Thursday, 9 November 2017

Brexit: and the fleet-footed, clever trading nation

There are competing narratives over what Britain's 'trading history' was all about - over whether it was all about 'free trade' or something else - and whether things can happen in the same way again.

The current US administration are urging the UK to go for broke:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and not giving in to the EU’s “highly protectionist” trade approach on chlorinated chicken

Looking at the bigger picture this Monday, Andrew Marr's noted that "we glibly think of ourselves as a fleet-footed, clever trading nation":
BBC Radio 4 - Start the Week, Heart of Darkness: Conrad and Orwell

As well as looking at how Joseph Conrad and George Orwell considered the place of Britain in the world a century ago, the programme looked at how the coming century might look like - with the view from the chief foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Times, Gideon Rachman, who has looked at the coming 'Asian Century':
‘Easternisation: War and Peace in the Asian Century’, by Gideon Rachman
Easternisation: War and Peace in the Asian Century - YouTube

Other commentators would agree, as in the latest look at Britain and India:

Inglorious Empire by Shashi Tharoor — the rapacious Raj

A combative history of the British in India swats aside notions of benevolent imperial rule

MARCH 17, 2017 by: Victor Mallet

India, surprisingly, does not loom large in the history taught in most British schools. This is not simply a matter of children having the wrong idea about the two centuries of exploitation that financed the British empire and many of its wars; often, they have no idea at all. Even the victims — or, more properly, their descendants, the nearly 2bn people of the Indian subcontinent — have only a hazy notion of the horrors inflicted during the colonial period.

Shashi Tharoor seems at first glance an improbable advocate to redress the balance. A writer and politician born in London and educated at English-language schools in India, he speaks in a languid, upper-class English drawl and confesses to a love of tea, cricket and PG Wodehouse, all of which the British imported to their richest colony. Inglorious Empire had its origins in an Oxford Union debate in 2015; Tharoor argued playfully that “Britain Owes Reparations to Her Former Colonies” and then found his speech had gone viral back in India. A Congress member of parliament, he was lauded even by his political rival Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata party prime minister.

Tharoor convincingly demolishes some of the more persistent myths about Britain’s supposedly civilising mission in India, echoing William Dalrymple’s laments over the looting of the country by the East India Company and the rise of British racism in the 19th century, and rejecting Niall Ferguson’s defence of imperialism as a force for free trade and the rule of law.

Summoning evidence from British and American historians as well as Indian thinkers, Tharoor charts the destruction of pre-colonial systems of government by the British and their ubiquitous ledgers and rule books; the punitive taxation of farmers and mismanagement of famines in which millions died; the imposition of laws against homosexuality and sedition used to this day by authoritarian Indian governments; and the extreme protectionism (in everything from textiles to shipbuilding) that crippled India’s world-class manufacturing sectors and its pre-existing international trade networks. “Britain’s Industrial Revolution,” he writes, “was built on the destruction of India’s thriving manufacturing industries.”

The statistics are worth repeating, the more so because India is now often neglected in favour of China when historians recall the economic dominance of Asia. When the East India Company was established in 1600, Britain accounted for 1.8 per cent of global gross domestic product and India for 23 per cent. India was one of the richest and most industrialised economies. In 1750, India and China together accounted for nearly three-quarters of world industrial output, but India “was transformed by the process of imperial rule into one of the poorest, most backward, illiterate and diseased societies on earth by the time of our independence in 1947”. By then, India’s share of world GDP was just 3 per cent, while Britain’s was three times as high.

Tharoor, a former UN diplomat who lost the 2006 race for the secretary-general post to Ban Ki-moon, accepts that bad colonial government by the British is no excuse for bad government by Indians (including those of his own party, the Congress) in the 70 years since independence.

But he does want us to understand the origins of the difficulties that confronted India after 1947. His most damning argument is that the British policy of divide and rule, as well as the colonialist obsession with rigid classification, entrenched the previously ill-defined distinctions between Hindus and Muslims, as well as between Hindu castes and between Sunni and Shia Islam, and so set the stage for the violent “shambles of that original Brexit” — the departure of the British from India — and the subsequent militarisation of the newborn nation of Pakistan.

“The creation and perpetuation of Hindu-Muslim antagonism was the most significant accomplishment of British imperial policy: the project of divide et impera would reach its culmination in the horrors of Partition that eventually accompanied the collapse of British authority in 1947.”

This is a grave charge, and a well-argued one. If the more nostalgic Brexiters think trading with former colonial nations will in some way compensate for the costs of leaving the EU, they should first examine the blood-soaked history of their country’s relationship with India. It could be a revelation.

