Monday 24 December 2018

Happy New Year: Will Donald Trump's tiny hand press the Big Red Button in 2019?

It's fascinating (in a horror-show kind of way) to watch the United States of America write itself a new narrative. Not the one where it dominated the post-World War II liberal global order and made itself the wealthiest economy on the planet by a long chalk, but a victim narrative in which poor little America is bullied and ripped off by China, formerly one of the poorest countries in the world but which now happens to be looming in America's rear-view mirror.

For several years, we've been told by the experts that China is the exciting new economy in which the world's investors were parking their money, while the US was in decline with failing demographics and dim long-term prospects. With China's population of 1.4 billion, a growing middle class of over 500 million, 800 million raised out of poverty, an internet penetration rate of only 55 percent (against US 83 percent), and American companies making money hand over fist with a lot more to come, you can see how some might cast an enviable eye over such a fat, juicy market and think: I'll have that.

According to the China hawks' tortuous retrospective logic, goods bought cheap by middle- and low-income earners, allowing them to live beyond their means and consume to their hearts' content, was some sort of conspiracy draining the nation's precious essences. Trump sees the phoney deficit of $300-500bn as money owed to them, in the same way that a Mafia Don might eye some successful business and persuade himself (by an assortment of mental, moral and factual gymnastics) that this treasure somehow belongs to him. It always did. We were always at war with Eastasia. I hope all those poor cheated consumers descend on Walmart (whose fortune was founded on buying cheap Chinese goods made in often dreadful conditions) with decades of receipts in hand to demand their money back.

The unpalatable fact for Trump is that – taking into account in-country Chinese sales of US goods and services such as those of Starbucks, Apple, MacDonalds, Coke etc – the US has a $24bn SURPLUS with China. And as even Gary Cohn pointed out, the "deficit" represents $300bn of goods that Americans could buy cheaply and thereby feel richer than they actually were.

And how about all that US debt bought up by China after the 2008 crash which allowed US citizens to avoid the full brunt of the crisis and continue to buy stuff despite the US being broke? Having been punched in the face for their help, I doubt they'll do the same next time America's in trouble. Furthermore, some pundits are considering the possibility that Trump simply defaults on US debt. Don't forget that "Trump ran for office on his background as a captain of industry, touting his companies’ four bankruptcies as shrewd business maneuvers."

So far we've been fed ad infinitum the myth of forced technology transfer, accusations of spying, and claims that China is manipulating its currency downwards when it has actually been spending vast amounts of its reserves to prop up the yuan. And now we have everything but the kitchen sink thrown at China in order to whip up war fever and justify the unthinkable: war with a nuclear power. Casting itself as lily-white ingenue on the world stage, taken advantage of by Sinister Forners, this indulgence of paranoid wingnut Peter Navarro means conveniently forgetting American spychips – including one on Angela Merkel's phone – and all the spying that the west is so good at. We've all forgotten western pride in its espionage capabilities, from fictional James Bond to the actual School of the Americas. It's like Edward Snowden's revelations about the NSA's global surveillance have been wiped from the media's collective memory.

This is not, incidentally, to give China a free pass for its own abuses. Advances in gay and women's rights have been clawed back; trade union rights are a site of struggle; emulating America's cruel mistakes — from locking up its Japanese citizens following the Pearl Harbor attack to incarceration without end at Guantanamo — by shoving Uighurs into "re-education" camps is surely storing up trouble. But ... worse than Saudi Arabia? Deserving of being bombed back into the stone age? It wasn't China that nearly started World War III with a war on Iraq that killed 450,000 people or created the current humanitarian crisis in Yemen. All most Chinese want to do is drink Starbucks coffee and wear Nike trainers as part of a life that's lived decently. The new Chinese society saves pandas and tigers, campaigns against animal cruelty, condemns the racism of rogue Chinese business in Africa, and debates where they are headed as a nation. We are more alike than not.

The wealthiest nation on earth knows its decline has a variety of causes: under-investment; spending and not saving; the 1 percent and 0.1 percent creaming off the profits until, according to Wikipedia, "Currently, the richest 1% hold about 38% of all privately held wealth in the United States while the bottom 90% held 73.2% of all debt. According to The New York Times, the richest 1 percent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent." The political scapegoating of China for America's woes looks more and more like a diversion from who ate all the pies.

All of which brings me to my big prediction for 2019. I truly and sincerely hope events will prove me wrong. All signposts point towards a global calamity, but that doesn't mean that human ingenuity can't avoid it.

