Saturday, 24 September 2016

Is China eating Thailand and Britain’s half-time orange?

Chinese investments in UK are under scrutiny at the moment. The new Hinkley nuclear power station and the nuclear industry are the main consideration, thankfully delayed for review by the new PM Theresa May regime on cybersecurity fears.

Certainly China could hack into nuclear technology – it has floors and floors of cyberhackers in PLA buildings and uniforms on various projects. While the Chinese nuclear company CGN – part of the Hnkley consortia - has been arrested in USA for nuclear espionage. And there are even cybersecurity concerns over the new UK electricity SmartMeters – all the lights going off at once everywhere isn’t ideal.

That said, the Hinkley deal is just an awful business arrangement – hugely expensive now and in the future and highly contaminating with faulty technology, and electricity 3x the current rate.


UK nuclear technology is fairly awful in general – Sellafield power station from the 1950’s phase of weapons production is still hugely contaminated as detailed in the BBC Panorama expose two weeks ago. And bizarrely UK is attempting to sell a nuclear reactor to Vietnam rather than solar power or other industries.

As awful and misguided a policy as the Agent Orange contamination that lingers through DaNang province, and Vietnamese and American families, for generations to come. Hopefully President Obama in Laos has raised the issue there - and highlighted the MAG and USAid and DIFD work that would be of immense value.

The sooner the UK’s 15 ageing nuclear power station are closed as in Germany, Italy and Japan, the better. To be fair to the Hinkley project and EDF, only France has made any great effort to make nuclear viable in the past – although the English Channel power stations on the French and Belgian coasts are also contaminating, as was the dumping of waste in the dark days of the 1970’s.

All of it now relegated to the nuclear dustbin of history.

But if nuclear is kicked into touch then China has another string to its bow.

~~China and Football kicks off~~

And surprisingly for all the fanfares of a global economic power and Golden Era of UK-China relations, China has only invested c.$40BN in UK since 2005 – a sizeable sum but not extraordinary for the world’s largest economy. Parliament details only 156 projects by China in UK in 2015-16, creating just 2,833 jobs and safeguarding another 3,899 jobs.

The UK gives away c. $20BN in DFID charitable aid each year by 2020, for example. And that doesn’t include public donations and fundraising which is even higher.
Rather, China is focusing on pushing its investment not into the wider UK economy but into sport especially football. All as part of its 2030 National Plan marketing activity.

Birmingham City, West Brom, Wolves, Manchester City in UK, and AC Milan, InterMilan and Atletico Madrid abroad, have all taken the Chinese dollar. And now Liverpool is valued at £800M for a possible takeover by China’s Everbright plc.

Interestingly Man City as with the Siamese Foxes of nearby Leicester City has attracted Thai investment with Shinawatra previously, and now King Power. While Reading FC just off the slopes of Microsoft’s Silicon Thames Valley have sponsorship from Thailand’s Carabao drink.

Lord Green the previous Trade Minister and former CEO of HSBC spoke often of the impact of UK football in Asia – none more so than in Thailand – and previous rather fumbled opportunities for sports diplomacy, now being actively reversed in Asia-Pacific.

For what better marketing activity option can there be for Chinese brands (name any if you can) than being associated with Premier League football clubs? Instant brand name recognition and associated values every Saturday to a youthful crowd. Plus regular and repeated television, radio and internet exposure.

~~UK Sports Diplomacy~~

Ambassadors across Asia and the Pacific are now deftly bringing into play a range of football projects eg Arsenal Summer schools, U21, Women’s football and so on, as The Gunners for example are brought up to coordinate the rich array of excellent FA grassroots projects for Sports Diplomacy projects.
While the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United and Chelsea and so on, are being moulded into a more cohesive platform that’s to the benefit of the teams, the players, the Premier League and UK plc.

And 1.3M Kent citizens should cheer on such activity with support through the terraces, supporters clubs, sports shops and football boardrooms whether at Gillingham or Ebbsfleet Utd or Charlton Athletic or Crystal Palace or West Ham or Brighton.

ASEAN and Latin America are two key growth regions for UK economic, diplomatic and cultural value - especially with burgeoning TPP growth filling the ports and railheads and factories and warehouses and shops, that UK could falter on if it doesn’t use all the players in its team.

Just as well, as China’s mandarins have developed a National Plan through to 2050. A BBC World documentary showed over 70,000(!) pitches stadiums planned for reconstruction, 20,000 training centres and summer schools and investment in the Chinese Super League.

Tom Dyer the Chinese National Coach spoke of the importance of youth projects in China and interestingly how every Chinese sports kid wanted to play like Messi. And plans for 50M Chinese playing football.

Woefully, Dyer laughed at “China’s inability to beat even Thailand in World Cup competitions” so far. A little harsh on Thailand given their OK World Cup performances in the Asian competitions.

And there is a rather fizzy and exciting Thai Football League with dynamos such as The Untouchable Thundercastles of Buriram sticking the Isaan ball in the back of the net. Or Chonburi Sharks smoothly gliding through the choppy waters with of the league, and Police United with several arresting performances.

