Chapter 24 – Problems in Canberra – 1968-9
BETWEEN FOUR WORLDS: CHINA, RUSSIA, JAPAN AND AUSTRALIA;
BETWEEN FOUR CAREERS and FOUR LANGUAGES
Blocked in Every Direction
1. Thesis Preparation
2. Problems with Australian Academia
3. More Brick Walls
4. A Western Australian Connection
5. The One (and only one) Successful Japan Course
6. ANU ‘Excellence’
7. A Personal Affair
8. The Okita Saburo Connection
9. The Hitotsubashi Connection
Arriving back from Japan and Southeast Asia in May, 1968, the Canberra autumn colours seemed even stronger than I had remembered.
I set about the painful business of writing up my doctoral thesis.
1. Thesis Preparation
My problems were probably greater than those suffered by most Ph.D. students. Materials were in a difficult foreign language. And I still did not have enough data.
Japan was still not a very large, or welcome, player on the world economic stage. Its direct investment overseas was still small.
My supervisor, Heinz Arndt, had chosen my topic for me largely because he was interested in Japan’s unusual ‘develop and import’ style of investment in Indonesian resource goods.
But there were only three of such projects at the time, and to try to write a thesis based on their activities would have been impossible, even if I could get total access to everything they were doing.
But I did have the valuable MITI directory of all overseas direct investments.
And I have been able to do some good followup during my return trip through Southeast Asia.
That was enough to reach some main general conclusions – that Japanese direct investors put emphasis on securing sources of supply (raw materials investments) or overseas markets for finished goods (sales network investments) and parts and materials (assembly operations behind tariff barriers).
These were all quite interesting in the context of direct investment theory at the time.
Most direct investment by firms in other nations aimed to generate income through dividends, transfer pricing and royalties.
Japanese investors had a more “organic” approach, both at home and abroad. Hence the high proportion of joint ventures.
In Indonesia they were even prepared to experiment with unusual production sharing techniques in a bid to secure raw materials.
(I was also impressed by the instinctive, “seat-of-the-pants” approach to some major investment decisions.
(My efforts to find some cultural explanation for this and other investment behavior differences were to lead to me eventually into a full-scale study of the culture. More on that later.)
Within the year I had a draft thesis ready.
Arndt said he liked what I had done. All I had to do was get it typed up in the elaborate style demanded of doctoral candidates, and my four years of effort would be over.
I could begin to think about my next move – how and where to get re-employed.
2. Problems with Australian Academia
Clearly External Affairs would be a non-starter.
Apart from anything else, Plimsoll’s 1965 promise to have me come back after the ‘Vietnam thing’ was over would be of little use since the Vietnam thing was still far from over.
I had also had had that ugly run-in with Canberra’s spy apparatus.
That alone would weaken my chances of being able to go back to working in government, a conservative government especially, which is why I made such a fuss, a futile fuss, about the incident at the time.
My first move was to go through the motions of approaching J.D.B.Miller at the ANU international relations department, to see if the China research position he had offered me back in 1962 was still open.
I knew he would say no. But I wanted to get the rejection on record.
In 1962, at the very young age of 26, I had been seen by the university as someone very suitable for appointment to a well-paid research position on China, despite the fact that at the time my only qualifications were a few years experience working in External Affairs, and a so-so knowledge of the Chinese language.
Now, seven years later, in 1969, I was that much more qualified.
My Chinese was much better (thanks to the year I had spent with C.). I now had good Russian and adequate Japanese, a further three years of valuable EA experience (China desk and in Moscow) and was about to get a doctorate in international economics.
As well, I had produced a full-scale book on Chinese foreign policies whose chapters on the Sino-Indian frontier dispute, the Sino-Soviet ideological dispute and the importance of Taiwan were filled with original and closely researched material of doctorate standard.
It was probably one of the very few books on foreign affairs to be published in Australia at the time that could be republished today without much change.
In short, if I was qualified for the position I had been offered in 1962, I was certainly a lot more qualified in 1969. So was I offered the position in 1969?
Of course not.
By 1969 I had become a critic of government policies, possibly even a communist agitator. It took Miller just five minutes to close the door on me.
And at the time ANU Chancellor Crawford was telling the world how the ANU was a center of something called academic excellence.
More worrying was the fact that my informal approaches to other universities were getting nowhere.
Monash University in Melbourne seemed a good place to aim for; it was said to be both fairly progressive and trying hard to move into Asian studies.
