Wednesday, November 18, 2020

China's apparently expanding Great Wall against Australia


The signature on Sunday 15 November 2020 of  the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) after eight years of negotiations should mark a step forward, combining China, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea alongside members of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), 

I say this with a considerable degree of caution because it comes at a time when China is apparently raising barriers against Australian trade in retaliation for what it sees as Australian wrong doing. The latest escalation came when a defence pact, the Reciprocal Access Agreement, was agreed to '"in principle" during Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's state visit to Japan, The agreement would pave the way for the Australian and Japanese militaries to have access to each other's bases, and would deepen cooperation between the two countries. China, correctly, sees this as a reaction to its international objectives.

According to the ABC,  an editorial in the Global Times published in both Chinese and English for domestic and foreign audiences framed the two countries as pawns of the United States.
"China is unlikely to remain indifferent to US moves aimed at inciting countries to gang up against China in the long run," it read.
"It's inevitable that China will take some sort of countermeasures.
"Countries like Japan and Australia have been used as US tools. The strategic risk for a tool to be damaged is certainly higher than that of a user." 
We do not know what form those counter measures might take, but they could well involve further trade retaliation. The process here has been interesting. Apart from not taking Australian ministerial calls, trade retaliation has involved a series of apparently actual or threatened ad hoc decisions that act to impede or sometimes stop Australian exports of particular products. The process is opaque in that actions or potential actions can come at local or regional level Chinese level via reports in the Chinese media allowing a measure of deniability. This can have the same chilling effect on trade because it means that Australian exporters have to make commercial decisions based on the costs and risks of possible Chinese decisions. The measures taken skirt the WTO rules as China tries to balance its official support for free global trade with the need to punish Australia.

The Australian Government's position suffers from lack of subtlety. Australian PM Morrison is not an especially subtle man. He is not helped by ideological warriors such as Senator Abetz whose treatment of Chinese witnesses to a senate inquiry where he called on them to  “unconditionally condemn” the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was to my mind unconscionable, reminiscent of a certain US Senator in the immediate post war period. If I had been a witness and had been asked that question I would have refused and fired right back. 

 In all this, I think that there are certain things that we should remember:
  • Chinese Australians are an integral part of our community. Some have been here for many generations. Others, like Senator Arbetz himself, were brought here by their parents. Others are more recent migrants.They are valuable members of our community. Some, I would like more, have been my friends
  • The Government's present focus on national security and the avoidance of foreign interference may or may not be right. More likely, it's partly right. However, it strikes me as very ham fisted and poorly implemented 
  • Australia is, at best, a mid-size power. We need to recognise that. Theodore Roosevelt reportedly said, "speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far." We need to speak still more softly because our stick is small. This does not mean giving up on our values or core interests. It does affect how we express them. It also means that we need allies
  • We need to recognise that other people's values are different from ours. This does not mean that that we should not protest abuses. We just need to recognise limitations, as well as the beams in our own eyes. I winder how many recognise the allusion? It comes from the Bible where criticism of the mote in some one else's eyes is contrasted with the failure to recognise the beam in our own
  • We have no control over the Chinese Government. It will  do what it will do. If we are to be punished, we will be punished. We just have to get on with life regardless. Our responses are the only things that we can control.   
I suppose, in conclusion, that we are trying to build a new and different society in Australia, I think that we need to focus on that, for that gives us the best chance of a future. 

Postscript 191120

Even as I wrote this, the position was deteriorating. This ABC story, Australian officials respond angrily to fresh attacks from Chinese diplomat, provides a picture. 

A new phrase has been added to the English language, Chinese "wolf diplomats", diplomats who see their role not in traditional terms but in the aggressive public pursuit of their country's interests.  I corrected this. I had written tiger eather than wolf. 

Postscript 201120

More from the BBC


marcellous said...

The ABC story you link to was lazy journalism. Of course "officials" will double down. Who cares if they are "angry"?

It's clear that the government has hardened its stance against China. Hard to say who started it because there is no "original position" (as in "it all started when she hit me back").

Meanwhile Govt anti China sentiment gaining its own momentum from our own "independent, non-partisan think tank that produces expert and timely advice for Australia's strategic and defence leaders" which actually seems to be a kind of feedback loop for hawkish opinions for which the Govt is happy to tip our coin into the hat (though there are other donors including the US Govt!).

The call for a kind of "weapons inspection" intervention/investigation re Covid-19 struck me as foolhardy and unnecessary - playing to the gallery or playing along with you-know-who's enthusiasm for calling it "the Chiiiina virus." Maybe it was a symptom of a deteriorating relationship but then we're back to the "who started it" arguments.

The renewed fuss about "foreign interference" feels imported from the USA which has its own notions of its exceptional republican virtue (and its extension of this notion to the Monroe doctrine). We're a small country and subject to lots of foreign influences - it's basically holy writ in Australian politics to embrace the influence of the USA and almost unspeakable to mention our outrider (in global terms) support of Israel.

