Rio, China and British investors
Are there greater hypocrites in the world than British institutional investors?
These days, they bellyache about the excessive risks that were being run by big companies in the boom years.
They've put irresistible pressure on banks to raise regulatory capital and on other big companies to pay down debt.
Which is fine and dandy but long overdue - a closing of stable doors after more or less every horse has galloped over the horizon.
Lest we forget, it was these same shareholders who less than two years ago were putting extreme pressure on companies to gear up, to increase borrowings, to take advantage of the availability of cheap plentiful debt for takeovers and to finance buybacks of shares.
If Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS were recklessly lending a massive multiple of capital resources - as no one today can possibly deny - they were doing so for years in the full view of their owners, who said thanks for the dividends and rarely asked whether the dividends were sustainable.
And here's the tragedy. Those owners were us - the millions of British people saving for a pension, who innocently mandated a bunch of numpties at investment institutions to look after our retirement savings.
These investment institutions were supposed to ensure that the big companies in which we're invested serve our interests - instead of which they encouraged these companies to maximise short-term profits regardless of whether the future was being dangerously mortgaged to the hilt.
To call this a failure of corporate governance is the equivalent of describing the second world war as a breakdown of diplomatic relations between Britain and Germany.
Which brings me to today's historic investment of $19.5bn by Chinalco - a giant Chinese resources group - in Rio, the metals and minerals group.
Doubtless we'll hear carping from the investment institutions that Rio is selling at an inopportune down-phase of the commodity cycle and that it's flogging too much influence over its affairs to a minority investor.
But there is another way of seeing this deal.
Rio is securing a 60-year loan from the Chinese.
It's selling a right to buy its shares in the future at a massive premium to the prevailing share price.
And Rio is forming partnerships with Chinalco in individual mines - which should bring in new Chinese customers and help with the development of new mines in China's growing sphere of influence throughout the emerging economies.
Of course Chinalco's investment can be seen as another worrying manifestation of how economic and financial power has shifted from west to east.
But if that's happening, it's in part because the Chinese are prepared to invest for the long term to create sustainable enterprises.
And can Rio's board be blamed if - under pressure from its existing shareholders to pay down borrowings - it concludes that it's in the interest of all its owners (whether they acknowedge it or not) to lock in a relationship with a Chinese business and a Chinese economy which commit their capital for the rewards that may come in ten years, not ten minutes?