But I did not even get through the door there.
I had hoped to get the vacant China slot at Monash. In the event, it went to a quite unqualified, and now totally forgotten, right-wing ideological fanatic called Bob Beveridge.
A poor Chinese speaker and a former bureaucrat from Prime Minister’s department with no particular history of Asian research, he used to hector me in public for my Vietnam views.
Years later I learned from Max Teichman (who was in a very good position to know) that the Monash authorities had been told firmly by some ASIO type not to offer me any position under any circumstances. I assume the same thing was going on at other universities.
To this day the extent of ASIO infiltration of our universities at the time has never been fully realised, let alone criticised.
The Australian psyche seems impervious to objective standards of right and wrong. Right lies in doing what everyone else is doing and thinking at the time.
Wrong lies in opposing the consensus, in rocking the boat, in seeming to cause trouble, even if you are proved right later.
I found the same attitudes in Japan.
In most of the civilised world outside of Japan and Australia, the search for objective standards of judgement and morality is important, certainly among academics.
A Daniel Ellsberg is today honoured and respected for his role in opposing the Vietnam War, even if at the time he was reviled.
True, and as mentioned earlier, many years later Miller was to write an article for the journal of the Australian Institute of Political Science where he at least had the honesty to admit he and quite a few others had been wrong over China.
But, he added, he had been quite right to oppose left-wingers like Clark and Jim Cairns.
Quite apart from a possible desire to absolve himself of guilt for the personal harm he had caused me, it was a gratuitous insult, both to myself and Cairns.
Cairns’ deep approach to Asian foreign policy issues left him streets ahead of people like Miller whose only real interest seemed to be Commonwealth affairs.
As for myself, the conservative attitudes I have inherited from a Queensland rural upbringing, make me more of a right-winger on some issues.
(The 1950’s Brisbane farm on which I was raised was just a few miles down the Brisbane river from Pauline Hanson’s famous Ipswich fish and chip shop.)
I have little time for the harmful bleeding heart attitudes to phoney asylum seekers, for example.
To be honest I am close to the Japanese attitude to foreign immigrants; that they should only be allowed if they can show an ability and willingness to integrate.
They should not be allowed to disturb the ‘atmosphere’ holding the society together – a sound Japanese concept.
I just happen to object to governments deciding they have the right to go into foreign countries to slaughter the inhabitants there in the name of spurious causes.
I am not sure why that makes me a left-winger.
But in the hysterical eyes of Australia’s alleged foreign affairs elite, only mad left-wingers could oppose the Vietnam War in those days,
But to come back to my own affairs.
3. More Brick Walls
By early 1969 it was clear I had no future in Australia, either as a Japanologist or as a Sinologist.
Crawford was making sure that non-Japanese speakers would consolidate their control over Japanese studies and research at the ANU.
And he had obviously forgotten how in 1962 he had tried to recruit me to set up a China economic research group.
(In an empire- building move typical of ANU politics, China was soon to be taken over those Japan research academics, in partnership with non-Chinese speaking academics claiming expertise on China.)
Meanwhile Fitzgerald, who had finished his Ph.D. work on the topic of Overseas Chinese in Asia, had moved into the China slot in the ANU Asian Studies department.
He was already making his run in the ALP (to which I introduced him) and elsewhere as Canberra’s resident expert on China.
With both Japan and China ruled out, for a while I tinkered with the idea of going back into the Russian studies field. I had long had an amiable relationship with Harry Rigby, then in charge of ANU Soviet studies.
But he was not very helpful (I had the feeling he was getting tired of the subject).
Eventually I was to be stymied by a highly unremarkable Brit called Paul Dibb who was finishing up a very unremarkable thesis on the Soviet Far East.
As far as I could make out, Dibb had little grip on either the Russian language or Soviet affairs. Certainly he had never spent any serious time in the USSR.
But in Canberra’s intellectually impoverished climate that did not stop him from making a strong run later as an expert on Soviet military affairs, and by natural progression, all military affairs.
He ended up as military affairs guru for the entire Australian establishment.
4. A West Australian Connection
The only academic opening I received, and that only tentatively, came from West Australia.
Partly as a result of my own experience at the ANU and Japan, I had been using the media to push the need for university courses that would train people properly both in the language AND in business/economics.
That way, when they arrived in Japan they would be able to move into jobs which might do something useful for the Japan-Australia economic relationship – something which those non-Japanese speakers with their PhDs in theoretical economics would never be able to do.
