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Why Join China’s One Belt – One Road?

Or: Forty Centuries of Sustainable Farming

“We are to consider some of the practices of a virile race of some five hundred millions of people who have an unimpaired inheritance moving with the momentum acquired through four thousand years; a people morally and intellectually strong, mechanically capable, who are awakening to a utilization of all the possibilities which science and invention during recent years have brought to western nations; and a people who have long dearly loved peace but who can and will fight in self defense if compelled to do so.

We had long desired to stand face to face with Chinese and Japanese farmers; to walk through their fields and to learn by seeing some of their methods, appliances and practices which centuries of stress and experience have led these oldest farmers in the world to adopt. We desired to learn how it is possible, after twenty and perhaps thirty or even forty centuries, for their soils to be made to produce sufficiently for the maintenance of such dense populations as are living now in these three countries … “ (Farmers of Forty Centuries, F.H.King, 1911).

This is not a panegyric for China … after all, I am a nobody as far as any social influence goes and for a person such as myself to wax flattery about a nation of around 1.5 billion people, would be presumption of the most crass and vulgar kind, they certainly can and do speak for themselves.

No … I come not to praise China, but rather to perhaps persuade others here to “listen up” to what ought to be obvious regarding the reality of this mega-populated nation to the north of us … and if we read the above portion of the preface to a book by an American, published in 1911 of the skills and traditions of agriculture of those peoples from forty centuries ago until that said date of publishing, you will appreciate a civilisation well versed in knowledge, frugality and perseverance … and other characteristics mentioned above … truly a nation of people to be, if not possibly emulated, then at the very least respected as capable and culturally cohesive.

The incessant anti-China propaganda dribbling out from all our media that seeks and finds every and any means to vilify and demean China via direct accusation or implied innuendo reeks of the old days of anti-Soviet “Red Menace” publications … Of course, these days the “Bolshevism schlock” is a damn sight more sophisticated, but none the less crude in its enactment by certain authorities and media outlets.

But what is the real feeling of what and where China is going with its social and economic expansion?

One Belt – One Road … Surely a bold and courageous initiative that ought to hold the attention of the world and inspire it to examine it as more than just a “communist plot” by China to grab power …

The stated objectives are:

“… to construct a unified large market and make full use of both international and domestic markets, through cultural exchange and integration, to enhance mutual understanding and trust of member nations, ending up in an innovative pattern with capital inflows, talent pool, and technology database.”

The Belt and Road Initiative addresses an:

“ ‘infrastructure gap’ and thus has potential to accelerate economic growth across the Asia Pacific area, Africa and Central and Eastern Europe. A report from the World Pensions Council (WPC) estimates that Asia, excluding China, requires up to US$900 billion of infrastructure investments per year over the next decade, mostly in debt instruments, 50% above current infrastructure spending rates. The gaping need for long-term capital explains why many Asian and Eastern European heads of state “gladly expressed their interest to join this new international financial institution focusing solely on ‘real assets’ and infrastructure-driven economic growth.”

Surely this would benefit Australia and open up entirely new markets for agricultural produce and manufacturing? … What could possibly be the downside to wholeheartedly joining in such an enterprise, except that certain “players” who like to control and corner geographical areas of the world trade map may find their “private back yard” of controlled and policed countries shrinking and abandoning their “protection racket” methodologies.

We have seen just recently, many Pacific Nations being approached with investment opportunities by China that would be of more benefit to those nations than the patronising pseudo-colonising by “certain western nations” that have kept them under obligation to a cold-as-charity system of “foreign aid” and exploitation … Having their revered cultures displayed as tourist entertainment for a few shekels tossed at their feet … or worse, being used as a penal colony for payment for their debts. Who can blame them for considering a changing of the guard?

And what about us? … What have we as a nation gained from this brave new world of neo-liberal, free-market philosophy? … A gig economy of casualised, part-time work, flat-lined shit wages and conditions … shit healthcare, inequality in education and a racist attitude toward multi-culturalism … retirement to a world of poverty and lack of decent care … a coterie of gangster LNP politicians who if they cannot steal the nations treasures to add to their already bulging property portfolios, they then flog it off at fire-sale prices to their mates and have sent everything of quality off-shore including our good name and honour … and there’s no point asking that old chestnut; “what have we got to lose,” because we have already lost it!

