BETWEEN FOUR WORLDS: CHINA, RUSSIA, JAPAN AND AUSTRALIA;
BETWEEN FOUR CAREERS: DIPLOMAT, ECONOMIST, JOURNALIST AND JAPANOLOGIST;
BETWEEN FOUR LANGUAGES: ENGLISH, CHINESE, RUSSIAN AND JAPANESE
BACK TO AUSTRALIA – 1968-9
1. Thesis Preparation
2. Blacklisted by Australian Academia
3. A Western Australian Connection
4. The Okita Saburo Connection
5. Looking Abroad, China or Japan?
6. Back to 'The Australian?'
7. The PhD Thesis Problem
Arriving back from Japan and Southeast Asia in May, 1968, the Canberra autumn colors seemed even stronger than I had remembered.
I set about the painful business of writing up my doctoral thesis.
1. Thesis Preparation
My problems were probably greater than those suffered by most Ph.D. students. Materials were in a difficult foreign language. And I still did not have enough data.
Japan was still not a very large, or welcome, player on the world economic stage. Its direct investment overseas was still small.
My supervisor, Heinz Arndt, had chosen my topic for me largely because he was interested in Japan's unusual 'develop and import' style of investment in Indonesian resource goods.
But there were only three of such projects at the time, and to try to write a thesis based on their activities would have been impossible, even if I could get total access to everything they were doing.
True, my main general conclusions - that Japanese direct investors put emphasis on securing sources of supply (raw materials investments) or overseas markets for finished goods (sales network investments) and parts and materials (assembly operations behind tariff barriers) - were quite interesting in the context of direct investment theory at the time.
Most direct investment by firms in other nations aimed to generate income more directly through dividends, transfer pricing and royalties.
Japanese investors had a more "organic" approach, both at home and abroad. Hence the high proportion of joint ventures.
In Indonesia they were even prepared to experiment with unusual production sharing techniques in a bid to secure raw materials.
(I was also impressed by the instinctive, "seat-of-the-pants" approach to some major investment decisions.)
(My efforts to find some cultural explanation for this and other investment behavior differences were to lead to me eventually into a fullscale study of the culture. More on that later.)
And thanks to the semi-confidential MITI list of investments I had obtained, I had some original data to back up these conclusions. Within the year I had a draft thesis ready.
Arndt said he liked what I had done. All I had to do was get it typed up in the elaborate style demanded of doctoral candidates, and my four years of effort would be over.
I could begin to think about my next move - how and where to get re-employed.
2. Blacklisted by Academia
Clearly External Affairs would be a non-starter. Apart from anything else, Plimsoll's 1965 promise to have me come back after the "Vietnam thing" was over would be of little use since the Vietnam thing was still far from over.
I had also had that ugly run-in with Canberra's spy apparatus. That alone would effectively put an end to any chance of going back to working in a government, a conservative government especially, which is why I made such a fuss, albeit a futile fuss, about the incident at the time.
My first move was to go through the motions of approaching J.D.B.Miller at the ANU international relations department, to see if the China research position he had offered me back in 1962 was still open.
I knew he would say no. But I wanted to get the rejection on record.
In 1962, at the very young age of 26, I had been seen by the university as someone very suitable for appointment to a well-paid research position on China, despite the fact that at the time my only qualifications were a few years experience working in External Affairs, and a so-so knowledge of the Chinese language.
Now, seven years later, in 1969, I was that much more mature. My Chinese was much better (thanks to the year I had spent with C.), I now had good Russian and adequate Japanese, a further three years of valuable EA experience (China desk and in Moscow) and was about to get a doctorate in international economics.
As well, I had produced a fullscale book on Chinese foreign policies whose chapters on the Sino-Indian frontier dispute, the Sino-Soviet ideological dispute and the importance of Taiwan were filled with original and closely researched material of doctorate standard.
It was probably one of the very few books on foreign affairs to be published in Australia at the time that could be republished today without change - something that certainly could not be said for the rubbish that was coming out of Miller's department at the time.
In short, if I was qualified for the position I had been offered in 1962, I was certainly a lot more qualified in 1969. So was I offered the position in 1969?
Of course not.
By 1969 I had become a critic of government policies, possibly even a communist agitator. It took Miller just five minutes to close the door on me.
