Part of my “cunning plan” as I continue to post in the blogosphere is to comment on what is going on in the world around me. Having embarked on regularly adding installments to my Trumpwatch and Brexitwatch series, I thought I would add yet another “watch” – Worldwatch. I am ever conscious of the tendency to focus on stuff happening in one’s country of residence or where there is an obvious connection with what might impact one, yet there is a wider world to be considered and what is happening in it matters regardless.
In my world “watching” I endeavor to find out what is happening outside the UK and the USA as well as inside. While I have written about things happening in many countries, I know I could do better – thus this posting, which I hope will be the first of many. The challenge is to commentate intelligently on stuff where the reporting is absent or minimal or biased, deciding what is significant and what is less so and recognizing one’s own perspective will have a bearing on what one decides to write. I am spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting countries to write about but for this my first posting I will choose three in which I have a particular interest and do so by way of a stake in the ground, realizing a lot more needs to be said and in order to say it I will need to do my homework, but here goes:
A few weeks ago, I had a robust exchange with a critic of the Trump administration position on an escalating trade war with China. While it was fair game to argue over the wisdom of Trump’s action, there is little doubt in my mind that under previous administrations the USA has fared badly when it comes to equitable trade deals and the likelihood is that powerful players have been effectively brought by China in order to toe an acquiescent line e.g. charming companies like Google and Apple to relocating their business to China, including helping China to implement its sinister social scoring system. There seems little doubt in my mind that China is seeking global domination including control of the South China Sea and therefore trade and taking over long term lucrative ventures world wide, whether it be parts of Hollywood or rare earth metals in Africa. Coupled with this is its policy of quashing dissent, whether it is Christians and Muslims in mainland China or pro democracy protestors in Hong Kong. Part of my homework is to check out articles like “Steve Bannon’s Warning On China Trade War”, arguing China has effectively conned, bullied and bribed the rest of the word, who have just rolled over, until Trump came in and, while one may question his policies, his standing up to what for all intents and purposes is an oppresive regime is commendable.
Part of my community activism has been to support Zimbabweans living in my town of residence, Southend (estimated at around 2000 in a 180,000 population), something I wrote about some years ago in my “Missing Communities report”. I subsequently played a part setting up a Zimbabwean community association. While many Zimbabweans came to the UK as economic migrants (and many have settled well), but many came as asylum seekers and found obtaining UK residence problematic because of unjust UK policy, and have struggled. Part of my community worker role was to support Zimbabweans adjusting to life in the UK, often noting their community spirit. A figure that ever loomed then and until he died a few days ago was Robert Mugabwe, who has been portrayed (take your pick) as a freedom fighter and Zimbabwe’s savior, a tyrant who oppressed his people especially those he saw as political opponents or a puppet of the real power behind the throne – the military. Given the well document oppression of Zimbabweans and the reversal in the economy from being the bread basket Africa to being a basket case, it is little wonder that many did choose to leave.
While it is true there is little breaking news of late concerning Burma (Myanmar), although the oppression of Burma’s Uighur Muslim population is ongoing despite Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s hero of the people and human rights activist, who had been long under house arrest by the military rulers, being now in a position of power. I fell in love with Burma and some of its charming people when around 1985-87 I was involved in a software engineering project for the country and spent time there helping to commission the system and providing training. Just as Zimbabwe had gone from being bread basket to basket case of Africa so at the time I was there Burma had gone from rice basket of Asia to basket case of Asia. While I was treated well as an ex-pat, it became clear many of Burma’s residents lived in fear. While the student and other uprisings of around 1988 were not expected, it came as little surprise as did the brutal repression that followed. I would not have included Burma in my inaugural Worldwatch posting but for the fact earlier in the week I listened to a gripping Radio 4 drama, titled “Eastern Star” during the week, bringing back poignant memories of my earlier Burma involvement and the people I left behind.