OPIUM WARS III
Man has laboured prodigiously to overcome an overwhelming limitedness; his ignorance and his fears, and has done much to uplift himself to better befit this awesome earth which has remained his sole dwelling place and his most humbling inheritance.
Much profit has come from such keen and earnest labour. Impressive cultures, cities, and market places have been constructed. And the means of producing goods and services that it pleases man to consume have been improved to levels that must be nearing perfection; so much so that cities can be erected, in no time at all, in places formerly considered inaccessible and unfit for human dwelling.
The dictum that there is dignity in labour first became a mantra, then dogma and then it became the opiate of the masses that captivated and held captive man in such productive thralldom that man has now come to a happy, and what really should have been an easily predictable end: The Age Of Glut.
We are presently living in a time when the all the walls of modern citadels; market places and all places of financial hocus pocus are tumbling down with apocalyptic haste. It is an implosion in every sense but it is also a deflation occurring with the rapidity that befits our jet age.
All the materiel of Middle Class existence are now so well and so quickly made that the traditional means by which Westerners, formerly such invincible Masters of The Universe that they succeeded in achieving a first; the Industry of enslaving and domesticating his fellow man. This they managed at commercial volumes so great that only the management skills of the Nazis as they shepherded Jews to death in their implementation of The Final Solution of the Nazis has bested it.
So much earnest industry has created a glut of products that very soon it will be cheaper to give goods away than to attempt to sell them, or to recycle them than to warehouse them. Germany, for instance, is in the process of taking old vehicles and paying for this with new vehicles. The old, working vehicles are scrapped. It doesn’t take a leap of imagination to realize that in the coming era of potential protectionism, and unprecedented levels of unemployment, it would pay, not only the German government, to put people to work by producing matériel for the public(military )sector, where we may not so easily have a products glut.
The Glut has wreaked much havoc already. The first was the destruction of the process by which value was ascribed to things. The process by which we bought our way, first into the bourgeoisie and then into that exclusive and mythical class of the elites. Chinaware, for instance, was enjoyed only by Royalty, and a few very privileged persons. But today the once esoteric art of firing porcelain is so exoteric that almost every working class family the world over boasts of China Tea Sets and serving plates of very fine quality; ditto with Silverware. Ditto with exclusive luxury goods, where once existed a mythical gap between expensive goods and their cheap or “clone” counterparts. The Asian producers have wiped out that gap. The so-called clones are so well made now mainly because they are made by the same producers who make the unaffordable items. Why, many wonder, pay, say $100US for a PSL shirt, when you can pay $10US for a TSL shirt, or even a PSL shirt that looks and feels the same as the $100US item? We have the same dilemma with cars, micro wave ovens and even homes.
Before this begins to seem like an enumeration of trivia, I wish to mention Generic Drugs and the fact that, having demystified and proliferated the means of production, knowledge has become similarly demystified and access points likewise proliferated to a point where it becomes considerably cheaper to preserve lives with the production of so called generic drugs that are a much as 90% cheaper, than to suffer the loss of such a life because some fat cats must exact their pound of “Royalties.”
It must be said that our Masters Of the Universe, who once solely held the reins of production are not particularly over the moon about this pass that we’ve come to. As they challenged South Africa’s bid to procure affordable Retroviral drugs so that her poor and hapless citizens may survive, they will challenge China’s right to come to the market place with all manner of generics and India’s right to access intellectual property and offer outsourcing services that are channeled without due consideration for political propriety.
Deng Xiaoping bequeathed to his people his famous twenty eight -characters and it is moot here to excerpt numbers 1 to 7: culled from K. Mahbubani, The New Asian Hemisphere, (1) lengjing guacha- observe and analyze (developments) calmly; (2) chenzhuo yingfu- deal [with changes] patiently and confidently; (3) Wenzhou Zhen Jiao- secure [our own] position; (4) taoguang yanghui-conceal [our] capabilities and avoid the limelight; (5)shanyu touchuo- be good at keeping a low profile; (6) juebu dangtou - never become a leader; (7) yousuo zuowei-strive to make achievements. As the world laments the credit crunch as though some form of metaphysical black whole has swallowed all our money, let us remember that less than a year ago China announced to the world that it has crossed the 1 trillion dollar mark in its foreign reserves. The operative term here is: “crossed”. The Chinese are a race so utterly and inscrutably conservative, as can be seen from the above, that “crossed” is crucial to better appreciate that the world’s cash has simply moved to China.
This would not be the first time a deficit of this nature in trade with China is occurring. In the early 1800s the English had become so addicted to tea and found much to their growing consternation that the Emperor would accept none other payment for the much needed tea and silk, than silver bullion that so much silver was transferred to the Emperor that The Bank of England suffered a complete and crippling loss of silver bullion. Whereas the loss led to an increase in the value of, and demand for, silver; it was with dismay that the English noted that even though Chinese women used a little silver as trinkets, the rest was simply a hoard over which the men, or Emperor simply gloated!
It took the Opium Wars to redeem this intolerable state of trade relations. With the subsequent stupefaction of a generation of Chinese, the bullion was returned to the its proper home, for the good of all Christians, all those soon to be Christians, and all those yet to become so saved by The Good News. And for a hundred years Hong Kong became a British fiefdom and an excellent Christianizing market for a lucky few.
And for anyone who might think that the British have ever needed other than pecuniary reasons for attacking a foreign country, or that the invasion of Iraq is a rare departure from noble norm; here are the words of Thomas Arnold to W.W. Hull, on 18th March 1840, a conscientious objector to the first Opium War, waged by the British against China for criminal reasons:
“This war with China… really seems so wicked as to be a national sin of the greatest possible magnitude… I really don’t remember, in any history, of a war undertaken with such combined injustice and baseness. Ordinary wars of conquest are…far less wicked, than to go to war in order to maintain smuggling, and that smuggling consisting in the introduction of a demoralizing drug, which the government of China wants to keep out, and which we, for the lucre of gain, want to introduce by force; and in this quarrel are going to burn and to slay in the pride of our supposed superiority.”
Much of the Chinese Trillions will come to Africa in a hurry- before the second scramble for Africa begins. The question we have to ask ourselves is, the nature of the relationship we wish to have with the ASEAN TIGER. I propose that before mortgage our lives and those of our progeny to the highest bidder, we should consider that in this era of high unemployment we would do better to negotiate for infrastructural developments and transfer of technology, than cash payments. They can afford the payments but they would give a premium to put their people to work in Africa; that is to say that where we were meant to get X value for our raw materials, for instance, we could XYZ if we negotiated for Development rather than Payment. Especially because we would giving or selling both our raw materials and employment to their millions.
The problem, of cause, with cash payments, is that it’s a two-step tango to disaster; first you get paid and then you turn the money right around and purchase goods and services; the money therefore goes right back whence it came. With payment in infrastructural development and transfer of technology, however, you develop capacity and then turn around and sell goods and services. In the process of this non- pecuniary payment, value is added, and since value gained is already far and above the pecuniary value that would have been paid in the first place, there’s a compounding of the quantum of value received. Additionally, our politicians would have far less success stealing capital assets, than the moneys which they find impossible to keep their hands off; its difficult to stash a fly-over in your drive-way, however grandiose.
We really should enact laws in Africa that compel our leaders to accept approximately 30% payments in financial instruments and the remainder in asset/infrastructural development and transfer of technology.