Back in the Game
It has been a little over a month since I retired from my job as the General Counsel of multinational company listed in Hong Kong. I adored my colleagues – an extraordinarily diverse group of global executives – and enjoyed the challenges of working on complex legal and regulatory issues involving the United States and China.
But these benefits were ultimately no match for the round-the-clock phone calls, the constant trans-oceanic travel, and the mind-numbing torture of managing more than two hundred lawyers on six continents. Passing a kidney stone while flying over the Pacific Ocean was the last straw. I will never forget crawling through the first-class cabin politely begging for opiates. And it was truly disturbing to see how many people in First-Class had a ready supply.
And so, some 5 weeks later, I now relax with a lesser depressant – a glass of Lewis Cellars Cabernet – in my favorite Palo Alto Wine Bar. And I have decided to get back in the game.
The stakes are simply too high in the US and China to enjoy myself on the sidelines. Decades of evolving foreign trade policy, progress in diplomatic relations, reciprocal foreign investment, immigration and educational exchanges – are all subject to new challenges. And even if the direct conflicts created by new policy pronouncements and trade sanctions are not enough, the unintended consequences of poor communication, misinformation and rogue “Tweeting” will ensure that the bi-lateral relationship remains challenging for some time.
With all of these potential conflicts looming, I found it ironic that many Chinese citizens seemed to have a preference for Trump over Clinton. Based on my conversations with the locals in Beijing and Shanghai, I attribute this preference to three factors: (1) a cultural and political preference for strong, autocratic leaders (or at least the lack of experience or familiarity with any other kind); (2) the memory of China’s last de facto woman ruler, the Empress Dowager Cixi, who presided over the final decline of the Qing Dynasty and built an infamous marble pleasure boat with funds misappropriated from the Chinese navy (a Trumpesque project if ever there was one); and (3) the President-elect’s similarity to another famous United States president who pursued policies benefitting China.
As one Beijing resident noted to me, the last time the United States elected an insane president, the United States and China enjoyed an unparalleled improvement in their relationship.
Assuming that things do not, in fact, improve, I look forward to working with my colleagues at Guanxi Gate Consulting on trade, regulatory, investment, and cross-cultural training projects in the coming months. We look forward to working with you and keeping you informed about our new solutions to the problems ahead.
Chengyu of the day