WA University seemed to have heard my message. In any case, it was going to set up a special course along just those lines.
It had sent Professor Reg Appleyard to Canberra to try to find someone to set up and run the new course.
I was one of the first on his calling list.
I said I was interested, but would have to wait a few more months till I had finished my ANU work. But despite seeming to have had a very positive interview with him, I never heard anything more from him.
5. One (only one) Successful Japan Course
Years later I discovered that WA university had also approached officialdom for a recommendation as to who should be appointed to run the course.
Officialdom had contacted TW., their chief spy operative in Japan – an occupation era hangover with good business cover and quite good Japanese.
To his credit, TW was an intelligent and at times even flexible spy.
When Labour gained power in 1972 he used his positions in various Australia-Japan organisations to be nice to me, invite me to give talks etc.
But when conservatives were in power in Canberra, the camaraderie quickly disappeared.
He tapped into the Drysdale-Kojima-Hitotsubashi connection I mentioned earlier, and came up with the name of an American, Bernard Key, about to graduate there with a Ph.D. in the history of foreign investment in Japan.
Key had no connection with Australia, or with the world of business. But he was given the position anyway.
As it turned out, Key was conscientious and did quite a good job in Perth.
But he left after a few years to become a stock analyst in Japan and the WA course fell apart soon after, thanks largely to the appointment, recommended almost certainly by TW or someone else in concerned officialdom, of a retired Japanese ex-CIA operative who proved to be totally unsuitable, or even worse.
(Ironically, Key was to approach me for a university job almost thirty years later.
( I had been made president of the business- oriented Tama University in Tokyo. Key wanted to get out of the grubby stock-market world, and back into academia.
(We gave him a job. But he only lasted a few years. He succumbed to the mental pressure of trying to teach Japanese university students, and I do not blame him.)
That the WA course was able during its brief span under Key to produce most of the young Australians who were to come to play important roles in the Australian business relationship with Japan during the seventies and eighties – Bill Hall, Ken Boston, Richard Pyvis, the Walker brothers – proved the value of my original idea.
Many more could have been produced if the course had not been collapsed so quickly by officialdom’s obsessive desire to plant its operatives in our universities, or if other Australian universities had had the sense to run similar courses.
6. ANU ‘Excellence’
Needless to say, the ANU was, and would remain, impervious to my suggestions that it should have its own undergraduate Japanese language/ business studies unit.
For the ANU “academic excellence” crowd, a clutch of non-Japanese speaking ANU Ph D’s claiming expertise in free trade theory, APEC etc. was far more important than the difficult business of setting out to train young Australians how to speak Japanese and do business with Japan.
It would be decades before any of the products from the ANU’s well-funded operations would make any impact at the grassroots level of the Japan- Australian business relationship.
Meanwhile others with more practical experience of Japan were excluded.
True, there is nothing unusual about academics staking out exclusive research areas and keeping others at bay.
But when this is done with government-supplied funds, by people who do not know the language of the country they are supposed to be studying, and who use their power and position to discriminate against those who do know the language, and the country, then it IS unusual.
In any respectable UK or US university, even in those years, it would have been out of the question to have anyone work in any Japan or China academic area without the language.
But not in Australia, which at the time was boasting about its proximity to and especially close relations with the Asian countries.
7. A Personal Affair
Obviously at the time I was not very happy about what was happening around me at the time.
I am still unhappy, even though fate was later to deal me some much better cards – cards I would not have received if I had stayed in some arid academic position in Australia.
But there is another and far less selfish reason for my unhappiness.
I had been brought up in a 1950’s Anglosaxon ethic that said if you study hard and work honestly, then the society around you will recognise you for what you are, and treat you accordingly.
There should be no need to engage in grubby political manoeuvers in order to get ahead.
And in the early years of my career that seemed to be the case.
Today it is dog eat dog in the race up the promotion ladder. You survive by keeping close to the political line of the day.
They say it is all in the interests of efficiency.
Efficiency? In the old days the Australian Embassy in Tokyo was efficient.
Despite small numbers it operated widely across broad areas of Japanese society. Its staff tried hard to master Japanese.
Today it is a bloated bureaucratic establishment absorbed in its own administration and filled with non-Japanese speakers clinging to the current Canberra line over Japan while saving generous allowances and organising their career paths back in Canberra.
