To understand the rise of China examine what we have in common

Nov 21, 2022
Back view of business graduates China.

One hundred years ago in China the May 4th Movement announced that “Science and Socialism” would save the nation. In Australia, thirteen years prior, a workers party has already taken national government for the first time in history.

I wanted to be a public servant, to run the state on behalf of citizens, because that was the highest calling there could be.

Don’t laugh. I’m perfectly serious. In an era of citizens and states what other job could be as important as that.

I believed in “progress” and the “Ascent of Man” I was going to ensure the next generation of Australians grew up in a society that would shape them into being healthier, wealthier and wiser than we had managed to be.

We would administer all the “tough love” needed to tame the powerful, heal the sick and build a more literate, engaged and community minded nation.

The enlightenment had told us why, “Nugget” Coombs would tell us when and the CSIRO would tell us how.

The Left delivered. By the seventies we were secular and scientific and had harbour bridges, electoral commissions, and a great record of invention to prove it.

I grew up in the bosom of the welfare state.

It was near perfect. The had a separation of executive, judicial and administrative powers guaranteed by law.

Administrating the details was the duty of career public servants like me.

Rigorously selected in order of merit by public examination. Having taken oaths to serve without fear or favour.

We were inspired to support all and any of them, the nation’s public interests that could be fairly assessed.

Yep, as far as we were concerned the Third Division was proof of Western Civilisation’s greatness.

And the wealth we bestowed was far greater than private advantage.

The assets we mined for were unlike any other on offer. Ours were priceless. “Unalloyed”, universal and indivisible, enjoyed by all, or by none.

Clean water. Fair elections.

A public hospital system. Clean air, fine roads, free speech, a justice system more or less as free of corruption as police and politicians would allow. Academic and professional standards. Weights, measures and processes. Diplomacy. The CSIRO.

Laws and customs that protected the powerless and restrained the powerful. The greatest good for the greatest number.

The idea of social engineering was never an anathema threatening private privilege to us in the Third Division.

It was our day job.

We were the archivists of best practice, the careful guardians of all progressive impulses and utopia was around the corner.

Few had predicted that the “Squatters” would return, sack us and be unable to resist wealth they would gain by selling the country’s assets off to the prevailing maritime power.

But it turns out that “Happens all the time, Pal” as Taffy, a club owner who hires famous snake acts, would say.

Many argue that the daylight theft of public assets, predatory lending, rampant imperialism, inequality and the undue influence of the merchant/ financier class isn’t a bug but a feature of Western Civilisation, the wash before the rinse cycle of open conflict, asset deflation and war.

(See Michael Hudson).

. .”And forgive them their debts”.

Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption From Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year.”

In this view gilded ages like now are going away parties for fading elites before the boiler rooms of war and revolution create new ones.

This is why Non Labor Party’s supporting privilege over fairness and creditors over debtors would argue that our “Mandarin” class is reserved for the emergency response of depression and war, not like the useful ideas inherited from Ancient Greece; debt slavery, nude public Art and the Agora.

But perhaps that is the wrong conclusion to draw.

Indeed, it turns out that the idea of recruitment on merit by exam was imported from the first western multinational corporation to try it out.

The company was keen on exams only because the top brass had had dealings with foreign civil servants who managed trade with the Company on behalf of their government.

It seems the men they did business with were intelligent, refined and good at their jobs.

The executives discovered this class of managers, called “Mandarins” selected by a yearly public exam open to all, had run the country for centuries.

So they decided that the personnel of what would ultimately become an Empire on which the sun would never set would be selected by open examination.

In the meantime, in China, the Chinese Mandarins have rebuilt and renewed their old ways with western methods. They are hiring!

Raising real per capita incomes for forty years, building hundreds of new cities and sustaining the overlapping plans, programs and goals that power China’s growth is the result of brilliant public policy design and process.

Our elites are in disarray and panic without a credible raison d’etre but bait and switch. Let’s blame China for everything, it’s making us look bad.

But the return of China to preeminence is not the end of the world, it is the ebb and flow, the ying and yang of the world system.

The Tao of Terra.

The Communist Party of China is, in my view, acting more rationally than our paranoid, delusional and unaccountable elites.

It’s not a missile gap with China we need to worry about but the public administration professor gap, the per TAFE spending gap and the public infrastructure gap, the education gap and the literacy gap.

Aspiring public policy professionals, all is not lost! An Anglo Saxon background is no barrier to a career in public policy in China.

But, being able to speak “Mandarin” is like always, a great asset.

If the hiring of public administration experts from overseas to work overseas in the service of human development goals in China does threaten our elites.

Make love, not War.

We are coming into a world of abundance. There will soon be nothing worth fighting over, and what will be, will be, because as Winston Churchill said, the “empires of the future will be empires of the mind.”

The Nerd’s rule, OK!

Good luck with the exam!

Share and Enjoy !

Subscribe to John Menadue's Newsletter
Subscribe to John Menadue's Newsletter


Thank you for subscribing!