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A Happy New Year Message

新年快乐! 2013 is officially upon us and I want to take this opportunity to wish our readers and contributors a happy new year. Rather looking back at 2012, I want to offer some forward-looking thoughts. For Hidden Harmonies readers who are in position to interact with others of different heritage, I urge you to make a resolution for the new year to connect on a people to people level. If you are musically inclined, see how Abigail Washburn does it with a banjo or as I just saw on CCTV in celebration of the new year, how Lang Lang collaborates with celebrated Italian mezzo soprano Cecilia Bartoli. Invite your child’s friend’s family to celebrate Chinese New Year at your home or take a deeper interest in Diwali or some other traditions and participate. Or, if you like photography, take many pictures and share. Whatever is your hobby or interest, there is a way. I do believe at the people-to-people level, there is a genuine desire for peace and prosperity. Like the suspension cables that hold up the Golden Gate Bridge, they too are but bundles of individual threads. Rather than hoping for the warmongers amongst us to change, we should forge a bond that they can’t break.

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  1. January 1st, 2013 at 01:20 | #1

    Like! :) May I share a picture of “plant romance” to wish everyone a snugly and loving new year? http://www.guo-du.blogspot.hk/2012/12/till-death-do-us-part.html Happy New Year!

  2. pug_ster
    January 1st, 2013 at 14:21 | #2

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/world/asia/thousands-protest-over-hong-kongs-leader.html?_r=0

    I understand that people in HK protest against the current Chief Executive, CY Leung. What I find this disgusting is why do people in HK would hold up the old British Colonial HK flag in protest. They apparently interviewed some young woman why she held up the flag and she wants the old nostalgic days and said the government offered more opportunities for young people, this young woman is an idiot and needs her brain checked.

  3. Zack
    January 1st, 2013 at 18:42 | #3

    @pug_ster
    reminds me of the idiots in HK who protested the HSR line connecting HK with Guangzhou; what possible reason is there to oppose this plan?
    like mindless sheep and drones; if these disloyal idiots hate HK so much-or their fellow Chinese for that matter-, i’m sure they’ll be able to find plenty of accomodation in say, Britain with its glaring inequality, crappy economy and racist class driven society.

    this is the sort of slave mentality that these HKers must liberate themselves from.

  4. January 3rd, 2013 at 05:02 | #4

    @pug_ster

    @Zack

    I don’t read newspaper much, especially Hong Kong ones. I have a low tolerance for garbage. I am neither for nor against C Y Leung, but he’s as good a willing politician as HK can produce. The colonial leftovers and property tycoons hate his guts because he defiantly thinks he can do something for the underprivileged. They Free Press trashes him because they would trash anyone in his position unless he’s appointed from London or Washington. They invariably exaggerate the number of participants (normally many times the head-counts by the universities and police) in any anti-government protests.

    After 150 years of colonial taming (the British do have a lot of experience in training dogs, horses and slavish humans), followed by 15 years of Apple Daily and an ironically “pro-democracy” medieval institution the Catholic Church (which enjoys a historical grip and brainwashing right on the school system), many Hongkongers have fallen way below the “idiocy line”. This degeneration is exacerbated by an intense insecurity complex. When Hong Kong’s well paid nerds look north, they see a dynamic society that has changed miraculously in the past few decades, overwhelmingly for the better. Their cities have become cleaner, safer and more fun than even a few years ago. Their scholars are brighter, politicians more rational, athletes stronger and faster, artists more creative, quacks trickier, robbers tougher, corrupt officials more daring, and women prettier.

    So, they seek comfort in China horror stories supplied daily by the “Free Press”, blatantly exaggerated, distorted, or fabricated with even less tact and common sense than the “Western” press. In Hong Kong, common sense is now for the working class and mainlanders. For example, everyone I asked (all well educated) believed in the “fake egg” story that was widely “rumoured”. Puzzled by the technical impossibility of mass manufacturing eggs (in shells that can fool the average idiot!) more cost-effectively than chickens can, all for a few pennies of profit assuming one could move the huge quantity required (to make it economically viable) without getting caught, I offered $3000 to see one. That was three years ago. None of the “believers” I challenged could produce a single specimen yet some continue to believe anyway. It’s their bedtime story telling how terrible the mainland is comparing with Hong Kong so sleep tight.

    I can fill pages with examples. A few essays can be found under “Hong Kong Dementia”: http://guo-du.blogspot.hk/search/label/Hong%20Kong%20Dementia (or http://guo-du.blogspot.hk/search/label/香港疯 in Chinese). I even started a satirical “Cultural Revolution a la Hong Kong”: http://guo-du.blogspot.hk/2012/07/hongkong-cultural-revolution-big.html. But taking an unpopular stance against the proudly unthinking ruck in this enemy occupied territory often feels pointless.