And at the time ANU Chancellor Crawford was telling the world how the ANU was a center of something called academic excellence. Some excellence!
More worrying was the fact that my informal approaches to other universities were getting nowhere.
Monash University in Melbourne seemed an good place to aim for; it was said to be both fairly progressive and trying hard to move into Asian studies.
But I did not even get through the door there.
I had hoped to get the vacant China slot at Monash. In the event, it went to a quite unqualified, and now totally forgotten, right-wing ideological fanatic called Bob Beveridge.
A poor Chinese speaker and a former bureaucrat from Prime Minister's department, he used to hector me in public for my Vietnam views.
Years later I learned from Max Teichman (who was in a very good position to know) that the Monash authorities had been told firmly by some ASIO type not to offer me any position under any circumstances. I assume the same thing was going on at other universities.
To this day the extent of ASIO infiltration of our universities at the time has never been fully realised, let alone criticised.
True, at the time even some otherwise balanced and sensible academics went along with the China/Vietnam threat talk enough to want to cooperate with ASIO.
One of them, a former External Affairs colleague, who had moved to University of Tasmania, had even told me he felt he was doing the nation a service by helping find recruits for ASIO. (If he was introducing people of intelligence that may have been true.)
But today, now that it is obvious they were wrong over Vietnam and China, why no apology or mea culpas ?
The Australian psyche seems impervious to objective standards of right and wrong. Right lies in doing what everyone else is doing and thinking at the time.
Wrong lies in opposing the consensus, in rocking the boat, in seeming to cause trouble, even if you are proved right later..
It is a curious morality, though I find the same attitudes in Japan.
In most of the civilized world outside of Japan and Australia, the search for objective standards of judgement and morality is important, certainly among academics.
A Daniel Ellsberg is today honored and respected for his role in opposing the Vietnam War, even if at the time he was reviled.
True, many years later Miller was to write an article for the journal of the Australian Institute of Political Science where he at least had the honesty to admit he and quite a few others had been wrong over China.
But, he added, he had been quite right to oppose left-wingers like Clark and Jim Cairns.
Quite apart from his obvious desire to absolve himself of guilt for the personal harm he had caused me, it was a totally gratuitous insult, both to myself and Cairns.
Cairns' deeply intellectual approach to Asian foreign policy issues left him streets ahead of people like Miller whose only real interest seemed to be Commonwealth affairs.
As for myself, the conservative attitudes I have inherited from a Queensland rural background, make me more of a right a rightwinger than a leftwinger.
(The 1950's Brisbane farm on which I was raised was just a few miles down the Brisbane river from Pauline Hanson's famous Ipswich fish and chip shop.).
I have little time for the harmful bleeding heart attitudes to aborigines and phony asylum seekers.
I believe strongly that individuals are responsible for their own welfare and should not depend on the State.
I just happen to object to States deciding they have the right to go into foreign countries to slaughter of inhabitants there in the name of spurious causes. I am not sure why that makes me a leftwinger.
But to come back to my own affairs.
More Brick Walls
By early 1969 it was clear I had no future in Australia, either as a Japanologist or as a Sinologist.
Crawford was making sure that the still non-Japanese speaking Drysdale would consolidate his ANU dictatorship over Japanese studies and research.
And he had obviously forgotten how in 1962 he had tried to recruit me to set up a China economic research group. (In an empire- building move typical of ANU politics, China was soon to be taken over those non-Japanese speaking Japan research academics, in partnership with non-Chinese speaking academics claiming expertise on China.)
Meanwhile Fitzgerald, who had finished his Ph.D. work on the topic of Overseas Chinese in Asia, had moved into the China slot in the ANU Asian Studies department. He was already making his run in the ALP and elsewhere as Canberra's resident expert on China.
With both Japan and China ruled out, for a while I tinkered with the idea of going back into the Russian studies field. I had long had an amiable relationship with Harry Rigby, then in charge of ANU Soviet studies.
But he was not very helpful (I had the feeling he was getting tired of the subject).
Eventually I was to be stymied by a highly unremarkable Brit called Paul Dibb who was finishing up a very unremarkable thesis on the Soviet Far East.