Now that General Mattis ("the last adult in the room") is leaving, Trump can remove the remaining troops from Syria and Afghanistan — notionally a good thing if you are anti-war (which I am). However, an abrupt and unplanned withdrawal without peace negotiations means, for instance, abandoning the Kurds, who fought valiantly to defeat Isis, to be slaughtered. But I don't believe that Trump's withdrawal is entirely without purpose.

Similar to Obama's pivot to China — when Barack took his military out of the Middle East and moved them to Asia, stockpiling missiles around the South China Sea aimed at the Middle Kingdom, and then acted surprised when they built defences — I think there's a chance that Trump will pile his forces into the South China Sea, engineer a conflict and get to use his big red button. Either that or some slip-up with North Korea putting Seoul at immediate risk. Or Iran. You just know he's itching to do it: "What's the point of having nuclear weapons if you're afraid to use them?"

His friends will all take to their nuclear bunkers in New Zealand, assuming that simply existing as a mobile meat sack in a post-nuclear apocalyptic world, even in material luxury perhaps, is preferable to preserving peace for the whole of the human race on this extraordinary planet. That's if their security squads haven't mutinied, slaughtered their masters and taken over the asylum.

Ho, ho, ho. A merry Christmas and a happy new year to all. Let's hope it's not our last.

Tuesday 13 November 2018

What's Donald Trump's trade war with China REALLY about?

History repeats itself: Trump's fantasy trade-deficit is an excuse for carving up China

So the west is at it again, carving up the juicy market of 1.4 billion (EDIT 1.386bn in 2017) human beings that is China. I suspect most people have twigged by now that US President Donald Trump's trade war on the upcoming nation has little to do with the purported goods deficit of over $300bn. As Gary Cohn, former Goldman Sachs supremo and Trump's ousted top economic advisor (replaced by Fox News commentator Larry Kudlow), pointed out at the recent Bloomberg conference in Singapore, the sum does not, as claimed by Trump, represent a loss of money. It actually means over $300bn of goods that Americans were able to buy cheaply, as if you'd spent at Walmart or T K Maxx, or if you'd bought groceries from the supermarket. Having consumed the goods they sold you, you wouldn't then demand your money back with menaces. Presumably.

I’d been hoping for the press to fact-check the issue of Trump’s trade war on China, which threatens to tip parts of the world (including America) into recession. I am disappointed to see the figures of $376bn and $500bn US trade deficit with China regurgitated in the British and American media with few corrections, or any attempts to cut through the hawks’ spin.

The figures of a $376bn and $500bn trade deficit for the US excludes in-country sales and services in China by enormously lucrative US companies such as Apple, Starbucks, Coca Cola and McDonalds, which generate vast profits out east. When that’s taken into account, the actual trade balance is more like a $24bn surplus for the US, but this fact doesn't serve the narrative and therefore gets left out, thanks to laziness or connivance in the press.

These elevated figures are further distorted by the fact that China is still mainly a base for assembly of goods which the nation is hoping to leave far behind in favour of high-end tech. So, for example, a thousand-buck iPhone X costs around $500 to make, out of which the high-end components are made elsewhere (Taiwan and South Korea), while China's costs amount to about 10 per cent, or around $47. And yet the entire wholesale cost of $500 is counted in the purported deficit with China — a ten-fold distortion.

The richer country should always have the surplus, as they can afford to buy the goods in the first place. Americans do not save. Chinese do.

Trump’s tax cuts have pushed their overall deficit to well over a trillion and rising. This will bite them on the bum, but we can guess who’ll be blamed.

Far from manipulating the yuan down, which even smart critics such as John Oliver repeat ad infinitum, China used large amounts of its reserves propping it up. Under Trump’s attacks, the yuan is buckling and if China does what the US wants they could easily burn through all of their cash. There’s both irony and cynicism in the fact that the very measures that Trump is taking will, according to HSBC and others, weaken the yuan against the dollar. Not to mention that the dollar is powering up against a whole basket of currencies, not just China. However, Trump likes to have his beautiful chocolate cake and eat it ... greedy boy! He was disappointed to be told on entry to the White House that, no, he wasn't allowed to print money; manipulation of the currency not being a point of principle for our orange overlord, just a means to an advantage. Besides, what does Trump think Quantitive Easing is if not wholesale manipulation which saved America and others from the 2008 financial meltdown?

China has raised about 800 million of its people out of poverty by making our stuff in cruel, unhealthy conditions in suicide factories such as the Taiwan-owned Foxconn, for low wages. This has facilitated higher living standards for western consumers, and huge profits for American companies. During the bankers’ crash of 2008, China picked up the debt slack and allowed Americans to live beyond their means. Now that western capitalism is in decline and facing crisis, China is being politically scapegoated. This is not only unfair on a nation only recently getting up off its knees after nearly two centuries of western abuses, it also muddies the waters so the global economy can’t advance. The IMF's Christine Lagarde noted earlier this year that the global economy was in sync, floating itself out of the economic devastation of the 2008 crash together. After Trump's trade tariffs, not so much.