    Of course they are still a vocal minority; but those who know better, like the two million or so Taiwanese who live in the mainland, prefer to vote with their feet rather than wasting time and calories arguing with blind and loud sub-idiots.

    Perhaps Beijing have left HK too much alone for 15 years due to prudence or lack of experience with its unique situation. Perhaps it’s a mistake, and more should be done to challenge the forces (many with extraneous political support and objectives), organised to make HK a headache for China. They should at least face the same subsidised competition, social pressure and legal ramifications the way they would in their idolised “West”.

  5. perspectivehere
    January 3rd, 2013 at 08:05 | #5

    @Guo Du

    From my perspective, the Hong Kong Democracy movement resembles the “Tea Party” in the U.S. The U.S. Tea Party agenda has been described as “anti-government, anti-spending, anti-immigration and anti-compromise politics.” This is very similar to the HK Democracy agenda. The US Tea Party’s main mode of operation is to be obstructionist to any initiative proposed by Obama’s Government. The HK Democracy activists’ main objective seems to be the same – to obstruct and defeat any initiative proposed by CY Leung’s government.

    The recent focus by HK democracy opposition on the unapproved renovations in CY Leung’s house is like the focus of the Tea Party on finding Obama’s birth certificate – an endless digging away at some trivial technical infraction, imagined or otherwise (in Obama’s case, questionnable documentary evidence of his birth in the United States, in CY Leung’s case, unclear explanations regarding unpermitted renovations in his house). In both cases, these alleged infractions, which are ultimately trivial, are magnified, attacked and investigated endlessly, with the purposes to discredit the leader’s legitimacy. At the extreme the opposition hopes it will lead to impeachment or stepping down of the hated leader.

    Like the Tea Party, which is fueled in part by economic discontent, and also by racism by a certain class and demographic of Americans which fear and despise immigrants of color, in Hong Kong, we see the same feelings towards Mainland immigrants as well as South Asians like pakistani, indonesians and Filipinos.

    Like the HK Democracy movement, the Tea Party talks about “Freedom” and how the people are being oppressed by government tyranny. See for example these articles:

    Republican Party Adopts Majority of Tea Party’s “Freedom Platform”

    Heritage: Obama’s Tyrannical Abuse of Power

    Obama Wants to ‘Destroy’ America with ‘Poverty, Tyranny and Mass Murder’: Tea Party Leader at Pre-RNC Rally

    Some of the insane things about Obama stated by the Tea Party could well come from the same mouths as the HK anti-Leung camp.

    Like the Tea Party, the modus operandi of the HK democracy movements seem to be mainly obstructionist and destructive.

    Personally, I was never a big fan of CY before the election. I probably would have gone for Tang if I could vote, simply because he’s a “nice guy” and HK politics is getting too rancorous (even if Tang is a bit simple-minded in my view, while CY is wily as a fox and tough as nails).

    However, post-election, after seeing the ridiculous positions taken by the so-called democracy activists in HK, I actually gained respect for CY. For the sake of Hong Kong, I hope he succeeds, just as for the sake of the US, I hope Obama succeeds.

    Sadly, if too many crazies join the Tea Party, the US could go into the toilet. Similarly, if too many crazies join the HK democracy activists, the same could happen to HK.

    Fortunately, all the ordinary people I talk to (taxi drivers, barbers) seem to be made of better stuff than the activists, and are far more pragmatic and sensible. I think HK will be okay.

    For these reasons, I think the anti-CY HK democracy activists offer as much to HK as the Tea Party offers to America – a story told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  6. pug_ster
    January 3rd, 2013 at 09:53 | #6

    @perspectivehere

    Totally agree with you. But the problem is two fold. One the Media (I am not just talking about Apple daily) actually allowing this to happen by giving crazies like Long Hair Leung to have its say every day in the Media. The Media should stop feeding this guy’s stupidity and give an average person in HK a voice. Second, is the politicans and other ‘pro-China’ politicians and activists in HK should start growing a backbone and tell what these tea partiers what they really are.

  7. January 3rd, 2013 at 23:52 | #7

    @Guo Du
    Nice pic. You are a romantic.

    @All
    Perhaps to those of you above who actually reside in Hong Kong or have friends from HK, make a resolution for this year to talk some sense into them.

    Some things simply take time. I have some Vietnamese friends whose families fought for the South or worked for the French or U.S. government, and as you might imagine, their parent(s) were thrown in jail for many years after the U.S. pulled out. Their lives were miserable. Many died horrible death trying to escape.

