心香港的人權與自由，他對”一國兩制”的來龍去脈也一無所知，他就是想如何利用香港問題向中共施壓，與中共交易。 俗話說”好心做壞事”，但我也不排除特朗普終究在中國問題上”壞心做好事”的可能。
查：是的。 最近前國家安全顧問博爾頓出書披露了特朗普在對華問題上的一系列內部言論，更是讓世人看清了川總實在毫不在乎中國的人權問題，在他眼裡那頂多是個小籌碼而已。 為了在貿易談判中得到對他連任有利的一點短期利益，他不僅能當面把習近平誇上天，而且隨時可以犧牲掉香港人、新疆維族人的自由和權利，六四記憶對他更是不值一提。 就連臺灣，也被他比作捏在手中的小鋼筆尖，而大陸則被他比作自己面前那張總統大桌子。 這比喻倒很形象，讓人不禁聯想：只要偉大領袖習主席承諾再多買幾噸美國農民產的大豆，就算大桌子碾碎小筆尖，川總大概也無所謂吧？
政客在辯論的時候都很強悍，但是特朗普採取了比別人更為粗鄙的謾駡方式。 有報導說他上小學的時候就跟人打架，曾經把一個音樂老師的眼睛打紫了。 這樣一個愛打架的人，如今不用拳頭，而是用拳頭一樣的語言攻擊別人。 他給所有共和黨和民主黨競選人起外號——都是很低級的侮辱性的外號，這是前所未有的事。 他還在各種競選場合採用歧視性的話語攻擊對手，用下流的方式侮辱女性。 我的一位朋友告訴我，他在佛羅里達北部保守區的特朗普競選集會現場親耳聽到，所有人都在齊聲高喊侮辱奧巴馬和希拉蕊的口號，用了赤裸裸的種族歧視、性別歧視的貶義詞”nigger”和”bitch”——”把黑鬼趕出去！ 把母狗關起來！ “他的競選集會上還出現過粗暴的肢體衝突，並且得到特朗普本人的讚揚，這也是競選史上的第一次。 這些突破底線的行為，使得2016年美國大選特別醜陋。
特朗普當選后，不少反特朗普的人，包括我的很多紐約朋友在內，似乎都掉進了震驚、憤怒和挫敗的情緒中，他們不斷譴責特朗普及其追隨者，咬牙切齒到了仇恨的程度，卻不太願意反省自己一方的問題。 這讓我感到憂慮。 無論如何，特朗普是通過正當程式當選的，幾乎半數的選民選了他。 這說明多年來，美國一半選民的心聲第一次被真正讀懂。 而這些選民的憤怒和要求，其實一直被忽略。
特朗普很精明、很犀利，他讀懂了這些，並且非常善於利用民意，利用新媒體。 他經常用推特發表一些很短的小學生語言水準的粗俗言論，但這恰恰讓很多下層選民在情緒發洩上有了共鳴。 他走的是群眾路線，他去了希拉蕊沒有去過的很多地方，尤其是那些被遺忘的老工業區。 他知道怎樣”下基層”，知道怎樣激勵基層那些長期被忽視的聲音。 他的簡單直白，他的情緒化的不管不顧，與奧巴馬總是文雅知性、理智節制的談吐，反差太過鮮明。 結果，精英們越是厭惡他，他的大老粗支援者們就越是喜歡他，認定他就像文化水準不高的鄰家老伯一樣真實親切。 這些川粉們好像在說：沒錯，我們就愛看這個大嘴巴朝那些虛偽自私傲慢的精英們臉上啐吐沫，解氣！ 道理在情感面前，幾乎總是蒼白無力的，何況這股憤怒的情感已經積壓了很久。
加藤：嗯，特朗普和習近平有著共同的特點和做法，為了聲譽和利益可以不擇手段等。 在美中關係如此惡化和緊張的情況下，他們倆行事風格的趨同或許是兩個人之間基本沒有互相謾罵和批評的原因吧。 我願意相信，作為個人，他們倆還真是彼此欣賞的。
查：他們猩猩相惜。 特朗普在公開場合多次讚揚習近平是「中國人民的偉大領袖」，而據博爾頓披露，習近平在與川普會談時也曾當面表示自己希望未來六年能繼續和川總打交道。 除了習近平，特朗普愛與之拍肩打背、眉目傳情的同類還有好幾個：普京、金正恩、埃爾多安，還有現任英國首相、巴西總統、印度首相…… 足夠建一個群了。 這些真男兒們可以在群裡互相點讚。
