Historically the USA has been a balancing force in the world however is that about to change? Donald Trump has managed to create problems with most of America’s continental neighbors and Global allies. Although there may be genuine grievances held by the United States however badly thought out aggressive solutions causing alienation can only weaken the USA in the long run causing such large economies as Canada and Mexico to look elsewhere for trading partners and there is elsewhere.
While the West squabbles China is quietly getting on with the job. China is probably the world’s greatest trading nation and has been for 1000s of years. They understand they need all of us to become the world leader that they aspire to through trade and economic power.
During the early middle ages China had a larger maritime fleet than all the European combined fleets.
Zheng He 1371-1433 a Chinese mariner, explorer, diplomat, fleet admiral, and enslaved court eunuch during China’s early Ming dynasty. He was originally born as Ma He in a Muslim family, later adopted the conferred surname Zheng from Emperor Yongle.
Admiral and diplomat who helped extend the maritime and commercial influence of China throughout the regions bordering the Indian Ocean. He commanded seven naval expeditions almost a century before the Portuguese reached India by sailing around the southern tip of Africa.
He first set sail in 1405, commanding 62 ships and 27,800 men. The fleet visited Champa (now in southern Vietnam), Siam (Thailand), Malacca (Melaka), and the island of Java and then through the Indian Ocean to Calicut (Kozhikode) on the Malabar Coast of India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Zheng He, returned to China in 1407.
Zheng did 7 voyages including to the upper reaches of the Persian Gulf. My point these voyages although militarily strong where fundamentally trading expeditions on a scale far greater than anything Europe and the rest of the world could mount. Though a nuclear power China has for millennia understood economic power is far more important than contemporary nuclear power.
Today we have The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) or the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road is a development strategy proposed by the Chinese government which focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries, primarily the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the ocean-going Maritime Silk Road (MSR). Until 2016 the initiative was known in English as the One Belt and One Road Initiative(OBOR) but the Chinese came to consider the emphasis on the word “one” as misleading.
The Belt and Road Initiative addresses an “infrastructure gap” and thus has potential to accelerate economic growth across the Asia Pacific area and Central and Eastern Europe: a report from the World Pensions Council (WPC) estimates that Asia, excluding China, requires up to US$900 billion of infrastructure investments per year over the next decade, mostly in debt instruments, 50% above current infrastructure spending rates. The gaping need for long term capital explains why many Asian and Eastern European heads of state “gladly expressed their interest to join this new international financial institution focusing solely on ‘real assets’ and infrastructure-driven economic growth”.
China has by far the largest foreign currency reserves with over two and half times more than the second largest reserve holder, Japan. When China and Hong Kong reserves are considered together, the total is $3.6 trillion.5 Apr 2018
Even if only part of this dream is realised it has the potential to combine nearly 3 billion people in a trading partnership more if you add what China is doing in South America and Africa. It will be far more important for Canada and Mexico to find a way into this monolith rather than dealing with 380 million Americans. Remember Russia also skirts the Silk Road. China also has a relatively under-developed enormous home market that more and more emphasis is being placed on. China has been expanding shopping malls and ecommerce (ecommerce reaching $1.2Billion 2017) at a rapid rate shopping mall revenue growing at 8.1% to 2017 there is an expected fall to around 5% (mainly due to mergers) followed by a pickup.
China now has the finest high-speed rail infrastructure in the world. Beijing has just opened a new rail link to Tehran how difficult will that make it for the US to pressure the Iranian regime. The intention is to have fast rail links right into Gare du nord. It is the USA in the long run that will have to negotiate tariffs with a powerful China
There are Huge long-term dangers in trade protectionist policies and too much dependence on military power war has never been a solution the Chinese understand this issue. USA may find it has to negotiate its long-term way back into the club on a weakened basis. Donald Trump’s incredible deal making skills which we are yet to see may not be enough to even guarantee US future employment figures. Logic dictates that the US needs to stay a global participant totally contrarian to the Trump myopic naïve approach to world affairs. Unfortunately, the Trump philosophy is aimed at the home market and a large proportion of US citizens are detrimentally naïve when it comes to international affairs and geography. US Americans especially those in power are short term thinkers the Chinese have 3000 years of understanding the value of long term planning behind them and foremost is economic power. Economic power enables you to address poverty issues reducing the propensity to rebellion.
Figures confirmation: –
Some time ago I wrote a blog on the issues of bad water management in Australia. A country that many believe is one of the driest in the world. In fact Australia has one of the largest catchments on the globe of fresh water in the Great Artesian Basin covering a third of the country.
