There are a number of different ways of laughing in English: chuckle, snicker, guffaw, chortle, grin, and plain old laugh, among others. It’s much the same in other languages.
In Chinese, for example, you can laugh Hā Hā (哈哈); an everyday laugh. Or, you can say Hē Hē (呵呵), a soft laugh that can indicate sarcasm or mockery. Then, there’s Xī Xī (嘻嘻), the equivalent of “hee hee.”
I wonder in what way the Chinese – Xi Jingping in particular – are laughing right now? Could it be Hēng Hēng (哼哼), a kind of short, sardonic sneer, or perhaps Mu Hā Hā (木哈哈), which is considered informal, evil laughter?
I don’t know, of course, but what I do know is that, while we are all distracted by the non-issue of “Covfefe” and the very real issue of the on-going Russia scandal, Mr. Trump, through his myopic arrogance, to say nothing of his colossal ignorance, is leading our country to ruin. While supposedly making America great again – we didn’t actually need your help, Donny – he has withdrawn the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, after having earlier cancelled participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade arrangement that would have put America in a strong position of leadership in East and Southeast Asia (there’s plenty of blame for demonization of the latter to lay at the feet of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, by the way).
Whichever sort of laughter it is coming out of Beijing today, it bodes ill for us. The interference of Russia in our 2016 election, and their meddling in European politics, and in the Middle East, are challenges, to be sure. They are dangerous, and they are behaviors that have to be addressed and dealt with.
China is another matter. The threat from them is truly existential. They do not want to cooperate on the world stage, except insofar as it might further their actual goal. And that actual goal is to displace the United States as the leading world power, the power that, for all of our faults and missteps, has done great work in the years since World War Two, to protect and further democracy around the world. The Chinese could care less about protecting democracy; indeed, they will shred it wherever they find it, if they can get away with it (and they have worked very hard to do so in Tibet and Hong Kong).
You could say that Putin’s Russia has the same goal. That is true, but there is a very significant difference: Russia is a neo-czarist, oligarchic kleptocracy that presides over an unstable economy largely dependent upon the price of oil and natural gas, and on the strength of their military.
China has a strong economy, a billion people to provide cheap labor, and a growing and modernizing military. Most significantly, they are awash in money, a great deal of which they have accumulated by first, making and selling cheap crap to the rest of the world, and then by copying or outright stealing the ideas and processes and designs of others.
It is China that needs to be the main focus of our attention, not Russia.
Mr. Trump, ignorant of history, to say nothing of politics, has set about creating power vacuums in the world. It is the nature of such vacuums to not stay empty for long, and it is Chinese laughter that we will hear as they are filled.