不管是希拉蕊還是歐巴馬，不管是共和黨還是民主黨，選民都已厭倦了建制派的重複、精英派的拖延。 他們選的不是特朗普，而是未來。 對他們而言，特朗普是流氓還是紳士都無所謂，只要和現在不同，就可以。
毫無疑問，美國正處在一個十字路口，特朗普的上臺可以讓建制派有所反思，讓美國有所反思。 問題出在國家層面，真的需要改變了。 特朗普的上臺從長遠的角度，尤其從繼續創造美國夢的角度看是一件好事。 我把特朗普的執政過程稱作”進取的過度”。
查：的確，特朗普給美國敲響了警鐘。 哪怕是一時矯枉過正，也比死水一潭好。 僅此一點，他的當選就是美國歷史上意義深遠的重大事件。
我要承認，我很關注特朗普上臺對中美關係的影響，這是我對他的看法發生轉變的一個重要原因——他給美國乃至整個西方陣營敲響了對中國的警鐘。 他改變了幾十年來從尼克鬆開始到奧巴馬，跨越兩黨的美國歷屆總統一直延續的對待中國的基本方式——參與、合作、妥協、交易，用溫和友好的手段推動中國持續改革開放。 這樣的方式，弊端日益明顯。 實際上，歐巴馬第二任期內已經開始調整美國自9· 11以來的軍事和外交佈局，從中東開始轉向亞州，這就是他和希拉蕊一起制定的”重返亞洲”戰略。 和澳洲等盟友的聯合軍演，在韓國部署薩德，與印度加強盟友關係，建TPP，都是這個大戰略佈局的一部分。 但對待中國，歐巴馬仍採用彬彬有禮的談判方式，結果在貿易、南海、網路攻擊等問題上一再受挫，被中方玩弄。 特朗普看清了局勢，表態說：我們再也不會用這樣的方式和你們談判了，我們再也不會相信你們說的話了。 你看他剛一上臺就和蔡英文通電話。 當時，人們說他是一個政治素人，完全不懂外交策略。 但事實證明，他是有備而來的，他的一系列動作就是要對中國轉而採取強硬政策。
貿易戰打到現在，在中國方面所引起的震動，是幾十年來美國總統任期內不曾有過的。 我有一些中國自由派的老朋友非常支援特朗普，認為他捏住了中國的”七寸”，他和他的幕僚們真的讀懂了中國，知道怎麼跟中國打交道，怎麼治中國。 僅就對華政策來說，我與他們有同感。 特朗普班子里那些鷹派的態度一言以蔽之就是：小子（讀zei，四聲），你大爺我回來了，你再朝我頭上撒泡尿試試！
君子肯定是不喜歡流氓的。 但在現實生活中，有時候只有流氓才能治流氓，只有大流氓才能治小流氓。 特朗普有些做派確實像個流氓大佬，他身邊的幾個死黨幕僚也頗有西西裡黑手黨的相貌——每次我在電視上看到義大利裔的蓬皮奧、朱利安尼出場都忍不住想笑。 問題是，中共是吃素的嗎？ 中國講誠信嗎？
很多經濟學家至今都不看好貿易戰，認為用關稅做武器太過時了，殺敵一千自傷八百，效果有限。 但是，美國人民和中國人民的長遠利益到底是什麼？ 美國企業和消費者是否應該為了眼前的實惠而無限期地遷就中國諸多不對等、不透明的違反市場經濟規則的做法？ 對中共這樣一個高科技員警[即’警察’]國家繼續大開門戶，是否會對美國形成安全隱患？ 中國模式的不斷推演壯大對世界和人類意味著什麼？ 這涉及的不僅是商業利益，還有自由、民主和尊嚴。
過去，美國兩黨都有競選人說過要對中國強硬，可是一當上總統就軟了下來，就開始對美國和中國的利益集團讓步。 到目前為止，特朗普基本上說到做到，這一點讓人刮目相看。 表面看他好像只是在計算利益，但利益背後涉及對理念和規則的堅持。 總之，我支援建立在對等原則上的貿易談判，支援在規則和價值觀上較真兒。
