This is the story of an Australian boy, born in England in 1936 to the economist, Colin Clark, taken to live in wartime Queensland and then raised on a small farm outside Brisbane.

At age 16 he is accepted for Oxford, University, where he discovers the charms of Europe and the charmlessness of Britain’s class society. He then joins the Australian diplomatic service, is sent to learn Chinese in post-revolution Hongkong and ends up as First Secretary in Australia’s Moscow embassy during the Khrushchev liberalisation.

At age 28, and designated as Australian representative to the UN Disarmament Commission in New York, he decides that KGB attentions, Canberra’s crazy China policies and Australia’s criminal support for the Vietnam War mean he should begin to look for other things to do in life. He takes up a post-graduate scholarship in Canberra to study Japan’s economy, visits Japan, discovers the beauty of its countryside, the gentleness of its people, and the strangeness of its society.

While in Canberra he also sets out to write a book trying to explain Chinese foreign policies objectively, and to oppose the Vietnam War strongly, at a time when such activities were not very welcome. As a result, he ends up as a Tokyo-based correspondent for an Australian newspaper for four years. There he discovers the booming Japanese economy, learns more Japanese, and finally gets to China by extreme chance –  organising an Australian pingpong team, which leads to Australia’s recognition of Beijing.

After an interesting but frustrating year in Canberra as a government policy adviser, he gets a job at a Tokyo university. There he writes another book, this time to explain Japan. Thanks to that book he spends the next 25 years as a well-known speaker and media commentator criss-crossing Japan, while raising a family, being invited to join several dozen Japanese official policy committees and ending up as president of a Japanese university.

En route he gets to know three of the world’s major civilisations – Japan, China and Russia, and their languages. This book relates that experience together with his last three challenges – discovering Latin America and its language, land development in the hills to the south of Tokyo with his Japanese partner, Yasuko Tanno, plus their two children, and helping to establish a new and very successful university in Akita, northern Japan.


Mistakes were numerous.

Two were serious (see below):

*1. In 1962 I knew from the beginning that India was responsible for the Himalayan border clash of that year.  Instead of burying the details in a book I should have had it published as a serious article in a document of influence. 

If I had done that much of the damage caused by the myth of China’s inherent aggressiveness might have been avoided. Maybe.

2.  In the early seventies I had discovered the cause of the Sino-Soviet dispute.  Instead of burying it in a book I should have had it published as a serious article in a document of influence. 

If I had done that much of the damage caused by the myth on China’s inherent aggressiveness might have been avoided. Again maybe.

Maybe is part of the price we pay for Australia lying beyond the publishing hegemony of the US and UK.