The Artesian Basin can be mapped from the top north through Queensland into New South Wales and the Northern Territory. Yet water from the Darling, Murray river system one of the greatest river basins in the world is being plundered. This water system covers 3,375 Kilometers (2,097 miles) in length. The Darling, Murray basin spreads out over 1,061,469 sq Km (409,835 sq ml). Water is being pumped out of this great river system at an alarming rate an example is Cubbie station Queensland the largest irrigation property in the southern hemisphere damming off from the Darling river system more water than is in Sydney harbour. This water theft continues along the entire system into South Australia with large properties pumping these great rivers dry in many cases to irrigate crops that are not natural to the country, cotton being one such crop. This mismanagement is placing pressure on the natural environment and indigenous commodities. In the 1800s and early 1900s this great river system was alive with water traffic, steamers carried passengers, wool and grain .
Today especially the Darling river it is lucky if a rubber bath duck could navigate the system. Management of the Artisian basin would not only take pressure off the great systems of the Darling and Murray it would also open the potential of the great Australian inland. The plundering of the two great rivers of Australia in currently a major issue of anger towards the federal and state governments especially from the smaller property stations that need fresh water irrigation along the system. There is also anger from the aboriginal community who own many of the river bank rights in Australia. There is a great feeling in the Aboriginal community that the natural environment is being plundered by an uncaring ethnic European government thus widening the gap between these two indigenous groups.
The issue of Water management in Australia is not dissimilar to the problems faced by communities along the Colorado River in the United States.
The Colorado River starts in Rocky Mountain National Park along the jagged edge of the Continental Divide at over 12,000 feet of elevation. The river cascades, flows, tumbles, and rumbles through 1,450 miles of mountains, canyons, high plains, and low deserts on its journey to the Sea of Cortez
in Mexico. The entire Southwest United States completely depends on the Colorado River and its tributaries – the states of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, and California use the river’s water for farming, drinking, growing lawns, and generating hydroelectric power.
Thirty million people in the Southwest use the Colorado River’s water for their material sustenance; millions more use the river itself for recreation and spiritual enjoyment. The river quenches our thirst, feeds our souls, enlivens our senses. And we are not the only inhabitants using this river – its waters, canyons, and habitats provide a vibrant but deeply threatened ecosystem for untold numbers of plant and animal species. All of these competing demands make the Colorado River one of the most contested and controlled rivers on Earth. Over the last decade, humans have drained all of the river’s water – all 5 trillion gallons – before it reaches the Sea of Cortez. The Colorado River is in very bad shape and deeply threatened.
To serve the needs of human populations, for the last decade the Colorado River has been completely drained dry by the time it reaches the Sea of Cortez. While the destruction of the river is a clear and obvious consequence of our actions, additional threats to the Colorado River – from its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park, all the way to its dry destiny near the Sea of Cortez – are increasing with each tick of the clock.
Climate change is looming, population growth is escalating, more dams and diversions are planned, species are on the brink of extinction, oil/gas/mineral exploration near the river is increasing, and invasive species are continuing their march up and down the river and its tributaries.
The Save the Colorado campaign won’t be able to address all of these threats, but it’s important to tell the whole story and begin the critical work of restoration. http://savethecolorado.org/
As a species we are extremely bad at managing our natural resources.
Much of Australia’s development is not dissimilar to that of the United States and its growth from the coastal regions to the west or inland.Not all of Australia’s population hugs the coast rather like hanging onto a tippin mattress. Although the greater proportion of the Australian population is on the coast the Commodity wealth of the country has driven growth inland seeking the rich mining of every mental and mineral from Gold, tin, copper, bauxite, opals, Uranium, silver, iron ore, coal ;
Sheep and cattle farming booms across most states with the country hosting some of the largest sheep stations and cattle ranches in the world. Wine vineyards stretch from Western Australia to Queensland. Grains and cotton at also grown in the commodity rich outback
Australia produces 30% of the worlds wool and the merino is the finest micron level available to the market. Australia is the 7th largest beef producer in the world, producing around 4% of the world’s beef.
All this rush for wealth really commenced in the 1800s. In 1851 the Australian population was only 437,655 the gold rush of 1851 changed all of this with the population growing rapidly and a decade later it was 1,151,957, today of course it is nearly 24 million people. the mining, sheep and to an extent the beef industry was away from the coast and caused the development of outback towns and cities such as Condobolin,Dubbo, Broken Hill, Ballarat, Alice Springs and Lightning Ridge all now major centers for the commodity driven industries.
The development of these towns really dates from the 1800s a period when the United States of America was developing in a similar way. North America’s towns of the wild west were very similar to Australia’s even down to the stagecoach connections of Cobb and Co. What developed in this period of inland growth were what Australians refer to as the ‘Veranda Towns’. Towns with large verandas circumnavigating the period commercial buildings and houses of these regional centres – designed for hot summer evenings.
This architecture gives Australia its unique character influencing its development from the 1800s on. So much of this development is left in- tact across the continent that the country is a ‘Museum for the 1800s and the growth of a nation..
