The country impatient for its future and the fearful lucky country

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Ross Gittins, ‘China thinks big, while Australia waits for luck to strike’The Sydney Morning Herald, 03.08.16

Sorry if I sound wide-eyed, but I was mightily impressed when I visited China as a guest of the Australia-China Relations Institute. Obviously, we were directed to the best rather than the worst but, even allowing for that, it was still impressive. Those guys are going places.

In a hurry. I was struck by how fast-moving the place is – in several senses. We argue interminably about getting a high-speed rail link, while the Chinese just get on with it.

We took the bullet train from Beijing to its nearest port, Tianjin, 140 kilometres away. So smooth you didn’t really notice how fast it was going.

The government-run China Daily announced while we were there the plan to have 30,000 kilometres of high-speed track built by 2020. You could be sceptical – except they already have 19,000 kilometres installed. …

Of course, we tell ourselves, any technology they use has come from foreigners, sometimes without proper recompense.

Don’t be so sure. We visited Shenzhen which, until 36 years ago, was a fishing village just across the water from Hong Kong, before someone made it a special economic zone. …

Today it’s a city of 10 million, with income per person of about $29,000 a year. It has maintained 45 per cent of its area as parks and forest by the simple expedient of having housing go up rather than out. …

China is big; we think of ourselves as small. China is confident, impatiently pushing towards a better future; we are fearful, waiting for more luck to turn up.

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Donald Horne, The Lucky Country – Australia in the  Sixties, Angus and Robertson, 1965 (first published in 1964)

14 ‘Australians love a “battler”, an underdog who is fighting the top dog, although their veneration for him is likely to pass if he comes out from under. At work – among the unambitious – the feeling for underdogs runs very strong.’

18 ‘Australians like people to be ordinary…To be different is considered an affectation.’

18-19 Horne believes that Australians embody ‘a complex of resentments against difference…It is only when a difference stares them in the face that ordinary Australians become truculent; and then only in a personal way.’

26-27 ‘This cynicism beneath purpose feeds our notorious philistinism…This deeply inlaid scepticism is a genuine philosophy of life, a national style determining individual and group actions. Its influence can be detected throughout Australian society. It may be the most pervasive single influence operating on Australians.’

27 ‘What (Australians) find it difficult to do is to imagine the new for themselves.’

32 ‘The passion for egalitarianism may combine with the passion for scepticism to hide and often frustrate talent.’

32 ‘Much energy is wasted in pretending to be stupid. To appear ordinary, just like everybody else, is sometimes a necessary condition for success in Australia.’

56 Horne paraphrased the diary entry of Mrs. Marcel Dekyvere, chairperson of the Black and White Ball Committee (in 1964) in response to a sermon titled “I Have a Dream” ’ – ‘We must all keep our dreams, even if sometimes they don’t come true. Don’t you agree?’ (Martin Luther King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech on 28.08.1963)

76 ‘On 27 December 1941, John Curtin made the single most significant statement ever made by an Australian Prime Minister: “Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America”.’

83 Australians are suspicious of all idealism: ‘ “What’s in it for him?” ’

88 ‘In the past Australia has also displayed the other side of provincialism: the boastfulness and arrogance of the liberated province, parading its very provincialism as if it were homegrown.’

101 ‘Despite its internal democracy, Australia plays an aristocratic role in the society of Asia – rich, self-centred, frivolous, blind’

107 The words ‘White Australia Policy’ were removed from the Labor Party platform in 1965.

112 ‘if Australia is to play a more forceful role in Asia the change must be dramatic enough to impress Asians that it is a change. It would seem a comparatively simple method to enter into migration agreements with Asian countries that might meet any of their own fears and that would set up clear public standards of assimilability – of language, education and working capacity…My own view is that the future holds dramatic possibilities for Australia which may necessarily include racial change, that this is Australia’s ‘destiny’. It is going to happen one way or the other. It is a task that will be undertaken either by Australians, or by someone else.’

121 ‘Not that Australia has ever spent much on research and development anyway…This indifference to research and development goes beyond the question of foreign ownership.’

The Big Merino, Goulburn

The Big Merino, Goulburn

130 ‘Several generations of Australians were taught to venerate not lions or eagles or other aggressive symbols of nationalism; they were taught to venerate sheep.’

136 ‘the things modern Australians are really interested in – getting homes, raising their children, going on holidays.’

190 Against the justification that ‘we are only a small nation’:

Horne, quoting Irving Kristol’s review of the first edition of The Lucky Country, emphasised the importance of leadership that could enable a people to create ‘better than they know’ and of appreciating their creation, without which that people would not only be far poorer in their self-definition but would be blissfully unaware of their poverty. Leadership enables the discernment of a promise and a potentiality that becomes integral to their way of life.

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Reply to Philomath

Tiencienwey (Tianjin [‘Heaven’s Ferry']), n.d., Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677)

Tiencienwey (Tianjin [‘Heaven’s Ferry’]), n.d., Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677)

Hi Philomath,

No, I haven’t read Fukuyama’s Political Order and Political Decay.