There’s plenty for China to negotiate. Although it was the US that persuaded China to join the World Trade Organisation and abide by the rules made by the US, perhaps they are at a point where they do need to shift on some points as they are no longer an ingenue economy. Indeed, China is already moving on intellectual property issues and gradually opening up its markets to foreign investment. We thought everyone had seen sense in May when the meetings between Steve Mnuchin and China’s Liu He produced an agreement. However, under the influence of arch China hawks John Bolton and Peter Navarro (a vicious wingnut on China despite no expertise who is overreaching badly), Trump capriciously changed his mind and now we may be staring something much worse in the face if he doesn’t get his “utter capitulation”.

In order to bring China to heel, Trump would have to break the European Union first. That affects Britain, too. Once we’re out of the EU, it’s unlikely that Trump will allow Britain to trade with China, as per the new clause in the rejigged NAFTA deal between the US, Canada and Mexico. What was that about Brexit "taking back control"? So we’d be totally dependent on an irrational, brutish regime, eating their chlorinated chicken and Monsanto death seed produce. Wilbur Ross has already advised US business to take full advantage of a vulnerable post-Brexit Britain, calling our hour of need "a God-given opportunity".

Right now, it looks like America has given itself a heavenly mandate to go stomping the world's economies into dust because it is unable and unwilling to sort out its own problems of underinvestment, changing demographics and basic flaws in the ageing capitalism that served it so well in the past.

A closer look at those accusations of IP theft: Why US accusations of IP theft by China don’t add up
'In 2005, when the US government was pressing China to allow the renminbi to appreciate, Phillip Swagel, a former member of president George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, wrote: “If China’s currency is undervalued by 27 per cent, as some have claimed, US consumers have been getting a 27 per cent discount on everything made in China, while the Chinese have been paying 27 per cent too much for Treasury bonds.”' Donald Trump misread the US-China trade relationship.
History repeats itself: The Steampunk Opium Wars
China-bashing exercises by the establishment: The Opium War by Julia Lovell, and two from Niall Ferguson: The Triumph and Turmoil of Niall Ferguson's obsession with China and Working for the Clampdown: Niall Ferguson's testosterone theory of history
FT: How China's role as "shock absorber" and world's growth engine helped pull the global economy out of America's 2008 crash. China bought a ton of US debt, allowed global currencies to devalue against the yuan, taking a huge hit themselves, stimulated domestic consumption and started the longest ever bull run in American markets.
(Delighted to have written this piece without recourse to the cliché of the Thucydides Trap ... D'oh!)

Wednesday 3 October 2018

The Windrush Generation: British citizens here before 1962 told "Prove it!" - by George Lee

The Tories are depriving British citizens of their rightful status established under law

Today in my inbox I found this tweet from George Lee who tweets as RightIsMight, twitter handle @7_jamdown.

It's addressed to several parties as well as myself, including Jeremy Corbyn: @jeremycorbyn @sajidjavid @EmilyThornberry @HarrietHarman @UKLabour @Yvettecoop @CarolineLucas @carolinenokes. A small but perfectly formed list, some of whom I hope will respond at least adequately and meaningfully.

The entire Windrush generation should be welcome here. They were invited to Britain to rebuild the country after the devastation of World War II and 1950s austerity. In return for running our NHS and transport they were promised indefinite leave to remain. However, there is an extra toxic twist affecting Commonwealth and Colonies citizens who entered the UK before the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act and who were already guaranteed citizenship by the 1948 British Nationality Act.

As George Lee points out in his article which I've reposted below, 'How does one downgrade someone’s citizenship without it being a retrospective abrogation of their rights? ... if the Real Windrush Generation attempted to claim their rights, they were to be told to “prove it”. ... This action has led to countless unlawful deportations and exclusions and, even worse, the confiscation and wilful destruction of perfectly legitimate and legally obtained passports ...'

In Theresa May's officially sanctioned 'really hostile environment' the Tory government has been destroying passports, the one vital piece of evidence that proves citizenship. When the state itself abandons the rule of law they send out a dangerous message. And that message is being hear loud and clear.


by George Lee

It has become necessitous to coin a new maxim, the “Real Windrush Generation”. There needs to be a clear distinction made between pre-1962 Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies (pre-1962 CUKCs) and those New Commonwealth citizens who entered the UK after the point in time marked by the entry into force of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962. Without this distinction it is not possible to see that we are considering two separate issues.