    They hate the current Vietnamese government. Obviously it was their parents fault of working for the colonial masters at the expense of their own countrymen. But if there were other choices for livelihood, their parents might have elect different options.

    So, the tragedy is that the colonial masters have succeeded in permanently dividing the Vietnamese people.

    It is up to the Vietnamese to find a way for their people to come together. It is up to China (both Mainland and Hong Kong) to be proactive and have the infinite patience for these HK’ers to come around some day.

  8. January 4th, 2013 at 01:29 | #8

    Thanks yinyang :) But I’m officially cynical by modern standard because realism and cynicism have swapped definition, at least where I live!

    @All

    There is a silver lining to the dark cloud of “utterly pointless politicking” though. The more the politicians invest their energy in fatuous bickering, the less time they have to cause other more serious damages.

    The “Free Press” has clearly illustrated that being Money Owned is no better (definitely no truer) than being State Owned. The internet has introduced a very interesting variable to the formula of those who thought they could fully control world opinion with printed money though.

    HKers don’t have the legitimate excuse of De Wang’s Vietnamese friends though. Their historical animosity is understandable, and only time would heal. The same thing with some mainlanders who suffered during the cultural revolution. (Though I once had a very inspiring dinner in the early 90s with two professors who suffered badly during the Cultural Rev. They talked about their experiences as if telling holiday stories. I was baffled. They explained life is short. Shit happens. They had lost much time, and won’t let past mistakes hurt them a second time, denying them of a better tomorrow. The best heal was to forget and forgive. “Move on. Plenty to catch up!” It dawned on me then what it really meant to be “Chinese”. It was this pragmatic survivalist attitude, not race or language or diet! Both of them have subsequently become very active and well known in their fields.)

    Back to HKers. We don’t even have any bad memory or hard-luck stories of this sort to whine about. Life is better in absolute terms after 1997 by any objective measure. There actually is much more “freedom” comparing with colonial HK if they’d care to recognise! HK benefits hugely from having the mainland behind us in terms of business, leisure, culture, and free-spending tourists. HK’s prejudice is generally unfair, petulant, and vanity driven. Besides the classical xenophobic symptoms discussed, this is a VERY superficial place, and proud of it. A typical HKer would adore a well dressed and smooth talking charlatan, but disdain a truly remarkable and honourable individual who squats (by the way, the best resting position for the human body, especially those who suffer from knee or lower-back problems) or clears his throat too loudly.

  9. perspectivehere
    January 6th, 2013 at 05:49 | #9

    From the South China Morning Post Magazine:

    Never the twain shall meet
    “When Pankaj Mishra picked holes in historian Niall Ferguson’s ode to imperialism, the Indian author kicked off a feud that has seen both antagonists call Hong Kong to the witness stand. Joanna Chiu steps into the fray”

    ***************************
    Interesting discussion. In general I agree with Pankaj Mishra’s views, but I’m not in agreement with either of them on their conclusions of Hong Kong – I think the picture is far more complicated than either of them conclude.

  10. perspectivehere
    January 6th, 2013 at 08:12 | #10

    An interesting book I am reading on Hong Kong’s post-WW2 pre-Handover economic development is Protecting Free Trade: The Hong Kong Paradox 1947-97 by Lawrence Mills, an ex-civil servant who headed the Trade and Industry Departments.

    One of the most interesting chapters discusses the Comprehensive Certificate of Origin

    In this chapter, the author details how the US Trade Embargo on China from 1950 onward meant that Hong Kong products had an advantage on exports to the US, but only if it could be proven that the products did not originate from China. The work of the author’s department was to enforce regulations and perform checks to weed out any China-originated products. By doing a rigorous job policing the non-Chinese content of the goods, they were able to help Hong Kong exports into the U.S. market (which might have been lost if US anti-China politicians had their way).

    It occurred to me then that Hong Kong benefited a lot economically from US “no-trade-with-China” rules. During the period from 1950 to 1979 when the US resumed diplomatic relations with China, Hong Kong built an export powerhouse especially with light manufactured goods.

    If the US had not imposed a trade embargo on China, would Hong Kong have been able to develop the same manufacturing industry? It seems doubtful to me. Oftentimes you will hear people say that Hong Kong’s economy developed because of civil iiberties and freedom in Hong Kong which was absent on the Mainland. But it seems this states only half the picture. The other half is that Hong Kong did not suffer from the US trade embargo, but China did. We see that after China and the US normalized diplomatic relations, manufacturing facilities began to migrate over the border into China Mainland.

    Today’s SCMP has an article on Chinese who fled the mainland to go to Hong Kong, and how the hundreds of thousands of migrants provided a supply from cheap labor to work in the factories of the Hong Kong exporting industries.

    “New arrivals in Hong Kong such as Cheung did odd jobs, worked in factories and became part of the cheap labour force that made Hong Kong the world’s factory in the 1970s.

    Professor Ho said the colonial Hong Kong government, which until 1980 granted illegal migrants who evaded arrest on arrival the right to stay, realised that the extra labour could contribute to economic growth.

    “Industries such as electronics and clock manufacturing needed intensive, semi-skilled labour, and these people, in their prime working age, contributed greatly towards our industrialisation,” she said.”

    *********************
    Often times, when we read about comparisons between Hong Kong and China during the post-WW2, pre-Handover period, we see the discussion portrayed as “bad totalitarian/communist/restrictive policies in China leading to failures” contrasted with “good market-oriented/capitalist/free policies in Hong Kong leading to success”.

    This is almost always portrayed as a free choice of either China’s on Hong Kong’s. But the reality is that neither China nor Hong Kong had free choices; both were constrained by the geopolitical environment in which both existed.

    Mainland China was politically contained by diplomatic non-recognition and economically contained by the US trade embargo. Hong Kong meanwhile had the benefit of “free trade” (or rather, preferential trade relationships with the US and British colonial world)

    The same could be said for Taiwan, Korea and Japan – they also benefited from the US trade embargo on China.

    We could do this experiment: imagine citizens living in Country A. Country B invades and seizes a territory of Country A. Now Country C, which is an ally of Country B, declares open trade relationship wih Country B and its territories, but no trade with Country A.

    Country A’s economy is crippled, and lots of Country A’s citizens emigrate to other places in search of better economic opportunities.

    Washpo has a good flashback on the first steps for ending the embargo:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/inatl/longterm/flash/june/china71.htm

    “Under the new order, U.S. exporters will be free to sell to China most farm, fish and forestry products, fertilizers, coal, selected chemicals and metals, passenger cards, agricultural, industrial and office equipment and certain electronic and communications equipment.

    The President’s order does not remove the prohibition against the shipment of locomotives to China, one of the key items the Peking government is said to want, and of aircraft.

    Defense department officials opposed lifting the ban on most heavy transportation equipment with the argument it could be used in helping Communist troops in Vietnam.

    The President accepted the argument, but officials said that the list of goods still on the strategic list would be under constant review and that changes would be made from time to time.

    An exporter may apply to the Commerce Department for a license to ship a locomotive or any other item on the strategic list, and the White House held out some hope that exceptions may be made from time to time.

    “Items not on the open general list may be considered for specific licensing consistent with the requirements of U.S. national security,” the White House statement said.

    The big surprise of the President’s announcement was his termination of the requirement that half of the shipment of grain and flour to Communist nations be carried in American ships.

    AFL-CIO President George Meany promptly criticized the President’s decision, calling it a “breach of faith and an unwarranted blow at the livelihoods of American seafaring men.”

    Secretary of Agriculture Clifford M. Hardin cautioned that farmers should not expect big increases in grain exports immediately.

    “We hope it will eventually result in meaningful trade for farm exports along with products from American industry,” Hardin said. “We do not anticipate significant trade developments with either China or the Soviet Union in the immediate future.”

    But Hardin hailed the President’s action as a “constructive step” that will ultimately benefit American farmers.

    U.S.-China trade was roughly $200 million annually in 1950 when President Truman imposed an embargo after China entered the Korean War on the North Korean side.

    China’s total world trade now totals about $2 billion in exports and the same in imports with about $1.5 billion from non-Communist countries, the bulk of it from Japan.

    White House press secretary Ronald Ziegler said that the President looks upon these new measures “as a significant step in improved communications with a land of 800 million people after a 20-year freeze in our relations.”"

    *********************

    Amazing to think that there used to be a ban on U.S. locomotives sales to China! Lol.

  11. January 7th, 2013 at 00:47 | #11

    @perspectivehere

    Amusing Discussion indeed. Many of the issues raised were kind of trivial though. Everyone learnt from each other throughout history, and will hopefully continue to do so. A country going through an intelligent phase would cherry pick and adopt what is appropriate and feasible for itself. A dumb one would refuse to learn anything because of pride, prejudice, superiority complex, etc. A retarded community would copycat everything wholesale, unthinking, because Big Brother says so and Big Brother has a nice smile.

    Ferguson seems pleased that some of Asia’s success could be due to practices “downloaded” from the Anglo-American model. Naturally, he would be right to a certain degree. There were many things the world could learn from the Anglo-American century. But I hope he is not expecting gratitude any more than what Europe showed the Arabs for kickstarting their theocracies with mathematics and astronomy and re-imported Greek philosophy at the end of the Dark Ages; or Japan feeling culturally indebted to China for having taught it countless things before its copying talents were redirected at the Americans; or the West thanking their Eastern neighbours for the concept of “zero” (without which they wouldn’t even know they have “nothing”!). And so on.

    A more constructive and self-benefiting approach for the Ex-Colonial Masters would be to stop basking in past glory and move on. Take note of what is being adopted by others, how they might have re-modelled it to reduce excess or enhance durability. More importantly, they should observe the REAL reason why some of their pride features are being shunned.

    In addition, these short-term benefits are only deemed “beneficial” from a biased and shortsighted viewpoint. Longer-term consequences are being ignored because whoever dares to slow down in this mutually destructive game would be enslaved and consumed RIGHT NOW. The inventors and enforcers of the rules of this game are not doing any human being a favour so don’t expect a “thank you card”.

    Mishra’s point about “unchecked capitalism” is therefore the most important and relevant. Resource limitation will turn everyone ugly one day. Addicts would knife each other to death over the last gramme of drug. To think that innovation driven by a capitalistic system will solve all future problems is being plainly stupid, and sadly blind to absolute limits. But some in the audience called Ferguson a “genius” so, here you go. For the time being, it’d be a matter of opinion.

  12. January 7th, 2013 at 02:23 | #12

    Sorry I left out a particularly outlandish comment from the article: “Today, it [HK] is a Chinese city in which protesters wave colonial-era flags, incensed about the encroachment of Beijing into the civil liberties Hongkongers enjoyed under the British.” Talking about grossly distorting generalisation . . . Oh well, it’s the SCMP.

  13. perspectivehere
    January 7th, 2013 at 14:15 | #13

    Guo Du :
    Sorry I left out a particularly outlandish comment from the article: “Today, it [HK] is a Chinese city in which protesters wave colonial-era flags, incensed about the encroachment of Beijing into the civil liberties Hongkongers enjoyed under the British.” Talking about grossly distorting generalisation . . . Oh well, it’s the SCMP.

    Hahahaha. I noticed the same sentence in the article and wondered if I was being overly sensitive to point out how ridiculous the statement is.

    The same SCMP in the December 23, 2012 edition of the Sunday Magazine published a profile about former expatriate police officer Mike Smith who has just written a book In the Shadow of the Noonday Gun, a set of short stories based on his years in the HK Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in the 1970′s. These quotes give a flavor of what Hong Kong was really like in the fairly recent colonial days:

    “It was the old days, when prisoners got beaten up and corruption was rife, pre-ICAC [Independent Commission Against Corruption]….Every week, everyone got an envelope on their desk containing double or triple their salary, for doing nothing. The corruption was just a weekly tithe that was taken on everything: restaurants, bars, brothels, opium divans. And cops were paying cops to get better jobs. Every single employee, from tea boy to the expatriate chief superintendent got a cut. Those who didn’t take it were bullied in subtle ways. As their envelopes piled up, they’d suddenly find their life was a lot more awkward. It was just the system that existed. Breaking the back of corruption was a positive thing, and [helped] Hong Kong become the economic miracle it is today.”

    “The ICAC instilled stability, but no one had any idea where it was headed. When I was at Wan Chai Police Station, we had about 30 sergeants in uniform; one day ICAC arrested 29. Organised corruption is easy to investigate; get one person talking and you have all the evidence you need. This was happening across the colony and the police couldn’t function. Eventually, more than 5,000 police marched on ICAC headquarters. Governor [Murray] MacLehose had to confront the situation. Some may have been armed. He declared a clean slate for all police and other civil servants. He had no choice. There had been contingency plans to bring in the army, which could have been the end of Hong Kong.”

    *****************

    This corrupt police mutiny occurred in 1977. I hadn’t heard this story before and 1977 is a fairly recent date. (The British had been in charge of Hong Kong for 135 years at that point, which should be kept in mind when people describe the colonial administration as ‘clean’).

    What made the HK government take these stronger steps in the 1970′s to root out police corruption? (Note too that “rooting out corruption” meant giving a general amnesty to all the corrupt actors, which is a fact that is not too often discussed.)

    The reason the HK Government focused on the problem then was triggered by a notorious case of a senior British police officer, Peter Godber, who retired in 1973 with over HK$4 million of unaccounted for savings (a huge amount of money at the time). An arrest warrant for corruption was issued for him, but he managed to walk on a plane and fly off by wearing his police uniform to the airport. This created an uproar and public protests.

