D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi

Three Trap Laws


China’s new “core leader” – Xi Jinping

Professor Joergen Delman

November 02, 2016

Xi Jinping’s three traps

Xi’s handling of the Plenum shows that he wants to deal with the future leadership line-up, to swing support from all corners of the party for his tough disciplinary policies, and to gain new momentum for reforms. The underlying argument for doing this are three traps he has identified that that are critical to navigate in order to safeguard the power and survival of the party.

Finally, China is facing a middle income trap (中等收入陷阱). This concept stems from the 2006 World Bank report An East Asian Renaissance. The report pointed to the risk that some East Asian economies could end up with dwindling growth before becoming fully developed. To avoid the trap, middle income countries have to diversify their economy, accelerate innovation and equip workers with skills that allow them to adjust to new technologies. These are all focus points of Xi’s economic policies according to official Chinese sources.



                                 Country Incomes Groups

Escaping the National Middle-Income Trap

SEPT 1, 2016

By Noah Smith

Noah Smith is a Bloombery View columnist. He is an assistant professor of finance at Stony Brook University and he blogs at Noahpinion

                                   The Problem

Most poor countries become middle-class by a fairly familiar process -- they move people from agriculture to cities, build a bunch of buildings and roads and machines, and begin manufacturing stuff. For countries without large amounts of exportable natural resources, that’s the tried-and-true path. But eventually it loses steam -- the surplus labor from the countryside runs out, the economic return from building more stuff goes down, and it gets harder to increase productivity by imitating foreign technology.


So advancing to the top rank probably requires a shift in development strategy. One idea is innovation. Once countries reach a somewhat advanced level of technology, they may need to shift from copying foreigners to creating their own new ways of doing things. South Korea, Israel and Ireland made this shift effectively; Malaysia and Thailand, not so much.

                                 Human Capital

Another strategy is to build human capital. As nations advance up the value chain, producing more valuable and complex products requires more knowledge and smarts. Improving education systems and attracting high-skilled immigrants are two ways to boost human capital.


Advanced infrastructure is a third strategy. Middle-income countries have roads and electrical grids, but to be a modern economy, you need broadband internet. Some of the papers Agenor surveys verify the importance of broadband.

                       Property Rights and Rule of Law

Institutions, of course, may also be very important. Agenor suggests improving property rights and the rule of law, and also taking steps to reduce economic inequality -- three common economist prescriptions.


                              The Three Trap Model

The first is the Tacitus challenge (塔西佗陷阱), named after the ancient Roman philosopher, Tacitus. The argument is that if the party does not have the trust of the people, ie. legitimacy, it does not matter whether the party tells the truth or not, or whether it does good or bad things -- nobody will believe what it says or does anyway. Therefore, the party needs to rebuild trust with its constituency, i.e. China’s ordinary citizens, primarily through measurably more equitable and inclusive development, not least to bring more people out of relative poverty.

Individualization and the Political Agency of
Private Business People in China

Jorgen Delman and Yin Xiaoqing

The Rise of the Individual in Modern Chinese Society



                        The Year of the Four Emperors

It has been a decade since the author has completed his poem called The Thread. It involved years of research in the area of ancient history. However, at this time, the author would like to refer to an historical work called the Historiae (Histories) by Tacitus, concerning the Roman Empire from 69 to 96 as interpreted by Rebecca Edwards in her paper called Deuotio, Disease and Remedia. Particular stress will be laid on the case of Emperor Galba in terms of his loco deuotionis or devotion to the Roman state.


                                     The Four Emperors

        (from left to right Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasianus)

Galba made a bid for the throne during the rebellion of Julius Vindex. He was Roman Emperor for seven months from 68 to 69 CE. He was the first emperor in what was known as The Year of the Four Emperors; although, some construe it as five emperors which included Nero.
By setting his Historiae in the consular year 69 CE Tacitus links the period of this civil war with Lucan's version of the great civil war between Pompey and Caesar. During the reign of Augustus (who was the adopted son of Caesar) normal practices of the senate and people were restored under one man.


           The Spheres of Influence in the Roman Empire in 69 CE

On the other hand, Galba was not trusted. With respect to his choice of L.Calpurnius Piso as successor and adopted heir, the people believed he favored the man rather than republican welfare. The Praetorians were angry because he did not give them the usual donative. He alienated Otho who had expected to be made heir. He executed many Senators and Equites without trial. The legions of Germania Inferior rebelled and proclaimed Vitellius as emperor.

