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Chinese Wails January 28, 2014

Posted by markswill in About me, Media, Politics, Schmolitics.

If you live or spend much time in London, one of the less edifying spectacles of the post-Xmas silly season has been ‘Bonkers’ Boris Johnson and his good pal Dave ‘Posh Boy’ Cameron bigging up London as a magnet for global tourism in the Evening Standard.

To some extent this is a grouchy response to France’s claims that Paris attracts more overseas visitors than our capital city, the dark subtext perhaps being that any country whose leader couldn’t make up his mind between his mistress and his, er, ex-mistress can’t be trusted with anything, even its tourism statistics. But beyond such unspoken ridicule, I find it sad if not pathetic that Britain, and in particular London places so much emphasis on tourism for its economic recovery.

Dropping onerous visa requirements for visitors from China, a country which has already decimated our manufacturing base – admittedly with our short-sighted complicity – so’s to get more of them posing for snapshots outside Buck House would be okay if it was reciprocated. Indeed if the people who rule China weren’t so busy stashing billions (trillions?) of yuan in western tax havens and handing out brutal prison sentences to any of their subjects who dare to criticise them for it, or indeed anything at all, well then I might be in favour of relaxing the restrictions.

And as we continue to sell  large chunks of our so-called public services to the Chinese, e.g. energy, railways and the increasingly privatised  NHS to the orientals the answer to the leftie media’s regular hand-wringing about ‘Who owns Britain?’ seems to be  ‘the Chinese, of course.’ Because in the global economy that we must now accept that we’re but a tiny, wee part of, the Chinese have the biggest chequebooks. It almost makes me wish we lived in North Korea or Cuba where foreign investment can’t have any effect on how the country’s run, because by tacitly accepting the double-standards and oppressive nature of its ruling classes, how long will it be before Boris and Dave start telling us that they don’t really have a human rights problem at all with China and we should therefore welcome their affluent middle classes as our incipient economic masters?

Talking of the economy – which of course  I must – am I alone in pouring scorn on the fashion and ‘lifestyle’ pages of the meeja which almost exclusively feature garments and gizmos that most of us can’t afford?

A darling little lampshade from Rothschild & Bickers may be a steal at just £380 if you’re lottery winner with Barratts mansion to furnish, but frankly when I need a new pair of jeans I’m off to Uni-Qlo with nineteen quid in my fist rather than £135 or even, gulp, £500 for something ‘a little special’ from Scotch & Soda or Levis. From my days as a mugazine editor I of course understand the value of aspirational content, but even for ladeez with rich hubbies surely £199 for a pair of kecks from Sandro or an understated frock from the ever-smiley Vicky Beckham at £1,550 are clear cases of the fashion eds having a laugh?

My own female friends, or at least the ones who’re willing to discuss it with a man who isn’t Gok Wan, tend like me to seek out a nice bargain, and even my WIFE (a term I still find a pleasing novelty), also tends to frequent secondhand shops and the aforementioned Uni-Qlo on a regular basis, for although careful with our dosh and quite ancient, we’re still unabashedly vain.

But if print media readers really can afford to patronise these posho brands, most of whom I’ve never heard of, perhaps I’m dead wrong about the nation’s finances? In which case the far eastern sweatshop owners had better up their game and kill off the Italian, Spanish and few other remaining European garment-manufacturing countries if they want to supply the growing number of British fashionistas…  thus guaranteeing their UK visa status.

Finally, now that I’m spliced, duty obliges me to bang the drum for Kiss Me First, the just launched paperback of the debut novel by Lottie Moggach, who is technically my step-daughter!

Bugger the nepotism, it's a fantastic read

Bugger the nepotism, it’s a fantastic read

Anyone even vaguely interested in how the internet can govern, change and indeed create personalities will be riveted by this hugely original psychological thriller, and especially its narrative tone. Worthily shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Prize, it’s right up there with Gone Girl for its unexpected twists, turns and final reveal. Bugger nepotism, it’s a truly fantastic read. Oh, and you can get a better handle on Lottie and her book here: http://www.picador.com/authors/lottie-moggach …or in her own words, here: www.lottiemoggach.com

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1. Paul Blezard - January 28, 2014

I’m not sure which is the greater accolade for your ‘new’ step-daughter, Mark; a mention in your blog, or a mention in Pseud’s Corner in this week’s Private Eye! 😉

2. Stephen Dunne - January 28, 2014

Gosh, getting married and having an instant family to boot. Congrats. Boris and Dave might be a pair of tits but they don’t hold a candle to the a**eholes here that try and run France. As for £19 for a pair of jeans I am still getting through my €12 wranglers from WallMart after my last visit to the Police State across the pond.

3. Andy Tribble - January 29, 2014

Recommend a trip to China. The situation is far more complex when you get close in.

We are utterly utterly stupid for being snarky and xenophobic about Chinese students and visitors.

When I got out of Britain, and looked back from a distance, it made me laugh at our own short-sightedness. We sit around singing folk songs about what happened to the shipyards or the mines or the fishing, and we wonder where the jobs are coming from in the future. And yet all up and down the country we are surrounded by an invisible industry that could keep us going for the rest of the century and beyond.

Put it this way. The UK is sitting on top of a huge natural resource which is just as important as coal or oil. It doesn’t pollute, the workers in this industry lead comfortable lives, there is massive worldwide demand and the reserves are unlimited. This natural reserve is the English language.

We dig it out, package it and sell it in the form of education (with a side supply of British culture). And instead of employing miners it employs thousands of university lecturers and boarding-school teachers, spread right across the country, plus ancillary suppliers who provide accommodation, transport, entertainment etc.

Furthermore, unlike coal and oil, it doesn’t burn off into the air, because the customers keep coming back. Once we’ve sold them a load of English, they go on to buy our TV programmes and our films, they entertain our touring theatre companies, they even buy novels by our writers (note the personal benefit there).

In China there is so much enthusiasm for getting educated abroad that there is a cable TV channel consisting entirely of documentaries and surveys about foreign universities, with promo films and commercials put up by various universities from any country where English is the first language, and even some where it isn’t.

We are in a competitive market and the other English-exporters are working full tilt, the Australians are advertising furiously, the Canadians are getting in there, the mid-ranking US universities are running ‘come to Idaho you’ll love it’ shows. To my amazement even the Europeans are in the market, one of the Dutch universities – Leiden I think – is selling ‘Come to Holland and do all your courses in English’.

And what about their government’s human rights record? If we want it to change, there are two ways to do that.

Option 1: Dear Chinese student, we don’t like your government (even though you didn’t choose it), so please don’t come here. Go to Australia instead.

Option 2: Dear Chinese student, come to a British university. And while you’re here, absorb a bit of local culture: the liberal attitudes, not the binge drinking. And then, when you join your country’s political elite, perhaps you’ll pay more attention to world opinion.

Which is most likely to work?

In fact I think I’ll rush out now and find a Chinese student or tourist, shake them by the hand, and thank them for coming here.

4. Andy Tribble - February 5, 2014
5. Dan Cardew - March 26, 2014

Fair comment,and I’ll get a copy of the book, but what about Rossi’s renaissance, aprillia engined Nortons and people paying mega bucks for fucked old Ducatis???

Take care geezer, dan,

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