The headlines provide a hyperbole yet offer us little contrast. The news may be both instant and dramatic but give us little context. With our current era of instant news, with every flavour and colour you require, effective understanding of subjects can often be difficult. We all have our own bespoke and selective news telescope, with China being a current example.
Everyone has heard the somewhat unhinged and inconsistent comments from President Trump on China and President Xi, but we also know of the serious trade issues around subjects like the ‘theft of intellectual property’ (albeit my childish bias against including Trump and ‘intellectual’ within the same sentence). However, the last weekend has seen the true colours of the Chinese communist party, with their views on Hong Kong. This is a stark contrast to the deafening silence from our own ‘kowtowed’ foreign secretary Mr Raab, on upholding our responsibilities of our treaty with China over our ex-colony.
The erratic and inconsistent behaviour of the leader of the world’s largest economy, merely affirms to the Chinese that they should steer their own direction. There is a long list of concerned nations, now increasingly worried by Chinese power, from those effected by their claims on the Paracel Islands, to Kashmir where some 30% are held by the Chinese. Even the supposed generosity of the Chinese, with their development loans in Africa and Sri Lanka, have changed from a perfect partnership of non-colonial investment, to an increased cost with a clear attitude of neo-colonialism.
So, is China the bad guy here?
Time for some perspective. China’s economic growth has been relatively recent, and their political strength has a long and important history. The 19th century was a period of Chinese weakness and is often referred to as the ‘century of humiliation’ by the ‘great powers’, where several opium wars raged. Now however, Chinese economic power is on the rise, even despite current Covid-19 related conditions. China will see this as a time to reset its position against the now weakened ‘Western Powers’, assisted greatly through the ignorant incompetence of President Trump. His most recent reactions and comments serve only to remind me of the bellicose rhetoric of the 1950’s and 60’s, at the height of the Cold War. Maybe we are now seeing the start of a Sino American Cold War, one which could do greater and longer lasting damage to the global economy than our current pandemic. This past week in Hong Kong, the Beijing authorities have clearly shown their view, that while Hong Kong remains a different system for the moment, it is still Chinese territory, but territory that is behaving in a damaging and dysfunctional manner.
Are the roles now reversed? Our government appears cowed, as it is us who are now the grateful recipients of the much-needed opium of Chinese investment. Fear of losing it, brings out the sweats of a desperate and forlorn addict. The question we must therefore ask, is what should we be doing? Firstly, we should move away from the dependence of such financial opium. Secondly, distance ourselves from these long-distance trade supplies and thirdly, look for such development and investment locally, or dare I say Regionally.
And finally… it was recently reported that a certain Ms Moermans in Belgium was desperate for a McDonald’s. However, even though there was one just 500 meters away, her mother said that they couldn’t go during the lockdown. They didn’t have a car to use the drive-thru, which was the only public access available.
The imaginative and patient mother had a bright idea: if you needed a car but didn’t have one, then build a car. They built their ‘vehicle’ from cardboard boxes and had a ‘license plate’ reading ‘COVID-19’. Once they got it out the front door (it was too wide to fit easily), people in more conventional cars honked and encouraged them. After mother and teenager reached their destination, a police officer questioned their presence in the drive-thru and “burst out laughing [when she] realized that we were inside a cardboard car”, Ms Moermans said. McDonald’s employees quite rightly sold them their meal. Apparently, they had never served a “happier meal”.
Have a good week and please keep safe and well.
Image source: Richard Simkin- Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection