Saturday, 24 January 2009

Take my helmet off when you speak to me, you horrible little debtor

Just came across the following assessment by an American pundit of Obama's actions regarding China thus far:

In his inaugural address Tuesday, President Barack Obama spoke of how earlier generations of Americans had "faced down fascism and communism." China's state broadcaster quickly faded out the audio of its live broadcast, the camera cutting back to a flustered studio anchor.

Then, on Thursday, Obama's choice to lead the Treasury Department, Timothy Geithner, wrote that Obama believes China is "manipulating" its currency, which American manufacturers say Beijing does to make its goods cheaper for U.S. consumers and American products more expensive in China.

Selig Harrison, director of the Asia program at the U.S.-based Center for International Policy, said it was "very ill-advised for the new administration to confront China as if this were 10 years ago and we were in a strong financial position internationally."

"We are dependent on Chinese goodwill for our economic survival and viability, and, therefore, it seems to me that this type of posture is very risky," he said.
Seems that rather often these days when reading news stories about US-China relations I find myself thinking of Terry Pratchett and his Discworld. An odd association, you might think. But Pratchett is a pretty astute if rather cynical observer of the way the world works and in a novel published in 1996, he summarized the foreign policy of the Discworld's venal, wealthy and highly enterprising city-state of Ankh-Morpork thusly:

Thousands of years ago the old empire had enforced the Pax Morporkia, which had said to the world: 'Do not fight, or we will kill you'. The Pax had risen again, but this time it said: 'If you fight, we'll call in your mortgages. And incidentally that's  my pike you're pointing at me.  I paid for that shield you're holding. And take my helmet off when you speak to me, you horrible little debtor.'
The Ankh-Morpork national anthem is now apparently something entitled "We Can Rule You Wholesale" ("Touch us and you'll pay / Credit where it's due"). Perhaps China will want to rewrite theirs along similar lines?