Perhaps the Guardian should produce an article which explains the distinction between the Real Windrush Generation (the pre-1962 CUKCS) and the definition given by the government for the “Windrush Generation”, which is in fact a misnomer. The reason for this suggestion is elucidated in what follows.

Quotations used are from the following article:

Four people describe ordeal of having their British citizenship questioned and downgraded

How does one downgrade someone’s citizenship without it being a retrospective abrogation of their rights? Of the four people mentioned in this article, it can be stated with certainty that at least two of them are Real Windrush Generation and British citizens. When it concerns the Real Windrush Generation, everyone seems to forget that the law exists for all citizens and must be obeyed, even by Her Majesty’s Government. At this point, it ought to be clearly stated that the legislation passed by parliament which establishes the right of all pre-1962 CUKCs to British citizenship is the British Nationality Act 1948.

What is said to be the Windrush Scheme has nothing whatsoever to do with the revocation of the rights of the Real Windrush Generation. I have now made six different attempts to communicate with those responsible for this Scheme, but to no avail. The reason for this situation is clear. One thing has nothing to do with the other.

The Windrush Scheme was set up to deal with persons entitled to Indefinite Leave to Remain, which does not apply to pre-1962 CUKCs. As far as can be ascertained, no authority has been given to deal with matters concerning pre-1962 CUKCs. I have been directed and redirected until I have arrived at a dead end. Moreover, I have been informed that the Windrush Scheme is only for the purpose of assisting the “Windrush Generation”. Is it not ironic that the Home Office should introduce a Scheme called “Windrush” which excludes the Real Windrush Generation? Has it anything to do with the fact that the Real Windrush Generation are British citizens and acceptance is being denied?

The Real Windrush Generation have been making representations to the United Kingdom government for more than 40 (forty) years. Every application has fallen on deaf ears as per the wishes of the legislators, clearly stated in the Immigration Act 1971, as amended by the British Nationality Act 1981. Decisions on this matter have been made in secret and without recourse to the relevant legislation since 1973. This has occurred without any form of accountability since the entry into force of the Immigration Act 1971. The legislation instructed those who were to enforce it, that if the Real Windrush Generation attempted to claim their rights, they were to be told to “prove it”. I use the expression “prove it” because it has been used to me so many times by the Home Office and every UK embassy I have visited over the years since 1988. No matter where the application was made the responses were almost always identical.

This action has led to countless unlawful deportations and exclusions and, even worse, the confiscation and wilful destruction of perfectly legitimate and legally obtained passports, which is another reason it is transparently deliberate action on the part of the UK authorities in order to abrogate the rights of the Real Windrush Generation.

With reference to passports, Lydden Lewis needs to be careful as the UK government do not usually return such passports, once confiscated. In fact, as stated, they are usually destroyed. The evidence is destroyed enabling one to be told, “Prove it!” Every time such decision was taken with regard to pre-1962 CUKCs, was the law broken? Incidentally, the point to note is this. The only passports confiscated and destroyed were the ones which confirmed the rights of the Real Windrush Generation. Thereafter, the legitimate owners of said passports were told they were not citizens, even though the passport seized and destroyed demonstrated their right to citizenship.

To demonstrate the point with another example from the above-named Guardian article. Tony Perry was told, “We are sorry to inform you that you are not a British citizen”. Due to the fact that he arrived in Britain, from Jamaica, in 1959, there is no basis in law for him to be given that information. Furthermore, magnanimously awarding anyone in this situation with a visa giving him or her Indefinite Leave to Remain is an abrogation of rights established under the British Nationality Act 1948. Thus, the actions taken in this case is not just ultra vires, it is unlawful. The assumption is that the Home Office know immigration law, but do they?

Why has the Home Office been permitted to operate outside the law for so many years, with such action being taken in secret and without oversight from those responsible for so doing?

One only asks the reader to consider the number of people from the New Commonwealth who lawfully entered the United Kingdom between 1948 and 1962. That is the number of people caught in this limbo, and the number who have been denied their lawfully acquired rights by the United Kingdom government since 1973.

Surely it can be seen that what has taken place is a grave abuse of power which has affected a large number of people? How many? It is impossible to calculate because the number is greatly affected by the date of Independence of each New Commonwealth state.

Most of the people affected are dead, that is the only known factor. It would appear, probably much to the joy of the UK government, as it seems the method by which the “Windrush Generation” may be denied their rights to compensation is a current preoccupation.

This purgatory, which is in effect worse than slavery, must be ended. It is even more important that the condition in which the people referred to above died, becomes public knowledge.