As far as I could make out, Dibb had little grip on either the Russian language or Soviet affairs. Certainly he had never spent any serious time in the USSR.
But in Canberra's intellectually impoverished climate that did not stop him from making a strong run later as an expert on Soviet military affairs, and by natural progression, all military affairs.
He ended up as military affairs guru for the entire Australian establishment.
3. A West Australian Connection
The only academic opening I received, and then only tentatively, came from West Australia.
Partly as a result of my own experience at the ANU and Japan, I had been using the media to push the need for university courses that would train people properly both in the language AND in business/economics.
That way, when they arrived in Japan they would be able to move into jobs which might do something useful for the Japan-Australia economic relationship - something which those non-Japanese speakers with their PhDs in theoretical economics would never be able to do.
WA University seemed to have heard my message. In any case, it was going to set up a special course along just those lines.
It had sent Professor Reg Appleyard to Canberra to try to find someone to set up and run the new course.
I was one of the first on his calling list.
I said I was interested, but would have to wait a few more months till I had finished my ANU work. But despite seeming to have had a very positive interview with him, I never heard anything more from him.
Spies at Work, again?
Years later I discovered that WA university had also approached officialdom for a recommendation as to who should be appointed to run the course.
Officialdom had contacted TW. - their chief spy operative in Japan, an occupation era hangover with good business cover and quite good Japanese. .
To his credit, TW was an intelligent and at times even flexible spy.
When Labour gained power in 1972 he used his positions in various Australia-Japan organisations to be nice to me, invite me to give talks etc.
But when it came to the crunch, especially when the conservatives were in power in Canberra, the camaraderie quickly disappeared.
He tapped into the Drysdale-Kojima Hitotsubashi connection I mentioned earlier, and came up with the name of an American, Bernard Key, about to graduate there with a Ph.D. in the history of foreign investment in Japan.
Key had no connection with Australia, or with the world of business. But he was given the position anyway.
As it turned out, Key was conscientious and did quite a good job in Perth.
But he left after a few years to become a stock analyst in Japan and the WA course fell apart soon after, thanks largely to the appointment, recommended almost certainly by TW or someone else in concerned officialdom, of a retired Japanese ex-CIA operative who proved to be totally unsuitable, or even worse.
(Ironically, Key was to approach me for a university job almost thirty years later.)
( I had been made president of the business- oriented Tama University in Tokyo. Key wanted to get out of the grubby stock-market world, and back into academia.)
(We gave him a job. But he only lasted a few years. He succumbed to the mental pressure of trying to teach Japanese university students, and I do not blame him.)
That the WA course was able during its brief span under Key to produce most of the young Australians who were to come to play important roles in the Australian business relationship with Japan during the seventies and eighties - Bill Hall, Ken Boston, Richard Pyvis, the Walker brothers - proved the value of my original idea.
Many more could have been produced if the course had not been collapsed so quickly by officialdom's obsessive desire to plant its operatives in our universities, or if other Australian universities had had the sense to run similar courses.
Needless to say, the ANU was, and would remain, impervious to my suggestions that it should have its own undergraduate Japanese language/ business studies unit.
For the ANU "academic excellence" crowd, a clutch of non-Japanese speaking ANU Ph D's claiming expertise in free trade theory , APEC etc was far more important than the difficult business of setting out to train young Australians how to speak Japanese and do business with Japan.
It would be decades before any of the products from the ANU's well-funded operations would make any impact at the grassroots level of the Japan- Australian business relationship. Meanwhile others with more practical experience of Japan were excluded.
True, there is nothing unusual about academics staking out exclusive research areas and keeping others at bay.
But when this is done with government-supplied funds, by people who do not know the language of the country they are supposed to be studying, and who use their power and position to discriminate against those who do know the language, and the country, then it IS unusual.
On the other hand it is also true that in the narrow world of Australian academic bureaucracy, not knowing the language of the country you are supposed to be studying is not quite the sin it would be in some of the more academically advanced nations of the world.
In any respectable UK or US university, even then, it would have been out of the question to work in any Japan or China academic area without the language. But not in Australia, which at the time was boasting about its close relations with the Asian countries.
A Personal Affair
Obviously at the time I was not very happy about what was happening around me at the time.