(Ex-PRC) Chinese Australians I know are bewildered by the change in temperature.

Anonymous said...

re "ABC story you link to was lazy journalism" - I am offended by your equating anything the ABC produces with "journalism".

re "the government has hardened its stance" - bullshyte. Politely stating obvious facts is not "hardening your stance".

re "a kind of feedback loop for hawkish opinions" - you are referring to the APO here - and I see its present "Advisory Board" consists of 6 women and 3 men. Gotta hate them wimmins - they're such a hostile mob :)

"weapons inspection" - agree - could have been stated better, but not far off the mark.

"it's basically holy writ in Australian politics to embrace the influence of the USA" - heaven forfend we should recognise reality.

"Chinese Australians I know are bewildered by the change in temperature" - so tell them to phone home and request current dear leader-for-life to stop with the expansionist stuff, and fix his internal problems.

You might save a Uighur or two. Or a Tibetan. Or anyone in HK who thinks for themselves. Or Taiwan.

How old are you?


Neil said...

kvd -- FYI

Noric Dilanchian said...

My headline for this piece would have been "Very ham-fisted and poorly implemented".

If the opportunity arises, perhaps consider a follow-up in time exploring the interesting etymology of the expressions "ham" and "ham-fisted".

Ham I learned today in a sports slang sense references being an "incompetent pugilist" (1888) or "amateurish". That last connotation apparently links to the concept of "ham radio" as referencing an "amateur radio operator" (the Wikipedia "ham radio" pages notes the first use was apparently in 1909 in the USA and then became a common term in the 1920s).

Today "ham actor" remains in common use and references unconvincing overacting, something I see regularly in Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Chronology is critical. The evidence I monitored in the first half of 2020 was clearly one of Morrison playing up to Washington's communications put strongly, ie demands, that he bash China.

He could have discretely phoned counterparts in China or had people in Canberra do it to suggested a COVID-19 international inquiry. Instead, because his intention was to please his Washington masters he stood and made a speech outside Parliament following weeks of build-up with possibly a false flag report released by the US embassy to one of its favourites in the Murdoch press.

Since 27 September 2020 I've matured on the need for statesmanship and careful use of words in politics and diplomacy. My training has come from the most intense experience I've ever had of being a student of war. I effectively became a war correspondent on Facebook since the 27 September 2020 blitzkrieg against Armenian interests by effectively and alliance of Turkish, Azerbaijani, Israeli, Jihadist, Parkistani, Ukrainian, and Georgian interests.

The relevance of that last paragraph for Australia is this. In diplomacy choose your words carefully, Armenia before and during the war lacked sophistication in diplomacy.

Emblematic of the point of this comment is the dumbest thing I ever said in law school. Jim, I think you've heard this story before. One day, exacerbated by what I'd read in a court decision by a judge, I addressed the teacher in class and said: "But Sir, this is just about words!" The teacher replied with one word: "And?"

Jim Belshaw said...

Morning all. It's hot here and I don't want to raise the temperature!

Since I wrote, there have been a number of stories and not just on the ABC(!) about the relationship and the Chinese responses to Australia. Leaving aside errors in fact and interpretation, there appears to be a continuing pattern. There is also a continuing conflation of very different issues.

Once I have thought all these things through a bit more, I may come back to the issue. meantime, let discussion continue!

Anonymous said...

"was clearly one of Morrison playing up to Washington's communications put strongly, ie demands"

You have a source or three for this US/Aus communication channel?

"his intention was to please his Washington masters"

Clearly you are either a member of his personal entourage, or of his family, or are psychiatrist - all three of which, or any one of the three, would put you under an obligation to respect your boss's/family/professional privacy.


Anonymous said...

*his* psychiatrist


Neil said...

I am sorely tempted to reacy rather more forcefully, but will point out that Marcellous is a barrister, not especially young or naive, and knows China and Chinese culture extremely well.

Jim, I thought your original post was one of the best things I had read on the subject, where discussion has suffered partly because of China's assertiveness of late and partly because of the Cold War mentality of some of our own.

I would suggest that we all stop reacting to whatever was said ten minutes ago by either side and take a long view -- even as far back as the 19th century. (I did study Asian History at Sydney University.) I also suggest people include in their thinking what I regard as one of the very best Australian sources on China -- the Australian Centre on China in the World at ANU.

End of message. I look forward to your next considered post on the matter, Jim.

Anonymous said...

Jim's original post included "ideological warriors such as Senator Abetz whose treatment of Chinese witnesses to a senate inquiry where he called on them to “unconditionally condemn” the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was to my mind unconscionable".

The link he provided was to an SBS report of the "fallout" from a Senate hearing. Here is the transcript of that hearing:

There were three "witnesses" appearing.
Ms Jiang : China is one of the top violators of human rights in the world. It is doubling down on its policies, despite rising condemnation from around the world. It's policies towards ethnic minority groups, including Uighurs, Tibetans and Mongols, are assimilationist and, at times, coercive. It intimidates, harasses and prosecutes human rights activists and dissidents within its borders. In Hong Kong, human rights and democracy are in retreat in the face of Beijing's drive to tighten controls.
Ms Chau : I think Australia should defend human rights and speak up against abuses, not shy away from it.

