Who Can We Trust?

Recent media reports highlighted the worrying hold China has over the UK, after our government allowed it to become the North Sea’s top oil operator.  The communist-controlled China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) now runs two of our biggest oil fields, producing over 200,000 barrels of oil a day.

Boris in ChinaThis hold gives China leverage in negotiations with the UK Government, significantly weakening our control over our own energy sector.  Imagine what would happen if the Chinese were permitted to build and run a nuclear power plant in the UK, as is currently proposed?   Meanwhile, new Foreign Secretary, comedian Boris Johnson, has flow to Beijing to confound the Chinese with his buffoonery and buy time whilst the new post-Brexit administration works out what to do next.

For the British people, robbed of national assets through privatisation, the future looks bleak, as foreign governments, often hiding behind state-owned corporations, buy into our manufacturing, energy, transport and other key economic sectors.  Globalisation has done for us.  We have been asset-stripped and left powerless in negotiations with foreign governments, whilst our ruling elite have salted away fortunes in offshore bank accounts.  Is this really the country we want for our children?

Despite having a democratic system of governance, we seem powerless to make our political leaders turn away from the dark forces of global capitalism and prioritise citizen-focused issues.   Witness the London property market – locals have been priced out as it has been turned into a money haven for foreign ‘investors’.  We seem doomed to be patronised by the Westminster elite, doing the bidding of the super rich – hypocrites who are busy selling our country to feather their own nests.  They believe everyone is like them – obsessed with position and personal wealth accumulation.

Well, I have news for you.  Other nationalities have different perspectives and priorities, and in the case of the Chinese Government, it is to obtain ownership (through State-owned companies) of as much of the World’s mineral assets as possible.  To them, cash and barter of goods and services is a way to secure mining rights around the world, starting with developing countries.  This gives them both raw materials for their industry and political leverage that increases their power and influence.  They now have their eyes on Europe.

I’m sure the Chinese hierarchy look with amusement at the behaviour of BoJo the Clown and our other hypocritical political leaders who are self-obsessed and care little for the ‘good of the people’.  At least this last part chimes with the Chinese who see labour as a resource to be exploited.  Understanding this makes it easier for them to flatter and deceive our callow politicians into doing their bidding.

A report published in the mirror.co.uk on 24/08/16 talks about the Chinese using the positioning of oil rigs as ‘strategic weapons’, their rigs in a disputed area of the South China Sea described as ‘mobile national territory’.  For this reason the USA has moved to protect itself from Chinese ambition by blocking the sale of oil wells over security fears.  Paranoid or justified?  Meanwhile, the UK Government handed £2 billion in tax breaks to the CNOOC in 2015.  Oh, and by-the-way, General Nuclear Power, the Chinese state-owned corporation and the proposed partner in the UK’s £18 billion Hinckley Point project, is facing industrial espionage charges in the US.

The ‘investment’ of foreign governments, through state-owned corporations (including France’s EDF) must surely be a concern for the country.  In China’s case, it is a calculated bid to control energy generation in Britain to give them a power base – a toe-hold in negotiations with a weakened British Government.  Why would an elected British Government even contemplate such a deal?  Surely they have been put there by the British people to represent their collective interest?

Not a bit of it.  Global business interest thinly disguised as investment dictates our political agenda, and what is in the best interests of the country is relegated to a minor concern, tersely dismissed by our high-handed moralising politicians.  Will the British people really see the benefits of fracking for shale gas?  I think not – the gas extracted by private companies will be sold to the highest bidder on the global energy market.  We will have our countryside torn up to simply create wealth for a small elite, and still be paying through the nose for our gas supply.  That’s how it works.

All was going well for the Establishment until the unexpected Brexit vote.  The British electorate took umbrage at being patronised and instructed to Vote Remain.  They exercised the one bit of freedom they had left – the choice to vote against the hated money-obsessed Establishment and their Westminster-based toady politicians.  It was an embarrassing setback for the forces of Globalisation, but they have quickly re-grouped under a new Conservative Prime Minister, one with worrying similarities to Margaret Thatcher, who set the ball rolling on selling off our national assets some thirty years ago.

Has new Prime Minister, Theresa May, been given her instructions to return the country to a Victorian era voting system by removing those who are not property owners from the electoral register?  This would ensure no more disturbances from a peeved electorate to their capitalist agenda, and match nicely their plans to remove the Welfare State and its prize jewel, The National Health Service, tossing the welfare of the poor, sick and disabled into the arms of the charity sector.  It’s not as crazy an idea as you might think.  The soon-to-be-debated repeal of the Human Rights Act is just another attempt to strip us of our rights and return the country to an authoritarian system based on patronage.

At least we should be able to see the Chinese coming and veer away from their proposed ‘investments’.  However, our biggest danger remains the behaviour of our own Government.  How can we escape them?

Bert Kwok Remembered

Sad news this morning (25/05/2016).  British born actor, Bert Kwok, has died, aged 85. He was perhaps best known for his role of Cato, man-servant of bungling Inspector Clouseau, played by Peter Sellers, in half a dozen Pink Panther films.