I am still unhappy, even though fate was later to deal me some much more favorable cards - cards I would not have received if I had stayed in some arid academic position in Australia.
But there is another and far less selfish reason for my unhappiness.
I had been brought up in a 1950's Anglo-saxon ethic that said if you study hard and work honestly, then the society around you will recognise you for what you are, and treat you accordingly.
There should be no need to engage in grubby political maneuvers in order to get ahead.
And in the early years of my career that seemed to be the case.
Entering External Affairs, I had worked hard to learn Chinese and Russian. I think I had handled my work with some responsibility. My superiors had noted all this, and had rewarded me with good postings and promotions.
To have been made First Secretary at age 28, and offered the job of Australian representative to the UN Disarmament Commission at age 29, despite the fact that Canberra already knew I did not agree with them on Vietnam and China, is a tribute to an ethic now quite dead in the Canberra bureaucracy.
Today it is dog eat dog in the race up the promotion ladder. You survive only by keeping close to the political line of the day.
They say it is all in the interests of efficiency.
Efficiency? In the old days the Australian Embassy in Tokyo was efficient.
Despite small numbers it operated widely across broad areas of Japanese society. Its staff tried hard to master Japanese.
Today it is a bloated bureaucratic establishment absorbed in its own administration and filled with non-Japanese speakers clinging to the current Canberra line over Japan while saving generous allowances and organising their career paths back in Canberra.
We never get to see them making any impact on Japanese society.
Over the years I think I was to see most of the corridors and citadels of political and business power in Japan.
I saw quite a few Americans, Brits and Canadians there. But I never saw any Australians.
The change was part of Australia's sudden transition, beginning in the sixties, from what could be called traditional values of noblesse oblige and service to the country, to rationalistic McKinsey style values of every individual out for himself.
At the ANU I discovered the same changes. In the early sixties I could feel a genuine searching after academic excellence and fairness.
But by the late sixties it had become bloated and bureaucratic, with an ethic that said the rewards went to activists skilled at political maneuvering.
Those who went quietly about the difficult business of serious research and gaining required academic skills were easily ignored.
I once tried to pin down Heinz on the morality of all this.
The ANU Japan people had by far the loin's share of Australian official funds for academic research and involvement with Japan. Yet in effect they were being allowed to use those funds to pursue petty jealousies and personal ambitions.
He muttered something about things being the way they were and left it at that.
I should have remembered that he himself had once done the political maneuvering which had prevented my father from getting the post he had wanted so badly in Canberra ten years earlier (see chapter two).
My father, by contrast, was very much part of the older ethic.
He had gone through life blithely unaware of the need to play academic politics. He seemed to assume that others would automatically recognise him for his accomplishments.
And for the most part that was what happened. It was only in Australia (and to some extent under the Thatcherites in the UK) that he came unstuck.
I may have inherited some of his thinking. Which is why I was so shocked when I ran into the brick walls of exclusion in the Australian academic world, where the prizes went to the quick, the cunning and the politically astute.
The serious and the qualified were almost automatically ruled out.
4. The Okita Saburo Connection
Sometimes the exclusions approached the absurd.
I had long been involved with Okita Saburo, a well- known MITI official whom Kojima at Hitotsubashi had early on recruited to give respectability to his various pro-APEC moves (later Okita was made Foreign Affairs Minister).
Some time in the seventies, the ANU people had seized on Okita as their one point of high-level contact into Japan (like Kojima, he spoke good English). They were even to publish the English version of his memoirs.
Okita was not a proper economist. He was originally just a run-of- the-mill bureaucrat who had made his name as a signatory of the somewhat bogus Club of Rome 1970 report saying the world was about to run out of raw material resources.
But in Japan, just seeming to be involved in something of international significance was enough to make one famous in those days.
During the war years Okita had been involved with Japan's colonial efforts in Manchuria, including the rather unsavory Koyain opium production and sales operation designed to impoverish and enslave the Chinese - a point ignored in the many eulogies Okita was to receive at the ANU where he was revered as a god-like internationalist.
But then again, it is very unlikely that the ANU's Japan experts were even aware of what Japan was doing in China in the war years, let alone Okita's role.
But that aside, Okita had a likeable personality and was part of the postwar generation of bureaucrats seeking seriously to rebuild their nation. If only for that reason I was interested in him, even if I did not think much of his grasp of economics or international affairs.