Australia comprises a land mass of around 7.629 million square kilometers. It is about 50% greater than the European Union. When I did my first trip overseas in the early 1970s the population was around 10 million today it is 24 million people. The latest visit to my homeland started to give me an insight into the deficiencies in the infrastructure of this vast and exciting country. I mentioned in a previous blog the difficulties in travelling to the major inland city of Dubbo from the National Capital. There is only one bus a week Saturday and this travels through many outback small towns. Australians whom I spoke to and as an Australian I do understand the lingo generally felt that there are not enough people to justify building the infrastructure. This is rather like saying that Woolworths and Coles with their 18.3 million customers and total control of the $85 billion grocery market should not have built stores until the 18.3 million people where queuing up in front of the vacant plot picked out for the first store.
I spend my time now between Spain and Australia and have pointed out on many occasions the strong High Speed Rail Network that has gone together in Spain – Alta Velocidad Española (AVE)
Now I know that much of this network is built via EU (European Union for those Australians who don’t know where the EU is) loans. This money is however much better spent on infrastructure than going into some greasy politician’s pocket. The last 6 months have seen Spain coming out of recession with a growth rate as good as Germany’s. The infrastructure in Spain will pay off the country now has the second best High Speed Rail network in the world after China, where is Britain and Australia. The road system of Spain is now mostly silk like highways. Goods and tourists can move faster companies like this type of investment. Ford motor company is putting 2.8 Billion Euros into manufacturing in Valencia what a confirmation of trust; one of the biggest car manufacturing investments ever. What of Australia’s car manufacturing it has stopped, even the
iconic Holden has left the shores. Australia loosely welcomes 5 million tourists per year. I will add that at least half of these tourists are probably Chinese families coming in and out to visit relatives. Spain has 70 million tourists, France 85 million and Britain 35 million. Now most Australians while over the Barbie will tell you that it is due to the distance, from where the antarctic, Asia including China and Japan are in striking distance as is much of the East Coast of the USA. Tourists can lift an economy the Greeks may have to survive off the tourist industry. Greece attracts 22.5 million tourists per year with a population of 11 million; tourism contributes over $30 billion US per year to the economy. Now it is the birth place of democracy whatever that is, however Australia has a people who can be traced back 50,000 years and are living on one of the oldest continents on earth. The differential between what other countries achieve in attracting tourists and what Australia with its stunning and much unspoilt countryside, outback and beaches achieves should make the tourist board ashamed. Thailand gets 22 million plus Tourists annually.
Australia is generally believed to be a dry land once away from the coast. However the Great Artesian Basin is the largest and deepest artesian basin in the world covering 1.7 million square kilometers some 23% of the continent this is a massive sweet water cache, It is also an under used resource with many of the great Australian Rivers being pumped dry.
The Darling river with its tributaries is 2,844 km long making it the largest river system in Australia. The Murray river is Australia’s longest river at 2508 Km. The Murray Darling confluence is at Wentworth New South Wales.The Murray Darling river system is one of the longest in the world.
There was a period when steamers came up the Darling river today you would be lucky to paddle a canoe up this great river. Industry and to some degree intensive cotton farming and its hunger for water have had a great effect on the water level of both the Darling and Murray rivers.
The Murray still has some depth to it but the Darling has little left. Cubbie Station located near Dirranbandi South West Queensland the largest irrigation system in the Southern Hemisphere covering some 240,000 acres has dammed of more water than the total volume of Sydney Harbour from the Darling river system.. All of this intensive agriculture is damaging the environment and having an effect on the native commodities wheat and the wool industry. The problem seems to be that successive governments have been more concerned with their political power and personal financial gains rather than investing management skills into protecting this exciting continent and growing the real wealth of the country. It is hoped that the Aboriginals who control the rights to most river banks will step in and help fight this destruction of the environment.
The only state at the moment that has a sound financial base is New South Wales but I wonder how long that will last, possibly NSW should go for independence the Scots would support them. With sound management Australia has the mineral / commodity wealth to be one of the leading countries in the world. Australia is the 11th wealthiest country in the world, Spain is the 12th. Generally speaking the country left to the Australians would go bust. It’s lucky that the Chinese have come however the joint deals need to be managed so that the Australians also benefit. There is the population for both a manufacturing base and commodity base. The Australian Dollar is at the mercy of commodity and especially mining prices – good business spreads the risk.
Photographer Shane Aurousseau
Pelicans and Galahs these may seem strange creatures to use in the context that I’m about to write about; however In Aussie speak a pelican or a galah is a synonym for stupidity especially related to an action; ‘you pelican’ or ‘what a bunch of galahs’. Not totally fair on those exquisite creatures but what in this world is fair. Especially when it comes to the myopic views of our leaders who govern by vested interest many of a personal nature. I don’t presume to be a great expert on the Middle East, however I have spent sometime there on business and I would like to share some views.