If the government of the United Kingdom wishes to disavow any statement made in this communication, I respectfully request that they state upon which legislation they rely.

No more decisions about the Real Windrush Generation made in secret by people who know us not, and who have been instructed to deny rights given in legislation by the parliament of the United Kingdom.

Just one last question! Is it because we are black?

Twitter for George Lee: RightIsMight @7_jamdown

Wednesday 5 September 2018

Council bans two films from Thurrock International Celebration of Film Festival

How sadly ironic that the Thurrock International Celebration of Film (TIC) festival — starting tomorrow at the Thamesside Theatre in Grays, Essex — has just seen two Asian films axed from the programme by the council in a risible exercise in censorship.

The organisers, who have worked hard to provide solid, diverse cultural input for local audiences, are now seeing their efforts decimated (yes, it IS around one in ten!) at the last minute by the philistine tendency, the very people who'd probably have most to gain by watching these challenging movies. TIC's own description of its event reads:
TIC Film is the global magic lantern that draws inspiration from the incredibly rich and international history of the docks in Thurrock.
Through film, the most powerful and eloquent heights of human imagination are created and infinite landscapes of the mind communicated.
TIC Film is a festival where audiences come to discover unexpected visions and contra-transitions of filmmakers from all over the world.

That's a laudable objective worth pursuing for this largely mono-cultural corner of Essex. Sadly, due to the council's disappointing response to the cinematic examination of sex in repressive societies, there will be a little less inspiration and fewer eloquent heights of imagination or unexpected visions here in the stodgy finite landscape of the council's making. As with everything else at the moment, if only we had proper grown-ups in charge.

PRESS RELEASE 5th September 2018
Thurrock Council bans two Asian films from upcoming TIC Film Festival, 6-9th Sept

Thurrock Council have banned the films JUNGLE LOVE (Philippines, 2012) and SHADOWS OF FIENDISH ANCESTRESS AND OCCASIONALLY PARAJANOV ON DURIAN CIALIS (LESSER #9) (Singapore, 2017) from being screened at the TIC Film Festival (6-9 Sep 2018) at Thameside Theatre, Grays, Thurrock, because “an initial assessment suggests both films would be rated R18” and therefore “can only be shown in licensed sex premises”. The decision has outraged the East Asian communities.

In both films, sexuality does indeed play a central role, but the BBFC [British Board of Film Classification] explanatory notes state that the 18R rating is normally intended for works whose primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation of the viewer. These two films do anything but – and moreover, a rating of suitable only for 18 years and over was already in place in order to make sure that only adults would be able to see these films.

Both films are banned in their countries of origin; JUNGLE LOVE in the Philippines and SHADOWS in Singapore. But both films have been screened at other film festivals around the world. One reviewer summed up that “JUNGLE LOVE accomplishes the nearly impossible task of turning what could be a lewd and perverted showcase into a mirror of our innate desire to venture into the unknown, to abandon the clutches of good taste, and to get lost in the limitless jungle where men are but beasts among other beasts.”

By banning these two films, Thurrock Council have the dubious honour of joining these two countries and doing exactly what they have done: performing censorship and stifling discussion. Both films require serious discussion about opportunities and limits of filmic representation of sexuality – but with its decision, Thurrock Council tried to make such a discussion impossible.

The TIC Film Festival organising team have decided to use the free time created by Thurrock’s decision to ban these two films for an extended public discussion of censorship – not only in Southeast Asia as was originally intended, but in Britain as well.

We have invited members of the Council to take part in this decision and explain their decision.

The discussion on censorship will take place Friday 7 Sep 2018 from 5 pm onwards, Thameside Theatre, Grays, Thurrock. PRESS WELCOME TO ATTEND.

Book tickets to the censorship debate here.
Fri 7 September 2018
17:00 – 18:00 BST
See film programme September 6-9 here.
Thameside Theatre
Orsett Road
RM17 5DX

Wednesday 8 August 2018

Liverpool Commemorates the Chinese Labour Corps of the Allied World War I front 10th August

An important upcoming event in the history of China's relations with the West. A hundred thousand Chinese volunteers worked alongside the Allied forces in the European theatre of World War 1, doing some of the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs on the battlefield. It was understood that an allied victory would mean China being given back its territories that had been taken by Germany.

These men were to be betrayed when the Versailles Treaty gave their land, not back to the Chinese, but to the Japanese, laying the foundations for some of the worst atrocities ever committed by humans on other humans.

Here is announcement from the Meridian Society.

Liverpool Commemorates the Chinese Labour Corps

As the centenary commemorations of World War I draw to a close this year, Liverpool remembers the contribution of the Chinese Labour Corps, almost a hundred thousand men from China who joined the Allied effort by providing logistical help at the Front.

