China: fear not for I am a brave new world
I’ve often been perplexed by the complexity of political decisions and recently the debate about China’s ownership of New Zealand land has definitely made me think more than usual. Last night, I attended the NZ Initiative’s moot titled “New Zealand should ban Chinese ownership of farms” and was presented at first by two university teams, and finally by NBR Editor in Chief, Nevil Gibson, and Save the Farms Spokeperson, Tony Bouchier. The nigth offered great stimulation and thought provocation. This is a newly (un)formed idea; it has holes; so I thought I’d capture a few points here and learn from the readers about what you think.
Land is a finite resource
New Zealand has a total 268,021 km of land. That’s all we’ve got. Because land is a finite resource, as less of it becomes available, the price is inflated. What that means is that if we sell our land today we will have to buy it back at a higher price.
This is completely alright. However, if we sell our land today, we must ensure that what we do with that money grows more than the land’s value. For example, we sell a piece of land for $100,000 today. We invest it in startup companies, the stock market, or overseas investments, and in 10 years we grow that to $200,000.
Now, the value of the land has increased in price to $180,000. This is great because it means that we have done more to increase the value of our wealth than if we had just held onto the property. It also means that we can buy back the property if we need to.
However, if the value of the land was $250,000 in 10 years, then we would not have made a good choice. That means that we would have been better off holding onto our land. And, that we now won’t be able to buy it back because we don’t have enough money to do so.
This brings me to my major argument: If New Zealanders are going to sell off our land at all, we need to ensure we become intelligent wealth creators and grow our wealth beyond that of the value-growth that results from owning that land.
Let’s assume that we have sold some of our land. That land rightly belongs to the buyer – a Chinese citizen, business, or family (in this case). According to our laws, we can’t take any land away from it’s owner, so the control of that land then becomes out of our reach (outside of our control through regulations/laws). What happens if the owner has a Chinese association/origin?
I certainly don’t talk from a deep experience or understanding of China – but there is certainly a cultural association with the “homeland”.
What we don’t understand is China’s Intention. Chinese companies are buying up infrastructure, corporations and assets all around the world in droves. This may just be because it is a great investment. But, it could also because of control. I don’t know the intentions or complexity of China’s strategy. And, I think very few people can claim they do.
What I do know is that if a single country owns a substantial amount of the resources, societal infrastructure, corporations and assets of the world, they essentially have control (by proxy) of the world. This is a scary prospect, and I certainly understand the fear that New Zealanders (and people globally) have of China. Note though, this is only scary because we fear what it means for us – “being controlled by China”?
A Chinese Lead World
China has a unique and compelling culture. Although it has experienced some tough and powerful claims against it based on human rights, labour laws, and environmental laws (to name a few), China is a fast learner and a very intelligent country. Their middle-class is growing exceptionally fast and overall power is shifting towards the people and away from government.
I am excited by a Chinese ideal: collectivism.
Collectivism is a philosophy where we recognise the interdependence on people. In other words, acknowledging that we rely on each other to survive and thrive – we are interlinked; connected. China has a full-on institutionalised view on collectivism which originates from it’s history with communism.
Now that the people of China are gaining more individual freedom and power, this combination of independence from the state with their cultural heritage is breeding a philosophically-aligned population. Chinese people are evolving into a democratic, empowered, values-driven society – but they know that they are ONE.
Ultimately, the idea of an autonomous civilisation living in unison, in singularity; as one; is very attractive. It means we won’t have a lot of the petty problems we face today: war, poverty, hatred. It means we can put aside perceived differences and instead work on persistent problems together.
A New World
At the end of the day, what I aspire to is a world with true peace, connectedness and infinite knowledge. None of that is accessible to anyone until we can view each other on a level playing field and put aside our differences. China’s strategy may evolve into the very solution that evolves our entire society to a new and creative level. It may not.
Ultimately, we have a choice.
If we fear China’s intentions with the ownership of the world’s assets, let’s meet them halfway. Let’s sell our land to the NZ government and lease this land to the Chinese company. That way we retain our assets and allow Chinese investment and knowledge to penetrate New Zealand.
If we seek a brave new world, China could offer this to us. We could let them into our “country” and take a place in theirs. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two if we put our fear aside and saw China as an opportunity. I’d love to see us (as global citizens) entering China’s political, economic and legal structure – having a say in what they are doing.
Why is no one having that conversation?
This post was written to inspire debate and conversation. I don’t know enough to come up with any answers, but together we can learn enough to do so as a group. Please comment and share your thoughts, ideas, and solutions to this heavy debate. Oh, and please share this with your networks – a wider debate with NZ’ers will breed a greater perspective on this debate.
(Note: please keep your points and perspectives under control – I will not tolerate any racially-motivated slander or incoherent emotional statements. Please put your fear aside and share a constructive and powerful perspective.)