Current Affairs Politics

The Dragon In The East

The Irish political classes. What a work of man they are. Throughout the 19th century they clung parasite-like to the tail of Imperial Britain, accepting of any humiliation, any degradation, so long as they could line their own pockets, enriching themselves, their families and friends. It all began with Daniel O’Connell, the “Emancipator” himself. A revered figure of Irish Nationalism? The man who corrupted Irish nationalist politics irredeemably while pursuing more power and opportunities to acquire wealth and respectability for his class and “reform” of British colonial rule in Ireland – while not actually wishing to bring it to an end. The man who defended the British system of landlordism in Ireland, who served as an officer in the British Forces when the Irish people took up arms to free themselves in 1798 and 1803, who co-operated in the destruction of the Irish language and culture, who defended the virtual enslavement of Irish children in factories and businesses…

The list goes on and on.

Those political descendants who followed them are cut from the same tarnished cloth. Wrapped in the cover of the Green Flag they have pursued their own sectional interests while using the Irish people as their playthings, beasts of burden to be exploited when need be, wayward savage beasts with which to threaten when things did not go their own way. Corrupt and corruptible their sway ran throughout the 1800s and into the early 20th century until a revolutionary upheaval threw them to one side. But it was not to last. Slowly but surely they snaked their way back into power, the instigators of a civil war where they waded through Irish blood to retake the governance of the Irish people (and not for the first time). Eventually they found another foreign political class and institution to sell out to, a quasi-imperial teat to suckle upon. The European Union gave them a new home, a new source of corruption and sycophancy.

Yet that too wasn’t to last. Always looking for more, the next big make, they sought out international corporations, international finance, anything to fulfil their insatiable lust for more. And now to this.

The Dragon in the East rising above the horizon. But there will be no knights errant riding out to confront the all-devouring worm but greedy village elders ready to sacrifice their young to feed its insatiable hunger in the hope of stealing their own share of the dragon’s gold.

And doesn’t this, from the Guardian, sound all too familiar?

“China’s sacred text is not a holy book like the Torah, the Bible, or the Qur’an. Instead, it is The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Sun’s core belief is that the “ultimate excellence lies not in winning every battle but in defeating the enemy without ever fighting.”

Nowadays, we are witnessing the application of Sun’s ideas in Africa, where China’s prime objectives are to secure energy and mineral supplies to fuel its breakneck economic expansion, open up new markets, curtail Taiwan’s influence on the continent, consolidate its burgeoning global authority, and clinch for itself African-allocated export quotas. (The Chinese takeovers of South African and Nigerian textile industries are good examples of this strategy. The textiles exported the world over by these industries are deemed African exports when in reality they are now Chinese exports.)

…excluding oil, Africa has a negative trade balance with China.

Making matters worse, African exports to China are even less technology-intensive than its exports to the world. China’s share of Africa’s unprocessed primary products was more than 80% of its total imports from Africa. Equally, imports consist of cheap Chinese products of appallingly poor quality.

The level of Chinese FDI flowing into Africa at present is staggering. But this Chinese FDI is bundled together with concessional loans, and there is much double-counting, with the same ventures being recorded both as aid flows and as inflows of FDI. Given the heavy volume of concessionary loans provided by China, concern about African countries’ future debt burden is growing. And no matter how much China publicises its record in Africa, the greatest contributor of financial inflows to the continent is the African diaspora. Indeed, South Africa, not China, is the country making the largest investments in the rest of Africa.

China’s credo of “non-interference in domestic affairs” and “separation of business and politics” is, not surprisingly, music to the ears of African leaders, who fall over each other to sing the praises of Chinese co-operation with their countries. These leaders’ attitudes recall the worst behaviour of their predecessors, many of whom engaged centuries ago with the west’s rising imperial powers to halt the growth of indigenous industry. Instead, these potentates of the past chose to import manufactured goods from Europe in exchange for their own subjects, whom they exported as slaves.

When slavery was abolished, the terms of partnership with western colonisers changed from trade in slaves to trade in commodities. After independence in the early 1960s, during the cold war, they played the west against the Soviet bloc for the same purpose.

Today, many African leaders pursue similar policies with China, which has struck bargains across Africa to secure crude oil, minerals, and metals in exchange for infrastructure built by Chinese companies. Hence, the import of Chinese labour into a continent not lacking in able-bodied workers. Indeed, within a mere decade, more Chinese have come to live in Africa than there are Europeans on the continent, even after many centuries of European colonial and neocolonial rule. With apartheid-style practices – including the gunning down of local workers by a Chinese manager in Zambia – Chinese managers impose appalling working conditions on their African employees.

Today, China has seized control of a huge swath of local African industries, in the process grabbing their allocated export quotas. As China’s global economic role increases, its labour costs will rise and its currency will appreciate, eroding its competitiveness. Might Chinese manufacturers then look to Africa as a base for production, using the facilities they have built and the hordes of workers they have been steadily exporting there?”

Now imagine Ireland in twenty years. How many Chinese colonies, sorry, “trade hubs” will it contain? And how many Irish people will be employed in them? Well, I suppose they will need waiters and cleaners.

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