Interviewing Bert Kwok at Granada TV0002Bert was the subject of my first celebrity interview way back in 1980 when I was a teenage trainee reporter for a Liverpool news magazine, the Woolton Mercury.  Yes, that’s me, aged 18, with a mass of bushy hair, towering over the diminutive Bert.  I had gone to spend a day at Granada TV’s studio in Liverpool to write a feature article for my series on Merseyside media, and was shocked to be invited by presented Shelly Rhodes to appear as a studio guest on that Friday afternoon’s arts and current affairs programme, Live from Two.  The main guest that day was Bert Kwok.

I have a copy of my piece in my scrapbook, and it tells me that that day’s show had a Chinese theme, with Bert, Chinese dancers, a martial arts display and the author of a book on China (no details recorded, due, no doubt to my young and undeveloped journalism skills, mixed with star-struck awe).  Imagine a fidgety 18-year-old  sitting next to the urbane and articulate Bert, regaling the ‘live’ Granada TV audience about his six Pink Panther and two James Bond movies… “and also on today’s programme we have a school-leaver in his first job as a trainee reporter…”

Bert shrugged-off my question about how he felt at being pigeon-holed as a Chinese/Japanese support actor in so many films and TV series (including the excellent Tenko).  He was happy to have had such a long career doing what he loved – acting.  He certainly leaves a tangible, accomplished and highly entertaining legacy behind.

Bert told me he had an affinity with the North West, having been born in Warrington.  He was taken to China by his parents to complete his schooling, then onto the USA to study politics and economics, before returning to the UK to start acting.  His big break came in 1964 when he passed an audition with director Blake Edwards for the part of Cato Fong in the first Pink Panther film.  Appearances in Dr. Who, the Avengers and Last of the Summer Wine, further served to embed him as one of our great British actors, and he received recognition for this with an OBE in 2011.  Incredibly, his first film part was in the classic 1958 film, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, opposite Ingrid Bergman and Kurt Jurgens.  What an impressive body of work.  Rest in Peace, actor Bert Kwok.

‘That one may smile, and smile, and be a Villain…’

Xi-Jinping-chinaIt’s almost as if Shakespeare foresaw the visit of Chinese Premier, Xi Jinping, to the UK today. What’s behind the smile? Perhaps dangerous times for the British, as the Conservative Government looks to cosy-up to this secretive Communist State that has recently emerged from isolation, blinking into the sunlight, to take up its place as one of the World’s biggest producing and consuming economies. Oh, did I forget to mention that Xi Jinping holds the rank of General in the Red Army.

We should not fear what we don’t understand. However, a wise man would tell you that you should fear what you do understand, and see as a threat. The Conservatives see nothing wrong with inviting the Chinese to build a nuclear power station in the UK, probably the first of many, and blithely stick to their ‘free market economy’ argument to justify allowing foreign governments and corporate entities to own and control our energy, utilities and transport sectors.

It’s not really the Chinese we should fear – we can see them coming. We still have a fairly independent media to keep tabs on them. No, it is our Government who are the cause for concern. It is not just the nuclear power issue with China, the latest in a long line of inviting in foreign investors to take control of our energy and utility assets, they could learn much about restrictive practices and State control of the population – a Chinese area of expertise. This is something the Tories are drawn to, as they have already shown an appetite for undermining the privacy and personal freedoms of its citizens.

Human rights abuses in China are said to be at their worst in a quarter of a century, according to the Chinese rights group, Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch Group (as reported on www.mirror.co.uk). The group’s founder, Liu Feiyue was quoted as saying: “The stability maintenance regime is getting stricter and stricter; you could say it’s getting more and more brutal, more and more inhumane.” The group claimed it found measures, including phone tapping, house arrest, enforced ‘holidays’ and criminal detention, had occurred on 2,270 occasions during the past year. There have been 1,800 cases of arbitrary detention since Premier Xi came to power, and 245 lawyers have been targeted as part of a crackdown on civil liberties (according to the China Human Rights Defenders), something I’m sure the Conservatives envy. Smile, David, and don’t mention human rights!

Restrictions on internet access and use in China are so restrictive that they have been termed, ‘The Great Firewall of China’. It is Chinese policy to detain any political activists whose internet postings are viewed more than 5,000 times or re-posted more than 500 times, according to Reporters Without Borders. Chinese writer and professor Liu Xiaobo was jailed in 2008 for circulating a petition calling for greater democracy in China and the end of the one-party system. In 2010 he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his campaigning work, but has been unable to collect it as he is only half way through an 11-year prison sentence. Maybe Dave could stand up for democracy and freedom of speech and raise the matter?

Even our security services are concerned about a possible nuclear energy deal with the Chinese. Chris Hughes, writing in the Daily Mirror, quoted a security source as saying; “The view of the intelligence community is that it is not a good idea for Britain’s safety.” Intelligence agencies believe “cyber warriors” could plant devices to access our nuclear security. There are talks underway for the Chinese to build a nuclear power plant at Bradwell in Essex, and the possibility of them coming in on EDF’s power station at Hinckley Point in Somerset. The latter would mean a partnership between the French and Chinese Governments to run a nuclear power plant in Britain!

What concerns me most about the activities of the Tories in Government is that they will kow-tow to anyone with money regardless of their political ideology or human rights records. Will they do a deal for cheap Chinese steel at the same time and finally kill off the last vestiges of British industry? The Saudis and Chinese are welcome to their Establishment Club anytime – it’s just the British people who are excluded.