- but the one who got the follow up press was Osmond Chiu, who when asked his opinion, replied:
Mr Chiu : As I said previously, I support and believe in the universality of human rights. I don't support the Communist Party but I don't believe that it's helpful to get into a political game of denouncements.
- and when a follow up was asked:
Senator ABETZ: So you can't condemn it?

Mr Chiu : I think my statement was quite clear about how I don't support the Communist Party and I don't support what it does.

He'd be the sort of guy who'd talk about China's "assertiveness of late" - but what is mildly interesting is why his evasiveness becomes the cause celebre - as opposed to the other two who seemed to have little trouble in both recognising, and then acknowledging, China's actions against its own citizens. Why no petitions or press for them?


Anonymous said...

China's "assertiveness":

- not that I believe everything mentioned in wikipedia, but then:

- which seem like go-to sources for most on here.

And never mind the South China Sea, or the impending fate of Taiwan, or the push into Africa, this is just internal stuff that Abetz was talking about when he asked for a clear opinion from the Senate witnesses.


Neil said...

Being the sort of guy who talks about Chinese assertiveness of late I am also the sort of guy who met the greatest martyr to democracy and freedom in China, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and the sort of guy that respects the right of Mr Chiu to be rather insulted by the terminally smarmy Eric Abetz's line of questioning.

Anyone who thinks Chinese people can't think for themselves obviously has not met many actual Chinese people. I could give instances, but I can't be bothered. Good luck, Jim.

One of my posts about Liu Xiaobo.

Anonymous said...

All good Neil - one guy speaks up, suffers the consequences, and is rightly lauded for his courage.

Only another 1.4 Bn to go - less, of course, those you have met. So let's say 1.3 Bn to acknowledege your gregarious nature, or you could look up the word 'anecdotal'.


Neil said...

I am not going to defend myself against your personal offensiveness, but I am intrigued about exactly what you propose we should do about the 1.4 Bn. Does a really good war sound like a plan? Should we drive China back into its supine mid 19th century state? Colonise it? Nuke it?

Please let us know.

Anonymous said...

Does a really good war sound like a plan? - I missed that bit. Who suggested such?
Should we drive China back into its supine mid 19th century state? - and that bit
Colonise it? - and that
Nuke it? - and that

What is it with you that you cannot stand differing views. Or views not contained in your personal echo chamber? Two can play at the word games - for example:

"What I find offensive is your condoning China's treatment of its own citizens, because you happen to know some nice chinese people, and once studied some Asian history."

Now, you did not condone that or suggest that you do - but then neither did I suggest "Nuking" them, as you imply.

Turning to another clever mis-user of language, that most impartial of observers - Van Badham - described Abetz' question as a "demand for a loyalty statement". She would fit right in at The Peoples Daily; knows the language and the methods already.

If this was a correct reporting, I would agree with Jim's reaction. But it wasn't, so I'm left wondering if Jim actually read the Senate transcript, or was simply relying upon a similar perversion of the truth which passes for journalism these days?


Neil said...

We probably both should remind ourselves that Jim's topic was not "Everything about China and what to do about it" but rather "How does our relationship with China stand now and what can be done about that?" However....

You also assume far too much about what I may or may not think about things such as human rights in China. You assume I am in an echo chamber. Again I commend long and careful reading of the publications of the ANU Australian Centre on China in the World, the brainchild incidentally of the late Simon Leys, who even published in Quadrant. I also suggest you look up Geremie Barmé and The Wairarapa Academy for New Sinology – China Heritage for insight into dissenting voices within China itself. (And yes, I have met Geremie Barme, Linda Jaivin, Nicholas Jose, and quite a few who are no mere echo chamber but are people with a depth of knowledge of Chinese history, language, culture, politics and so on. You might care to leave your own echo chamber and leran something.

Have a good night.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Neil - I did have a good night.

Your first attempt to insert yourself into the centre of attention was to provide a link to marcellous' writings. As I have been reading his thoughts for now many years, I found that both infantile and deliberately insulting. Likewise with Noric, I take great care in reading his comments because I believe that they both are careful with words, and similarly Jim.

I am not interested in point by point discussion of your own efforts, but I would point out that I did attempt to specifically address each of Marcellous' paragraphs, and request of Noric his specific sources for some of his comments, and took issue only with one of Jim's statements (his interpretation of that Senate hearing, which was plainly wrong).

Jim's writing style is one of setting out issues, and providing thought for further research and reasoning, on whatever his subject matter might be. He is very good at that - but with the best will in the world I would never describe this essay as "one of the best things I had read on the subject", and I will be amazed if Jim took any insult from that.