The Meridian Society aims to raise awareness of their story nationwide through its project activities (supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund). Local residents and visitors from elsewhere are invited to join us in Liverpool on the occasion of the centenary of the last Chinese labourer buried at Anfield who died on 9th August 1918.

A day of remembrance in honour of the Chinese Labour Corps will take place in collaboration with the Museum of Liverpool and Friends of Anfield Cemetery on Friday 10th August (details below).

A Family Activities Day will be held at the Museum of Liverpool on Saturday 11th August, at which members of the general public will be able to hear a talk on the Chinese Labour Corps and attend film screenings, or learn about the experiences of Chinese labourers by taking part in workshops on story-telling and Chinese arts and crafts. A number of Chinese Labour Corps artefacts will be on display and the museum will provide World War I objects for handling.

A photographic exhibition on the Chinese Labour Corps from the W J Hawkings Collection, courtesy of his grandson John de Lucy, and kindly prepared by The Oriental Museum of Durham University, is currently on display at The Black-E, 1 Great George Street, L1 5EW. Entitled 'A Noble Duty Bravely Done - The Chinese Labour Corps in World War I', the exhibition will run until 18th August 2018.

Remembering the CLC at Liverpool on Friday 10th August

Commemorative service
Time 1.30 - 2.30 pm
Venue: Anfield Cemetery, 238 Priory Road L4 2SL
A commemoration in remembrance of the members of the Chinese Labour Corps who died in Liverpool to be held at their graveside in the Cemetery. Local residents and visitors from elsewhere are most welcome to join us in honouring them.

Film Screening
Time 3.30 - 5 pm
Venue: Museum of Liverpool, Pier Head L3 1DG
A documentary film ‘Forgotten Faces of the Great War’ containing oral histories by descendants both of Chinese labourers and Western Chinese Labour Corps officers to be screened at the Museum. Numbers are limited and places will be allocated on request.

If you would like to attend these events please email us
For more details on the project, please click here

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Jeremy Corbyn condemns cheap labour from abroad on day of Chinatown protest against immigration fishing raids

Labour dogwhistles echo Trump protectionism and the spirit of MAGA

Congratulations and a big thank you to everyone who made it to today's protest against the Home Office's aggressive immigrant fishing raids blighting London's Chinatown, called by the London Chinatown Chinese Association. These raids have intensified under the Tories' hostile environment ever since the Brexit vote to the point where shocking footage shows an elderly woman collapsing and almost being hit by a vehicle in a raid on 5th July.

Tellingly, Jeremy Corbyn not only neglected to tweet support to a community under siege, but he chose today of all days to state his opposition to cheap labour from abroad, reinforcing the bogus immigration debate as if this was the key problem facing British workers.

Instead, he launched "Build It In Britain". Not like MAGA, then.

He could have argued against companies that pay low wages. However, instead, the implication is that its the phenomenon of immigration itself that is the cause of our economic woes and not any one of a myriad of screw-ups such as Cameron and Obama destabilising the world by military action in Libya, the pound tanking after the EU referendum or even just a predatory, greedy ruling class.

I don't know which double-barreled twit in his team claimed his words were being twisted into Fake News, but recent statements by his mates chart the course of this disastrous anti-foreigner frame of mind, especially when it comes to the Chinese.

A perfect storm has been brewing for Britain's Chinese community: a hostile immigration environment sweeping up east Europeans and Windrush workers alike; the Labour Party's betrayal of the principle of freedom of movement for labour; the increasingly bizarre political scapegoating of Chinese by Paul Mason and fellow left populists. Then, of course, there's Trump whose protectionism against the world, and especially China, is plucked straight out of the Steve Bannon playbook (more on Trump's China trade war in another blogpost).

This has been building for a while. Bereft of socialist ideas to galvanise the opposition into government despite nearly a decade of Tory austerity that's left most of us desperate for progressive, inclusive politics for a change, Corbyn, Seumas Milne et al have chosen Trumpian populism, focusing on foreign workers as responsible for our ills. Think I'm exaggerating? Here's Jeremy's left stablemate, Paul Mason:

'Cause China's millionaires are so much more venal than ours ... who've been around for a lot longer. So much for class analysis. Mason has been trying to persuade Corbyn to favour "... a strategy designed to allow the populations of the developed world to capture more of the growth projected over the next 5-15 years, if necessary at a cost to India, China and Brazil ... to save democracy, democratic institutions and values in the developed world by reversing the 30-year policy of enriching the bottom 60% and the top 1% of the world's population". So we're fighting for the 39 per cent, then — for the few, not the many. I like the way he's snuck in the 1% to justify his proposed wreckage of foreign economies.