What would be lost for Australians to hitch their wagon to the One Belt – One Road Initiative? We see and hear the agricultural sector bitterly complaining of a lack of workers, surely if there was a wider market ready to pick up our produce, good wages and conditions could be paid to lure workers to their farms … if there was a greater population calling out for quality produce, then all the better for pricing and maintaining healthy agriculture practices? … If there was a wider market for the shipping of goods, then there would surely be space for quality manufacturing and value-adding to the products we make?

Someone tell me the downside? … and if we continue to clamour that Australia is a “market driven” economy that runs on the entrepreneurial inventiveness of its best and brightest, then surely the chance to join in one of the most imaginative enterprises of this twenty first century has to be a once in a lifetime opportunity!

I’m in! … Are you?

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  1. Joseph Carli

    That book “Farmers of Forty Centuries” is a brilliant (free) read for what is shows then before the industrialisation of agriculture what we would compare these days to “Permaculture practices”…a knowledge and practice of agriculture and husbandry that was over the centuries inculcated into their body of “cultural knowledge”…and one has to surmise..against ALL the anti-Chinese propaganda, that the knowledge still resonates throughout the civilisation of that society.

  2. Joseph Carli

    It’s a pity Karen Kyle isn’t here to defend her interests on this post….after all, she would have to go hammer and tongs to protect those creatures of international capitalism ; Wall St, London City, The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund…and other western institutions who up till now have held a monopoly on managing Third World finances….But with the rise of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, backed by the political power of a rising China and its allies, there may not be a long life for the old racketeers and gangster bankers.

    Because, let’s face it..the One Belt – One Road initiative will be dealing first with soverign nations who will hold the levers on their own country’s production capacity…and then channelling those products NOT via the spot/speculative market of entrepreneurial hustlers looking for a quick buck, but through regulated markets that will be able to check and control the more feral elements of the “free market”.

    Yes..the “real assets” give clue to what would be considered solid marketable produce, rather than the Wall St. cowboys buying and selling promises and vacuous speculations…The West could take a hit on its “capital leadership” that could be fatal…and wouldn’t THAT be a catastrophy!?

  3. Michael Taylor

    Joe, Karen is permanently blocked.

  4. Joseph Carli

    Oh well , she can stew in her own juice then…

  5. Claudio Pompili

    Good read and a pleasant respite from the constant Sinophobia in our media. Apart from being in concert with the issues you raise, the anxiety I feel most is for the Australian-Chinese population and particularly its younger generations who were born here. As genuine ‘Australians’, how must they feel by the constant tsunami of China-bashing and by inference at their own heritage/etchnicity? Chinese immigrants have been in Australia for generations since the earliest days of white colonial settlement and have made large contributions to multicultural Australia. Australia’s belligerence towards China as the lapdog of US imperialism with bipartisan support of LNP/ALP has already caused our relationship with our near northern neighbour to hit rock bottom and further military provocations will, inevitably, end badly. The hawks in the LNP government are reaching hysterical pitch and far right ‘think tanks’ such as The Strategic Policy Institute, funded by shadowy US interests, are beating the drums of war. John Pilger’s The Coming War with China is prescient. It needn’t have been this way. But apart from The Greens and other Socialist progressive voices, this feels like Europe between the Wars.

  6. Joseph Carli

    Well, Claudio…that name, like my surname gives the game away as another ethnicity that ran the gauntlet of racism from the dominant colonising ethnicity of this country…and as I have oft repeated..I’ve never had a Chinese person call me a wog….So I owe no allegiance to one particular ruling group and if push came to shove, I would hate to have my loyalty to THAT group put to the test…

  7. Arnd

    It is my (vague) understanding that the Chinese suffered their fair share of famines during the forty centuries of their existence.

    And they had wars.

    My very rudimentary appreciation of Chinese history and development also has it that they have a long and enduring tradition of state administration dominating virtually every aspect of the subjects’s lives, and being assumed to do so legitimately.