Turning now to you, as the natural centre of discussion, I have little interest in continuing with the personal insult, the hyper-exaggeration and the mis-interpretation you seem to enjoy.

Have a great day.


Neil said...

"Your first attempt to insert yourself into the centre of attention..." profoundly misreads my intention. I was annoyed that you were treating Marcellous with great disrespect -- asking for example how old he is. That is why I commented.

I do not need to "insert myself as the centre of attention" here or anywhere else.

Anonymous said...


Jim puts up months of thoughtful posts throughout the pandemic panic on a variety of subjects, with little to no reader reaction.

Then he posts this, and follows up with what I would politley say was a completely anodyne Armidale piece - and gets slammed on both.

What a world we live in! I'm picturing him re-parsing all his 2020 posts to see how he "struck oil".

Neil, I genuinely disagree with your viewpoints on a number of issues, but I genuinely continue to wish you well in your life, and I always enjoy your contributions.

'nuff said?


Neil said...


marcellous said...

Taking KVD's main points

II Government has not changed its stance, merely politely stated obvious facts.

We can argue about what constitutes “stance” and I suppose hardening can be a matter of impression, but as a matter of impression I have to differ from you and I’m sure plenty do.

III "a kind of feedback loop for hawkish opinions"

I meant APSI.

V "it's basically holy writ in Australian politics to embrace the influence of the USA" - heaven forfend we should recognise reality.

We could be at cross purposes because of the different senses in which “influence” can be described and operate.

There is an enormous amount of “duchessing” of our political class by the United States through all sorts of soft-power-ish outreaches.

The point I was trying to make was that we’ve all of a sudden got worked up about foreign influence, but agitation on this front is really about “influence” of whatever sort by a country which is perceived to be a BAD influence.

VI "Chinese Australians I know are bewildered by the change in temperature" - so tell them to phone home and request current dear leader-for-life to stop with the expansionist stuff, and fix his internal problems.

You might save a Uighur or two. Or a Tibetan. Or anyone in HK who thinks for themselves. Or Taiwan.

That’s fanciful on many fronts, including that apart from those whose dissidence is sufficiently advanced to recognize common cause against authoritarianism, sympathy for Uighurs and Tibetans is low amongst all Han Chinese.

The transcript you so linked to in relation to the “diaspora” hearings illustrates my original point. People should read it in conjunction with the committee's terms of reference and the various submissions.

After what both Ms Chau and Ms Jiang said about Chinese having to run a gauntlet of loyalty tests to participate in Australian political life, Senator Abetz did just that to Chiu with a bit of a would-be-gotcha from the day before about the UNSW advertising jobs for the HK police leading up to the “denounce the communist party” demand. In declining to go along with that I don’t think Chiu was being evasive. Later Abetz had a go at Chau. The stuff from Abetz about triads etc was just deeper hole-digging. People might say things like that at the pub and perhaps that is what Abetz says in his own mind (and yes, he has had to cop a bit of satire based on his own antecedents and may well feel people should shrug that sort of stuff off), but those sorts of things are not said to people fronting up to give evidence to a parliamentary committee.

Incidentally, I don't see why the HK government should not advertise for employees in Australia. It's hardly a question of interference in Australian politics, and hard to see how it related to the committee's terms of reference. Surely the real issue was the appropriateness of UNSW accepting the advertisement.

While we're there, Fierravanti-Wells concluding point was just witless though probably not inconsistent with a right wing view of equality which focuses on formal/procedural rather than substantive equality:

"there is nothing in any political party that I have ever come across, whether it's Liberals, Greens, Labor or whatever, that precludes any Australian from participating, so long as they're on the electoral roll. I think the problem here is that certain communities just don't want to participate. I have to tell you that there is an overwhelming under-desire among people from the Chinese Australian community to participate in politics. If more of them participated, we probably wouldn't be having this discussion."

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your expanded reply marcellous.

As a matter of minor interest - did you actually read the transcript I linked to, from there or another source, before making any comment?

Secondly, "I meant APSI" - which is weird, because I simply copy/searched your quoted words into google, and got an exact hit on "independent, non-partisan think tank that produces.... etc." from the APO website, otherwise known as...

Maybe you mean the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, as opposed to the Australian Professional Snowboard Instructors?

Lastly - and I appreciate this is out of order as typed - you say we've "all of a sudden" gotten worked up about "foreign influence". Chinese Australians have been suffering from one form of xenophobia or another in this great country of ours since the 1850s. And they are but one of a number of very successful classes of minorities who have been subject to the same treatment. It is almost a national sport.

Whatever. Words (including acronyms) used to matter to lawyers, and I paid you due respect in that regard, I hope.


marcellous said...

Minor interest point: probably not but I can't be sure. I did read at least extracts of what was said including Abetz's exchange with Chiu and the stuff about triads, mafia etc.

Yes, I meant ASPI.

Obviously the APSI will need to be carefully watched given the upcoming winter Olympics. Senator Abetz needs to put Bill O'Chee on the spot.

