Sunday, October 24, 2004

China Rising - Globe and Mail Special Feature

Saturday's Globe and Mail (Canada's major national newspaper) was entirely dedicated to "their single largest undertaking in their history", which was a special report on The Rise of China.

It's like going to China and checking out how much it's changed in the last 6 months, as well as in the last 25 years. For example, there are now 300 million cellphones there, which work in elevators, underground garages and in the wilds of Tibet, and all on a cheap Pay as you Go system. And country dwellers aren't allowed to move to the cities, so to get work, they have to do so illegally, whereby they are exploited as cheap labour by bosses who don't pay them for months and then don't pay them at all!

Only the blindest idiot would not have noticed that the buying power of their salaries has grown because the goods they buy are manufactured ever more cheaply with Chinese Sweat.

In Britain, you hardly get journalism like this. There isn't much focus on the Far East unless you catch a short feature on BBC2's Newsnight or watch an Open University documentary in the wee hours of the morning. Everything is about the West Indies, Africa, the Middle East, and the Indo-Pakistan countries. In other words, ex-colonies. Consider that even the Eighties Lefties on the Little Island that Was are perhaps in self-indulgence, only capable of perversely mourning the long-lost Empire? And that is scarcely a balanced Global View, is it?

Well, it's not a balanced view in Canada either. People from the Far East (China, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines), now are the dominantly visible immigrant groups in Canada. Indeed, most of the other Canadians, those here for several generations and those more recently from other countries in the world, are actually openly expressing their concern about being swamped. Vancouver, in particular, is supposed to be a suburb of Hong Kong. In Toronto, "whites" (I hate that word because it is so crudely racist, and forgive me for using it for anything other than to make this statistical point) are supposedly now under 50% of the city's population. And they tend to be the ageing, childless type of people.

But other countries still like to think that Canada is full of Mounties and Lumberjacks. (and especially gay men who live in their Clouds of Sexual Fantasy as they continue to seek out the international circuit designed to keep them subsisting in their day-dreams.)


Astolath said...

It's bizarre isn't it...

Do the indigenous Canadians have any say in the matter?

Historically, it seems to be only white faces that can get away with colonising new lands and still maintain the gall to carp about others getting in on the action.

I've often harboured thoughts of living in Canada myself - seems to be a watered down version of the US, with more British values. I suppose I'm totally wrong in this, but then I was a big 'Due South' fan and I'd hate to think that all Canadians didn't have something Benton Fraser about them.

Thankyou kindly!

loveandthecity said...

Historically, all sorts of people all over the world have always colonized any places that were available, so long as there was an opening and they were sufficiently aggressive or opportunistic or more successful than the indigenous people.

And it is always the vigorous members of a population that embark on a migration and are able to survive. The ones they leave behind can not be held responsible for the ones that emigrate.

Consequently, regardless of who did what injustice to whom in what century: wherever established peoples are subjected to influxes of immigrants, it is not strange that they should feel aggrieved if they feel some territory has been lost. That is human. Do they need any other "right" to feel aggrieved? Anybody should have the right to carp, and nobody wants their right to carp silenced just because of some historical crap by some long-dead person they were barely related to. In any case, some of the injustices of history were perpetrated by people whose bloodlines and relatives have died out.

I'm glad you mentioned the indigenous peoples of Canada. They seem to get little publicity these days. You'd be lucky to see one in Toronto.

I actually really dislike the terms "white"or "black", by the way. And that goes for the complementary terms of "non-white" or "non-black". I feel forced to use them because they have fallen into common use, and to attack the complex mess that they create (using fire to fight fire, etc).

I find these terms socially divisive, poorly descriptive, scientifically meaningless, completely undefined, and ill-considered. Also,the majority of the world's population would refuse themselves to be classed in either category.

These terms do not even account for ethnic or genetic diversities within the indigenous European peoples or within the indigenous African peoples. What of freckly-skinned redheads, or Hottentot Bushmen, for examples?

The terms "white" and "black" serve only to create division, and all division is useful to those few people who actively seek to apply the famous rule that helps them to Rule:

Divide, and Rule.

In Britain, where the traditional Class Structure was dismantled in the mid Twentieth Century, using daft terms like "white" or "black" have been very useful substitutes for social division.

Interestingly, in the New Pseudo-communist China, according to one of the Globe and Mail articles, social division is very effectively created by a rural/urban apartheid, whereby country people have to apply for permits to work and live in the cities. The country bumpkins move to the cities illegally and can therefore be exploited as unpaid labour by ruthless employers and corrupt government officials.

Astolath said...

You make some interesting points (as usual!)

As someone who went to school with kids of all different complexions, I never really though of things in terms of black and white. My first kiss was with a Guyanese girl who was very dark and the most beautiful creature in all of creation to me at the time. (Now I'm married, she has been relegated to 2nd place - a mere sweet memory now...)

It wasn't until 6th form college that I noticed any sort of polarisation and division of ethnicities. The 'black' kids all seemed to hang out in a large group of their own. Even friends that I had been through primary and secondary school with, suddenly became part of a different tribe. Asians, of all kinds, didn't seem to have the same need to gravitate toward their own and would mix quite readily. Again, it's not something that I thought about at the time, but looking back it seems to have been the case.

I'm only made aware of my 'whiteness' by the constant promotion of 'blackness' that I encounter. 'Black culture', 'Music of Black Origin Awards', 'Black History Month' etc. There's a pervading and constant reinforcement of negritude in some sections of society. Some define themselves by their ethnic differences. Maybe its a kind of vicarious fulfilment that's obtained by identifying with the achievements of the 'leaders' of the tribe. It's a pity that many of the young identify more with 50 Cent than Martin Luther King, but that's a different argument...

You're right, it is divisive but I'm not sure how you get away from it. People obviously feel the need to define themselves in the terms of those around them. Conversely, certain sections of the community only feel the need to assert their 'whiteness' when feeling threatened by those of different colours and cultures.

Then again, I suppose you could argue that it's the differences that make people interesting (if infuriating!).

Colonisers, colonised - we've all traded places through history. The only common thread is that there will always be the displaced and the resentful and they come in all shapes and colours...