And like many Japanese of his generation, Okita was an admirer of my father.
One result was that back during my Hongkong days in the early sixties we once had a hilarious party with him and my father on the balcony of my Hongkong penthouse.
That was long before any of the ANU crowd had even begun to appear on the Japan scene.
Later, when I was trying to get established in Japan, Okita had helped me through a MITI-backed research committee he headed.
Despite these strong connections, not once during my long stay in Japan did any of the ANU people, or the Tokyo Embassy people, see fit to have me join in any of the many activities they organised around Okita.
It was embarrassing, for both of us, to have to pretend ignorance of this petty exclusiveness.
Much the same went on with the ANU's Hitotsubashi connection.
Various joint seminars and other activities were arranged there. But I never got to see anything of them, even though I was very much alive and well in Tokyo and had had a long connection with Hitotsubashi.
One of my good friends at that university was the senior economist Ishi Hiromitsu. He liked some of the things I had written about Japan's land tax policies, and once asked me to address the government tax commission he headed.
Later he was made the Hitotsubashi president, and asked me to be a member of the university's oversee committee (shimon iinkai.) In theory at least, one of my jobs was to oversee the ANU people involved with the university.
The wheel had finally turned full circle, though once again I doubt whether any of those non-Japanese speakers in the ANU ivory tower were even aware of details like that.
The amateurism of Australia's academic, business and official contacts with Japan was, and still is, a scandal waiting to be exposed. Even the minerals people had yet to get their act together, as I was to discover later.
5. Looking Abroad, China or Japan?
With the door closed firmly on me in Australia, I began to look abroad.
I wrote to Derek Davies, the well-known editor of the Hongkong-based Far Eastern Economic Review and with whom I had had a friendly relationship earlier in Hongkong.
In those days the Review was an authoritative and generally progressive source of information on China and the rest of Asia. It was far removed from the pro-business rants and the anti-Beijing slants it was to acquire under its later owners, the Wall Street Journal.
Davies wrote back saying he could give me the job as chief China watcher. The offer was very attractive.
Not only would I have a chance to get back into the China field.
Over the years the Review had nurtured some of the West's best China watchers, and was to train more - Mirsky, Gittings, Bonavia etc.
But the pull of Japan was to prove to be too strong.
The fact my In Fear of China book was about to published there, in Japanese, gave me a base from which to work - something I certainly did not have with China
(To this day I have had no recognition whatsoever from the Chinese of the fact I once wrote a book trying to throw a more favorable light on their foreign policies. But that is what you have to expect from that very self-centered, even if very dynamic, nation.)
Most of all, there were those happy memories from my one-year student existence in Japan, and what I call the Yasuko tapes.
The Call of Japan
While in Tokyo I had tried to learn the language as much as possible by taping radio broadcasts of interest and listening to them concentratedly.
One broadcast I liked especially was called Watashitachi no Kotoba - readings of letters sent in by public minded citizens, most elderly, suggesting ideas for improving the society - proper garbage disposal, removing abandoned bicycles, better school education, etc.
The letters taught me a lot about Japan. The concentrated listening taught me a lot about the language.
Back in Canberra I had wanted to keep my Japanese up.
I had asked a typically rightwing Japanese academic invited by ANU international relations department for yet another useless semi-Cold War research project, to record a text, any text, on tape for me to listen to (Yoneda was his name I think)
In those primitive days commercially-produced language tapes were hard to come by.
He had refused pointblank. He seemed to think he did not need to waste his valuable time helping this no-good Australian learn his nation's precious language.
But Yasuko would tape the Watashitachi no Kotoba broadcasts for me each week, and send them to me regularly by mail.
She would also write charming letters in simple Japanese telling me what was happening with her and her friends. (It was typical of the gentle consideration the Japanese, the women especially, can show in personal relationships.)
Stuck in the cold, antiseptic, bitchy world of Canberra academia, those letters were a lifeline - a lifeline of memories pulling me back to Japan.
The Moment of Decision
Meanwhile I had to prepare the final version of my thesis. No amount of nostalgia for Japan could help me there.
Sometime when I was about to deliver my second draft to the typist for the complete and meticulous re-type demanded by the primitive technologies of the time, the futility of it all began to crowd in on me.
