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Est. April 5, 2002
June 01, 2017 - Issue 701

China Ahead of U.S.
Race to "DO Well by Doing Good?"


"As the new U.S. president and ruler,
Trump is crashing about the world,
moaning about how the entire world
has taken advantage of his country
and how he intends to change that."

For many years, it has been the rule that advocates of the independence of Third World nations have viewed with alarm the “land grabs” that have been growing in number and size by rich nations and transnational corporations on most continents, especially Africa, South and Central America, and Asia.

Mainly, it has been because the land grabs have displaced indigenous peoples around the world and made them field workers, instead of farmers. While it’s true that they may have just been able to subsist on the produce of their (mostly) small farms, they might have prospered if they had had a small assist from foreign governments and non-profit aid organizations to make their own small farms flourish and their communities prosper. The land grabs have involved thousands-to-millions of acres of land in places like Somalia, Ethiopia, the sub-Saharan areas of Africa, as well as the rainforests of Asia (Indonesia, for example) and South America.

The alarm has been raised by many non-profits around the world because of the speed at which the land has been taken, usually with the blessing of the heads of state, who can be convinced of the benefits of such takings, which bring western technological innovations and strange (to many of the local farmers) techniques of modern agricultural practices. It has been generally accepted that the countries which participate in the land grabs are doing so for the benefit of their own people or markets and not for the benefit of the displaced communities.

A different take on the land grabs by China was included in an article in Bloomberg News last month, when the speculation was that China was doing more than just producing food for its own population of 1.4 billion people. The Chinese are aware that what they are doing long term to become food self-sufficient is an attempt to mitigate the future problem they will confront when their own population surge and the fast-growing populations on other continents, Asia, Africa, and South America, will add another 2 billion people within the next generation. That deadline will come in about 2040.

China, like most countries with growing populations, are concerned about food crises, which could occur well before 2040, so they are trying to re-acquire more of their own farmland, save the agricultural land that they do have, and clean up the land that has been rendered toxic by rapid and uncontrolled growth over the past several decades. That growth has been fueled by industrialization that has occurred over at least the past 30 years, when much of the world’s clothing, shoes, and electronics have been largely produced and exported by Chinese industry, owned either by the state or private interests. Much of that nation’s prime farmland has been taken for industrial development and now, farsighted planners aim to head off a food crisis.

Land reforms lifted production of grains like rice and wheat, and millions joined a newly wealthy middle class that ate more vegetables and pork and wanted rare luxuries like beef and milk,” Bloomberg News noted. In other words, that population of 1.4 billion human beings want to eat and live more like the U.S. and other rich countries. China is trying to accomplish that far in advance of a crisis need for food to meet the demand of its domestic market.

The changes that China is making may go a long way toward accomplishing the national goal of becoming self-sufficient in food production. So, why are they going out into the rest of the world to indulge in “land grabs?” The problem is that they likely won’t be able to produce everything that their people demand in their food markets. They might just produce most of it. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that, by 2050, there could be as many as 9.7 billion to feed and shortages can cause turmoil and worse, as they have in Third World countries in the recent past.

That was one impetus behind China’s so-called land grab, where it bought or leased land in countries like Mozambique to secure grain supplies.” according to Bloomberg. “Yet many of the projects backed by the Chinese government are aimed more at increasing production in poor countries and building China’s global influence than supplying its supermarkets.”

Now, that’s a new one. China, a nation on the move to aid poorer countries in feeding themselves? It’s hard to imagine that any country, either rich or powerful (or both), would do good just for the sake of the people who live there, many on the edge of survival. But that’s what Bloomberg News speculates that they’re doing. If so, they are on track to become on a par with the U.S., “the world’s only superpower,” along with the European Union and Russia, two of the other powers.

In an era in which imperialism has taken on a new form, China might be onto something. In the past, empires ruled by conquest, by the sword, by the gun, by coercion, by bureaucratic structures, and by the enrichment of the elites, who wielded little power, although they had the title of president, prime minister, or some other name. It was a cumbersome way to take the resources of a nation, since the imperial power had the obligation, usually honored in the breach, of seeing to the general welfare of the conquered people. This has been true throughout most of history, until the “softer imperialism” took hold, somewhere in mid-20th Century. Although the devastation to the colony was just as profound, there were no marching imperial armies in the streets, and the government went on as before. It’s just that the colony’s economy was brought under the overpowering influence of the empire, while its control of the politics and governance were such that the imperial power held sway over much of national life, including a new culture.

In contrast to China’s new technique (if Bloomberg News is right) of speaking softly in the world arena, the U.S. has a president who struts around the world issuing criticisms and threats as if he is the boss of a reality show called the United States of America. It was bad enough before he took office, since neither of the two major parties seemed to have a clue about where the country was going or should go. If the working class thought it had a friend in either party, all its members needed to go back to school. Once Donald Trump was elected president, the lies came thicker and became more preposterous, as he had no intention to keep any of his promises to the middle and working classes. He probably didn’t even remember them by late January.

His recent performance over nine days in Europe and the Middle East was described as a “home run,” by few, other than Trump himself. Most others had a different view of his performance, since he managed to insult and bully his way through meetings with world leaders. He even perceives himself to be one of those leaders.

But, he managed to leave them confused at every turn, and they had a hard time keeping up with his penchant for changing opinions and policies at a whim. When they saw him close at hand and were subject to his persona in the flesh, it was not such a revelation to figure out what he was about. It’s likely that Trump doesn’t believe that any other world leader reads newspapers or books and was probably not aware that they knew him quite well, before he ever set foot on foreign soil as president. What he surely does not understand is that nations fear the U.S. and many, if not most, have little respect for what the U.S. has become.

It may be that China is helping poorer countries increase their food production, even though China surely benefits from any arrangement that smacks of land grab. But the nations that benefit from China’s real help on the ground will perceive the country in a different light, one not so harsh as the U.S. has been in its treatment of poorer nations. The realpolitik of it all is that any rich nation that deals with poorer nations that have vital resources will exact their commission. And, if China is taking advantage of poor nations in a gentler way today, the plan has been in the works for a long time, possibly years. If it works, it will take the U.S. a long time to catch up to it. To emulate this technique will take a long time, and the U.S. may not catch up within the next decade.

In the meantime, the U.S. carries on with its big-stick policies of foreign aid and invasions of various countries and meddling in their national affairs, including regime change and planning for regime change. As the new U.S. president and ruler, Trump is crashing about the world, moaning about how the entire world has taken advantage of his country and how he intends to change that. There appears to be no plan to change to a gentler method of exploitation of the rest of the world, since in his own country he has deep-sixed environmental regulations, intends to slash programs like health care, welfare, and food stamps, has no plans for a housing program or a jobs program, and has turned the education system over to a woman who wants nothing more than to privatize K-12 schooling, to the extent possible.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, after Trump’s trip and his many meetings in several countries, has said, in effect, that Trump can’t be trusted and that the European Union is on its own, especially on the issues of climate change, the Paris accord, and NATO. The president’s nine-day trip has given a chance to let the rest of the world see that he will do to the world what he is doing to the U.S. His goal seems to be to relieve the people of any shred of confidence in the integrity of the country’s institutions and of government, itself, so that it can be replaced by something dreamed up by him and his Republican supporters in the Congress. This, he had done with international agreements and treaties, as he tries to bend them all to his will.

The U.S.A. has in its bully pulpit a real bully and the outcome of his political and policy thrashing about may not be any more positive than that of a schoolyard bully whose teacher is not supervising the playground. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
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Peter Gamble

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