Saturday, April 16, 2011

NZ at mercy of hungry Chinese dragon

New Zealand's ethnic Chinese population jumped more than seven-fold in the 20 years to the 2006 census, from 19,600 to 147,600.
In Auckland it rose almost 10-fold, from 10,500 to 97,400. Parts of Botany, Epsom and New Lynn are now more than 30 per cent Chinese.
New Chinese student visas plunged to under 2500 in 2005-06 before climbing back to a modest 4700 last year. Total Chinese fee-paying students have stabilised at around 21,000, or 22 per cent of all international students.

The thousands of words and hundreds of column centimetres this newspaper is this week devoting to a series entitled "China and Us" has done nothing so far but fill me with a deep sense of unease.

And I'm obviously not alone. In a poll at the weekend asking, "is the increasing Chinese influence in New Zealand a positive thing?" of the nearly 11,000 readers who replied only 33 per cent said "yes" and 67 per cent said "no".

These nay-sayers will be, like me, folk who understand that "multiculturalism" is a bullshit word because there is no such thing.

Folk who are increasingly concerned at China's economic and migratory imperialism know that there is a fundamental truth in Kipling's immortal words: "East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet."
What bugs me about most of the palaver I have skimmed so far is that it's all so bloody mercenary.

I get the impression that China is our economic saviour and our relationship with that huge and densely populated communist nation is all good.

I read nothing of the fact that China is a totalitarian state which clings resolutely to Mao Zedong's version of Marxism-Leninism.
I read nothing of the fact that the multimillion-man People's Liberation Army, with its huge naval and air arms, owns and controls a significant proportion of China's industry and commerce.

I read nothing of the absence of human rights, as we understand them, in China and of the hierarchy's brutal suppression of any dissent. Yet we have seen evidence of that here in New Zealand during various visits by uppity Chinese mandarins.

I read nothing of the country's one-child edict, by which millions of girl children are aborted each year because everyone wants a son and which has already led to a vast and widening male-female disparity.

I read nothing of the fact that graft, corruption and bribery are endemic to Chinese politics, its military, business and commerce and that the acquisition of money, property and prestige is the overweening concern of its citizens.

I read nothing of the fact that the Chinese currency is rigidly controlled, to the benefit only of China, and that it is still undervalued in spite of being somewhat freed up in the middle of last year.

What increases my sense of unease is the story in this newspaper on Monday recording that Pacific Island nations have become indebted to China to the tune of some $800 million in what is described as a "secretive aid programme".

Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, the Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga have all accepted multimillion-dollar "soft" loans for "infrastructure" purposes and experts believe that they will never be able to pay the money back. There's something sinister about that, even in the suggestion that China might "forgive" many of those loans.

If that's the case, the question has to be asked - what's in it for China?

Meanwhile, we are informed that 82 per cent of the country's clothing imports, 72 per cent of imported footwear, 58 per cent of toys and sports goods and 52 per cent of imported furniture come from China.
And, infinitely sadder, that buyers who stock the big retail chains say New Zealand production has almost disappeared. In fact, The Warehouse chain's sustainability manager, Trevor Johnston, predicts that the increase in imports from China "is going to change the face of New Zealand in a way people don't recognise right now".

"We are looking at deeper and deeper integration with their economy," he said. "I think the real change is going to come through immigration and investment and deeper economic integration, not only on the importing side but in Chinese capital taking root here. And, culturally, there will be more Mandarin speakers. Chinese culture will be much more visible."

It's all very well to say that this is just a businessman talking but the real problem is that New Zealand is now being run almost entirely as a business, with the emphasis always on "wealth creation" although we all know that wealth will end up in the hands of a few and the gap between rich and poor will continue to increase.
Elsewhere, the "China and Us" series makes this brief comment: "Arguably, despite the loss of jobs in formerly protected industries, these cheap Chinese imports have made us all better off - at least in the short term."

How sad that the loss of indigenous industries, some of them iconic, which have been forced out of the market or have moved their production to China or elsewhere in Asia, with the loss of hundreds of thousands of Kiwi jobs, can be dismissed so cavalierly.
It is time our politicians and business leaders had a cup of tea and took a really long-term look at our relationship with this ancient Asian monstrosity.

The headline on one of Saturday's articles was "The kiwi and the dragon". It might pay to remember that a kiwi would make a very small, but very tasty, meal for a hungry dragon.
By Garth George | Email Garth

A reader's comment:
 Now that we are on the "receiving end", we can understand how Maori felt 150 years ago, when they found themselves getting swamped by British cultural and economic imperialism.

We have to ask ourselves: "What can we do that the Chinese can't do better?" Because whatever it is, we'd better start doing more of it, and fast.

The problem seems to be that China has become "too American" (this is the legacy of Deng Xiaoping rather than Mao). If we don't smarten up, we're going to get into a "comprehension deficit" - they will understand us better than we understand them. Fortunately the Herald has grasped this.

The good news is that most of the ethnic Chinese (and also other Asian ethnicities) who come to live or study in New Zealand understand that our "Western" values and cultural heritage are of enormous value.

They don't want to destroy us; they want to learn from us. In fact they want to become more like us - while retaining the best features of their own cultures.

It would be a pity if this learning process were to be a one-way street. He who learns, wins. 

