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Kinsman: Who faces greater challenges to reform, the Xi-Li or the Obama administration?

By: /
9 November, 2012
Jeremy Kinsman
Former ambassador to the European Union and high commissioner to Britain

Vastly different challenges.

China’s political oligarchy has to cede its tight and probably corrupt monopoly on political diktat or the country will fail to meet its potential. It’s an issue of fundamental civil and political rights.

The U.S. is not as socially divided as right-wing shock radio, elderly white Tea Party nostalgics, and mediocre journalism would pretend. The issue there is facing reality, including the changing face of the American population. There is a broad centre-right/centre-left potential consensus that Obama represents.

His personal victory was more comprehensive than understood, given he was a clear underdog a year ago. (His popular vote support beats Truman, JFK, Nixon (1), Carter, Clinton (1 and 2), GW Bush (1) and about equals Reagan (1) and Bush (2).)

He is now beyond future electoral ambition. He knows that communication was inadequate in his first term. He is in a unique position to do what U.S. electoral politics abhors: tell the truth – about the desperate need to reconcile U.S. under-performance in social indicators and investment in the future against fiscal realities and the complexity of our world.

Re-orienting inherent U.S. positive optimism from “morning in America” fairy tales to the need for a national uplift actually makes his second term creatively more interesting than his first. There were losers in this election, beyond the shaming of clowns like Trump and Adelson and the stupid media/money culture where their egos find nourishment. Some key people in the GOP understand their loss means there will be no beyond-Obama future for them if they don’t step up and work for a shared purpose.

In China, striving for a sharing of political purpose can put you in jail. As they say in Italian, “e un altro discorso” – altogether a different story.

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