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The End of 'Apple Daily' - and Freedom of the Press in Hong Kong

The End of 'Apple Daily' - and Freedom of the Press in Hong Kong
The End of 'Apple Daily' - and Freedom of the Press in Hong Kong
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Interview
'

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Malcolm Riddell

|
Founder | CHINADebate

Malcolm Riddell

|
Founder | CHINADebate
Interview

Malcolm Riddell

|
Founder | CHINADebate

Malcolm Riddell

|
Founder | CHINADebate

Through arrests and freezing of assets, Beijing has forced the closing of Hong Kong’s last pro-democracy newspaper, the Apple Daily.

  • The founder, Jimmy Lai, a billionaire from the garment industry turned media mogul, is already in prison, with more criminal trials to come.
  • Lai, who didn’t really need to take stands for rights in Hong Kong, didn’t need any of this. And that I guess makes him even more of hero.

As this is occurring, I’m reading The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (a Pulitzer Prize winner and not nearly as weighty as the title makes it sound – absolutely fascinating)

  • With this in mind I was struck by an editorial in the Global Times, an organ of the Chinese Communist Party.

‘The role Apple Daily plays contradicts the freedom of the press the West advocates.’

  • ‘It has not been "a media outlet with a political stance," but a newspaper which engages in extreme confrontational politics through media.’

The editorial writer clearly hasn’t read The Ideological Origins (or anything else on the function of a free press).

  • From what I gather, were it not for a free press, there probably would not have been an American Revolution.

While that encapsulates how different China’s idea of a free press and that of democracies’ – and why China stamps out the democratic version – it also points up, assuming (which I do) the sincerity of the Global Times editorial writer, just how different the Chinese and western concept of rights is more generally.

  • And, this is one of the reasons why the relationship between China and the democracies will remain fraught – we both say the same thing, but it what it means to each of us is vastly different.
  • [I learned this lesson negotiating the terms, such ‘management control,’ of Sino-western joint ventures.]

On to bitcoin. China, with a 65-75% pre-crackdown share of the industry, is cracking down harder.

  • When I read reports about this, though, I felt as if I had been living under a rock.

Turns out that China isn’t cracking down just to control financial risk (my understanding) but also because of bitcoin mining’s damage to the environment.

  • “Bitcoin alone consumes as much electricity as a medium-sized European country.”
  • Who knew? Clearly most everyone except me.

‘Local governments are under pressure from Beijing to reduce energy intensity — carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product — as China aims to reach peak output of greenhouse gas by 2030 and achieve “carbon neutrality” by 2060.’

  • And that pressure flows downhill to bitcoin miners.

Now to the U.S. Senate and something else I didn’t realize.

  • On June 8, the Senate passed the United States Innovation and Competitiveness Act. [That I knew].

What I didn’t know and what Scott Kennedy of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (who has been masterfully analyzing Congress and China for years) explains so well in ‘'Congress on China: Then and Now' is that ‘it is safe to say that this is the most comprehensive action by Congress on China policy EVER.’ [That I didn’t know.]

  • ‘What also comes through from the new measure is how Congress’s view of China has fundamentally flipped.’
  • [Flipped since it two prior big moves: 1979, Taiwan Relations Act, and 2000, granting China permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status.]
  • ‘Although major actions, these two still would pale in comparison to the Innovation and Competitiveness Act, should it become law.’

‘This bill reconfirms the fact that the United States has abandoned a strategy of facilitating China’s integration into the international system with the expectation that such efforts would result in a more open, market-oriented Chinese economy, a more liberal political environment, and less aggressive activity internationally.’

‘The language of the bill is about a long-term competition with China as opposed to war with an enemy.’

  • ‘Congress has taken a hawkish turn, but it is still pursuing a multifaceted approach that does not foreclose the possibility that U.S.-China relations could eventually be stabilized and not devolve into violent conflict.’

As I have long counselled in these pages, if you want to understand U.S. foreign policy, don’t just watch the Executive Branch, watch Congress too.

  • Now, as Dr. Kennedy makes clear, that is more important than ever.
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