Western traders sailed searching for basic commodities when China reduced exports including “tea” through the ancient Silk Road. They ended up conquering lands & cultivating commercial crops as it gave high profits with low investments. That was the beginning of western colonization which is still contributing to keep the European markets stable. However, unlike investors at present, western colonizers used military force & new knowledge to utilize resources in the colonies. Thus the bloodshed, suppressions & technical developments recorded. In Congo, Africa sources indicate the killing of approx two million locals within ten years by European colonizers. The first step to end colonizing culture was taken by V.I. Lenin of Soviet Russia. He granted independence to Finland which was a colony of the Russian empire & took the USSR out of WWI. WWI is seen by many as the first battle to divide the world among empires. Lenin re-displayed the socialist approach on colonization which was similar to Great China’s approach (1400AD) when the west wasn’t into colonization.
Tea, a world heritage
At the recent 45th session of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee held in Saudi Arabia, the old tea forests in Jingmai Mountain in the Lancang Lahu autonomous country (southwest China) was recognized as a World Heritage site. It will be China’s 57th World Heritage site & the first focusing on tea cultivation. The World Heritage site consists of five old tea forests & nine traditional villages which evolved over a millennium with the Blang & Dai communities with some practices dating back to the 10th century (Ref UNESCO). It also gives the analyzing opportunity to those who question China’s democratic approach as the location is an autonomous county within communist China. China practices one country many systems governance with Macau & Hong Kong etc. Some analysts may compare the Chinese system to the system which prevailed in the Persian Empire (present day Iran, Iraq, Egypt, KSA & UAE etc). Most above countries are leading buyers of Sri Lanka’s “Ceylon tea”.
Opportunities of colonization
The tea industry is one big opportunity SL can use for economic recovery in addition to the rail network & the soft tools such as the English language & management systems left by the British. When Britain left Hong Kong, China used all opportunities in HK to strengthen one China economy. While Sri Lankans are aware of the destructive state policies which blocked the industry in the past, they seem to be enjoying Chiti Somapala’s new waves on his mother Chithra’s ever green hit on tea leaves. The talented few in the tea industry should generate new waves, learn from global success stories & implement innovative ways to use; policy makers, technology, lands & buildings & even the labour force to stretch a safety net to prevent future disasters affecting the industry.
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