China is succeeding where the Soviet Union failed.

This makes sense because the first successful socialist revolution, opposed by the ‘Whites’ and invading capitalist nations, was in the Soviet Union.

Lessons, and extremely costly lessons, in both states, had to be learnt first.

Capitalist ideology holds these lessons up as proof that socialism could never work, and of its ‘evils’ (hence, to those who dare to dream, to think of and to want something better, ‘capitalism is your best – and only – option’).

But they are lessons, just as the first and second world wars (and the many other wars), the Great Depression and global warming were and are lessons – that this will always be what you must expect under capitalism, as reflections of its driving motive of profit and its unpreventable crises.

Clockwise from top: Jinwan Square, Tianjin Financial Centre and Hai River, Xikai Church, Panorama of downtown Tianjin, Tianjin Railroad Station, Tianjin Eye

Clockwise from top: Jinwan Square, Tianjin Financial Centre and Hai River, Xikai Church, Panorama of downtown Tianjin, Tianjin Railroad Station, Tianjin Eye

The Chinese have learnt that the motive for profit, which is the basis in consciousness of capitalism, must be incorporated within socialism – i.e. on a socialist base.

Over time, it is entirely reasonable that this profit motive can be modified (i.e. re-oriented from the individual to the society – in other words better utilised for the society).

Socialism, which, even more than capitalism, can only fully function internationally, is, as can be seen in China, very much a work in progress.

As China continues to develop, the capitalist nations will be forced by economic imperative, as Engels recognised in 1894, to follow.

Best wishes, Phil

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Birds in bamboo

Birds Flying Through Bamboo, Shr Han, silk brocade mat, n.d.

Birds Flying Through Bamboo, Shr Han, silk brocade mat, n.d.

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The moon, my shadow, and I

Fishing Boat Anchored on a Moonlit Night, by Bai Jin, (1388-1462)

Fishing Boat Anchored on a Moonlit Night, by Dai Jin (Tai Chin, 1388-1462)

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Alone and Drinking Under the Moon

by Li Bai (Li Po) 701-762

Amongst the flowers I

am alone with my pot of wine

drinking by myself; then lifting

my cup I asked the moon

to drink with me, its reflection

and mine in the wine cup, just

the three of us; then I sigh

for the moon cannot drink,

and my shadow goes emptily along

with me never saying a word;

with no other friends here, I can

but use these two for company;

in the time of happiness, I

too must be happy with all

around me; I sit and sing

and it is as if the moon

accompanies me; then if I

dance, it is my shadow that

dances along with me; while

still not drunk, I am glad

to make the moon and my shadow

into friends, but then when

I have drunk too much, we

all part; yet these are

friends I can always count on

these who have no emotion

whatsoever; I hope that one day

we three will meet again,

deep in the Milky Way.

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China’s barefoot doctors

Chinese barefoot doctor uses her needles to treat a production brigade worker

Chinese barefoot doctor uses her needles to treat a production brigade worker

Barefoot doctors (Chinese: 赤脚医生; pinyin: chìjiǎo yīshēng) are farmers who received minimal basic medical and paramedical training and worked in rural villages in the People’s Republic of China. Their purpose was to bring health care to rural areas where urban-trained doctors would not settle. They promoted basic hygiene, preventive health care, and family planning and treated common illnesses. The name comes from southern farmers, who would often work barefoot in the rice paddies.

In the 1930s, the Rural Reconstruction Movement had pioneered village health workers trained in basic health as part of a coordinated system, and there had been provincial experiments after 1949, but after Mao Zedong’s healthcare speech in 1965 the concept was developed and institutionalised. In his speech, Mao Zedong criticised the urban bias of the medical system of the time, and called for a system with greater focus on the well being of the rural population. China’s health policy changed quickly after this speech and in 1968, the barefoot doctors program became integrated into national policy. These programs were called “rural cooperative medical systems” (RCMS) and strove to include community participation with the rural provision of health services. Barefoot doctors became a part of the Cultural Revolution, which also radically diminished the influence of the Weishengbu, China’s health ministry, which was dominated by Western-trained doctors.

Training

The barefoot doctors usually graduated from secondary school and then received about six months of training at a county or community hospital, though training length varied from a few months to one and a half years. Training was focused on epidemic disease prevention, curing simple ailments that were common in the specific area, and were trained to use Western medicines and techniques. An important part of the Cultural Revolution was the movement of sending intellectuals, and in this case doctors, to serve in the countryside (Chinese: 下鄉; pinyin: xìa xiāng). They would live in an area for half a year to a year and continue the education of the barefoot doctors. About a fifth of the barefoot doctors later entered medical school.

Work

Barefoot doctors acted as a primary health-care provider at the grass-roots level. They were given a set of medicines, both Western and Chinese, that they would dispense. Often they grew their own herbs in the backyard. As Mao had called for, they tried to integrate both Western and Chinese medicine, like acupuncture and moxibustion. An important feature was that they were still involved in farm work, often spending as much as 50% of their time on this – this meant that the rural farmers perceived them as peers and respected their advice more. They were integrated into a system where they could refer seriously ill people to township and county hospitals.