    It is my understanding that the age of European colonial expansion, most importantly throughout North America, had fostered a particular attitude towards individual liberty, an attitude that I believe to be practically incompatible with Chinese (Confucian?) conceptualisations of citizenship and political piety.

    I am clear about the need to subject western concepts of individual liberty to radical revision. But by the same token I consider both the present, deeply flawed western ideas about liberty, as well as any hypothetical, amended and vastly improved versions thereof, incompatible with Chinese notions. I’m not even necessarily insisting that one is superior to the other, just that they are mutually incompatible.

    Hence my advice: if you want to dine with the Chinese so-called Communist Party, bring long chopsticks.

  8. wam

    It looks like scummo’s children don’t trust andrews’ ability to deal with the chinese.
    Judging by the current effort of the cabinet andrews is a mile ahead.
    ps Of all the lunches I have had, the stand out was a roast beef and vegies cooked on a wood stove, by sue wah chin, at the back of her shop. My enjoyment must have been appreciated because I was invited to celebrations for the next 31 years till her death 1900-2000 during that time I never heard her utter a word of english but you felt she understood. Her 11 children were 4th generations Australians, on their father’s side but often got asked where they came from. Assumptions are so often wrong. Now one of her sons, gordon frank bernard sends me pictures of a 6th generation Australian

  9. Joseph Carli

    Arnd…Your “rudimentary” knowledge of Chinese history is is your rose-coloured vision of “benign western colonisation”…you would allow a “correction” to Western Liberal individualism, but deny the same to “Chinese notions”…wierd that..
    I am reminded of the advice given to Hemmingway by a Chinese general in the time of the 2nd.ww, when told that a certain British commander did not consider the Chinese capable of defeating the Japanese…
    “Do you know why that commander wears a monocle?” the Chinese general asked Hem’..
    “No” he honestly replied..
    “He wears a monocle so that he will only see as much that he wishes to see”.
    I offer YOU, Arnd..that same sage advice.

  10. paul walter

    Joseph, on this we topic we are pretty much in agreement.

    GOOD writing.

  11. Arnd

    Joseph … !

    Please don’t put words in my mouth!

    I never said anything about “benign colonialism”, and I most certainly do not have a rose-coloured vision of it! I merely referenced “a particular attitude towards individual liberty”, without making any representation whether I consider it particularly good, deserving or commendable. All I did say was that I consider it incompatible with Chinese notions.

    Read Isaiah Berlin’s Two Concepts of Liberty for a more in depth treatment of that subject. (Take particular note if the chapter “The retreat to the inner citadel”.) I found it very instructive, comparing Anglo-Saxon and continental notions of freedom, and how individual freedom interact and are balanced (or not!) with social responsibility. Berlin examines Hegelian, and by implication Marxist notions. Notions which I could detect in contemporary Germany, and which I consider highly relevant, since I do subscribe to the Marxist analysis and critique of capitalism -but find Marx’s conclusions and recommendations less convincing.

    I think that the Chinese are unlikely to “allow correction” (your words), or instigate “radical review” (my words) of their civic model, considering how tattered and dissolute western democracy is looking these days.

    I think it far more likely that western deliberative democracy – what’s left of it, anyway – will be increasingly subsumed by “illiberal democracy” style populist strongmen, who will then promptly proceed to remodel neo-liberal market capitalism into more or less vicious and exploitative versions of corporatism, of which Xi’s “Neo-Confucianism” is a masterful example to follow.

    I mean, think about it: even Scott Morrison, who rode to the prime ministership on the back of “have a go, get a go” neo-liberalism, is now reading loudly from the corporatist prayer book.

    Let’s be clear: up until the industrial revolution, China was the world’s wealthiest, most productive and advanced economy. There is a little dent in their history, beginning with the Opium wars, and continuing through Japanese occupation and the Mao years. But they are back now. And they have unfinished business. Let’s not assume that they offer participation in their Belt and Road initiative purely out of the goodness of their hearts.

    Please note that I didn’t say not to dine with the Chinese at all. I just said to bring long chopsticks.

