57. Empire

The world is a complicated place.  There are so many historic and economic factors that have shaped today’s world that no one person alive today can know it all or even begin to explain it.  The world is forever changing.  For a long while it was the Un-United Kingdom that was calling the shots, then the USA, then the USA had one side and Russia had the other, nowadays the USA is clutching on to power – just – from the fresh-out-of-college Chinese.

If there is one country that knows how to spend money then it is China.  But do they?  An article has appeared today in Britain’s The Daily Bulls@#t that I find actually quite scary, and that I think is a snippet of what is yet to come.  The Chinese have built a city on the outskirts of Luanda, Angola, which for the geographically challenged is just off the top left ofSouth Africa.  The city is called Nova Cidade de Kilamba and contains 750 eight-storey tower blocks, scores of schools and well over 100 shop units.  This sounds amazing.  The population that could be accommodated is over 500,000, that is the same amount as Al Ain.  Sadly though, there is one small flaw in the plan…nobody lives there.

We love you Karl Marx, we do! We love you Karl Marx, we do! We love you Karl Marx, we do!         Oooh Karl Marx we love you!

That’s right; this $3 billion project is on course to become Africa’s first ever ghost-town.  I’m not surprised. Angola is not a very wealthy country and the apartments are for sale at a gentleman’s £75,000 for a small one and £130,000 for a deluxe one.  I don’t wish to sound crass but the average wage in Angola is only £1.20 a day.  I would like to meet the person who conducted the market research.

These pre-fabricated, urbanised colonies are apparently popping up not only all over Africa, but all over the world.  There is a rumour floating about that there’s even one in the American state of Michigan… Does any of this sound familiar to you?  I’m thinking of The Duke of Wellington, HMS Hood and Sean Bean…

So, what on earth has today’s epistle got to do with the UAE?  Well, China are set to take over as the number 1 super-power within the next few decades, if things keep going the way they are.  They are a modern day Britain, but with slightly more communism and slightly fewer muskets.  They are laying the foundations for the day when they knock on The White House door and tell President Michael Moore that his day is over.

I’m British but was only born in 1984, so I don’t know what it was like to be an Imperial Stormtrooper nor do I know what it must have been like to be on the receiving end of a good old colonial thrashing.  More often than not I hear it wasn’t too nice. China won’t use military force to take over the world, they will use their debit card.  And that’s where the UAE comes in.  Chinese-UAE relations are on the up and worth something in the region of $30 billion in trade each year.  Across the Emirates there are over 2000 Chinese business’s operating, mainly in construction. China describes the UAE as a “strategic” partner, and that is never a good sign.

A strategic partnership basically means that something is being planned.  Well, at least one party will see it that way. Britain used to have lots of “strategic partners”, but that was just a polite way of saying “the colonies” or “the empire”.  The nations Britain invaded put up a fight, and more often than not ended up losing, but they still gave it a good go.  What they didn’t do however was take it lying down so easily, let alone invite them in and say “here’s all our stock, flog us and it’s yours”.

150 years ago China would have arrived by Tea-Cutter, fired the big guns, stuck it’s flag in the ground and banged the drum whilst marching across the land singing “There’s only one Karl Marx”, but as I said, the world has changed.  Instead they just turned around with a purchase order number and a primed credit card and said “you guys are doing a wonderful job, do you mind if we knock together some cheap, pre-fabricated apartments for you in exchange for a drop of oil and a comedy style briefcase full of cash?”

Nova Cidade de Kilamba can relax; it’s not the first Chinese ghost town. Dubai is.  If you’re a capitalist in the UAE run, run for the hills…

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