Tariq Ali in Australia and New Zealand

Missing

Tariq Ali gave three talks at the Perth Writers Festival: 'The Democracy Debate,' a reading of the final book in the Islam Quintet Night of the Golden Butterfly and The Obama Syndrome lecture, presented by SlowTV

Tariq Ali continues his mini-tour Down Under in New Zealand, delivering the Sir Douglas Robb Lectures at the University of Auckland. In a series of three lectures, Ali asks

In a changing world with American military power transcending US economic weaknesses, the amazing rise of China and the continuing occupations in the Arab world and South Asia, what are the likely outcomes? Is it the case, as many argue, that the US empire is now in irretrievable decline? Will China flex its military muscles one day?

Ahead of his second and third lectures this coming week, entitled 'US power today: The global hegemon' and 'The Rise of China,' Ali spoke to Geoff Cumming for the New Zealand Herald 

His latest book, The Obama Syndrome, argues that - far from the promise of a sea change in US foreign policy - the Obama Administration has been a case of more of the same.

He includes New Zealand among the compliant democracies, from Labour's embrace of neo-liberal economics in the 1980s to our continuing allegiance to the US. As the promo for his second lecture notes, New Zealand remains a loyal satrap (subordinate) of the US. We should, he says, be embracing China more fully.

"New Zealand and to an extent Australia are countries which refuse to accept their geography. They remain vassal states, first with Britain then with the United States. To me it's bizarre that New Zealand and Australia don't have their own flags."

The region escaped the worst of the global recession because of China's economic strength rather than US ties.

"I think the compulsory second language in Australia and New Zealand should be Chinese.

"New Zealand may have a free trade agreement with China but there's no doubt who determines New Zealand foreign policy. For New Zealand to have troops being killed in Afghanistan - what does that have to do with New Zealand?"

China's emergence - and what it means politically and economically - is the theme of Ali's third lecture, next Wednesday. Without giving too much away, it's safe to say he does not foresee it following in US footsteps as an imperialist power.

Visit  the New Zealand Herald to read the interview in full and the University of Auckland website for full details and booking for the Sir Douglas Robb Lectures.