I doubt historical xenophobia against Chinese was motivated by fears of foreign influence. No one was scared of the Chinese state back in 1850 and for a long time afterwards. Rather the opposite.

Are you saying today's Chinese in Australia just need to toughen up?

Anonymous said...

marcellous, I wouldn't simply dismiss their concerns with a throwaway such as "they just need to toughen up" - but it is close to truth that successive waves of mostly successful immigrants have at first been looked down upon as a group, then gradually respected for who they are as individuals, while discarding the basically monolithic identity they arrived with.

From the Jewish and other middle Europeans before and during WW2, through the 10 pound poms, and Italians, and Greeks, Vietnamese, etc. they've each and all had to "fit in", rather than maintain a separation of group identity. "Today's Chinese" are no different.

"They're A Weird Mob" is one of the best commentaries upon 50s Australia ever written, and that's now old history, but its lesson is still relevant imo.

"toughen up" is not the right term, but the attitude, individually, would help.


Neil said...

For consideration, not in any way to be taken as dogma. Glad to see Marcellous amplifying his remarks. I can tell you that my former partner and dearest friend Michael Xu from Shanghai, who also has warm regard for the Taiwanese -- indeed finding their version of Chinese culture in many respects superior to the Mainland -- and yes, he has spent time in Taiwan not long ago -- reacts to the more (shall we say?) Ferravanti-Wells/Abetz characterisations of China with greater rather than less desire to stick up for what the motherland has accomplished, to be more rather than less China-patriotic in reaction to what he sees as ignorance, hypocrisy or even racism. I can well understand his position and am sure it is not uncommon among Chinese-born Australians. As he puts it, Australia is my father and China is my mother.

That is a rather more profound expression of the way people really feel than sentimental memories of "They're a Weird Mob" which is both outdated and actually quite patronising and embarrassing now. Actually, it was both of those even at the time.

(A side matter for a second: the comment thingie on Blogger is also outdated and sucks -- you cannot for example add a video, which I want to do, nor can you revise a comment once sent. It is still as crappy as when I gave up Blogger over ten years ago.)

Now back to my next point. There is a brilliant 12-year-old Chinese Australian violinist called Christian Li.The only way I can show you how good he is is to refer you at the end to one of my posts -- but he understands what being Chinese in Australia really means in 2020, not 1950. If you go to my post at the end -- and it is pure enjoyment, not politics -- you must watch "Fisherman's Harvest Song." It is lovely. He says of it “I chose this piece because it connects me to my Chinese heritage through music. The beautiful melody in the opening expresses the fisherman’s strong emotion as he returns to his village after being at sea. I love being able to express this heartfelt song through the singing quality of the violin.”

I would also strongly recommend searching out anything by French writer Amin Maalouf. "On Identity" is a key book. Search because crap Blogger does not really allow for hypertext.

I also very strongly recommend that you do not reply to this post, kvd -- and I say that respectfully. I am not setting up arguments here, just doing what I would hope to do if we were face to face: show you some things and leave you to take or leave them. I am definitely not being contentious, but rather speaking of what I know.

Here you will find Christian Li. Simply enjoy it. Do not bother arguing with it or me. This is a very different kind of comment. I do not look for a response. What you make of it is up to you.

marcellous said...

Come back in, Jim. The water's fine!

Anonymous said...

I will take on board Neil's request to not directly comment upon yet another series of personal anectode, and merely request guidance from Jim, with his historian's hat pulled firmly down over his ears, as to the relevance of personal contact in deciding what is or is not a "representative and truthful telling" of how people live, and what they consider important or significant in their culture, and as arrivals into another culture.

I think any statistician would tell you that the personal experiences of 100 people out of a population of 1.4 Bn would likely not be representative of the whole - and particularly so, where those experiences were at the bleeding edge of dissent, if I am correctly reading Neil's many interesting posts about his personal contacts with some of his Chinese friends.

But that's just my personal opinion. Worse conclusions have been drawn from far fewer "inputs", so this is not a complaint - more just a musing as to significance.

It's funny isn't it - how history begins afresh each morning; how social commentary written at the time, can so quickly become regarded as outdated and even patronising, when reviewed half a century later.

Of course it is, and of course it was. And I, along with Jim, Neil, and all who dare comment today will suffer the same review of this time and circumstance, in another half century. History always becomes outdated - no?


Neil said...

I have posted on my own blog an expanded version of my last comment. Poor Jim Belshaw probably doesn’t quite know what hit him. Enjoy it for what it is.

Anonymous said...

It's funny, but I actually jumped in here to add a link to yet another piece of confected ABC nonsense passing as journalism, and promptly forgot to post it:

Kudos to those Chinese Australians who merely yawned. Derision to any who signed the petition to boycott the program and suggest the ABC apologise for airing this 2015 BBC "segment" (not the whole episode) about what was on the dinner menu 1,000 years ago in downtown royal China. I daresay the food was more nutritious than a Big Mac, a Coke, and a Mars Bar.


ps also: I agree with marcellous about the water temperature :)

Anonymous said...

Haha! Neil retreats to the "higher ground" of his own blog just as I was writing.

I believe his above short post is what is generally called "link whoring".

Funny stuff! I won't comment there as, in the past when I've done so, my comments mysteriously disappear :)

That said, Neil's writing is well worth the read - but I'd encourage all who do to also seek out (how can I put this politely) competing views.


Anonymous said...

So, let's see if we can make it to 50 comments :)

Here's what I posted on Neil's blog just now. Just repeated here in case it disappears from there, and I forget what I thought about his post at the time of reading it - such is my mental incapacity:

Words are squirmy things (lawyers earn their entire living by this alone) so when reading Neil's "To be fair, kvd hedges what he says" my reaction is one of simple amusement. Hedges? What is one to do when faced with a classic "are you saying" language trap - other than to politely respond? And again, cleverly redefining my "relevant" to his critique "adequate". These are not synonyms.

When I was maybe 17 I had a 3 hour training session with George Best and Nobby Stiles of Mancester United fame. While this might have slightly contributed to my later gaining a high school Blue for football to add to my one for basketball, I do not think it qualifies me to comment learnedly about FIFA's woes, or drug taking. Others of my cohort were good at other things - not necessarily sport-related, and respected for same. But not every child got a ribbon - something which is ignored, it seems even actively denied, these days.

And while I scored straight A's in both the SC and HSC I do not think it enables me to proclaim upon the success or otherwise of the Wyndham Scheme, in comparison to earlier education approaches, or what has followed it. Anecdotes; personal experience - is all it is.

And just yesterday, my 30 minute conversation with Peter Garrett does not elevate my personal opinion upon the relative merits of the various forms of renewable energy, nor upon the history of the Australian rock music scene - but I do think he would've enjoyed meeting one of my lovely clients, an oncologist of Indian ancestory, who is a close family friend of that renowned racist Tony Abbott.

She chided me recently about referring to CNN's US election coverage so I explained that if there was to be bad news, it was best and most likely to appear there, and I was interested. Using another of those squirmy, loaded phrases of Neil's "to be fair" I must add that their coverage on the day was on the whole quite excellent. Again, just anecdote.

So, to imagine that the single sentence comment of friend is in some way profound says more about the recipient of such wisdom than it does the source. It was a graceful, tactful, but entirely unsurprising sentence. I accept my less than deep knowledge of Chinese culture, but I think it fair to hold that reverence for family is of great importance? And so his comment in such terms as "father" and "mother" is possibly more a simple reflection of this, than any deep and meaningful introspection on his part. He is your friend, and he happens to be Chinese. I'd just be content with the "friend" part and I suspect your friend would be more comfortable with that as well.

Regarding Christian Li, his musical interpretation is wonderful, I do agree; in this, he got a ribbon, much more than a musical Blue.

(to be continued...)


Anonymous said...

(... continued)

Here's a tentative thought of mine: I think we were at least as well off as a country when individuals of whatever Cultural origin were allowed to engage in their own personal struggles to succeed (hat tip marcellous), rather than what has been produced over the last 20 years or so by effectively defining, then silo-ing them, in their culture and assigning status points or grievance points in the name of "equality". All that has produced is more pronounced division or, at very least, exacerbated an existing perfectly human reaction to any "difference" - it seems to me. Again with the personal, non-weighty, opinion; just can't help meself :)

Here's a second thought arising from this discussion: Neil might take some time out from batting back and forth with me to consider the possibility that it was his generation of teachers and moulders of youth which has produced the purveyors of a myriad of social justice causes; the statue topplers, the racism claimants, the cancel culture, the courageous investigators of the thoughtless sayings of the thoughtless kids of yesteryear now used as shaming material to evict people from their jobs and homes, and so on and on. Cutting people down to common size does not make the rest of us any taller.

But I accept I could be wrong in all of this - and that's the actual thing: it is the blind arrogant certainty I sometimes see and read which is more puzzling to me. Holy writ delivered by the self deluded, is what I think, whenever I encounter it.

Jesus was crucified for his beliefs; these days we have the problem of unrepayable HECS debts, so progress has been made, I should acknowledge, "to be fair".


Anonymous said...

Neil: "Rarely have I read such horse shit."

kvd: "Expected nothing more of you – funny that. Thanks for allowing the comment though – uncomfortable alternate perspectives are hard – I do appreciate."

We can make it to 50, I am sure now :)


Anonymous said...

Neil: "What twaddle! You are the one who is uncomfortable. But of course I let the comment through — after all you are hanging yourself."

kvd: "So now you admit to censoring alternate views? That has made my day – in an entirely inconsequential way. Many thanks!"

Sorry Jim but these things have a weird sort of way of disappearing from ... elsewhere.


Neil said...

I can't even make sense of that last sentence -- but I do endorse "Sorry Jim!" Your very intelligent post did not deserve this.

Anonymous said...

More from "our ABC":

"Why some dolls are better for your kids than others. We asked 3 experts."

Australia is blessed with 3 expert doll analysts? Hopes none are blow-ups.

Neil: Sorry - not sure if you are complimenting my post or Jim's here? Please explain.


ps: was disappointed you have downgraded Jim from "one of the best things I had read on the subject" to "very intelligent" if it was him you were addressing? Just saying.

Neil said...

Go and have a chat to the dogs and cats....

Anonymous said...

Actually, I'm rather disappointed that my silly boasts of teenage "physical prowess" were not seized upon by marcellous - with his avowed disdain for anything athletic. "Disdain"? I think that's fair?

The anecdotes were directed entirely to him, not you Neil, and it again does you no credit that you assume you are centre stage.

I am an equal opportunity reporter of commenters' self-proclaimed superiority :)

Speaking of which, we are still waiting upon Noric's explanation of his reliable knowledge of "US/Aus communication channel"s - not to mention the mind reading act involved in Morrison's "intention was to please his Washington masters"

I am in awe of same. Or doubtful. Choose what suits you.


Anonymous said...

"Go and have a chat to the dogs and cats...."

Now that is very interesting! Where might you have gotten that description of me from?


Neil said...

Probably marcellous -- who is a very wise man -- does not care. Neither now do I, about anything you might say.

Neil said...


Anonymous said...


"What the hell do you think this blog is? Who do you think I am? Does anyone actually care? No — your comments have passed unedited by me. You can no doubt watch Sky After Dark, or whatever is your thing, as much as you like. Shame you didn’t make the most of talking to Peter Garrett. You might have learned something. This is just a blog — a place I share my thoughts and experiences. You want to make it some great ideological whatever — well that is your problem not mine. If you are content to act the parasite on other’s blogs, that is fine. Where can we find your marvellous insights?"

1. "your comments have passed unedited by me" - on this post yes, and I duly thanked you. Other readers might wonder why I found this anything at all out of the ordinary.

2. Peter Garrett: he's just a feller, like you and me, Neil. There's absolutely no need for any sort of obeisance to his wider opinions - only some of which I agree with.

3. "parasite"? Way to go to encourage any sort of alternative opinion. Why is it you always reduce to personal insult? This is my surprised reaction.

4. "Sky After Dark" - what is that?


Neil said...

I apologise, Jim, that this thread has descended to this level. I have no more to say. To kvd, possibly ever.

Anonymous said...

And so you should.


Anonymous said...

And unsurprisingly, we now see:

Neil: "I have never done this before — but I am about to trash a comment thread as a total waste of space, Sorry for those who had to endure it."

Mind you, the original post will remain in all its glory, naked in its supremacy over all those who dare to question.

This is actually not the first and only time. And you still wonder why I copy/pasted my comments?


Jim Belshaw said...

Good morning, all. Noric, I have been reading your war reports with interest. I laughed at your quote on the importance of words.

This is an open blog and I do not delete unless there is a legal reason to do so. However, I do expect civility in the midst of robust debate. Both Neil and kvd are long-standing friends and will remain so, I greatly value both, but some of these exchanges have gone over the top.

I was preparing a post on some of the substantive points raised to provide a base for further discussion. I will try to finish that because the issues are important.

Anonymous said...

Now that this post has faded into the background I'd just like to make a comment on my earlier throwaway useage of "link whoring".

The term I used, after Neil's (not the 1st, nor the 2nd, but the) 3rd link to his own blog in this comment stream, is a fairly well known social media term applied to any who appear to be touting for links to their own thoughts on another's posts.

The word "whore" obviously comes with impolite baggage, I fully accept - but in the context of internet parlance is, I think, on point and acceptable. Such are the times we live in.

My comment was meant as descriptive, not offensive.


Neil said...

Let's just call it "hypertexting" -- referring you to my own things, or indeed others, as an alternative to really long cut-and-pastes. That is the sole reason. If I were touting for readers, I can assure you on the basis of WordPress stats that it does not/did not work. It is rather hard not to take "whoring" as being offensive.

Anonymous said...

Let's just call it what the internet more commonly does:

"hypertexting" - About 7,980 results (0.55 seconds)
"link whoring" - About 4,680,000 results (0.35 seconds)

Offense is taken, not given.


Neil said...

"Offense is taken, not given" is a cliche well worth googling in itself -- About 48,200,000 results (0.43 seconds).

And not that I really give a damn, but on Google "hypertext" About 11,200,000 results (0.63 seconds) and "link whoring" About 4,810,000 results (0.52 seconds). To which, so?

Offense was taken. Just as this comment, and the comment I am for some obscure reason deciding is worth responding to, are both of them totally naff really. "naff" About 4,220,000 results (0.46 seconds).

Anonymous said...

I'll leave it to others to form their own opinions on the above word-wriggling :)

But let us turn now in wonder to:

"There have been credible reports lately that what Trump so viciously kept on calling the Chyyyyynnnnaaaagghhhh Virus may indeed have been the American Virus all along."

Based upon that pillar of objective reporting, NPR, which quotes a study which concludes:

These findings suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may have been introduced into the United States prior to January 19, 2020.

Note that phrase "may have been introduced into the US" - from which we can all, of course, immediately conclude that it was in fact "the American virus".

Words fail in contemplating the hatred involved in pretending the above study is in any way proof of what the writer is now jubilantly claiming.


Neil said...

I suggest people simply read my post. No hatred was involved. I will let you search it out for yourself though, lest some think I am link whoring -- which is of course a totally inoffensice term.

Neil said...

Inoffensive... Why is the C right next to the V on the keyboard? So annoying. Oh, and congratulations -- this comment thread has meandered with accumulating pointlessness past the 50 mark.

Anonymous said...

"what Trump so viciously "

Nope - no hatred displayed thereby at all. Totally fair and balanced.

And suggesting it may well be "the American virus" - again, no bias showing there; totally fair and balanced.


Anonymous said...

Haha - not only refusing comments but now modifying posts to "refine" the position after ever so slight, but mostly amused, pushback.

What a time to be alive! History began this morning, and truth is just something to be claimed, or ignored, as and when it may suit. Next up: "How many fingers"


Anonymous said...

So, here we go again:

Still not engaging in any way with the actual substance of this post, the Phantom Commenter has just posted #54 which I leave you to judge for yourselves.

I would just point out that I was not only prohibited from replying - politely or otherwise - on Neil's actual post, but also suffered the insult of having an entire comment thread deleted (despite the blogger's avowed "I never delete comments!" - for the 2nd time) simply because I disagreed with Neil.

Still not engaging in any way with the actual substance of this post, the Phantom Commenter....

Two threads deleted. Comments refused. So just how is one to "engage"?


ps: This is your future. Read it and weep at the "sadly anticlamatic footnote":

Neil said...

For the record, although during this interminable nonsense flame war I did institute comment permission on my blog I never actually had a comment on my blog from kvd, so I can hardly be accused of refusing one since there was none. I did try to stop this whole stupid charade some comments back ON THIS BLOG by posting a statement.

Sorry Jim. The post deserves much better than this.

Neil said...

Just to clarify -- yes, I deleted a comment thread on my post of 24th November.

It is a fact this is something I rarely do -- that deletion being the first this decade I am sure. I took it that kvd was referring to posts since then, hence what I said in the last comment. If indeed you read the past few weeks of my blog you will see that I have been rather more interested in other things, but the most recent post kvd refers to was about my being bemused by the assumed ideological space it seems kvd thinks I am an exemplar of...

I honestly can't be bothered saying much more. That this whole thing adds absolutely nothing to Jim's post is a good reason for it not to carry on, surely.

Neil said...

Let me just say that this entire "flame war" between kvd and myself is a disgrace on both sides, and an absolute affront to Jim.

I spent an hour or so after lunch at Illawarra Leagues today with a former Steelers player and Indigenous man talking through his suicidal feelings, along with another club member, Doug. My inadequacy never felt stronger but I did my best. I cannot go into details, but am glad to say some may have got through. Talking to Doug later her agreed that I had done all I could.

Such things matter. Whatever kvd is on about -- I could not give a shit!

Neil said...

her=he -- f*cking typo that clumsy Blogger does not allow you to edit....

Anonymous said...

Well, try as I might, I cannot see that anything I've typed in this comment stream (exception: end of first comment to marcellous. Apologies) is anything other than a direct reply to Neil's increasingly insulting posts?

I thought "link-whoring" was an easily recognised internet term - and I only used it as I pointed out (politely) earlier, after the 3rd of Neil's links.

As to "flaming" - another well-recognised internet term - any definition I've ever seen basically suggests there are two in the tango, devolving to personal insult, instead of addressing the point. I am not guilty of engaging in this, in this thread.

Nor on Neil's own blog - but I can't actually prove that, because he (again) deleted my comments.

So, polite response to ever-increasing insult from the other party? "guilty guv'nor".


Anonymous said...

For no other reason than to hopefully lower the temperature, I've been enjoying this, for the umpteenth time:

- and as a bonus, the best cover ever of their best song ever. Wish I'd been there:


Neil said...

Well, I am sharing your musical taste on Facebook right now. You know how to win my heart. Mind you, if you have been to my blog, the link to which is a secret we share, you will see my taste just lately has been rather more conservative!

Anonymous said...

Neil - I found my way to your secret cave - a very talented guy! - thank you.

Lest I be considered a little one dimensional, here is a piece that has given me great comfort over many years; a section was played at my wife's funeral, and it was always the go-to after my 3 times weekly required visits to Sydney law firms. Headphones, glass of wine, kids in bed - it always eased the stress:

There are many versions, but this one's not too shabby.