Winners and Losers

  • Columns

Things are getting closer in the US, 79 days before the presidential election. The spectacle is fascinating to outsiders.

For me, it started in mid-2019 when I was trying to understand what was feeding and driving the China-US trade war. I thought of a simulation game as a research tool. I made an ABSM design for a conference in Singapore. The trade deficit was a real economic problem for the US, and the stories about solving it could help Trump get reelected. The conflict itself occurs in three types of networks: (i) of jurisdictions and heads of government, (ii) of institutions and companies and (iii) of citizens and communities. The war is between Trump and Xi, in the exchange of (social, legal, economic and / or technological) acts of war and related propaganda activities. After about a year of tariff clashes, Trump opened new registers in mid-2019, putting additional pressure on security risks (Huawei) and later on human rights violations in Xinjiang and (even later) Hong Kong. The propaganda war is being waged successfully by Trump. It is more about support than about trading positions.

Trump shows himself to be a master at waging the propaganda war, among other things by shamelessly playing social media in a way that cares little about facts but everything about to increase his support. He tends to do so by recognizing groups that feel disadvantaged or dissatisfied with what remains in terms of opportunities and perspective for the common man in the US. In fact, little has actually come of making America great again, but all the more of the accompanying sensations of identity.

A cursory analysis of the trade war between the US and the PRC shows that it is a war between Trump and Chi that is mainly waged in view of the chances of mandate extension of the protagonists. The size of the trade deficit has become irrelevant. Voter loyalty is what matters. And in that other war, the war between Trump /? and Biden / Harris, Trump’s strategy in the trade war is a winning one as dislikes and fears for China are too widely felt in the US for any opposition by Biden / Harris to be turned against them.

Actually, the electoral struggle and the trade war can be analyzed by similar means. Ideas are more important than facts. It is about how the facts are felt and judged politically. The question is whether Biden can get the story accepted that Trump is killing the American dream (whatever that may be to Twitter, the medium of the message) instead of giving it a chance. The same applies to Trump. Failing that, his plan B will remain to keep throwing up balloons that provoke the outrage of (and that steal from the energy and attention of) whoever lets their focus be diverted from the main issue.