Friday, March 27, 2009

The Dalai Lama and the Land of the Zulus....?

OK folks - here's where we get a little serious. Recently, South Africa pulled the welcome mat from under the Dalai Lama. There's a whole lot more to this than meets the eye, and in a way, it reflects on the book, White Shaka Boy.......

Read on - it's an eye-opener!

Owned by China: South Africa, Dalai Lama and.............America?

By Alan Brody

When South Africa disinvited the Dalai Lama from their Peace Conference on Monday, they did a lot more than become the laughing stock of the Civilized World. They signaled that China is the New Colonial Master of the Universe.

The Great Game is afoot again but only China seems to be playing. And this time, they are making up the rules: be bloodless, as invisible as possible and try to dominate world’s resources. So when the economy recovers and we need commodities again - guess who will be naming the price? And if China decides to call in our national debt, who will we be working for, Mr. Obama?

The South Africa incident is just the first, indirect public display of China’s ten-year resource invasion of the 3rd World. In the land of Mandela, sports officials, exhilarated at hosting the 2010 World Cup Soccer Games call on the Man of the Mandala. With billions invested in stadiums, housing and airport infrastructure, the country is ready to take their seat as the New Africa’s finest at the table of leading nations. So their three Nobel Peace laureates, Nelson Mandela, Bishop Tutu and F.W De Klerk grandly invite the Dalai Lama to join their showcase Peace Conference to let the World know - it’s more than soccer. They’ve arrived!

Then the government, under President Kgalema Motlanthe, very casually informs the World that the Dalai Lama is not welcome because his issues with China “will distract attention from the games.” Amazingly, even the South African Business Press is taken by surprise asking essentially how much business does China do that they would sell their prized moral status down the river? According to South Africa’s Business Day, China only purchases 20% of their commodities. They actually suggested that China needs South Africa more than they need China.

Wake up fellas – you are in post-20th Century, post apartheid-liberation denial. Europe is fading, the US has been leaving town. China is your leading trading partner at over $50+ billion and they just opened a $500 million investment fund in your backyard. What has Tibet done for you lately, anyway?

That South Africa just didn’t see it coming is testament to their economy’s diversity and advanced infrastructure. China’s influence is barely visible, showing up only in banks and lines of credit. So when China dropped $3.6bn in South Africa in 2006 - it was for a chunk of Standard Bank – the bank with Africa’s biggest reach.

But elsewhere in Africa, where there is little development, China’s simple goal – extract resources and cut out competition – is plain to see. They will pay off whomever they need to build whatever infrastructure it takes to get raw material “A” to port “B” to get it to Chinese factory “C.” In the truly impoverished but resource-rich countries, the locals see the new mines, the hydropower dam and one new road with the trucks driving their booty directly to the port. Scads of Chinese engineers show up, learn the language and do the job. Chinese food becomes available in the jungle, the locals get a lowly job or two and ton of Chinese manufactured goods which obliterate most local manufacture. However, Presidents stay in power, new Palaces and luxury cars appear and numbered accounts are opened.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo they have done something no western colonialist has done – built roads into the jungle – swapping some $6 billion for raw materials. They are developing mines and even planning a $60 billion dam that will tower over the colossal 3 Gorges Dam in China. In Nigeria, they put $8 billion into hydropower, and in Kenya, $580 million into dams. In Zimbabwe it is whatever weapons Mugabe needs to stay in power. China is the biggest investor in the Angola’s oil bonanza - putting our easy access to a huge spigot of Atlantic Ocean oil in question. In Darfur, you might want to ask who is funding the oil pipeline?

When I visited South Africa in 2005 to research my book, White Shaka Boy, a kind parable of western neo-colonialism, the only hint I saw of China was in the malls. Almost every product – except the local foodstuffs – were identical to those we found in America. The only reason we scooped up bargains is because we have opposite seasons, as theirnsummer approached, my family loaded up on winter closeouts to take back home.

If it were not for the seasonal arbitrage, the prices would have been about the same as the US. The brands were either exactly the same or jarringly similar. The products however, were exactly the same because, guess what - they are all made in China just like ours. Welcome to the Great Wall Mart, folks……..

Yet, just 10 years earlier when I had visited South Africa – before China began its great resource grab - there were few Supermalls and the products on sale were truly different. Clothing and furnishings were locally made. They were cheap and had genuine African and Indian influences or unique interpretations of European design. Now it’s all world brand/world design and made - in China. From clothes to housewares to electronics – almost every local attempt at manufacture has been hollowed out. Africans are now shopkeepers like everyone else in the world with mostly small scale and specialty manufacturing, assemblers of goods made elsewhere and producers of foodstuffs and of course, raw materials

Like Americans, South Africans have also been blinded to China’s encroachment because the visible side of overseas investment was in Real Estate - fueled by oil money. The northern coastal land, once relegated to sugar cane fields, was being rapidly transformed into luxury housing and resort complexes. The area on the KwaZulu/Natal coast where my Graphic Novel is set, is the site of South Africa’s leading filmmakers’ own multimillion dollar Miami-style real estate play - funded by Middle East money.

Yet event that has faded – the massive $500 million theme park – AmaZulu World, once planned by a Dubai company for the very area where my story is set on the Zulu coast, fell off the map when oil prices plummeted.

China however, remains.

Our only trump card is that Africans like us and they love the fact that we have an African America president. They create Rap on their laptops, wear Yankees caps, Knicks t-shirts and acquire our products wherever they can. Except that they are almost always made in China. So even if we decided to create a kind of African Marshall Plan to grow both continents economies, we’d very quickly discover the new Bamboo Curtain

That’s dark side of the Great New Game which we will see when the economy picks up again. As we need fresh commodities, those checks drawn on the money we borrowed, will all be made out to China at the prices they are likely to dictate. And it is not just Africa - if the Dalai Lama were to keynote a Peace Conference in most of Latin America, my guess is he’d find the welcome mat just as quickly removed. They’ve been dong the same thing there…….

So thank you Mr. Motlanthe, you just informed us of not only of who you’re working for, but who we’ll be working for: and it’s not Uncle Sam, because right now, he too is getting his paycheck from China.

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