Why was I doing all this? The establishment had already made it clear I would have no career in Australia, even after I had submitted the final version and had it approved.
In effect, I still had another month or so of exhausting editorial work to get the document into the shape demanded by academics who were determined to make sure that I would never get any academic recognition in Australia.
Even Arndt, my one point of honest contact at the ANU, had made it clear I was on my own once I finished the thesis. As he saw it, my China book (of which he disapproved mightily) meant I was still more of an international relations specialist than an economist.
Maybe he was right. But it was clear I would not going to go very far in the IR direction.
He thought he could help me get a job with the Asian Development Bank in Manila (where by coincidence my Japanese speaking brother, Christopher, had ended up), but that was about all.
Worse was the pretentiousness of it all.
PhD theses have to be presented as original contributions to knowledge fit for book publication. Yet everyone knows that the research is often either too narrow or too superficial.
In the social sciences, being able to add the words PhD to your name may give you an academic meal ticket. But in reality it often means little more than that you had nothing better to do for three years than engage on some area of useless esoteric research - years in which you could have been out in the world doing something useful.
It can be academic credentialism at its worst - at best wasteful, at times quite damaging.
I see the damage in the way some Japanese universities insist on recruiting English language teachers who have PhDs. Invariably these people have spent years researching some quite irrelevant branch of linguistics.
Worse they are determined to impose the results of that research on hapless Japanese students who simply want to learn how to say: "What is the way to the train station."
Post-graduate study for mature students makes more sense. In my own case, the exposure to good economics teachers at a stage of life when, as my father had told me many years earlier, I had the maturity and experience to understand what was being taught, was invaluable.
That, plus the chance for hands-on experience in Japan, was greatly to expand my career possibilities.
But for those who were coming directly from the under-graduate world, post-graduate economics would simply guarantee they would become fundamentalistic slaves to the theoretical, often rationalist, economists who have often done more harm that good to economies in recent years.
Hardly any of the thick, carefully bound and annotated documents produced by most PhD candidates in the social sciences could qualify for book publication. Few would deserve even summary publication in an academic journal.
So why was I, at age 33, going along with these intellectual pretensions, simply to satisfy a bunch of people who deep down hated my anti- Vietnam War guts.
They would almost get visceral pleasure from seeing me as a newly minted PhD seeking futilely for some kind of employment in Australia.
So why break my guts simply to keep them happy?
I had no ready answer. On the other hand, I sensed that if I did not serve out my time, there would a lot of people out there only too happy to throw rocks.
Later I would find out how right I was.
6. Back To 'The Australian?'
It was just at this moment of doubt and indecision that I ran into Eric Walsh again - the consummate fixer who had given me my introduction to The Australian four years earlier.
I told him my problems.
Why not get a job as Tokyo correspondent for The Australian, he said. Under its new editor, Adrian Deamer, it was still Australia's only progressive newspaper, and Deamer remembered my earlier Vietnam and China contributions.
As well, the Japan-Australia business relationship was heating up.
Lacking a Tokyo correspondent, The Australian was being hammered almost daily by big headline articles in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Financial Review, breaking news about new major resource export contracts with Japan, from their active, Tokyo-based stringer, Max Suich.
The Australian badly needed someone in Tokyo to match the competition, Walsh had noted.
He said he would check possibilities with John Menadue - the same Menadue he had introduced me to when I had wanted to get to Whitlam in 1966, and who was now the business manager for The Australian.
I had to say yes, even though I had no experience of journalism, or of Menadue.
Menadue was receptive enough.
But he said that while the newspaper could not afford to have someone in Japan purely as a news correspondent (the paper was still suffering heavy red ink) they could send me there if I would help garner Japanese advertising - yet another area where The Australian was being beaten badly by the Fairfax Press.
I was agreeable.
But Deamer, who was also keen to have a Tokyo correspondent, was not happy about the idea of my having to handle advertising too. Good newspapers try to keep a clear barrier between advertising and editorial, he warned.
Later I was to discover that he was not entirely wrong - not so much because the ads influenced the editorial, but because of the demands on time.
7. The PhD Thesis Problem
But if I was to take up the Tokyo job, what was I to do about the ANU thesis? I still had at least a month or so to go before I could hand over the kind of document demanded by the PhD system.