    At the time, the HK government was suffering from a crisis of anti-colonialist legitimacy brought on by the 1966-67 leftist riots. Also, interestingly, the rising international status of the PRC had a positive effect on Hong Kong’s administration according to this study:

    “The disturbances in 1966-67 led to a resuscitation of the young generation for the future and the identity of Hong Kong (Lui 1997). The enhanced international recognition of the PRC, including the normalisation of PRC-US relationship and the entry of the PRC to the United Nations, stirred nationalist sentiments in the
    territory. It was a period where the Hong Kong people collectively thought about their future and identity. The 1970s’ movements were a confluence of various sentiments and concerns fermented within the local civil society. It started from movements with nationalist flavours such as the Protection of Diaoyu Islands Movement and the movement to make Chinese the official language in the early 1970s. These nationalistic movements more or less had anti-colonial implications, and so were the social movements directed against colonial injustices, the most representative being the anticorruption/anti-Godber movement in 1973-4.”

    ***********************

    Some background on the 1966-67 riots here:

    Hong Kong 1966 riots
    The Hong Kong 1966 Riots was a series of disturbances that took place over three nights on the streets of Kowloon, Hong Kong in the spring of 1966. The riots started as peaceful demonstrations against the British Colonial government’s decision to increase the fare of Star Ferry foot-passenger harbour crossing by 25 percent. One person died in the riots, dozens were injured, and over 1,800 people were arrested during the turmoil.

    Hong Kong 1967 Leftist riots
    In May 1967, Hong Kong experienced large-scale leftist riots. They were caused by pro-communist leftists in Hong Kong, inspired by the Cultural Revolution in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), who turned a labour dispute into large scale demonstrations against British colonial rule. Demonstrators clashed violently with the Hong Kong Police Force. Instigated by events in the PRC, leftists called for massive strikes and organised demonstrations, while the police stormed many of the leftists’ strongholds and placed their active leaders under arrest.

    *****************************

    One can see that, rather than enjoyment of civil liberties granted by the enlightened British, the life Hong Kongers enjoy today was in many ways wrested from the corrupt British through nationalist / anti-colonial / leftist resistance.

    Some other scholars have written about how British colonial government was goaded into action by actions taken by the PRC in Hong Kong – for example provision of relief for homeless in the Shek Kip Mei squatters fire in the 1950′s – to provide public housing. I don’t have the reference handy, but I will provide it when I can find it.

    ****************************
    About the colonial era flag-waving: yes there will always be some people who make misguided decisions about individual expression which are hurtful to the people who love them who know better. But what’s the best way of handling it? Like this one about a black college student in South Carolina who wants to display a confederate flag in his dorm room. He doesn’t think the confederate flag is a symbol of racism, he sees a symbol of pride. His parents are saddened by it, and most people would find it an oddity, and probably lump it into the same category as this black guest who appeared on Tyra Banks who said she doesn’t like black people and refuses to acknowledge she is black.

    But it would be quite bizarre for a newspaper (unless they had an agenda) to write this sentence (similar to the sentence quoted above about HK and British colonial flag) to describe the historical and current political significance of the student’s actions:

    “Today, Beaufort, South Carolina is a black city in which students display confederate-era flags, incensed about the encroachment of Washington into the life blacks enjoyed under the Confederacy.”

    Rewritten this way, one can see more clearly how distorted and ridiculous that sentence is. The actions by a small number of oddballs becomes representative of the whole, and is endlessly repeated to give the impression that it is a widespread sentiment.

    Silliness.

  14. January 7th, 2013 at 21:54 | #14

    Guo du/perspectivehere – I’ll have to turn your comments into a post!

  15. January 7th, 2013 at 23:14 | #15

    @YinYang

    Ha ha, all that from your sensible Happy New Year message!

    @Perspective here

    You’ve got it spot on with the comparison: “Today, Beaufort, South Carolina is a black city in which students display confederate-era flags, incensed about the encroachment of Washington into the life blacks enjoyed under the Confederacy.” Brilliant.

    But I wonder how many SCMP readers would notice. With time, statements like this would be accepted as the truth. If I dare to ask the writer to please list one or two examples of how HK is enjoying less civil liberty than in colonial days, I’d be branded “a pro-China reader” which for some reason has been successfully turned into something negative.

    I grew up in the extremely corrupt environment of Hong Kong when it was governed by very civilised people who spoke frequently of high moral principles. I also heard stories (from a British cop who was a family relative) that the number of casualties in the 67 riot was MUCH higher than the official figure. But I can only treat that as a rumour since he is long dead.

  16. January 8th, 2013 at 11:30 | #16

    Second that, Guo Du/perspectivehere, very interesting discussion indeed. Want to add a bit more dimensions into the discussion…

    Often time, people tend to just remember what’ve happened within their lifetimes, and have no sense of history.