Although an Australian with a trained photographic and creative background having held positions in major advertising agencies as a creative director including the then largest Young and Rubicam working on accounts such as Time Magazine, Time Life books, Michelin, Yamaha, Camel Cigarettes and later financial accounts such as Fidelity, Midland Bank, Royal Life, Eagle Star Insurance and others; by way of the creative world I drifted for a time into the financial sphere including eventually running and representing hedge funds. Some of the companies that I worked with during my time in the City of London were many of the most successful in the industry including a stint forming SECAVs in Luxembourg for the then second largest UK insurance company Norwich Union, SECAVs were a form of open-ended fund used mainly by the French, SECAFs being closed ended. I was IMRO(Investment Management Regulatory Organization) registered, now defunct a bit like me. The largest unit trust industry is in France but of course Luxembourg was then offshore using French fund structures. The position with Norwich union gave me the status of a General Manager in a mutual insurance company this equated to a director’s position. It was through producing creative work for city institutions that I learnt a great deal about how the financial world works.
During this period of my life I became an advisor on product development to the largest of the islamic banking groups Dallah Al-Baraka of Saudi Arabia. I was involved in the creation of a joint venture company between Dallah Al-Baraka and the Johor Bahru corporation of Malaysia locating the joint venture in Bahrain. I was included in their strategy in order to marry western fund ideas into the Islamic system.
My work in the Middle East brought me in contact with such institutions as ADIA(Abu Dhabi Investment Authority) and its associate ADIC plus many of the private departments of the Shaikhs including the private department of the then Life President of the Emirates Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan. I spent a considerable time working throughout the middle East including in Kuwait with the massive fund run by the Kuwait government under the KIO(Kuwait Investment Office). I made many Arab friends and found them to be one of the most hospitable of people.
However as a westerner having worked with Sharia committees made up of scholars who were not banking or financial people but religious academics and judges, I found that there are enormous differences in interpretation and implementation, it is these anomalies that have caused much misunderstanding between people. Couple this misunderstanding in the Islamic world with the total lack of understanding in the western world and the vested oil interests of the West and you have a formula for disaster. The history of the west in the Middle East has been one of planning only for the financial gains driven by oil. Not only has there been no respect for the differences of interpretation in the Islamic world but there was also no respect for tribal borders. Many borders were created on a divide and rule basis or on the premise of who was the strongest and who could be purchased the easiest and give added control to oil rich regions. Although not really an oil issue both Palestine and Israel have been caught up in this border or land manipulation. I believe strongly that both these groups should exist in their own states within their own borders. There is no doubt that the Palestinians have had a raw deal all people should have the right to exist. There is also not doubt that the Arab world could have assisted in the correction of this issue.
For centuries Arabs and Jews lived in harmony. During the medieval periods of the crusades the secular thinkers where in educated Islam. When the West was living in mud and cold castles cities such as Constantinople and Cordoba Spain(the two largest of Islamic cities) had street lighting – Islam was the educated world. Saladin rebuilt the Christian churches and synagogues and protected them following the fall of Jerusalem around 1187. At sometime a halt must be called to revenge, revenge creates more revenge and then the story is never ending destroying the future for subsequent generations.
The US is becoming more and more oil self sufficient and of course the large deposits of shale now being discovered in North America are adding to this independence. As the US pulls away from the Middle East the violence may intensify. Much of this violence will be about the realigning of borders back to their more legitimate pre-western involvement days, real tribal boundaries. The issues in the Middle East are much more than Sunni and Shia an easy Western simplification. The realigning of boarders is not a bad thing as smaller autonomous actor states are much more manageable than large continental groups. In most major countries there is considerable autonomy given to cities and individual states. The real problem is how do they live together with understanding and acceptance of differing ideas and opinions. To quote one of my uncles a successful academic who said ‘ variety is the spice of life’. It is difference that creates progress. Religion and lateral thinking should not be used as an excuse for hate and gain. The great prophets and thinkers would be horrified by much of our interpretation.
We can’t keep looking back and blaming the crusades, holocaust and remember the Russians lost 20 million people during WWII and the same again under Stalin. These debacles must be guides to help us construct a better future not a route to hatred. The next issue will be relating any relative DNA extension of Alexander the Great to some form of criminal activity that took place in 340 BC. Mind you I should not have mentioned this as once the legal fraternity gets hold of it dollar signs will appear and blame could be apportioned. Somewhere without the necessity to apologise we need to say enough is enough.
Because I believe in everything and nothing some have called me an atheist but how can you follow that doctrine atheism is an absolute and a close relative of fundamentalism, it means you know, agnostic is a much calmer interpretation. In the greater galactic scheme of things we are all small fry and much of our nonsense is irrelevant and damaging to our development as a successful species. Unfortunately many of our leaders are intellectual minnows, Pelicans and Galahs stuck in the muddy banks of dogma.