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, Hurst, RRP£20, 296 pages

Inglorious Empire by Shashi Tharoor — the rapacious Raj

And meanwhile, we have a lot of nostalgia going on, with a piece from the Voice of America:
Britain Hopes to Build Post-Brexit ‘Empire 2.0' - VOA’

It's clear, then, that one motive for voting Brexit was a desire to 'make Britain great again':
BBC Radio 4 - The Briefing Room, Why Did People Vote Leave?

An alternative to the EU is of course the Commonwealth:
Peter Oborne - Brexit offers us the chance to reunite with true friends | Daily Mail Online
Ministers aim to build ‘empire 2.0’ with African Commonwealth | News | The Times & The Sunday Times
Liam Fox: our new board of trade will ensure everyone prospers from Brexit | News | The Times & The Sunday Times

The only problem is that these same countries don't actually want an 'Empire 2.0':
The Commonwealth and Britain: the trouble with 'Empire 2.0' - The Conversation
Tories’ ‘imperial vision’ for post-Brexit trade branded disruptive and deluded | Global development | The Guardian

Because what made Britain 'great' was in fact a very skewed kind of 'globalisation':

And yet, looking at India, what is actually happening is that old 'British' companies and industries are being bought out by former subjects:
How the East India Company became a weapon to challenge UK’s colonial past | World news | The Guardian
Steel baron Lakshmi Mittal stumps up close to £800m to help his embattled steel firm cope with tumbling prices | This is Money
Indian-origin Hinduja brothers stay on top of UK rich list | business-news | Hindustan Times
Indians: Three of Britain’s four wealthiest are Indians - The Economic Times

But back to China - where the 'One Belt, One Road' is being pushed:

One Belt One Road Initiative - Wikipedia

Not everyone in Asia is happy:
One Belt, One Trap? A debate over who benefits from China's new silk road - Channel NewsAsia
What is China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiative? - Hurriyet
Will China’s belt and road torch burn Malaysia? | Free Malaysia Today
China, India need to hold talks over One Belt One Road: Russian envoy - Tribune India
US for alternative to China’s ‘One Belt One Road’, with India as partner | india-news | Hindustan Times

And yet it is clear that Asians are doing very well - and will continue to do so:

Pisa 2012 results: which country does best at reading, maths and science? | News | theguardian.com
OECD education report: subject results in full - Telegraph

This might not be something to worry about, as the 'Chinese model' lacks a tradition of creativity:
Be Glad for Our Failure to Catch Up with China in Education | Psychology Today

As in the 'Needham Question':
BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, The Needham Question
Great Divergence - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And the lack of Nobel Prizes:
Why can’t China win the Nobel Prize?

Unless it's the Nobel Prize for Peace:
Norway sees Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Prize hurt salmon exports to China - Financial Times
Norway's salmon rot as China takes revenge for dissident's Nobel Prize | The Independent

Because it's all about the sheer power of China:

Book Review: Easternisation: War and Peace in the Asian Century

August 12, 2016

By: Dolan Spurlock

A few months after Britain announced a US$40 billion nuclear power deal involving China, hailed as giving the UK a special place in its dealings, Beijing is threatening major damage to relations should Britain’s new prime minister Teresa May put the project permanently on hold. After Brexit, the Brits are into another bungled situation.

Then-finance minister George Osborne was in full grovel mode last year when he visited China to persuade it to focus yuan trading on London. He also talked up a deal which would involve China directly in the building and financing of one 2.4Mw power station and the possibility of two more such plants. President Xi Jinping was given an extravagant state visit to London, including speaking to parliament and a full state dinner with Queen Elizabeth.

But clearly this was all too much for many in the UK. At the time, then-Home Secretary Teresa May opposed the nuclear deal on national security grounds while others opposed it as uneconomic or environmentally damaging. Now that she is prime minister, May has delayed it and will now have to choose between angering the Chinese – and hence making it unlikely an unlikely partner for a special relationship once the Brits have exited the European Union – or ignoring her own views.

Anyone who wants to know why British policy towards China is in such a convoluted mess would do well to scan the pages of the latest work of the chief foreign affairs correspondent of the Financial Times, Gideon Rachman.

Book Review: Easternisation: War and Peace in the Asian Century – Asia Sentinel

And so we are back to the Heart of the South West and its dependence on the Hinkley project:
Hinkley Supply Chain - Heart of the south west LEP

And the dependence of this part of the UK on such a massive project:
Futures Forum: The future of Hinkley: "high cost and risky deal"
Futures Forum: Brexit: and building Hinkley
Futures Forum: The issues of ownership and energy security @ Hinkley C >>> but 'business in the South West face the bitter disappointment of further delays'

Indeed, this part of the UK has to ask what sort of economy it wants to build:
Futures Forum: Foreign Direct Investment ... vs ... supporting locally-owned small businesses
Futures Forum: Energy infrastructure @ Hinkely C >>> losing control and paying tithes to Direct Foreign Investors

As we look to new business models...
Futures Forum: Brexit: and doing business beyond the EU

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