Sat | Nov 18, 2017

Garth Rattray | Don’t blame China

Published:Monday | July 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Way back in February 1972 when China's first premier, Zhou En Lai, invited United States President Richard Nixon to visit his country, it raised eyebrows internationally. Not long after that, travel, cultural, economic and trade barriers were lifted between the two nations. Full diplomatic relations were established on January 1,1979, and that paved the way for more liberalisation between the two superpowers.

Ostensibly, the US trades with China because it offers cheap labour. However, I strongly suspect that, despite its strong aversion to communism and the suppression of freedoms, the US opened up to China to form economic ties and ensure a peaceful coexistence with that formidable nation.

China has been extremely methodical in its global socio-economic expeditions. It realises that the advantages gained from manufacturing and trading will wane. Its investments, mixed with altruism, allow it to secure long-term financial returns and international partners that will prove to be valuable allies.

China invests heavily, especially in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. The great Western powers dropped the ball when it comes to assisting and supporting developing countries and nations with economic difficulties. Stringent IMF measures are no way to help weak countries become strong. I suspect that one of the reasons that President Barack Obama visited our little island was to offset the Chinese influence and to remind our people of the close ties that we have with the US.

 

Investing culturally

 

China has been investing culturally and economically in Jamaica in a very big way. It has been providing soft loans, infrastructure development through long-term investment, and also ventures into real estate and commercial enterprises.

As in other regions where China has invested, there are complaints that too many Chinese labourers are being recruited and there are also plaintive cries from entities that are unable to compete for the big contracts. Many generations of Jamaicans will remain indebted to China. But I suppose that if it were not the Chinese, it would be someone else and the payback would be onerous.

As I penned this piece, memories of our once fervent national pride and a miniaturised version of Jamaica at the Hope Botanic Gardens wafted across my mind. It was never sufficiently decorated, however, the general shape and proportions approximated the real thing. I remember standing and staring delightfully at it as I imagined myself touring from shore to shore. But then, I recently heard about the Chinese Garden in the same vicinity.

Curiosity led me to Hope Gardens, where I saw a sign that read, "The Chinese Garden. A gift to the people of Jamaica from the People's Republic of China". It was officially opened by then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller on Wednesday, August 19, 2015. The entry fee for adults is $150 and $50 for children.

The Chinese Garden is beautiful, orderly, ornate and expansive. It obscures and encircles our miniaturised Jamaica, which is now overgrown with wild trees and bushes. Large stones allowed me to access a decorated Chinese pagoda planted right on our little Jamaica just about where Four Paths, Sandy Bay, Freetown and Hayes would be in Clarendon on the real island.

The little model of our island was never properly cleaned up and adorned with colourful flowers depicting our flag. It was never strikingly manicured and never had miniature representations of our major cities. Instead, it was officially relegated to be a dilapidated support for a Chinese pagoda - nothing else.

I can't think of any other country, any other nation that would allow a miniaturised representation of its motherland to become nothing but a prop. It speaks volumes about the lack of national pride that exists across the classes and from the pinnacle of officialdom to the sidewalk dweller. It belittles and humiliates us, mocks our national anthem and the pledge. It explains the hoggish, dangerous, irresponsible driving that we see every day. It explains the disrespect for life, seething hate and hostility that mesmerise us. It solves the mystery of why there are so many gruesome murders and unending crime.

Don't blame China for its pervasive presence. It has done absolutely nothing wrong. Blame us for being unpatriotic, underproductive, overindulgent consumers bordering on mendicancy and selling off valuable assets while mounting debts that can never be repaid.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.