加藤：這對中國來說也是有好處的。 中國原先有些自以為是，用傅高義先生的話說就是傲慢。 如今，中國正在補上這堂必修課，甚至可以說是特朗普給中國帶來了希望。 在中國仍然面臨各種問題的情況下，倘若沒有一個國家對它說不，最吃虧的將是中國自己。
查：所以有”倒逼改革”之說。 可惜的是，到目前為止，無論美國內部、歐盟，還是整個西方，特朗普都加劇了分裂——挺川和反川兩派徹底撕裂，美國政治和媒體更加兩極化，美國與許多盟友的關係變得緊張而尷尬。 中國內部也有不同的反應，我的一些大陸老朋友一直在激烈爭論，誰都無法說服對方。
査：據我觀察，反思是有的，誠意就難說了，而且反思力度似乎也不夠。 民主黨認為自己站在正義和進步的一邊，佔據了道德制高點，所以它的本能反應是不斷否認特朗普的合法性和猛烈抨擊特朗普。 這種情緒化的反應持續了很久。 民主黨內部也出現了分化，有些人變得更”左”。 這種情緒在相當一部分年輕人中更為明顯。 比如，紐約28歲的拉美裔女候選人AOC擊敗了民主黨建制派議員，震驚了所有人。 同樣的事情還發生在2018年中期選舉中，AOC和其他幾個州的年輕少數族裔代表成功進入國會。 大家認為這代表了一種趨勢，拉美及其他族裔的選民人數在增加，而這部分人會越來越左傾和激進。
對這種左傾激進政治的前景，我是比較擔心的。 我本人一直對校園裡的”認同政治”有保留有看法，我不喜歡那種”部落化”、不寬容、黨同伐異、自我封閉、神經過敏、動不動就上綱上線給別人貼標籤的傾向，不論這些傾向發生在右派還是左派當中。 雖說一定程度的矯枉過正是很多社會運動都難以避免也可以理解的，但我不認為用激進變革的方式解決經濟和社會問題能行得通，這只會在美國引起更大的分裂。 我還沒看到民主黨的中間派提出過什麼特別好的方案。 兩黨的建制派也基本上是按黨派立場站隊，誰都不願意犧牲自己的利益。
查：我的觀察有限，坦白講，我沒有看到太多值得展開談論的民主黨方案。 積壓的老問題已經很多很複雜了，新冠疫情又帶來這麼多棘手的新問題。 最近美國輿情有所轉向，更多的民眾認為特朗普應對疫情是失敗的，疫情拖延越久，經濟前景越暗淡，美國的國際形象也越受影響。 可是，即使拜登勝選，他年事已高，恐怕也就是當一屆過渡性的總統，能穩住大局、緩和特朗普在內政外交上造成的種種緊張關係、平穩過渡就不錯了。
說到這裡，我回想起來2018年6月《大西洋月刊》刊發的一篇長文，標題是「美國新貴是9.9%」，這篇文章我認為有比較深刻的反思。 多年前，「佔領華爾街」22運動中曾經喊出了一個響亮的口號：「我們是99%，是1%的富人剝削了我們！ 」但是，這篇文章的作者尖銳地指出了這個口號的謬誤，他舉出一系列事例和數據表明，美國上中產階級成員（其中包括大量受過良好教育的左翼精英）並非底層的99%，而是 上層的9.9%，他們在美國的現行體制中是既得利益者，在幾十年的全球化過程中，也是受益者，他們與建制派是共謀關係，對美國社會的階層固化和不平等加劇也負有責任。 這些人中有很多民主黨的長期擁躉，他們並沒有反省自己。
把川普趕下臺並不能解決問題。 通過再分配，向1%的富豪徵更高的稅又能解決多少問題呢？ 如果需要9.9%的上中產階層交更多的稅，通過讓利緩和矛盾，這個階層會支援嗎？ 像那些他們抨擊的巨富一樣，這些人好像並沒有把自己的利益讓出去的意願。
