MICHAEL GOLDFARB If you want to get away from the mounting feeling of dread in the US and Europe, the sensation that maybe this economic downturn is not quite over and that Barack Obama may not have quite sharp enough elbows to make a success of his job, if you want to get a fresh perspective on things, then you need to go to the far side of the world - just make sure someone else is paying for it. Ive just come back from the far side, Australia to be precise. (Someone else was paying.) Now that the jet lag has cleared away, I am thinking through what I saw, and just as important, didnt see. What I saw in Australia was a country that has weathered the global downturn pretty well. I experienced a couple of weeks of work in which I didnt encounter massive existential despair about the state of the world, in which reports of body counts and corruption in war zones, hypocrisy and corruption in government didnt dominate discussion. (Actually there is plenty of hypocrisy/corruption in Australian politics but there are five major sports seasons in full swing so newspapers tend to be dominated by ball coverage.) Enjoying the sun and the very real good feeling behind the Australian catchphrase, No worries, mate, I began to think about the huge difference in social outlook between their side of the world and the one where I live. Why isnt everyone out here as concerned about terrorism and economic catastrophe and the pressure that fear is putting on the political system in America and Europe? There are many reasons but here is one not written about much: China isnt really at war. Even in countries where Americans are fighting and dying, China is doing business. A year ago McClatchy newspapers excellent reporter Jonathan Landay described American soldiers in Afghanistan securing a road leading to the site of what will be a multi-billion dollar Chinese copper mining venture in Aynak, south of Kabul. The soldiers were actually trying to clear the area of Taleban for their own strategic purposes but their presence made the area secure enough for a Chinese crew to grade and pave a road to the mine site. The copper lode there is expected to help supply Chinas voracious need for the stuff for the next two decades. In Gwadar, on the southern coast of the Pakistan province of Balochistan, the Chinese have built a massive oil tanker facility. Lots of brown desert and a provincial city of houses the same colour and over on a hammerhead spit of land sticking into the Arabian sea is the port. At the end of last year, The New York Times reported on the Aynak copper mine in Afghanistan and quoted Frederick Starr of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute: We do the heavy lifting and they pick ?the fruit. That sums up the situation nicely. I am not naturally inclined to provide a talking point for Heritage Foundation/American Enterprise Institute types but it is amazing that the government of the Peoples Republic of China can get away so cheap. There is much talk these days about forcing China to allow its currency to float freely on foreign exchange markets. Perhaps, a more direct way of dealing with economic imbalances between the rival powers would be for the US to send China a bill for security services. A few billion here and a few billion there, pretty soon youre talking about real money. Why not split the tab right down the middle? Khaleej Times