Barefoot doctors provided mostly primary health care services, and focused on prevention rather than treatment. They provided immunisations, delivery for pregnant women, and improvement of sanitation. The income of the barefoot doctors was calculated as if it were agricultural work; they were paid roughly half of what a classically trained doctor made. This funding came from collective welfare funds as well as from local farmer contributions (from 0.5% to 2% of their annual incomes). This program was successful in part because the doctors were selected and paid by their own villages. By the 1960s, there were RCMS programs in 90% of China’s rural villages.

The work of the barefoot doctors effectively reduced health care costs in the People’s Republic of China, and provided primary care treatment to the rural farming population. The World Health Organization regarded RCMS as a “successful example of solving shortages or medical services in rural areas”. Because of barefoot doctors providing primary health care so that basic health care is an affordable cost and give China’s entrance into the United Nations (UN) and WHO. Moreover, this also represents that some certain diseases in poor countries can be solved but just need adequate technological solution. (me: ‘…certain diseases in poor countries can be solved by just having an adequate technological solution’?)

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The above sentence ‘Barefoot doctors became a part of the Cultural Revolution, which also radically diminished the influence of the Weishengbu, China’s health ministry, which was dominated by Western-trained doctors’ is noteworthy, pointing to the potential of an ethic oriented towards the society rather than towards the individual, and motives of profit and power.

How might the philosophy and experience of China’s barefoot doctors be applied to the problem not only of health care in capitalist Australia generally, but particularly to that in rural Australia?

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Further Comment on Shamseer Keloth’s ‘Facing the Dragon’

Top political advisory body to discuss reform: Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), delivers a report on the work of the CPPCC National Committee's Standing Committee at the third session of the 12th CPPCC National Committee at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 3, 2015.

Top political advisory body to discuss reform: Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), delivers a report on the work of the CPPCC National Committee’s Standing Committee at the third session of the 12th CPPCC National Committee at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 3, 2015.

*   *   *

Hello Shamseer Keloth,

Of cognition Lenin wrote ‘From living perception to abstract thought, and from this to practice, – such is the dialectical path of the cognition of truth, of the cognition of objective reality.’ We start with the world> we theorise about it (we look for what we think are the best/most ethical theories and consider and develop on them where we think it is possible, in relation to the world)> we (continually) test our theorising in the world. Practice (not abstract theorising) is primary.

The Chinese, through their very long history, have come to understand and learnt to do this (it can be seen in the Party’s policy developments particularly since Deng Xiaoping). In addition, for the first time in world history, the Chinese have two key elements in a developing relationship – a one-party socialist state and a rapidly rising middle class.

From this relationship will come forms of organisation which will be models for the world – economic, political and social.

The challenge to the Party will be to continue to show not only the benefits but the necessity of a one-party state (social cohesion, rising wealth and cultural development on the basis of the Party’s capacity both for long-term planning and timely decision-making [compare with the West]). Sensitivity to region and locality is just as important – the Party knows that their recent ‘crack-down’ on corruption is essential in this regard.

My view is that the Chinese are bringing to bear on their lives and future not only socialist theory but many lessons they have learnt through their history and are now getting ‘right’ what the Soviet Union was not able to.

How they continue to test and develop socialist theory in a practice which is above the merely pragmatic is central to this.

Phil

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Reply to Shamseer Keloth’s ‘Facing the Dragon’

Liu Yang, China’s first female astronaut, waves during a departure ceremony at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre, 16.06.12

Liu Yang, China’s first female astronaut, waves during a departure ceremony at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre, 16.06.12

*   *   *

Hello Shamseer Keloth,

Congratulations on your article,

China will rapidly come to have an impact on the world that no nation has had. Where the one-party state of the Soviet Union collapsed under the pressure of the arms-race with the US and its allies (‘the West’) there is no indication that this will happen with the Chinese Party and state.

In fact, the reforms instituted by Deng Xiaoping, continuing now, are evidence of the flexibility, adaptability and responsiveness of both to pressures and events within and outside China.

And that is both excellent and fascinating – the retention of the potential of a socialist one-party state (consider what is going on in outmoded Western-style capitalist democracies now, the global productive forces in play and their impact on the earth) at the same time, the rapid rise of many millions into the Chinese middle class (the middle class is historically associated with ‘democracy’).

I have no doubt that the tension between these two forces will result in forms of organisation (economic, political and social) either never before seen or, at least, never developed to their full potential.

They will be models for the world. Recent and ongoing events in Hong Kong are part of this process.

What is required are forms of socialism (forms which will inevitably reflect the national characteristics of the society from which they have arisen) in which individual initiative is also recognised, encouraged and rewarded.

The Chinese are succeeding on this crucial point where the Soviet Union failed. It is the way – ‘going forward’.

Phil Stanfield

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