Victoria Emma Pagan said that "Tacitus depicts a rift between the Roman people and their gods which needed to be healed not by the sacrifices of Galba, but rather by the sacrifice of Galba himself as loco deuotionis."  This concept of sacrifice of self in Tacitus' work is extended also to Galba's successors or Otho and Vitellius.

The practice of loco deuotionis was an ancient one which needs to be explained. By ancient custom a deuotio was a ceremony wherein a magistrate would usually have himself as deuotus consecrated as an expiatory sacrifice. The purpose was to avert disaster and ensure Roman supremacy. [Feldherr, 1998, 85]. He infects the enemy army with a plague and takes them down to the underworld with himself.


                                 Emperor Galba

Galba mistakenly idealizes the republican system which applied to the principate of Augustus. He does not have the authority of the princeps. Therefore, his rituals are in vain. Basically, reason and the gods desert Galba so he falls into his own trap. The gods expect nothing less than for him to be the sacrifice. In his last moments, according to Plutarch, he said "Strike, if it be for the good of the Romans!" Tacitus cynically says that the murderers cared little what he said before they lopped off his head. [Tacitus, The Murder of Galba, Book XVI, 41]

Fate dictated though that Galba was not to be alone in his self-sacrifice as a deuotus according to Tacitus. The emperors Otho and Vitellius each sacrificed their lives to the gods. All of them were preceeded by the Emperor Nero (the last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty as recorded in the Annals) who sacrificed a pig on the altar and later himself through suicide. The remedy of the four self-sacrifices is a stable government under Vespasianus and a return to earlier morality. He established the Flavian dynasty with two sons following him. It was a relative time of peace resembling on a smaller scale the 200 year Pax Romana established by Augustus as the remedia after a large scale civil war.


Victoria Emma Pagan ed., A Companion to Tacitus, Wiley-Blackwell: Chichester, 2012

Rebecca Edwards, Part III, Interpretations, Deuotio, Disease and Remedia in the Histories

pages 237-260.


Cornelius Tacitus, The Histories, The Murder of Galba (1250)


Annals of Tacitus

Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb


D.卡尔顿 罗西

December 16, 2016


                                          The Gravestone of Tacitus

Tacitus challenge (塔西佗陷阱)

It seems to the author that the trap which contemporary Marxists fall into is they do not have a sufficient understanding of Tacitus' Germania.  This history was translated by Marx.1  The Germania is as much a description of the Germanic peoples as it is of the peoples of imperial Rome. It was written after the death of Titus Flavius Caesar Domitianus Augustus or Domitian. His reign was one of terror. The Germanic peoples appear to be free as they brandish their spears2. It is an illusion since they face the point of a spear.

Recently, President Fidel Castro died. State television announced the passing of Castro. The people of Cuba were not aware of the death because they were not listening to State television. In other words, if the party does not have the trust of the people then nobody will believe what it says or does. 

D.卡尔顿 罗西

November 25, 2016

1.  Quote from a letter written on November 10, 1837 from Karl Marx to his father in Trier

"I also translated Tacitus’ Germania, Ovid’s Tristria, and started learning English and Italian on my own, that is, out of grammar books, though up to now I have accomplished nothing from this."


2.  Councils

About minor matters the chiefs deliberate, about the more important the whole tribe. Yet even when the final decision rests with the people, the affair is always thoroughly discussed by the chiefs...
Their freedom has this disadvantage, that they do not meet simultaneously or as they are bidden, but two or three days are wasted in the delays of assembling. When the multitude think proper, they sit down armed. Silence is proclaimed by the priests, who have on these occasions the right of keeping order. Then the king or the chief, according to age, birth, distinction in war, or eloquence, is heard, more because he has influence to persuade than because he has power to command. If his sentiments displease them, they reject them with murmurs; if they are satisfied, they brandish their spears. The most complimentary form of assent is to express approbation with their spears.

Thomas Gordon  18th Century translation




三个陷阱定律    The Three Trap Laws

On the surface, The Three Trap model addresses the issue of why civilizations decline. The first trap concerns the Roman empire from the viewpoint of Tacitus as it is understood by some Marxists. It deals with internal order established through trust. The second trap involves the Athenian empire as it is purportedly seen through the eyes of Thucydides. This trap involves relationship of states. It should be noted that these traps are considered in reverse time order. This time order is somewhat special in itself but is further enhanced when a unique reference is made in the third trap to the modern issue of the middle class. It deals with the problem of the decline of the western middle class whose emergence began in Germany at the time of Marx. 