Camel is the new cash cow!

While waiting a friend at Ibn Batutta Mall, I read a tabloid on camel. Yes, have consumed camel milk and meat. The camel has more to offer.

There is annual camel beauty pageant offering prizes worth million dollars!

The camel has become a brand icon of the UAE in recent years, overtaking the falcon - the UAE's national emblem - as the animal best representing the country.

It is estimated that the national worth of camels runs into millions of dollars, taking into account the products, merchandise, brand value, jobs and associated businesses.

Once restricted to the desert and races, camels today are to be found everywhere ranging from coffee cups and shot glasses to chocolate and milkshakes. Even its urine and milk are being studied by Arab scientists for claims that it can treat diseases, including cancer and various other health conditions.
As Dubai tourists and expats get a taste of all things camel, global demand for camel products continues to spiral.
Global market
Some products are already being exported to GCC countries and Europe, and other countries also want a bite of the camel.
Local House Restaurant in Bastakiya, Dubai, which made camel burgers a worldwide name as a healthy, low-fat food, is struggling to keep up with local and international franchise inquiries.
Its first franchise is due to open in Abu Dhabi, and negotiations are underway for franchises in Oman, Egypt, Germany and Los Angeles.
However,  the restaurant first wanted to establish a firm foothold in the UAE market before it branched out, as it had to work hard to keep up with up to 100 tourists arriving daily to get a taste of the camel.

Like the animal, camel burger prices have also hit a hump or two more than doubling from the original Dh20 ($5.45) to Dh40-Dh60 ($10.89-$16.34) with each burger containing a quarter pound meat pattie.

The patty tastes like beef.

But Dubai's starring dish has always been the camel.
Perhaps it explains the new menu soon to be launched at The Local House, with ice cream, cakes and patisseries - all made from camel milk, of course - adding to the camel shawarma, soup and milk already on offer.
The restaurant goes through about 200kg of camel meat a week which it sources from the Abu Dhabi government.
Camels are worth millions of dollars to the country's tourism sector alone and had created business and jobs for hundreds of Dubai companies.
Just as the UAE's founding tribes couldn't have survived without them in the desert, today's generation is also reliant on them.
Camel merchandise and products were among the favourite UAE items for tourists since they best symbolised the country's tradition and heritage, representing the early beginnings when the Bedouin tribes rode camels through the desert.

. Business sense

A chain of stores in Dubai's major malls filled with camel goods. The Camel Company, established in 2004, is celebrating the camel rather than taking advantage of it. The UAE is celebrating the beloved camel that has provided transport, food and the sport of the Bedouins for centuries.

Sales have doubled since 2006 and within five years the British owner has managed to open seven stores in Dubai's major malls - ample proof of the camel's enduring popularity among tourists, even in the face of a financial slowdown.

The company sells around half a million camel products a year designed by its in-house team, (the company employs about 40 staff) and exports its products to Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and other GCC states.

Numbers say it all
  • UAE camel population is 250,000 less than 5 per cent of world population
  • Some 190,000 milking camels are reared in the UAE
  • Camels are used to produce about 1,700 tonnes of meat in Abu Dhabi annually
The camel is under the microscope for its healing abilities and food possibilities.
Every other month, some scientific discovery is made in relation to the camel, or a new product is launched.
The UAE is at the centre of it all, with studies underway at various universities - a professor predicts a new camel cheese is months away, and a ground-breaking medical study on camel milk is soon to be launched in Dubai.

The internationally renowned Central Veterinary Research Laboratory located in Dubai, studies camels and other animals. Clinical studies on the effect of raw camel milk in treating autistic children are expected to begin within a year.
It's well documented that autistic children drinking camel milk show amazing improvement in their behaviour and it has also removed some symptoms. However, trials must be conducted first to determine this.
Anecdotal evidence showed camel milk helps treat Crohn's Disease as well as diabetes 1 and autism.

It fitted alongside other research by CVRL, which led to the development of the Camelicious milk brand launched in the GCC four years ago by Emirates Industry for Camel Milk and Products. The venture which started off as a pilot project at CVRL today includes a state-of-the-art production facility in Umm Nahad with about 750 milking camels producing the desert's ‘white gold'.

Camel milk is the easiest way for humans to tap into the camel's powerful immune system, with several stories of raw milk treating incurable diseases where western medicine failed.

The animal's immune system was an amazing scientific resource where dozens of discoveries were waiting to be made. Studies have shown camel meat has low fat and cholesterol levels, and the milk has less than half the fat of cow milk, with half a litre providing the recommended daily dosage of Vitamin C.

Camel milk is extremely well adapted to human requirements and its composition is the closest to mother's milk.However, Camelicious has yet to receive European Union accreditation for export to Europe.

The science around the health benefits is all relatively new, so the medical proof is unknown, but much more will be done about that in the near future and this, I don't doubt.

  • Food: Products made from camel meat and milk include burgers (pictured above), salads, soup, milkshakes, milk and chocolate.
  • Souvenirs: Camel souvenirs including fridge magnets, cuddly toys, jewellery and charm bracelets, pens, puppets on-a-string and clothing, milk soap bars
  • Health: Products based on extracts of milk and urine from the camel's immune system