Saw pictures of this giant container ship named the ‘Emma Maersk’, docked in Teesside Harbour, along with such cringingly awful headlines as ‘Santa’s presents are all from China’, and ‘50,000 tons of Christmas gifts arrive from Shanghai’ and was reminded of a post which I made on a previous blog of mine! Had a look at that old file, named ‘A Slow Boat to China‘ and decided that it was still a timely piece of writing, so here we are, brought slightly up-to-date!
I watched a documentary on Channel Five some months back, the title of the series was ‘SuperShips’, and it described in amazing detail the construction and running techniques of this giant container ship, ‘Shanghai Express’, which runs at a speed of 23.5 knots, equivalent to twenty-seven miles an hour. Now most of us, looking at this speed will say, ‘that’s not very fast’ but think again, that is very fast in terms of something which is carrying one hundred thousand and six metric tonnes, and travels at the same speed all twenty four hours of the day! The engineering spaces are akin to something out of ‘Star Trek’, the views of this monster pushing through an flat ocean with a ‘bone in her teeth’ (generating a huge bow wave, for the uninitiated) gave an impact of a superb ship doing the job it was created to do.
But let’s go a little further into the woodpile, and examine what exactly this ship is doing. She is carrying, as part of a fleet of four, one hundred thousand tonnes of goods every three weeks. Do the maths, and that works out to 6.92 million tonnes of manufactured goods imported from the Peoples Republic of China into the European Union every year. Now that is a lot of plastic toys, DVD players, rubbish bins, textiles and electronic bits and bobs! Some of it is crap, because the quality control methods in China are not the greatest, but a lot of it isn’t crap, it’s well-made, and equally well-designed, and worthy of your purchase; or is it?
Consider where this huge amount of cargo was made before the great industrial charge now present in China came on stream! This cargo, carried in the ‘Shanghai Express’ and her sister ships, managed by Hapag Lloyd, a German multi-national, is mirrored in the vessels of many other container ship companies running into the major container ports of Western Europe and America, so you now begin to get the picture of the huge inroads the Chinese have made in our marketplace. Now the marketplace for this huge amount of ‘everything’ existed before, because the Chinese haven’t invented new ‘everything’, no way! The old ‘everything’ used to be made by Thailand, and Japan, Korea and Brazil, and we made quite a bit of ‘everything’ in Europe, and more specifically in Britain. But over a period of about five to ten years ago, the Chinese got real clever, and allowed their workforce to initiate new ideas, expand their factories and modernise existing lines, build new cities and motorways to help carry and move the workforce and products which they are so good at selling to the West! All good and proper, opening up a country to modern manufacturing methods will surely enhance the Chinese, and make everyone richer? So the factories and offices in downtown Sao Paulo, or Bangkok, or Seoul, or Bolton were were forced to close because their markets had been grabbed by a cheaper, better organised manufacturing country! Well, not really, because this is still the same China which operates slave labour in the factories owned and operated by the PLA, (which, again for the uninitiated is short for The Peoples Liberation Army.) So now you begin to understand where the profits from your purchase of that really cheap refrigerator, or that shiny new DVD player from Curry’s or Dixon’s actually goes to! You are helping to fund a dictatorship, a Totalitarian Government ruling by decree, the same Government who sent the tanks and armoured carriers rolling into Tianmen Square in 1989, and killing over five thousand, while injuring seven to ten thousand more!
In retrospect, Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States, was a disaster on wheels for America, his foreign policy strategies, among which was the removal of support for the Shah of Iran, thus helping place Khomeini and the mullahs in charge, and the signing away of the Panama Canal to a bunch of low-level criminals and drug-runners. But the one shining item in his portfolio was his acclaim of ‘Human Rights’, not the wishy-washy union- and liberal-friendly crap which is so loved by the European Union, but the real package, the freedom to worship, even if it’s a mish-mash of ideas like Falun Gong; the freedom to congregate, even in a place like Tianmen Square and talk about honest reform of government; the freedom to say “get stuffed” to a uniformed bully; the freedoms laid down by the United Nations in 1948, but have long since been either forgotten or misplaced.
He said in 1997, during a Foreign Policy speech, “The great democracies are not free because we are strong and prosperous. I believe we are strong and influential and prosperous because we are free. Throughout the world today, in free nations and in totalitarian countries as well, there is a preoccupation with the subject of human freedom, human rights. And I believe it is incumbent on us in this country to keep that discussion, that debate, that contention alive. No other country is as well-qualified as we to set an example. We have our own shortcomings and faults, and we should strive constantly and with courage to make sure that we are legitimately proud of what we have.”
Think hard on who you want to give your hard earned money to in the months and years ahead, when your neighbour’s son comes home with the news that his clothing factory is closing because the management are relocating to Chengdu or Wuhu, Think even harder when you buy a pair of gloves, for example, costing say, £16.50, and the alternate offering is from a company based in Aberdeen which are priced at £30.00; when you see an item on the television news that a factory is closing it’s production line because it cannot compete with the Chinese opposition, don’t remember the cheap coat which you bought without examining the label which said, proudly:-
‘Made in China’ “