The traps are a dialectical argument. In other words. Roman civilization is the thesis. The Greek civilization is the antithesis. Modern civilization is the synthesis. 

Using an argument with broad strokes, the Roman empire might be compared to a tortoise whose development was slow but sure. The Greek empire may be compared to a hare whose run is swift and short like the life of Achilles. The British and American empires were longer than the hare, but shorter than the tortoise.  

For the Chinese, it may be appropriate to compare their empire to the tortoise which has moved at glacial pace. However, through the industrial and information ages the pace has quickened. China now resembles the hare as the glaciers are retreating at an accelerating rate through global warming. One might say that the west is retreating through isolationism and China is closing the encirclement. 

One realizes though that the Athenian empire did not immediately transform into the Roman empire. There was a mid-step. That step was the Macedonian empire which emerged with the conquests of Greece, Egypt, Persia and India. At the death of Alexander (who was conqueror rather than administrator) the empire divided into four parts. Without the middle step there would have been no diffusion of Hellenistic culture.


                        The Four Empires after Alexander

If one were to reverse matters in a linear chronological order it would be as follows. The Roman empire divided into four empires; that is, Seleucus took control of the Seleucid Empire composed of Syria, Babylon, Persia and India. Lycimachus took over Thrace and much of Asia Minor. Cassander seized Macedonia and Greece. Finally, Ptolemy gained Palestine, Cilicia, Petra, and Cyprus thus establishing the Ptolemaic Dynasty.They were united under a visionary leader (Alexander of Macedon). This leader was highly influenced by Greek culture. 

Coincidentally, there is a correspondence in numbers between the leaders of the four empires and the core leaders of the Communist Party of the PRC. They are Mao Zedung, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Xi Jinping. Is it an historical necessity if not an inevitability that a visionary leader will emerge within the Communist Party who will contribute to the long term avoidance of the three trap problem? Who will the people trust, the international community respect and  provide a private model of a constitutional system? Who will diffuse Chinese culture centred on Confucian values of the family throughout the world?

From a materialist point of view one may consider the four basic Chinese elements. They were earth, water, air and fire. The fifth element was recognized later as metal which could be considered to be in the middle of the rectangle. The most important metal is gold. To earn trust one must also establish a virtual gold standard based on a reserve. One should be aware or beware of a new president of the United States who is a billionaire expert at bankruptcy and a billionaire commerce secretary who is an expert in restructuting bankrupt corporations. 

The decline of the middle class has accelerated in the west. This is evidenced, for example, in the countries of Canada, England, Germany and the United States. On the other hand, China's middle class has been growing. It seems almost fated though to decline with an ageing population and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few as it has in the west. Potentially, this could be a disruptive factor. Trickle-down trust, however, may have to be supplemented by "well-up responsibility" to avoid a middle class trap.  

D.卡尔顿 罗西
D. Carlton Rossi

November 29, 2016


                  Death of Sparticus at the Sileras River in 71 BCE

Contrary to popular belief, Spartacus was not crucified as he was unidentified when he fell in battle. 

One of the areas of interest for the author is military history. For example, he has just finished reading The Spartacus War by Barry Strauss. It depicts how the gladiator Spartacus led an army of slaves to defeat two Roman legions from 73-71 BCE. His military genius is highlighted when his army tried to cross a narrow passage to Sicily. One might surmise that he realized that there had been two major slave revolts in Sicily during the periods 135-132 BCE and 110-104 BCE. By invading the island he would be able to enlist new recruits for his revolt thus opening the way to escape by sea to another location.


The author has had a particular interest in ancient Greek history since his high school days. He is just completing a book by Ernle Bradford called Thermopylae: The Battle for the West. Surprisingly, it provides many new insights into the topic of the invasion of the Greek city-states. At the time of Xerxes' campaign the pro Persian Carthaginians under Hamilcar also tried to take Sicily. The struggle between Persia and the Greek poleis is really a clash of civilizations manifesting itself through warfare. Today, China and the United States might mistakenly fall into a similar armed conflict through what is called The Thucydides Trap.