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I was ridin’ a plane to where the East is dark,

and found myself sinking, into a brown study:

China, all its works, all its days, its eclipse,

I found myself sweating at all that’s bloody.


False negative. China has a yen for imperial power

like all empires till now: take conquistadorēs,

take merchant venturers, proconsuls and caliphs,

history is stuffed with colonial glories.


Glories, you say! More like confusion and subjection.

Stir in as well exploitation and oppression.

The desert makes peace, so peace is a desert.

Cruelty and hardship are imperialism’s mission.

“We princelings are plotting to be strategic

by careful unveiling of naked power.

Our big plan’s backed by choicest tactic,

now is the time to open the door

since this new century is the new Han hour.

Who cares for Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Taiwan?

They’re lose-lose; we’re win-win.


“Take up a pen, you only need nine dashes,

to hoover up large supermarine charts,

Drawing a line will provoke sharp clashes,

it won’t be long before peace starts

to snap, breaking and crushing all hostile hearts.

Push it, pour it, concrete out of sand,

put down the flag since it’s now our land.”


Emperor, stop! Allow me to mention

one special person – I mean the Dalai

Lama, embodiment of his nation,

you can’t unperson the world’s key ally

who’s a non-violent rebuke to all our folly.

We won’t turn a blind eye to travails in Tibet;

even our blank minds cannot forget.

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It’s not just exercising nerveless hard power,

China deploys too Confucian thrift.

The Far East’s all bamboo but its roots are Chinese:

like an earthquake, China’s making power plates shift.


Sy Clan, Riady Clan, all those huaren,

poultry to property, protein bars to sweat pants.

We find them unpronounceably exotic and foreign,

yet we also like stocks in noodles to finance.


They don’t want, they won’t have, their boat being rocked,

especially by young pups aiming to be uppity.

Soft power, money power, hard power are combining.

“It’s our rules for fraternity, and that don’t mean liberty.”


So – all hail to the Xi, the joint is Jinping’s.

Does the helmsman seem wobbly? No way, he is rising.

What’s in his mind? Friendship? Domination?

He does look inscrutable, but is that so surprising?


Yet pause there, and ask, what’s the end beyond the endgame?

Chinaman, he say, “Tall trees attract wind.”

Out there, somewhere, some upstart’s stirring;

there’s a post-China endgame, an era beyond.


Tim Cawkwell / August 2020

[huaren are people of Chinese ethnicity living outside China]