Saturday, 10 November 2012

What we talked about at the U3A meeting this week.

I was about to write about the Obama win and how welcome that is to we foreigners. You might well say it is none of our business, but in fact US foreign policy has been Australia’s foreign policy for over seventy years, with our troops supporting US troops in every conflict during that time, despite misgivings in our electorate that is strengthening as we concentrate on relationships within our region. We see Obama as more likely to negotiate solutions than to embark on another ‘shock and awe’ adventure than a Republican Commander In Chief.

Preschoolers in Beijing. 
Instead I will tell you of a most interesting conversation with a Chinese woman who emigrated to Australia twenty years ago, but visits her family in China. The context was a U3A group that discusses current events, and as she was there, was asked about elections in China and what she thought would be the direction taken economically and politically.

 She said the fear in China was politics of the Left, now fighting a rear guard action as community expectations are reflected in the current administration’s promotion of greater individual ownership and rights. She said the new aspiration was to own a home and to afford that, workers are demanding a larger slice of the pie. What seems to have been forgotten by the very wealthy here and in the US but understood there, is that higher wages for workers are spent in the domestic economy, the largest market for home produced products.

It seems nonsensical to give greater wealth to the wealthy in a developed economy, hoping they will start new businesses to create jobs to produce what workers, who continue to have wages eroded, are less able to afford. She also filled in detail of how the one child policy works, and said access to social security for the retired and access to education and jobs for girls had ended the shameful killing of female babies driven by fear of a miserable, unsupported old age.

Couples can have more than one child, but the second child is not supported by the state so there is an economic disincentive. But, she says, couples are now happy to have small families, contrary to what we hear outside the country. With child care available to most as part workers employment packages, children receive plenty of social interaction. In rural areas where there is less opportunity for girls to earn wages, she says families have more children. It is a bit rich for us to still criticise China for what we perceive as lack of civil rights, considering how far it has come since its Communist revolution and large scale social intervention while we still fail our less fortunate.

Its political system in the modern era has delivered food to the table of all, while developing a mind boggling export machine. Our ‘woman inside’ said its focus is on economic development, not military expansionism. So to continue talking about ‘containing China’ will force them to investment in expanding their military forces and hardware, which she says is not their wish.

 PS. If Climate Change and its threat to human habitation on this planet is to be halted this side of extinction, we need to invest heavily in renewable technology while we still can. For that to succeed, China must be be a full partner, so I do not wish to see them try to match the US, which spends (I read but have not verified) 40% of the global military budget. The scare campaign waged against Obama’s 10% reduction in military spending during the election seems to have failed, so watch for a ramped up rhetoric as the political/military machine feels the pain.


  1. A convincing and an open 'rendition' of the current thinking and concern. I share the view that Obama would be more level-headed than Mitt.
    A lot of economics and trade measures were cast aside leading through the reelection. Now that the dust has settled I imagine these would be the priority considering many of the EC countries are crippled with economic woes. China has to be given special attention. That is true. They can well survive supported by their huge domestic demand. And it's no more 'an exporting of the factories' strategy to them and belligerent voices against them ought to be addressed.I look forward for a phase of reconstruction in the US to boost employment (a major campaign issue) and also in Europe and the recently devastated Middle East. Hopefully the US would not now try to take a 'vengeance attitude or action' on Libya and much less creating another front against Iran. Nicely Stafford!


    1. Thanks Hank. It may well be that the EU single currency will not survive but so what? To maintain a single value across multiple economies, where previously, floating currencies changed relative values daily according to their real worth was always going to be difficult.
      As far as Iran is concerned, of course we must worry about a theocracy that (we are told supports terrorism) access to nuclear devices. But if as they claim their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, they should be able to be convinced to accept international monitoring.

  2. We are also relieved. Everything Romney (claimed to) stand for was a disaster. I honestly believe that every plank in his platform was ultimately designed to get him in a position of power to maximize the wealth of the already wealthy. I don't think it gets any more complicated than that. And if it created jobs, we'd be wallowing in them. Cheers, sir.

