By Beatrice E. Rangel
China's Xi Jinping is a very particular leader. He enjoys simple pleasures such as walking through the woods; holding his wife’s hand and discussing foreign affairs with his only daughter, Harvard student XI Mingtze. He also loves Hollywood films, including the Godfather series, the Guardian and Saving Private Ryan. This lifestyle is closer to that of a US middle class head of a household than to a game changing world leader. Xi has been described by the Washington Post as “pragmatic, serious, cautious, hard-working, down to earth and low-key."
But Xi is also outspoken and direct.
While visiting Mexico in 2009 and responding to a question about China’s role as a world power, XI indicated that China had no such ambitions. China just wanted to guarantee improving well-being to its citizens. “There are some bored foreigners with full stomachs, who have nothing better to do than point fingers at us. First, China doesn't export revolution; second, China doesn't export hunger and poverty; third, China doesn't come and cause you headaches. What more is there to be said." He also indicated that the Cultural revolution was "emotional. It was a mood. And when the ideals of the Cultural Revolution could not be realized, it proved an illusion.”
This determinate leader has decided to bring corruption to an end so as to plant the seeds of a healthy and competitive economy. The process started with the purge of the heretofore mighty Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Communist Party Standing Committee and master of security commanding a budget bigger than that of the US Federal Government.
After the opening of investigations into Zhou, Xi’s government demoted 75,000 industry leaders while prosecuting 20,000. As the purge advances, luxury goods and gambling are taking a dive.
Eventually Xi’s fight against corruption will bring about the question of civil liberties, checks and balances. But given that the Chinese tempo is very different from that in the west, most probably this will not happen before the end of the century when there will be several successors to Xi at the helm of China. He, however, will certainly be remembered as the Deng of the 21st century
Another corner of the world where anti-corruption seems to have become quite popular is Cuba. Raul Castro has announced yet another reform: his intention to uproot corruption. Castro launched his campaign at a meeting of the National Assembly. He literally scolded all present as well TV viewers for having lost the “revolutionary virtue of decency” while laundry listing the sins of corruption.
Castro’s epiphany took place almost simultaneously to a very confidential meeting held in Strasbourg between his representatives and Lady Ashton, the European Union Foreign Affairs Commissioner. These meetings -- which are becoming more frequent and full of substance -- seem to be Castro’s exit strategy to what seems to be a blood ridden and horrific end to the Bolivarian regime in Venezuela.
Beginning in 1999, Cuba has enjoyed the Venezuelan largesse which provides atleast 100,000 barrels per day of oil which Cuba partially uses for internal consumption and partly turns into foreign exchange at the spot market. In "payment" for its largesse, Venezuela receives Cuban health care, manpower, teachers and sports trainers. Given the falling health and educational ratings in Venezuela, the price tag for these workers seems to be a bit out of mark.
But the Bolivarian Boys have proved to be so acutely inept at their job of governing the largest oil reserves in the world that they are not only heavily in debt, but oil production is actually falling.
The handwritting is then on the wall. It reads "You are heading towards yet another special period." And Castro, of course, is not going to subject himself to such a hair raising ride again. He is 82. He lost his wife and intellectual support to cancer and like Xi wants to enjoy his children. Thus it is much better to give in to Lady Ashton who represents the western powers. Her demands are key to an economic opening that would substitute for the Venezuelan support.
This indeed seems to be a much better deal for Castro than having to deal at the same time with Bolivarian refugees and internal discontent. And as Winston Churchill once quipped decades ago, it is always better to drink poison from a British Lady than to oppose her. Also by Beatrice Rangel in her Latin America from 35,000 Feet seriesBeatrice Rangel: From Rio to Hong Kong Discontent Taps the East to Find a New Way
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Beatrice Rangel: Kissinger’s World Order and Latin America
Beatrice Rangel: The Third Attempt -- Will Modernity Prevail in Latin America?
Rangel: While US is Away, Latin America Rethinks Development Paths
Rangel: In the Midst of Riots, a Star is Born in Brazil
Rangel: In Mexico Cinderella Gets to the Ball while Colombia Gets a Chance at Peace
Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.
For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.
You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.