Here is someone who was prominent in various left parties, including being in the Socialist Alliance press team (where he did very little while I did the work for no pay),  dropping his "workers of the world unite" Marxism for a piece of whatever it is that Trump's got. "It is," he continues in an appalling lurch to the right, "a programme to deliver growth in Wigan, Newport and Kirkaldy — if necessary at the price of not delivering them to Shenzhen, Bombay and Dubai."

Evidently, China raising 800 million out of poverty after decades of low paid labour in suicide factories making our stuff, and following almost two centuries of misery inflicted by the world superpowers as well as their own decaying Qing dynasty, is an unacceptable inconvenience to westerners and nothing to do with the dynamics of capitalism. My major objection came when China was persuaded by the US to join the WTO and suddenly state assets ended up in the hands of the children of top cadre. However, they are where they are. All that pain they went through and now western opportunists want to trash it just as they're getting up off their knees.

The China-bashing is getting ridiculous. Domestically, there's much to challenge but in terms of economy and foreign policy, right now, China and Germany under Angela Merkel look like the only grown-ups in the room — if we're stuck with capitalism until that ol' gravedigger gets going, these are the best. Mason's passionate pleading for plucky little Victoria's Secret against big bad China was puzzling on many levels. I remember when Chinese women were often represented by women in white science coats cuz we were encouraged to use our brains, not our T and A. Today, women in China have to struggle against the sort of shite portrayals of women that white left males crave but should have dumped a generation back: the lingerie company does not represent any sort of liberation. Neither is it some sort of workers' paradise for anyone who knows the company's exploitative history of using child and slave labour, and its terrible sweatshop conditions in Jordan for "guest-workers".

Nearly 20 years ago we held our first Chinatown demo when New Labour tried to blame the UK Chinese for the devastating outbreak of foot and mouth disease, an association of a racial group with filth and pestilence that would make Goebbels proud. I'd hoped that things would be better under a purported socialist but I've been told by Corbyn's friends that there are no Chinese workers in Britain (not even the Dover 58 or the 22 cocklepickers who were lost in Morecambe Bay) because we "all work in catering" and are therefore all "petit bourgeois", and that it's "British workers who count".

As Catherine Stihler, co-chair of the Scottish Labour for the Single Market group, told the Independent: “While some voters are angry about immigration, it is the job of the Labour Party to challenge anti-immigrant sentiment and promote the benefits to our economy and public services.”

Freedom of movement for labour has long been a crucial left credo, a counterbalance to the freedom of capital to chase cheap labour across the globe. Thus, when James Dyson's cleaning technology proved to be so massively popular, he closed down the Wiltshire factory and moved it to Malaysia for all that loverly cheap labour. We wouldn't blame Malaysian workers for Dyson's decision but it's Dyson who gets the CBE and the knighthood while the foreign workers get the vilification.

Trump's trade war with China could easily slip into a hot war as some of Trump supporters seem to want. One nuclear superpower in Thucydidean conflict with the upstart power. If that happens, none of us will be  immune from the fallout.

Here at least is one welcome message of support for today's demo.

Today, China is being scapegoated for "impoverishing" the global working-class. Eighteen years ago, New Labour was blaming UK Chinese for the foot and mouth disease outbreak that Blair's government had abysmally failed to deal with. I was twice blasted out of the blue by the pro-Iraq War Ipswich Labour MP: first time for joining the Labour Party to support Corbyn (I've since departed), the second at a party where he ranted at me at length about "iniquitous Chinese" and their death penalty ... which I oppose, by the way, but that made no odds, my Chinese face being my guilty scarlet sign. The Labour Party has failed to uproot their prejudice against Chinese people and it's getting worse. Anti-Chinese racism — the one you can get away with.

Friday 4 May 2018

When is a dress just a dress? American teenager's Chinese prom dress and cultural appropriation

Anna Chen writes in the Guardian, An American woman wearing a Chinese dress is not cultural appropriation

(Guardian headline and standfirst written by sub-eds)

When is a dress just a dress? Remember those photos of the little cocktail number that looked blue with black lace to some and white with gold lace to others when they were in fact the same frock? American teenager Keziah Daum now possesses a prom dress with similar magical properties, and it’s landed her in hot water with culture pedants.

The attraction of the qipao (“cheongsam” in Cantonese) is obvious: a sexy, figure-hugging sheath of silk with a high mandarin collar balancing a va-va-voom flash of leg via a thigh-high slash. Its beauty, however, turned into a curse when photos posted on social media of her wearing her beloved vintage find made her a target for tens of thousand of tweets accusing her of cultural appropriation. That’s one heck of a fashion crime.