    Of course, I should have included an exhortation to our political leaders to do a better job of keeping our own noses clean – weapons exports into crisis areas, global tax evasion schemes, inaction on climate change, …

  12. Joseph Carli

    Well, Arnd…THAT’S much better!…why didn’t you say as much before?….that clears the air…

    Personally, I think the Chinese leadership is above vulgar vengeance…at least in its crudest form…that’s more in line with us Italians…not to say that there would be some deep pleasure to see Western Capitalism implode and destroy itself…Me…as another ethnic minority in this Anglo-centric nation, I have no distaste for the food of the Chinese , nor wariness of dining with them.

  13. Joseph Carli

    Arnd…as you can see, it was late at night when I answered your comment…of particular point, you talk of; Isaiah Berlin’s Two Concepts of Liberty …well…I did have a rudamentary peruse of that theory and I see by a bit of biography of the “good”, be-knighted professor ( how does one get a knighthood without being entirely in agreeance with The Crown?..and then there is that Israeli award for promoting “peace” ) that he had a hatred for communism, based on the treatment he heard of several Russian intellectuals…perhaps a subjective conclusion unworthy of a researching mind…and I read also of his opposition to : ….. “In his doctrine of the general will Rousseau moved from the conventional and, Berlin insisted, correct view of the self as individual to the self as citizen – which for Rousseau meant the individual as member of a larger community, an individual whose identity and well-being were exactly the same as those of the larger community.” …..Well, I have to agree with Rosseau in this ideal…The “individual” being influenced by a legion of conflicting teachings as they mature from child to adult, can hardly be held up as THE EXAMPLE of good judgement when example after example, even among the most highly educated and disciplined members of society again and again prove to be totally unreliable in their reasoned decision making…even within their own family or relationships…I don’t think I need make example here, as your own experience of dissapointments would serve well.
    No..what I read in your well-scripted, if somewhat insisting post, is the shadowy underlying suspicion of all things oriental…as against the obvious fuck-up of so many theories occidental…but there you go…I don’t like the Anglo-centric model of governance, much prefering the more European Socialist model.
    BUt here I thank you Arnd, for your well considered and thoughtful seems difficult for many of the regulars on the site to progress a reasoned arguement past the pounting moue of frustration of this or that LNP member’s “poo-bum” behaviour…so it was a welcome addition to the sites intellectual consistancy..

  14. Joseph Carli

    Btw…my tolerant readers…may I take this opportunity while my article is still on the header board to do a bit of self-promotion with a poem I wrote a little while ago..perhaps quite relevent on this moment in history where we are witnessing a “falling from grace” of Democracy…thanking you for your patience..

    The Tower.

    He fell,
    As mighty edifices do fall,
    And death made a mockery of him,
    As it makes mockery of us all.
    But I was just a child of Shinar,
    On the plain where The Tower was built.
    Bored with a sedentary life,
    They needed something to adore.
    It sprung from the soil a shimmering phallal,
    Upon it they lavished their skills
    And they named it Babel.
    Oh, how it climbed toward the heavens!
    While we fed off the spoils of Mother Earth,
    The fruits and wines that gave us birth
    With n’aer a thought of impending death,
    So was the pride full in our hearts.
    I asked of my Father, a mason there,
    “What the reason for The Tower?”
    “In your wildest dreams” he said “you will not want,
    And in your steps you will not falter,
    We have built and paved a path to heaven,
    We have gilded mankind’s altar.
    Precious stones from far Afghanistan,
    Quoins of coloured marbles of Kazakhstan
    Pearls from the depths of The Euxine Sea,
    Onyx and alabaster barged down the Nile,
    These riches have we brought to thee!
    Heaven is our gate, Hell below our feet,
    We stand poised to challenge the Gods
    Never more to yield to a defeat.”
    I was a child of Shinar when the Tower they built,
    And never was there a more united cry,
    A more singular and determined voice,
    “Babel!” they cried, “Babel! You are ours!”,
    Voices like sea-waves crashing eternal upon a beach.
    And they built onwards and upwards that mighty tower,
    The riches of the Earth they did devour,
    With no thought of rest…nor honour,
    We poured all into that mighty edifice.
    Our leaders, as toward heaven it thrust,
    They called down to us, encouraged us,
    “This is of you” they softly called.
    “This is by you” they softly persuaded.
    “This is for you” they softly whispered.
    And that triple reassurance won us,
    And we worked and laboured for that goal,
    “Babel, Babel!” we cried and we worshipped the ideal,
    And we never wondered when our own plates went empty
    Why others were always filled,
    Why THEY were able to lavish aplenty,
    While our plains and wells went dry….