On the other hand, both Menadue and Deamer wanted me to get to Tokyo quickly. And I did not want to lose this golden opportunity to get back to Japan, with a job.
I decided to try to find a compromise.
I wrote to the ANU, telling them that while I was close to finishing my thesis, I was sure I could write a much better thesis if I could get back to Japan.
Which was true. A lot more information on Japanese overseas investment was coming out of Tokyo at the time (the Export- Import Bank people were finally publishing the detailed statistics demanded by the IMF).
As a correspondent for a major Australian newspaper, I would also have chances to get into large Japanese firms and query them on their overseas investment policies - chances I rarely had had as a struggling researcher two years earlier when all I could do was pore over magazine articles and limited statistical data looking for clues.
In short, I could say in all honesty that the job offer from The Australian would let me get back to Japan to get the extra information that I needed to prepare a much better thesis, and at no expense to the ANU.
The ANU establishment was not impressed. Crawford came back with a blunt letter saying they would give me a six months unpaid extension, and no more.
To some extent I could understand his position. The ANU provided quite generous three-year PhD scholarships. The university had a right to demand that people finish their research in the time allotted.
I had already been given an extra year because I had to learn Japanese, plus another six months unpaid to write my China book.
But few can learn Japanese even to semi-fluency in one year, even if they have Chinese. And the China book had taken a lot more than six months to research and write, and was a lot more important than any number of PhDs.
As for my PhD research, the fact that if it was to be handled properly the topic required a very wide range of sensitive inside information from businessmen and bureaucrats in a very foreign nation meant it was never going to be easy.
In this situation, if people are willing to spend their own time and money to complete research of some importance, exceptions can and should be made.
(One allegedly Japanese-speaking researcher in the ANU international relations department, who shall remain nameless, had spent twenty years working on his rather irrelevant Japan topic. And he still could not produce a book at the end of it.)
But clearly none of this made any impression on Crawford and the other ANU top people. They had seen me as a political thorn in their side. They were glad to be rid of me.
What to do? Deep down I already realised that the work demands in my new job would make it hard to meet the six month deadline.
Apart from anything else, I would have to spend two of that six months in Sydney learning how to be their Tokyo correspondent.
So should I abandon all academic pretensions and just head off for Tokyo?
I tried to rationalize: Maybe I would have to give up hope of the PhD tag. But that would not stop me from putting out a worthwhile book out on the subject sometime later while I was in Tokyo. That, I was sure, would be seen as much more important than any PhD - assuming I would want to go back into academia.
True, all that would take a lot more than six months, years even. But in the meantime I would be gaining valuable experience in a variety of other Japan fields - politics, foreign affairs etc.
Hopefully by the end of all that the political climate in Australia would have improved to the point where I could finally return and use my experience to get a job there.
Besides, I had already prepared the basic data and conclusions of the thesis. Even if I did not do a book, I could get that material published in Japan (which I did, two years later, via Ajiken). If others felt that was not enough, then that was their problem.
I also happened to disapprove of academic credentialism.
One of my first anti-credentialist efforts had been refusing in 1956 to pay the ten pounds sterling that Oxford demanded as the price for automatically being awarded an MA (as Oxford saw it, the research thesis needed for a BA qualified their graduates for an MA without any more study or research).
Fortunately, my father found out about my delinquency, and had paid the ten pounds which today allows me to call myself an Oxford MA.
But in non-credentialist Japan, which in those days had a healthy disrespect for PhDs (they called them 'over-doctor', or over-studied) it would be irrelevant whether I had spent more time to get that meaningless PhD.
But all that aside, I had another and much deeper reason for wanting to get out of Australia and back to Japan.
This was the shallowness and hopelessness of the continuing Vietnam debate in Australia.
Even planting trees in the Japanese mountains would be better than trying to cope with the daily barrage of ignorance and insensitivity to the war for which Australia had so much responsibility.
I had to get away from it all.
Concern about PhDs and other academic credentials had become secondary.
And so, on a bright early winter mid-1969 morning I set out by car from Canberra to begin a new career in the offices of The Australian in Sydney.
Just how new and different that career was to be was something I was soon to discover.