    In 1966/1967, the per capita GDP of Hong Kong was about 1/6 of the US’. It was by no mean rich. At the bottom of the economic ladder, the lives couldn’t be that pleasant. Who are we kidding here… Hong Kong was a colony. If there was a riot, there would be suppression accordingly.

    Then it came the rise of Japan, which also brought up the rise of South Korea (dictatorship), Taiwan (dictatorship), Singapore (authoritarian), and Hong Kong (colony), the original 4 Asian Tigers. When Deng and Thatcher first met in 1982, the per capita GDP of Hong Kong was near half of the US’.

    The next wave of economic driving force is China’s reform and opening-up. When the sovereignty of was handed over by back the Chinese in 1997, the per capita GDP of Hong Kong was 15% higher than the UK’s and only 9% less than the US’.

    Like all good things in life, they must end one day. The per capita GDPs of Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong have all regressed vis-a-vis the US. (On the other hand, South Korea and Singapore have plowed ahead. The moral of the story seems to be that state capitalism works…)

    So for those whose memory and knowledge only went back as far as when the good time started, and those who lack critical thinking over the BS narratives some no-good media spoon-feed you, of course seemingly the British rule was the source of the good time Hong Kong had experienced. In a colony, civil liberties, laissez faire governing, rule of laws only are offered when it also works well for the colonial masters.

  17. perspectivehere
    January 8th, 2013 at 16:18 | #17

    @Guo Du

    The Washington Post today has “A surprising map of the best and worst countries to be born into today”. The data is based on work of the Economist Information Unit (to be taken with a grain of salt), showing Hong Kong as the 10th best place in the world for a baby to be born in 2013, beating out the U.S.A. (16th), South Korea at (19th), Japan (25th), France (26th) and Britain (27th).

    The color-coded map is here, with dark blue representing the best places to be born. We see in Asia, there are only 3 dark blue places: Australia/New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong, and three light blue places: Taiwan, South Korea, Japan.

    The Economist came out with the rankings in a story entitled, The lottery of life:
    Where to be born in 2013
    last November but the graphic map is new and visually easier to follow than the tables in the original story.

    This begs the question for all the Hong Kong protesters: if Hong Kong is comparatively so much better off than the rest of the places in the world, why are some Hong Kongers claiming that life there is so unbearable? And why is the media taking the more bizarre claims so seriously?

    **************************

    I think this is because in psychology, it often is not absolute benefit that matters, it is relative benefit that matters. A worker feels better getting a 3% pay rise if he has the highest one, than a 4% pay rise but he has the lowest one.

    Hong Kongers are grumbling because in the past, they aspired to be as wealthy as the colonial British and be accepted by them – this is very natural. When scrappy businessmen like Li ka-shing who started with nothing and was able to rise in wealth and power through smarts, aggressive investing and luck, this was cheered by HKer’s who saw in him a kind of anti-colonial hero who could beat the Brits at their own game. No doubt there were those Brits who sought to exclude him from their clubs, but thankfully there were others who believed in fair play.

    When the mainland first opened up in the 80′s, a lot of Hong Kongers went to the mainland. Some were entrepreneurs moving their factories over the border. Others were ordinary Hong Kong people who made a living as factory foremen, delivery specialists, operations managers etc. Many of them were gainfully employed for many years. Some lived like kings, caroused like fools and came back with mistresses.

    But that model was not sustainable. Over time, as the mainland economy grew and matured, these people were no longer needed, and came back to HK, many with mainland wives and children in tow, where they are now having a harder time finding meaningful work. As Hong Kong’s economy deindustrialized, the kind of work now available is in areas like finance and information technology, which requires education.

    Many of these folks are driving cabs in Hong Kong and you can hear their stories just by asking them. One really sympathizes with them, but one also wonders what else they can do? At their age, can they be retrained to do more productive work besides driving taxis (although taxi-driving IS productive work in HK, where they are a key part of the inexpensive and convenient transportation infrastructure that makes HK tick).

    Many talk longingly about the good old days when jobs for them were plentiful and money was easily made. One recently told me about how before the handover he used to bring HK goods into the mainland (like milk powder and rolexes) and make a good living doing that. He said HK goods were in desire and difficult to obtain in the mainland and subject to taxes, so he and his friends would take trips to the mainland, all paid for by his sales.

    These days, it is much harder to make a living than it was pre-handover. To see mainland Chinese leapfrogging past them must irk some locals to no end, although many I talk to realize that envy plays its part, so they snipe on the bad behavior.

