Job Creation in the Age of Globalization: Trump and Xi's Shared Challenge

By Dennis Wilder

Dennis Wilder served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for East Asian Affairs during President George W. Bush's second term.  He is currently a Research Fellow at Georgetown University's Initiative for U.S-China Dialogue on Global Issues.

President-elect Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping have more in common than they currently realize. Both want to make their countries “great again,” and both need to demonstrate that they can create jobs for the large segments of their population that have felt left behind by globalization. President Xi’s challenge is more immediate, because President Trump will get a honeymoon period from the public. The expectations the Chinese people have placed on Xi, however, are high, and his options for generating growth are politically riskier than those pursued by his predecessors. Recognizing this, before he allows any new market-oriented experiments, Xi seems to be tightening control over Chinese society to build a firewall against internal instability as he also attempts to make his position as China’s new paramount leader unassailable within the Communist Party.

When Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao came to Washington in April 2006 to meet with President George W. Bush, the President asked Hu what kept him up at night. Hu replied that the need to create 25 million jobs a year was his greatest concern. As the President’s East Asia adviser, I remember how large an impression that made on President Bush. It was an honest answer that explained a great deal about Chinese economic behavior. What was particularly striking about this candid answer was that Hu was presiding over the golden years of Chinese economic growth. Indeed, the year before Hu’s visit to Washington, the Chinese economy had grown by a blistering 11 percent and would achieve almost as great success in 2006.

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