We never get to see them making any impact on Japanese society.
Over the years I think I was to see most of the corridors and citadels of political and business power in Japan.
The Amagi Conference organised each year by IBM Japan attracted most of Japan’s prominent thinkers.
I saw quite a few Americans, Brits and Canadians there. But I never saw any Australians.
The change was part of a transition, beginning in the sixties, from what could be called traditional values of service to one’s profession, to rationalistic McKinsey style values of every individual out for himself.
At the ANU I discovered the same changes. In the early sixties I could feel a genuine searching after academic excellence and fairness.
But by the late sixties it had become bloated and bureaucratic, with an ethic that said the rewards went to activists skilled at political manoeuvering.
Those who went quietly about the difficult business of serious research and gaining required academic skills were easily ignored.
I once tried to pin down Heinz on the morality of all this.
He muttered something about things being the way they were and left it at that.
I should have remembered that he himself had once done the political manoeuvering which had prevented my father from getting the post he had wanted so badly in Canberra ten years earlier (see chapter two).
My father, by contrast, was very much part of the older ethic.
He had gone through life blithely unaware of the need to play academic politics. He seemed to assume that others would automatically recognise him for his accomplishments.
And for the most part that was what happened. It was only in Australia (and to some extent under the Thatcherites in the UK) that he came unstuck.
I may have inherited some of his thinking. Which is why I was so shocked when I ran into the brick walls of exclusion in the Australian academic world, where the prizes went to the quick, the cunning and the politically astute.
The serious and the qualified were easily excluded.
8. The Okita Saburo Connection
Sometimes the exclusions approached the absurd.
I had long been involved with Okita Saburo, a well- known MITI official whom Kojima at Hitotsubashi had early on recruited to give respectability to his various pro-APEC moves (later Okita was made Foreign Affairs Minister).
Some time in the seventies, the ANU people had seized on Okita as their one point of high-level contact into Japan (like Kojima, he spoke good English). They were even to publish the English version of his memoirs.
Okita was not a proper economist. He was originally just a run-of-the-mill bureaucrat who had made his name as a signatory of the somewhat bogus Club of Rome 1970 report saying the world was about to run out of raw material resources.
But in Japan, just seeming to be involved in something of international significance, was enough to make one famous in those days.
During the war years Okita had been involved with Japan’s colonial efforts in Manchuria, including the rather unsavory Koyain opium production and sales operation designed to impoverish and enslave the Chinese – a point ignored in the many eulogies Okita was to receive at the ANU where he was revered as a god-like internationalist.
But then again, it is very unlikely that the ANU’s Japan experts were even aware of what Japan was doing in China in the war years, let alone Okita’s role.
But that aside, Okita had a likeable personality and was part of the postwar generation of bureaucrats seeking seriously to rebuild their nation. If only for that reason I was interested in him, even if I did not think much of his grasp of economics or international affairs.
And like many Japanese of his generation, Okita was an admirer of my father.
One result was that back during my Hongkong days in the early sixties we once had a hilarious party with him and my father on the balcony of my Hongkong penthouse.
That was long before any of the ANU crowd had even begun to appear on the Japan scene.
Later, when I was trying to get established in Japan, Okita had helped me through a MITI-backed research committee he headed.
Despite these strong connections, not once during my long stay in Japan did any of the ANU people, or the Tokyo Embassy people, see fit to have me join in any of the many activities they organised around Okita.
It was embarrassing, for both of us, to have to pretend ignorance of this petty exclusiveness.
9. The Hitotsubashi Connection
Much the same went on with the ANU’s Hitotsubashi connection.
Various joint seminars and other activities were arranged there. But I never got to see anything of them, even though I was very much alive and well in Tokyo and had had a long connection with Hitotsubashi.
One of my good friends at that university was the senior economist, Ishi Hiromitsu. He liked some of the things I had written about Japan’s land tax policies, and once asked me to address the government tax commission he headed.
Later he was made the Hitotsubashi president, and asked me to be a member of the university’s oversee committee (shimon iinkai.)
In theory at least, one of my jobs was to oversee the ANU people involved with the university.
The wheel had finally turned full circle, though once again I doubt whether any of those non-Japanese speakers in the ANU ivory tower were even aware of details like that.
The amateurism of Australia’s academic, business and official contacts with Japan was, and still is, a scandal waiting to be exposed.
Even the minerals people had yet to get their act together, as I was to discover later.