    1. Thanks for taking the trouble to comment, Murr. I don't believe 'creation of jobs' happens unless government, through taxes and directed spending, can redirect wealth. Sure, jobs are created when new businesses start up, but for that to increase employment we need economic growth and that is also unsustainable.
      But we can redirect spending into social services that are not well served by the market.
      The Romney Universal Health Insurance plan for his home state, copied by Obama because he saw it as a good idea (who cares which party thought it up) would be a case in point, creating jobs in the health sector.
      Another sector is renewable energy. Romney declared there was no point in spending on renewables 'while there is coal and oil under our feet'. Of course he is right if cheapest energy is the only factor but what he refuses to admit is that continued use of fossil fuels will eventually so damage the environment in which, and for which we evolved, that is becomes uninhabitable.
      The 'Market' does not consider any factor other than profit now. There is no mechanism other than political that can factor in climate change, ocean acidification and even population growth, all forces that threaten our future as a species. We voters need to take heed of what is being proposed and think it through. It seems more Americans are doing that. For those who voted for Romney and I know many who read my blog did, I must say I thought Romney came across as genuinely concerned for more than simply the wealthy. Now, I just hope he can convince his party to join him in supporting the President in the urgent task of balancing the budget.

  3. My first instinct was - bravo Stafford but beware. People who do not read your article carefully or twice would be quick to jump to conclusions and form their judgmental opinions. But I must have faith in my fellow human beings. Because that brought about the humiliating defeat of Mitt Romney.

    China has its own concerns and culture. Surprisingly today, I read China wants to increase its naval strength. I am reminded of the voyages of Admiral Cheng Ho - a friend to our own Malacca - six hundred years ago. Cheng Ho went on seven voyages all over the world (we will take Gavin Menzies' theories as mostly correct here) and the expeditions were chiefly voyages of discovery and diplomacy. Yet, there were state vassals including Malacca - more for protection rather than domination for the respective sovereigns ran their own countries. My point is - China was always on the lookout for economic prowess and strength. For us in Asia, this is a given - that is how they have been for the last 800 years. It is not something to fear but to gain advantage of.

    President Obama - I love the sound of that - has a lot on his plate. It is a wonder he shoulders this responsibility. It is such a heavy burden. I was unashamedly the non-official Obama news and update expert in my circles of friends. I was so worried Mitt Romney would win which to me equaled another war looming over our head, no solution to Israel Palestine, and chaos as the American people would be squeezed top the last drop and Wall Street laughing to the banks in serendipity.

    1. The Chinese Navy is commissioning a second-hand aircraft carrier. There is no supporting Battle Group and apart from helicopters no aircraft can us it YET.
      But the Chinese can direct resources to any project they choose and build anything in mass and quickly. But I still believe they would rather get rich than fight.

  4. I don't know if the 40% number is accurate, but we do spend more than the next ten biggest spenders together, so 40% doesn't seem too far-fetched. It takes a lot of money to build bombs in order to kill people in order to insure peace.

  5. Maybe the time when firepower won wars is over. maybe it is time for diplomacy and aid to win hearts and minds.

  6. As an American, it is troubling to me to see that for most of the last fifty years, the extremists of both parties have dominated our political system. As we look at the campaign was ultimately won on who could reach farthest toward the center. Neither candidate truly represents the average American, just which side had the larger group of extremists and could get a few more closer to the average to vote for them.

    Because the two major parties have gained such control of our media and economic system, no third party which more truly represented the people has been able to gain enough of a following to make real changes.

    Most troubling of all is how little real difference there is between the two parties real objectives. The primary differences are mostly in rhetoric and surface decor.

    A review of our recent history shows that the whole focus is on which party proposed a position rather than on the position itself. The furor over which side supports something merely masks the reality that the ultimate decisions are being made by the same people.

    Do not expect any real changes as a result of the election.

    1. If I remember correctly, when Dewey stood for the Republicans just after WW2, the Democrats had split into three parties but despite that, Truman won.
      We all need at least one more party so neither the far left or right gets there without accommodating other opinions.
      We have the Greens, which are a party of the mild left which puts our Labor Party (Similar to Democrats) in the middle.
      That set up makes for good policy but messy politics and I am afraid that, as you suggest happens in the US where the media concentrate on personal traits of candidates rather policies, is not good either.
      PS. Donald, I tried but could not access your blog because it is closed to casual visitors.

  7. Once well insightful. I am so relieved Romney didn't get in. Obama may or may not change things significantly but I do believe Romney would have made things worse, especially for women. Thanks, Stafford.

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