    Then it fell.

    As soft as a tremor, violent as a quake,
    It fell because of one small mistake.
    It fell when we suddenly came to see,
    After climbing, climbing so high in that ecstasy,
    Those Gods whose heaven we were calling home,
    Were neither singular..nor divine,
    But were a made creation of our own!
    WE made the Gods of OUR own image,
    NOT the Gods of us!
    WE made heaven of OUR own wants and desires,
    Our leaders fed us of our own language,
    And fanned and fuelled our tangled runes,
    Spoke in riddles of strange but familiar sounds,
    Until we could no more understand their tongue,
    And then we saw..our work there was done.
    We cast away our tools,
    Cursed each other as fools,
    And wept….
    “Oh Babel, Babel..why has thou foresaken us”.
    But too late..too is gone, it is bust..
    Babel, our hopes, our dreams, our lusts,
    Babel, our creation, our immortal soul,
    Has but gone to dust….
    We were children of Shinar when first The Tower was built,
    We are adults now…awash in a sea of guilt.

  15. A Commentator

    China has hundreds of millions still in poverty, and that means less than $5 a day there. They aren’t proposing to support places like Australia for any altruistic reasons
    With interest rates at about zero, why bother with “strings attached ” support?
    People should read the specifically Australian perspective detailed in The Silent Invasion ” by (highly regarded progressive academic and former Greens candidate) Clive Hamilton. You might disagree with his conclusions, but his research and analysis is compelling

  16. Joseph Carli

    Is that Clive Hamilton who writes for The Australian?………pass…

  17. Joseph Carli

    When Michael put the link to this article up on Twitter, one person immediately posted : “Avoid’s a Trojan Horse”…now, to my reasoning and in the historical perspective, A Trojan Horse is used to gain entrance through subterfuge……BUT…first one has to hold something of value that subterfuge is needed…..many of the people who I see immediately jump to a conclusion that “China is up to something”….they don’t really know what, but they are sure they “KNOW”…..however, a quick check shows that many of those accusative folk do not posess ANYTHING of such value that ANYONE would want to get it…with subterfuge or otherwise…..”Our Country!!”.. they may cry…sorry folks…ask the indigenous people about THAT! already lost that years ago when Whitlam was “coup’ed from office…also check corporate ownership of the greater part of Oz in the stock exchange…”Our Freedom!!”.. they may also cry..again..ask Bernard Collery / Julian Assange / witness only got freedom for as long as you stay the line with the accepted status quo…anything else that you want?..perhaps the..still..possibility to become a millionaire?…a sex symbol?…a lottery win?..or just to own your own home and live out a retirement in peace and security?….I am on only an aged pension and we live our life from pillar to post with very austere budgetting…and then tell that to the growing number of homeless older women…I am seeing any number of older people coming out to the Mallee bush and doing it hard in rough accomadation…

    No..put the learned paranoia aside and think on your own experience…a lived life..

  18. Arnd

    Thanks for your considered reply, Joseph. You do raise a number of points that would separately require further comprehensive elucidation before being integrated into an assessment of the unfolding Chinese-Western relationship. Something that clearly is beyond a few internet forum comments.

    I try anyway.

    I agree that the Chinese leadership is not interested in exacting “vulgar vengeance”. But I do think that the CCP especially is interested in demonstrating, to themselves, to their Chinese constituents, and to the world, the superiority of their leadership and their governance, economic and civic model. I find it plausible to assume that, besides any pecuniary reward for himself and his family, Xi Jinping personally would like to pride himself by leaving a “stateman’s legacy”, perhaps as China’s Lee Kuan Yew.

    Beware the moment when that pride turns to hubris! If it hasn’t already.