那麼，窮人的憤怒可以通過把那些傳統產業再弄回美國來解決嗎？ 少數迴流是可能的，但在相當長一段時間內，大多數工廠還是會留在中國或者去像越南這類工作力成本低的國家。 每家企業都有自己的小九九，特朗普再怎麼強硬也不能命令企業回國，財政赤字已經這麼高了，政府還能再給多少減稅、補貼、優惠來鼓勵美企迴流呢？ 再說，美國真的會歡迎和保護那些高汙染、低技術含量的落後產業嗎？ 人工智慧、高新技術才是未來，才是中美競爭的關鍵，而這也是美國藍領階層工作難找的一個原因。 那麼，如何讓他們再就業？ 像Andrew Yang（楊安澤）提議的那樣給每人每月發一千美元？ 類似的思路以前也有人提過，被稱作UBI（Universal basic income，普遍基本生活費） 。 最近又有人提出UBC（Universal basic capital）的新概念，即給所有人發放基本投資。 這些開腦洞的想法能形成足夠的共識付諸實施嗎？
加藤：這些政策建議似乎不具有現實意義，也不可能根本解決美國社會貧富分化的問題。 據我有限的觀察，無論是哈佛、MIT還是華盛頓智庫，那些知識份子的言論基本上和權力機關是呼應的。 特朗普上臺後，這一特徵和結構也沒有變化，而並非薩義德所說的知識分子總是代表被壓迫之人的利益，站出來，向權力進行宣告——我在美國幾乎沒有看到這樣的知識份子。
查：這個說得好，也值得討論。 我覺得薩義德描述的主要是那種平等意識強烈、站在體制邊緣、敢於挑戰主流、走在社會運動前沿的知識份子，比如歷史上的廢奴主義和女權主義先驅、馬丁路德金、馬克思，等等。 在今天的美國，那些長期關注報導弱勢群體和窮人的記者、人權律師、人權活動家、保護消費者權益和少數族裔權益的NGO成員、社會企業創辦者等，他們是不是也屬於這類知識份子呢？ 大學教授里也有這樣的人，比如語言學家喬姆斯基這樣的公知——你可以認為他的觀點偏激，但不能不佩服他堅持不懈批判西方霸權和大資本的勇氣。 我的出版人安德列·謝弗林（André Schiffrin）也是這類公知，他離開大商業出版社，創辦獨立的小出版社，就是為了能堅持一種比較理想主義的出版理念，他出版了很多公共價值遠高於贏利價值的書。
加藤：我沒有資格對美國的知識份子感到失望，但我覺得這種現象很危險。 一位大學教授同時又是智庫的研究員，為政府的政策建言獻策。 美國有很多這樣的人，都是”旋轉門”，他們不可能提出政府不歡迎的言論。
查：是啊，反之亦然，兩黨都有不少前政府官員一退下來，轉身就去智庫、律所、商務諮詢公司供職，或者去媒體當時事評論員、主持人，甚至自辦媒體。 比如班農離開白宮之後先是穿梭於各大媒體，然後乾脆自己籌資拉人辦起了自媒體，他辦的《War Room》就具有極其鮮明的黨派色彩，上他們節目的人幾乎都是為特朗普搖旗吶喊的鐵杆右派。 這種生態不大可能改變，因為美國政壇兩黨輪換執政，當官既不能發財也不是鐵飯碗。 這種流動性也好也不好，一個缺點就是把政商學之間的界限和人脈關係弄複雜了，獨立性和中立性都會打折扣。
查：我同意。 這是必要的，哪怕不是良藥，也總比不承認有病好。 哪怕被激得一時受不了，矯枉過正，美國也需要這樣一個過程。 或許，上帝覺得必須派個特朗普來折騰美國幾年。
加藤：無論如何，我還是堅持那個觀點，特朗普的上台對美國歷史來說是必然的，對美國未來來說是必要的。 另外，我也認為，由誰來「接任」川普，是個很重要的問題。 特朗普已經打亂了原有的秩序，如果”后特朗普時代”的美國還是原來那個美國，這幾年的動盪就白動蕩了。
- 查建英、 加藤嘉一，《自由不是免費的——新十日談》, 香港：牛津大學出版社，2020, 第612-631頁。