The original complainant’s instinct – to draw a line at a time when Chinese people are under siege from Trump-inspired China-bashers – is understandable, but in this case, completely mistargeted. If anything, the qipao represents power and class, not race, and certainly not the culture of some exploited underclass.

The qipao’s history is said to have originated with the Manchu Qing dynasty, when members of the Han population they ruled were forced to wear a loose version of the one-piece instead of their own traditional clothing. Created in Shanghai in the 1920s, when warlords ran vast swathes of republican China, the slinkier form of qipao was a fashion favoured by one ruling strand of Chinese society that we associate with Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists, who fled to Taiwan when the communists won their revolution in 1949 and ditched the bourgeois qipao for Mao suits. Some even detect a western influence in its hybridisation, meaning the current outcry could be compared with taking offence because someone in Asia wore a tuxedo.

At its core, the identity debate is about power: who has it, who’s lost it and who’s chucking it around with abandon. This is hardly a case of a white American dressing up in a fringed chamois tunic with a feather headdress, mocking the indigenous people their antecedents almost wiped out.

At least Keziah wasn’t tip-toeing around to mimic bound feet in a play set a millennium before foot-binding became a thing in China, as in perhaps the most absurd example of cultural appropriation I’ve witnessed. In More Light at London’s Arcola Theatre several years ago, seven white actresses played Chinese concubines buried alive (allegedly) with China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who died in 210BC. Wearing kimonos (Japanese) and sticking chopsticks in their hair (!), this was a prime example of badly executed appropriation. Unlike Keziah’s appreciation.

When cultures meet and mingle, they inform and enrich each other. I can wear tartan, wear pyjamas, knock up a curry, curl my hair, cry along to the blues and dance to funk. I know the difference between a schmuck and a schlemiel. I’ve sat shiva for a friend’s father. I love gefilte fish. Does this make me a cultural appropriator?

The whole cultural appropriation debate is in danger of being turned from a defence of minorities under the colonialist cosh into a lazy substitute for real political power. How has it degenerated to the extent that we’re now on social media mobbing teenagers whose only crime is to consider a Chinese dress beautiful? Qipao-gate this isn’t.

With President Trump and his acolytes pumping up yellow peril fears around China, and his trade wars threatening to slip into hot wars, the last thing we need is this trivialised pastiche of serious debate. Minorities have precious little ammunition with which to challenge tribal juggernauts. Don’t waste what little cultural and political firepower we have.

Keziah was neither stealing power nor claiming ownership. And she looked lovely.

Here's me wearing the cheongsam from my solo show Suzy Wrong Human Cannon (Edinburgh Fringe Festival), at the ICA in London for a performance of Bondage Pic by Grace Lau.

Guardian piece

EDIT Here's a taste what we're thought of in Britain and pretty much generally in the western Chinese diaspora:

The Opium War by Julia Lovell book review: Smoke and mirrors and barely disguised disgust for the Chinese.

What happened when the Tony Blair government tried to blame the catastrophic outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease on the UK Chinese.

For a minority to be truly part of British society you have to be visible, otherwise you're a blank canvas onto which the dominant group's inner demons can be projected. The Chinese British community finally say no to yellowface when the Royal Shakespeare Company does The Orphan of Zhao.

Similar controversy when London venue The Print Room produces a yellowface In the Depths of Love and then performs like a contortionist to make their risible excuses leaving most of us aghast and laughing in disbelief.

Sherlock and wily orientals: Blind Banker, Episode 2 review. I'm afraid this has completely wrecked my enjoyment of anything featuring Benedict Cumberbatch. Trigger warning: it features a qipao.

Sinophobia and Copenhagen: open letter to the Guardian's Mark Lynas. Right now, Germany and China lead the world in green energy policies while Trump pumps fossil fuels, even contriving to leave the Iran nuclear agreement on dubious grounds which is sending the oil price rocketing — $71 at time of writing, expected to go over $100 for the next three years. Great for Texas ...

... and Canada is currently sitting on the planet’s second largest oil reserves which it plans to release into the markets and the atmosphere, and is the first Kyoto signatory to renege on the deal. China is sticking to the Paris accord despite Trump pulling out the US.

To "trump" it all, we're even excluded from debates about us: Laurie Penny excludes woman of colour from debate about representation of women of colour

Friday 16 March 2018

Anna Chen's band The Snow Leopards - photos from the mists of time

Found some old pics of me with my band, The Snow Leopards. Even before Apple! Well, it was long, long time ago in a universe far, far away ...

Cruella coat designed by Dave Vanian's girlfriend, Laurie, in the King's Road days.