The Big Ideas

'After the protests - China is not just shackling Hong Kong, it is remaking it'
'After the protests - China is not just shackling Hong Kong, it is remaking it'
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March 20, 2021
BIG IDEA | ‘The old Hong Kong is gone. Judge Mr Xi’s China by what it builds in its place.’

The tyrannical moves by a nation's most implacable foe are seldom credited with any good intentions.

  • Yet for a foe to reach the level of implacability it has to have some vision that includes public goods that is coupled with its efforts to extend its dominance.
  • Without that that foe would be rightly labeled a 'tinpot dictator' and sooner rather than later consigned to a footnote.

And so it might be with Beijing and Hong Kong.

  • Beneath the wholesale repression may also be a desire to make Hong Kong 'better' according to Xi Jinping's own vision.

The problem for those us who abhor Xi's vision is crediting him with anything other than a desire to control the city.

  • That's what makes parts of ‘China is not just shackling Hong Kong, it is remaking it’ in The Economist so interesting.

Those parts convey the notion that beyond the obvious goal of bringing Hong Kong to heel, Mr. Xi wants to solve problems for benefit of the city.

  • Beijing’s electoral reforms aim to break the tycoons' influence in the legislature and in turn reduce income inequality and poor housing,
  • They also aim is to improve the quality of officials administering Hong Kong’s economy.

According to the article: ‘Talk to Chinese officials and state-backed scholars, as well as to pro-government politicians in Hong Kong, and they will insist that neutralising the opposition is a necessary step towards a greater goal:’

  • ‘Repairing flaws that render Hong Kong’s political and economic systems structurally unsound through a wholesale remodelling of its institutions and society.’

Beijing, it says, has ‘real concern about Hong Kong’s income inequality, which is among the most extreme in the developed world, and the cruelly high costs of housing in the territory.’

  • ‘Officials in Beijing deny all blame for an unhappy Hong Kong and are impatient with Westerners who cast Hong Kong’s discontent as a clash between a freedom-loving public and despotic rulers: Marx has taught them that all politics is rooted in economic forces.’
  • ‘Their favoured scapegoats are foreign saboteurs and a small number of Hong Kong-Chinese oligarchs who have dominated the city’s property and retail sectors for generations.’

‘Western critics focus on the blow that the new election law lands on pro-democracy parties.’

  • ‘Chinese observers are equally interested in its changes to the Election Committee, which will give Beijing-appointed members the power to dilute the influence of the property tycoons.’

‘Beyond that assault on Hong Kong’s old-school business bosses, a wider campaign is brewing to craft a new “capitalism with Hong Kong characteristics”.’

  • ‘The ultimate target is the city’s whole laissez-faire, low-tax economic model, which some officials in Beijing grumble has been elevated to an almost religious creed by local oligarchs, foreign business leaders and civil servants.’
  • So much for ‘guaranteeing that Hong Kong’s capitalist way of life would continue for at least 50 years after the Union Flag was lowered.’

Also, ‘National leaders do not hide their exasperation with the low calibre of many who enter Hong Kong politics today.’

  • ‘Maria Tam Wai-Chu, a senior member of the National People’s Congress from Hong Kong, points to the global technology giants which have transformed Shenzhen, the gleaming megapolis that lies just across the border from Hong Kong, and laments that: “We are so backwards here in Hong Kong.” '
  • 'She would like to see technology experts or business executives appointed or elected to Legco, to help the city confront the 21st century.’

‘The old Hong Kong is gone.’

  • ‘Judge Mr Xi’s China by what it builds in its place.’

Much the same could have been said for the Nazi reforms in Germany in the 1930s.

  • For my part, it seems that Autobahns and Volkswagens were a bad trade for Germans’ freedom.
  • And it seems that most Hong Kongers feel the same about Mr. Xi’s plans to remake their city, good intentions or not.