Not for the first nor the last time, I regret the long-ago death of Rewi Alley, the New Zealander who is one of China’s acclaimed heroes.
He devoted 60 years to setting up schools and thousands of industrial co-operatives there. He wrote of them “fitting into the vast landscape of rural China”. His slogan was: “Yo Banfa!” – “There is a way.” He retained independent views in a country where such attitudes were suspect – and still are. His mana was unquestioned.
In particular, I remember a long conversation with him in Beijing in 1983, when he talked gloomily of his deep misgivings about China’s dogmatic one-child family policy. He feared for the effects on the domestic and family life of the nation he loved, a doubt amounting to communist heresy.
I wish I now had the chance to hear his no-doubt equally searching analysis on the present.
Would the man who then talked and wrote so enthusiastically of China – “its industry is people’s industry … there are no super monopolies, financial barons, profit-grubbing individuals” – include the new Corporate China under his umbrella of “Yo Banfa!”? As it is, China – its size, its growth, its two-million-plus strong army, its intentions, its astounding feats in science and engineering, the influence it could have on our economy and lifestyle – strikes a number of New Zealand nerves all at the one time.
That’s clear from the range of reactions to Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules The World, who was quoted in this column last issue.
Sadly, inevitably, one response was to label the facts as racist, colonialist and wrong. For one tradesman, the issue was the impact of low-paid migrant workers on his work patterns. Others were concerned over possible foreign buy-ups of dairy land like the Crafar farms.
For most, there was a belief that the issues raised were too important for the government to shape trade and diplomatic policies without more input from an obviously unsettled public.
One man’s experience: “Thank God someone is awake to what is going on; we in New Zealand are very naive and gullible as is most of the world with regards to the Chinese agenda. Now that China has awoken, the rest of the world seems to have fallen asleep!
“I lived in Hong Kong for 11 years and have travelled to many cities in China – and have good Chinese friends, but the dragon is far-reaching.
“Deng Xiaoping struck `wealth is glorious’ in the hearts of the Chinese people. I have a feeling it will continue to sound for a thousand years to come.
“My immediate interest is seeing how long it will take before Chinese aid money starts going into Fiji and if the Americans will be concerned about subsequent infrastructures being built there (probably not).” – Robert Sutherland
A Chinese protest: “With all due respect, I am speechless at this kind of racist approach. You are talking about domination, cultural and economical. You state that Chinese are buying up land to feed their people. At least they pay for it unlike others (who set up) just colonies in other countries or try to invade them.
“What about depleting the food and money stocks and imposing high taxes that helped cause the terrible famine of 1770, which killed a third of the people of Bengal?
“After the loss of the Thirteen Colonies in 1783, the British government turned to the newly discovered lands of Australia, killing around 5 percent of indigenous Australians in the early years of British colonisation. Also killing many Maori.
“You talk about respect. I speak English, so do most of the Chinese people, how many of you speak Maori or any other language, putting an existing culture into a museum so you can forget it exists, so you don’t feel scared. We have minorities in our country but we don’t put them into museums as tourist attractions.
“You say that Chinese people are careless of the environment and cruel to animals? What about depleted uranium? Only the West are known to have fired it in warfare.
“You are concerned about the environment – maybe how all the junk that comes from the $2 shops will be recycled?
“Since I have been in New Zealand some Kiwis act as if you fell from the sky into this beautiful country. You live and act as though you don’t have any history besides the kiwifruit, the kiwi bird, fish and chips.
“But you do and the history you have doesn’t give you the right to judge. It just gives you the right to learn better ways. Maybe all of this would help you to become a nation, not just individuals.”
One man’s boycott: “We need more of such material in the media to educate those who support China’s brutal regime by knowingly or unknowingly buying low priced Chinese imports.
“Unable to stop Helen Clark’s government from cozying up to the world’s foremost abusers of the environment, people, and other animals – and unable to stop John Key’s continued whoring for Fonterra – I have persevered in my boycott of new Chinese goods which I began after the Tiananmen Square massacre.
“Even though I do not have a rich man’s account, I pay more for goods to avoid supporting the Chinese, American or Indonesian governments. I buy secondhand when it’s too daunting to find an alternative country-of-origin. Particularly important was the mention of China’s animal abuse, since no one wants to talk about things like that. Video footage taken out of China shows everyday scenes of a level of horror that even Auckland’s vivisectors wouldn’t reach (maybe).
“One excuse for trade with China has always been that it’s good for them to be exposed to other influences. But as the writer inferred, the Chinese have no impetus to learn from gentler governments. They are in the driver’s seat.” – Bill Leonard, Grey Lynn
A grandmother’s memory:
“Growing up in the Pacific, I remember my grandmother telling of a priest who predicted things that later happened, like a volcanic eruption, a flooded river from the mountains, at one of the main islands, Savai’i.
This priest even showed villagers the path the flooded river would take. One of his predictions was that `China will rule the world”. – Siva Meki
– Pat Booth