Can you reverse the Chinese curse?

Apparently no Chinese ever uttered the curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Certainly, I have been cursed by descendants of the Central Kingdom, but mostly using English swear words involving money, or their daughters. Perhaps I misunderstood, I now have daughters of my own.

Regardless, we do live in interesting times: Water, grain, fish and energy are in short supply. The American empire declines along with its dollar. Interesting, indeed.

The media reinforces, every day, China’s role.

Amazon rainforest is cut down to grow soyabeans to feed pigs and cows destined for Chinese tables. The Kimberley is developed to exploit natural gas and iron ore for “the Far East”.

Given that the average Chinese earns less than one tenth the average Australian wage and consumes one tenth the resources, it seems churlish to deny them the opportunity to eat meat more than once a week, or to make a decent living. Chinese factories make the solar panels, shoes and gadgets that we want but can’t be bothered making.

Adidas, alone, has 700 factories in Shanghai to supply its global market. Wage rises and new regulations have driven the company to try and move offshore. Unfortunately, no other country can cost effectively absorb 700 sporting goods factories.

Prices of the three stripe running shoe will rise as a result.

The theory that Wall St traders, Madison Avenue marketing gurus and Rodeo Drive entertainment moguls can control the hearts, minds and hip pockets of the world’s consumers while the Chinese do the dirty work for next to nothing has come crashing into conflict with reality. Chinese banks now sit on cash reserves of $US1.3 trillion. Acts of Congress preventing the Chinese from purchasing American companies only postpone the inevitable.

Australian’s are insulated from these global machinations primarily because we happily sell our significant iron, aluminium, coal and natural gas reserves to the highest bidder. We’ve sold our biscuit manufacturers, dairy producers, mining and energy companies to foreign interests. We have slavishly followed the logic of level playing fields and free trade agreements in exchange for a cosy relationship with whatever empire holds sway. We switched allegiance from the Brits to the Yanks last century, and now mandarin Kev is taking Keating’s admonition that we are part of Asia to its logical conclusion.

As Sidney Kidman said when he opposed the purchase of large chunks of Australia by the British Vestey Brothers in the 1880s, the danger is that we lose control of the nation.

The answer is to buy Australian. It is an effort that many people think Quixotic, meaning foolish in the face of insurmountable odds. I interviewed Dick Smith on The Generator in March. He told me that his Buy Australian project, Dick Smith Foods, has been a commercial failure. Most of his suppliers have sold to international interests.

On the back of increasing oil prices, all goods will become more expensive. The cheapest goods will be those produced locally. If we knock down our factories, though, and ship the equipment to China, as we have done with our dairy processors, shoe manufacturers and other regional industry, we will have to go barefoot, or buy imported shoes at the going, inflated, price.

It may be interesting to indulge ourselves in stores stocked with goods from around the world but the relative dullness of local produce is far less dangerous.
Tellingly, the third line of the apocryphal curse is, “May you get what you want.”

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