The Chinese are coming…

Last night on SBS the BBC2 documentary from early last year commenced. Fascinating. Do watch next Wednesday night at 9.30.

Travelling across three continents, Justin Rowlatt investigates the spread of Chinese influence around the planet and asks what the world will be like if China overtakes America as the world’s economic superpower. In the first of two films, he embarks on a journey across Southern Africa to chart the extraordinary phenomenon of Chinese migration to Africa, and the huge influence of China on the development of the continent.

While many in the West view Africa as a land of poverty, to the Chinese it is seen as an almost limitless business opportunity. From Angola to Tanzania, Justin meets the fearless Chinese entrepreneurs who have travelled thousands of miles to set up businesses.

On the ABC News at 7 Alan Kohler had presented this very telling graphic of Where Global Growth Is Coming From.

120117 Where global growth is coming from

This morning in The Illawarra Mercury we read:

BlueScope Steel has started work on building its new factory in China, which is expected to employ 400 people when it reaches full production.

A ground-breaking ceremony was held last month in the Xi’an High-Tech Industries Development Zone, where BlueScope will invest about $60million to establish a building materials production base, a new posting on the development zone’s website said.

BlueScope says it employs about 2000 people in China, with 57 sales and marketing offices, a metallic coating and painting facility at Suzhou, 80km west of Shanghai, and several building systems manufacturing facilities.

The new plant at Xi’an, in central western China, will cover an area of almost 13ha, with 50,000sqm of floor space, and will be positioned to capitalise on the booming construction industry in that country…


Both these make a bit of a nonsense of the  complacency of the Guardian review of the BBC doco:

The Chinese are taking over the world. Such, at least, is the premise of The Chinese Are Coming (BBC2). Justin Rowlatt investigated what Chinese influence meant for African countries, nicely skewering racist presumptions about China as he travelled. Intriguingly, the Chinese have often revivified old British colonial infrastructures. But are they as rapacious as we were? Tough call. Zambians resented their new imperialist yoke, while Angolans and Tanzanians seemed pleased by their countries’ reinvigoration.

Could the Chinese do the same for Britain? Probably not. At least Africans have stuff – copper, cobalt, cheap labour – that the Chinese want. What do we have? Our coal and oil are depleted, our manufacturing base destroyed; our only surplus is celebrities. Perhaps we could trade Myleene Klass and Stephen Fry for an overhaul to the railway network. The Chinese probably wouldn’t go for that.

The Chinese have come, in fact, just getting on with it. And there is very little The West can do about it.

What a transformation!

I have been putting together a DVD for M’s 50th birthday and Chinese New Year. He has now been in Australia from Shanghai since December 1989. That year he saw this:

3Student Protesters, Shanghai, 1989

Student protesters on the streets of Shanghai 1989

The city he grew up in was like this:



Now look at it!


That last one is Chinese New Year 2011 in Shanghai.