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I first visited China in November 1986.  I was representing the New South Wales Government on a multinational mission to our Sister State Guangdong.  My photo taken for the trip is still in the State archive [click here].  The theme was regional and small business development.  The group heard presentations from Chinese bureaucrats and visited a number of factories in rural and industrial areas in Southern China.  It was clear then that China was developing at a very fast rate economically. 

The Canadian delegate and I went for a walk in one regional centre and were amazed by the quantity and variety of machinery on sale in the high street:  lathes; milling machines; plastic extrusion machines and so on; at very low prices.  These were clearly being purchased on a grand scale by small private businesses. 

I had never seen so many pushbikes as in Guangzhou.  The streets were packed; like an endless start at the Tour de France.

One of the things that impressed me about China was the sense of humour of the officials that we met.  They were quite cynical and disrespectful.  It ran counter to my impression of Communism. They made really surprising jokes about all aspects of Chinese life, including government.  In this respect they seemed quite different to the Japanese who at the time appeared to greatly respect authority; at least in the presence of strangers.  More than once negative comments and jokes were made about the Japanese (when the Japanese delegate was absent); which is not surprising in the light of history.  But he did buy a very nice, and inexpensive, rice cooker at one of their factories.

At the factories we visited the whole delegation was struck by the number of employees working on each machine.  It soon became apparent that for each skilled worker there were five or six students or apprentices.  Each, no doubt, would soon have a machine of their own; together with six more apprentices.  There were few safety guards on the machines and virtually no safety equipment was being worn. I understand that due to very high accident rates in these early days OH&S is now a big issue in China.

 


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Travel

Cambodia and Vietnam

 

 

 In April 2010 we travelled to the previous French territories of Cambodia and Vietnam: ‘French Indochina’, as they had been called when I started school; until 1954. Since then many things have changed.  But of course, this has been a region of change for tens of thousands of years. Our trip ‘filled in’ areas of the map between our previous trips to India and China and did not disappoint.  There is certainly a sense in which Indochina is a blend of China and India; with differences tangential to both. Both have recovered from recent conflicts of which there is still evidence everywhere, like the smell of gunpowder after fireworks.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The Time Lord

 

 

 

For no apparent reason the silver haired man ran from his companion, shook a tree branch, then ran back to continue their normal conversation. It was as if nothing had happened. 

Bruce had been stopped in peak hour traffic in the leafy suburban street and had noticed the couple walking towards him engaged in good humoured argument or debate.  Unless this was some bizarre fit, as it seemed, the shaken tree branch must be to illustrate some point.  But what could it be?

Just as the couple passed him the lights up ahead changed and the traffic began to move again. 

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Opinions and Philosophy

The reputation of nuclear power

 

 

One night of at the end of March in 1979 we went to a party in Queens.  Brenda, my first wife, is an artist and was painting and studying in New York.  Our friends included many of the younger artists working in New York at the time.  That day it had just been announced that there was a possible meltdown at a nuclear reactor at a place called a Three Mile Island , near Harrisburg Pennsylvania. 

I was amazed that some people at the party were excitedly imagining that the scenario in the just released film ‘The China Syndrome’  was about to be realised; and thousands of people would be killed. 

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