China though are ruling themselves out of the next World Cup or two – but marshalling their forces to reach beyond that as a sporting superpower.
I wouldn’t bet against them, would you?

A 1.2BN population, 1M under 6 years of old now, but being schooled in football, and the world’s largest economy, will be putting just 11 players forward in its national team.

That will hard to beat.

Britain has already discovered that a Sporting Superpower is worthwhile but difficult achievement, not just with the Premier League and heft of the other Divisions but the glittering success of Team GB in the Olympics.

China’s success isn’t guaranteed though: if UK with 0.8% of the world’s population can come second in the medal table, even above China. And that, after rather ho-hum previous Olympic performances. While both La Liga and Bundesliga tread carefully around UK teams in Europe.

Greg Dyke the former FA CEO’s rather sensible reforms have been kicked into the long grass for a muddling-along amateurish approach that should be offside in 21st century major UK sports, and millions of dollars in tax and lottery funding and ever pricier season tickets.

~~Future UK and Thailand~~

While if the dynamic UK Sports and Tourism Minister, Kent’s Tracey Crouch has urged spending on UK sports infrastructure such as Olympic pools for all 33 UK counties or opening the expansion of the new Gravesend Cycling park (who know of 42 acres of cycling excellent in Kent?) then as a qualified FA referee she’s familiar with the dynamic Women’s football barely begun in Thailand or ASEAN as yet.

Thailand’s dynamic UN women group already calling for female participation and support in sports such as muay thai.
And UK should be developing more non-traditional sports ahead of Tokyo 2002 display sports: isn’t Takraw essentially Keepy-Uppy and Tech Tokyo rich in potential for computer games football and other sports?

UK and Thailand football exchanges and cohesive sports and cultural programmes haven’t yet been brought into play. Thailand schoolkids probably shouldn’t learn some of the terrace songs although it would broaden their language skills and appreciation for the difficult job of the chap in black.
The FA is second to none in exhibitions with say Manchester’s National Football Museum, Stadium Tours whether Arsenal or Wembley or Chelsea, and the rich heritage of the 1966 World Cup from the singing Sixties and UK social changes.

But the FA and clubs are weakly-promoted: Lonely Planet England guidebook places football – any football team or ground - as 17th out of 20 top UK attractions to visit – first is Stonehenge still only 5,000 years young.

The China 2050 National Football Plan ensures China plc is intent on eating Britain’s and Thailand’s half-time orange in football, as well as drinking their cup of Bovril - and taking the football shirt off their back too.

The whistle has blown for kick-off and it’s all to play for.

Time for Change

-Princess Patricia Military Hospital for the Canadian military and Canadian Red Cross in WW1, a conversion of St Lawrence College, the alma-mater of the former head of the British Army until 2010, General Richard Dannatt. And one of numerous Canadian bases in Ramsgate and Thanet that would be interesting to details part of the WW1 Anniversary commemorations in UK and Belgium. And to establish firm links with Canadian towns and organisations, say Medicine Hat or Yellowknife or Montreal and the Canadian Army and Red Cross and ice hockey clubs.

- The GPO and Royal Mint issuing various stamps and coins to celebrate the links needed in East Kent too for the rare orchids.

- And good to see Chief Canuck Mark Carney of the Bank of England launching the new banknotes – the Canadian-issued plastic polymer notes supposedly with a hint of maple - at the Turner Gallery recently. If only East Kent’s dynamic Givaudan could replicate the tang of the sea or fish and chips for the UK notes or an East Kent local currency, or the Treasury or local banks a favourable Euro rate for East Kent’s Benelux tourism trade and SME’s.

- Kent’s links with Virginia and Hungary unfortunately still gathering dust, as Chimay etc and become rejuvenated – and what wasted opportunity from the Virginia Ships conference with the then-Senator Tim Kaine now the Democrat Vice-Presidential candidate.

- Interestingly General Dannatt spoke out last week on the scourge of the antimalarial drug Lariam/Mefloquine used by UK troops but causing numerous health problems of hallucinations etc. I took it in India and stopped rather than risk malaria. 11,000 doses still in stock for UK troops is outrageous.

- Good that RNLI Margate lifeboat station - unbelievably foolish building on a Blue Flag beach. But part of New East Kent with the collapse of UKIP and Gale and any TDC policies at all. Time for the Manston runway to be dug up and the drinking water site left as a park, and I've put in an offer on the Pavilion to reopen it as a jazz club and Buddhist temple - something more than a mega-drab Wetherspoons mega-boozer and TDC dodgy deals.

- Good to that Kent Police are clamping down on illegal parking in the pedzone and seafront - but more ASBO noise work needed on radios blaring outside etc.

- More later on KORA, Project Gilgamesh and UN Police and the Bridges of Battambang and Kwai revisited.

Misc points:

* July Updates:

* Working on a misc issues: Magellan Anniversary - Spain and LatAm, Almeria Universities links and Kent-Thai orchids - fab UK-Lao postage stamp

* Also Solomon Islands cruise ships, and thoughts on Senegal and Mali

* Benelux strategy: Panasonic and Phillips - DNA bathroom mirror

* One Essex court and Inns fraud: Grabiner, Glick, Hollingworth, Leavor etc

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