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The new mainstream 

There’s only a month to go before the Bananas NZ Going Global (August 18–19) at the University of Auckland Business School, 12 Grafton Road. I’ve been asked to speak on Sunday, August 19, at 4 p.m., on the topic ‘The New Mainstream: on the World Stage’.
   It was Alistair Kwun and his professionalism that got me convinced in being involved. The word, banana, as used in a derogative sense of a Chinese person who has yellow skin but white thinking, was a turn-off. It was only when Al explained the aim of the conference, about the integration of majority and in , that I became interested and accepted his kind invitation to speak.
   I have always questioned being part of things that separated my culture from others’: I originally had to think twice about appearing on Suzanne Schokmann’s radio show on National Radio in 2004 because I feared it was Asian-only. Ditto with guesting on Asia Down Under on TV. If I did not see a connection bridging cultures—something I have spent a long time doing, saying that I am allowed to be as proud of mine as any member of the majority—I was not going to be participating in marginalizing mine.
   My issue with the term banana is that I do not associate purely with any white thinking. I may like aspects of white culture, but then, I like aspects of black culture, Polynesian culture, cultures—we are citoyens du monde and no one can claim, even in so-called isolated tribes, to be a thinker. But I speak my mother tongue, I run a company that I regard as , even if some tried to attack that once upon a time, and I have found success without selling out.
   I am to talk about ‘What will Chinese communities look like in 10–20 years?’ and Wong Liu Shueng, Li Tao, Paul Spoonley and I are to play for an hour. Liu Shueng will chair.
   It’s an interesting question that deserves some fleshing out on this blog. The will point to the forces of outsourcing, of taking over 90 per cent of production, and of Chinese culture perhaps becoming more prevalent. We already have seen the film makers come to the fore in the last decade, often (rich) refugees from the 1997 handover, escaping their homeland, just as so many fled Nazi Europe in the 1930s. That was the second impact, when being Chinese became cool after actors such as trail-blazed for us in the west in the 1960s and 1970s. (Interestingly, Richard Roundtree was my hero as a kid, and I even had a Shaft pencil case.)
   That might have brought awareness, and now the world is bringing a second one, tinged with concern. But with many taking up these days—just as so many took Japanese when I was a child in the 1970s—our culture is being . But those who studied Japanese in the 1970s, just as those studying Mandarin in the 2000s, perhaps still view it as a foreign culture, discarded when change.
   The idea of Red China being a production house for the planet—it even exports a lot of food to the US, for instance—is largely an inhuman one, looking at workers as cheap production units. It is easy for Red China to do this, with its workforce, causing potential resentment among blue-collar workers in other parts of the world. And as Red China gains expertise building western goods, the inevitable will take place next: that are inherently Chinese, without any trace of their western (or even eastern, for even Japan outsources to Red China) roots, will surface. will emerge without western roots: beyond , and . That is the third cultural wave—after Bruce; after John Woo, Ringo Lam and Chow Yuen-Fat: the creation of products that visually represent Chinese culture in homes around the world. Services may well appear with a Chinese idea of customer relations: watch out for the notion of face being incorporated into the concepts of .
   Al forwarded me a link which I immediately posted to my Facebook page, from Fast Company, on ‘The Next Cultural Wave’. This article puts the as the great marketer of Chinese values and —and I agree. The talent is there and, as the article points out, the examples are there. Japan is shown as a nation that has its culture intact despite ; I would add to that, Korea, where you can just sense as you come in on the bus to Seoul from Incheon Airport.
   This will impact on the new mainstream in a strong way in the next 12 to 24 months and the world, later this decade, will be an interesting place to live in. The principal danger is , as I see it: if all this is applauded and accepted without our questioning Red China’s ’ and political record, then we will be fuelling a monster. The din will not go away.
   However, I think this to be a subsidiary issue if the powers encouraging exchange are so strong. I believe President Bush, for example, when he says that is a natural desire of human beings. Red China, with its diaspora, may turn more a shade of pink after 2008: if there is one lesson in history, it is that you cannot legislate against a behaviour that the majority seeks to practise. care about the homeland, speaking from the sidelines as we are going to do next month, and 2008 will bring renewed contact on so many levels.
   While this may be a counter-revolutionary idea, as the Reds so willingly put it, it is something that it needs to be aware of. is written into the Charter for a reason. The Beijing Olympics and the Three Gorges Dam have created massive environmental and social costs, including the of people. This new “leap forward” has come at a price and it will be these issues that will go alongside the heightened contact with the mainland.
   To answer the conference session’s question, I believe we will look more homogeneous in the next two decades. The idea of the exclusively Chinese home—something that exists only in theory anyway—is going to be dismantled. Individual cultures will be championed in the home, as optional to pursue. No culture will die per se; but they will be remixed. And in such a world, Red China will find it has more to lose if it does not get with the programme, to preserve face as it tries to protect its economic engine and, in the next few years, protect the more positive side of traditional Chinese culture that it chooses to reveal to the world.
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