    I’m not sure that the Chinese would just stand by and gleefully watch western capitalism implode. My extrapolations have it that the ascendant Chinese political and commercial ruling class will repeatedly offer to the increasingly hapless and despondent western ruling class a helping hand to extricate themselves from this or that or the other self-inflicted quandary – AT A PRICE.

    And it will be the working class, of the West, and also of China, who will be paying that price!

    As for Isaiah Berlin, I think he raised important questions. Firstly, as communist (of sorts) myself, I consider it important to know what and how my opponents think – and Berlin was a prominent, influential and eloquent thinker. But it’s not just tactical considerations that prompt my interest: I am a strong believer in the Principle of Charitable Interpretation: “In philosophy and rhetoric, the principle of charity or charitable interpretation requires interpreting a speaker’s statements in the most rational way possible and, in the case of any argument, considering its best, strongest possible interpretation.” (Wikipedia)

    Thus I am hesitant to endorse Rousseau’s ideas about individual will seamlessly merging into one great Volonté générale quite as enthusiastically as you: there are too many examples of group think going wrong and precipitating destructive and murderous mania. I am well prepared to take heed of Berlin, despite disagreeing with him on many important points.

    (Ditto, incidentally, as regards Clive Hamilton: yes, the man had an axe to grind, and he grinds it loudly and is deliberately trying to make sparks fly as widely as possible. So take issue with what he’s saying, don’t just studiously ignore him, is what I say.)

    As for your astute critique of the notion of the individual as the origin of authoritative knowledge and soundly reasoned opinion, I can only agree. But there are, in my view, more effective safeguards against individual folly usurping collective reason than those traced by Rousseau.

    As for your ascribing to me a “shadowy underlying suspicion of all things oriental” – I demur! The Crispy pork belly and the Tom Yum soup at our local Thai restaurant are to die for (figuratively speaking!). As for the rest, I point out on my defence that banging on about oriental despotism for sport has been an intellectual past-time since antiquity – since before Aristotle arrived at the conclusion that the Persians to the east had developed sophistication and culture, but lacked energy; that the barbarians to the west had raw energy to spare, but lacked civilisation and refinement; and that … wait for it … wait … drumroll … it was the Athenians who possessed both energy and sophistication, and were therefore superior in all aspects, and very unlikely to voluntarily submit to despotic rule.

    And well over two thousand years later, Karl Marx struggled to explain the persistence of “Asiatic modes of production” and why they seemingly defy the universal validity of his dialectics of unfolding class conflict.

    It is a valid question! Some World Bank guy – one Justin Yifu Lin, attended to “The Needham Puzzle: Why the Industrial Revolution Did Not Originate in China”. Inconclusive, I believe, but in doing so he did illustrate the question rather exhaustively.

    Let me assure you that my conjectures on this problem complex have nothing whatsoever to do with racism of any kind, but are ultimately based purely on a particular analysis of geographical endowment factors, loosely (very loosely) following the pattern set by Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germ and Steel”.

    Let me also assure that I carry few illusions about any alleged Western superiority. My political coming of age occured during the mid-70s in t
    Socialist Youth summer camp in what was then W.-Germany – putting together extensive documentation about Operación Cóndor, and CIA sponsorship of the Pinochet dictatorship. I am well capable of appreciating that China never did throw its weight around all over the globe in the manner of the European powers, or the US.

    But by the same token, I consider it fallacious to take it for granted that they never will!

  19. Joseph Carli

    Jeesus Keerist, Arnd!…I can’t compete with THAT!!!….It would perhaps demand another lenghty post to cover all the points raised…But..let me just make my considered opinion about Chinese “archived, cultural knowledge” as against Western “bull in a China Shop” persistance…:

    I am reminded of a cartoon from one of those old “China Daily” magazines of the 70’s : “Fishing with book knowledge”..and there was a person standing to their waist in a river, reading a book and holding their fishing rod and line at a certain place (as per instruction) in front of himself, and there were the fish (in reality) swimming behind his back!

    That cartoon I saw such a long time ago…but here..I have never forgot it..and I doubt the Chinese leadership has either…I apologise for the brevity of my answer, Arnd, you deserve a much more considered reply…but that is just me…but I have another post up today of stories and such…I hope you find time to enjoy some…regards..

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