FLAT EARTH

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The Independent Online
The British are here

"WHAT IS Institutional Investor?" the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked recently. For a man in charge of the British economy, it is something of an admission that he has never heard of one of the world's more influential financial organs, bible of the American fund management fraternity.

Perhaps it helps to explain why Gordon Brown was not at the glittering party the magazine threw in Sequoia, one of Washington's hipper hangouts, during the International Monetary Fund meeting last week. Others who did make it included Peter Rogers, Eddie George's right-hand man as secretary of the Bank of England, and Stephanie Flanders, former Financial Times whizzkid now speechwriter to the US Treasury. Though seeming terribly English, Ms Flanders is as American as apple pie.

But then virtually everyone sipping champagne or dancing to the aggressively loud music seemed to be British, speaking in impeccable public school tones and clad in Savile Row pinstripes. Perhaps the British have systematically infiltrated the topmost levels of high finance. Or perhaps, as Americans prefer to believe, the British are just spectacularly good at finding a free drink.

But no Chinamen

SOME YEARS ago, when Australian cinema first came to international attention with films such as My Brilliant Career and Picnic at Hanging Rock, someone did a parody in a flow-chart. Central to the all-purpose Oz movie was A Spirited Girl who comes to the city from the Outback/goes to the Outback from the city, where she Finds True Love, then decides whether to marry or retain her independence, and so on.

I was reminded of this by a growing literary sub-genre which might be called A Daughter of China Remembers. In the wake of the mammoth success of Jung Chang's Wild Swans there has been a flood of such reminiscences - usually with titles drawn from nature, such as Falling Leaves, Red Azalea, Spider Eaters - of which the latest example, Daughter of the River, has just landed on my desk.

I haven't had time to read it, but I would be surprised if the young heroine does not grow up during the Cultural Revolution, denounce her teachers and labour on a collective farm before waking up from the madness and going to a university in Britain or the US. If I am being unfair to the latest contributor, Hong Ying, I apologise. But when are we going to hear from a Chinese man? Australian cinema eventually got around to making Shine. The equivalent, I suppose, would be the memoirs of a gifted Chinese pianist deprived of his art by the Maoists.

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