    I think HK needs to address its labor issues, and figure out the economic direction and policy of the city. These kinds of discussions should be constructive and not destructive.

  18. January 8th, 2013 at 22:20 | #18

    @perspectivehere

    When China first opened up, I was a young boy growing up in Guangzhou and learned the income disparity first-handed. A Hong Kong truck driver, in his early 40s and recently divorced, married a pretty young girl barely in her 20s who was a family friend. The truck driver made about HK$3000 a month, which was some RMB700 in black market rate. Well, he made some 5 times of what my parents made combined, as engineers.

    A few of my childhood friends have gone into import/export businesses. All the way into the early 90s before Zhu took the premiership, most of the deals were imports via Hong Kong. Lately all of them are exports — directly. 34 years after Deng’s Reform and Opening-up, China has become the largest producer and the largest manufacturer in the world. Hong Kong’s gateway role for mainland, has simply run its course.

  19. perspectivehere
    January 9th, 2013 at 07:59 | #19

    @jxie

    Thanks for the comment. I like hearing stories like this, because it helps to put things into perspective.

    We hear the news talk about exchange rates, prices, wages, and per capita income and these are abstract and impersonal. But as your story about the truck driver and his young bride shows, these impersonal metrics have very personal ramifications. Hopefully they are still together!

    Regarding your last sentence, “Hong Kong’s gateway role for mainland, has simply run its course” – I must respectfully disagree. I think Hong Kong’s gateway role has evolved but it has not ended. For manufacturing – you’re right, there is no more light manufacturing here. But for many other areas, Hong Kong still has a very important role to play, both for its own residents, and for China. I think it is very important to properly understand, articulate, value and handle that role.

    Most people only see parts of the whole. Hong Kong is like an iceberg where you only see the tip – a lot goes on beneath the surface and HK should not be underestimated.

    Hong Kong has from the very beginning been a principal Asia / South China node in a global network of trade, finance and labor, built on the framework of the British imperial / colonial system. From being the freer alternative to Macau (from the perspective of the British, free of Chinese law, regulation and control), it enabled British traders to profitably carry out their business of trading goods, including opium which was the biggest money earner, as well as human cargo – the coolie trade. From Hong Kong launched millions of Chinese in the nineteenth century and many overseas Chinese trace some piece of their ancestry through the ports of Hong Kong. This is a very powerful connection. For many global Chinese, Hong Kong was once a home and they claim a piece of it in their memories and family histories. They identify with it and seek to connect with it, in a way that few other places can claim.

    In addition to overseas Chinese, there are also many other groups, like Indians, Nepalese and South East Asians that have family, business links or investments in Hong Kong.

    Having been “in business” continuously for 170 years means Hong Kong has a lot of economically valuable, value adding connections with the rest of the world. These are not to be overlooked, but to be built upon.

    PRC, because it had been out of contact due to US Trade Embargo from 1950 to mid 1970s with the rest of the world, still has to build up many connections. Hong Kong can be a great help.

    For example, the Hong Kong stock market functions as the principal international capital market for China. This is a vital role and one that it should be able to keep playing well into the future – for at least another couple of decades. To maintain its lead over other places (like Shanghai) requires a sophisticated balance of regulatory, legal, accounting, technology and market factors. Hong Kong needs to treasure this and continue to invest in developing it.

    In terms of Chinese identity, I think if HKers can get over their small-minded petulance, and instead view HK as becoming a kind of leading edge New York City-like melting pot for internationally minded Chinese, it could become a very very interesting and inspiring kind of place.

    Historically, HK has had a number of different Chinese dialect groups, but principally Cantonese, Hokkien and ChaoZhou, with a smattering of others in the post-WW2 exodus from the mainland. In today’s world, it can become an even more diverse place attracting Chinese from all over the world, both mainland and taiwan, as well as the global diaspora of Chinese.

    One of the most interesting experiences living in Taiwan was meeting Waishengren from all over China (many were former soldiers or their descendants). This made Taiwan really unique at the time, since in the pre-modern era, most Chinese places are dominated by one dialect group. I think the quality of life in Taiwan today is in part due to the mixture of different Chinese ethnicities.

    Hong Kong historically has been dominated by Cantonese. I think it will become a much more interesting place when HK becomes more ethnically diverse.

    HK locals need to be more confident of who they are. I think one of the reasons why they are so anti-Mainland is because they themselves lack self-esteem so they take out their anxieties on others. By condemning mainlanders’ faults, and distinguishing themselves from mainlanders, they think others will not look down on them. But other people are not so easily fooled.

    If we look at how New York became a cultural, intellectual, social and financial capital for European Jewry over the course of the 19th and 20th century, this could be a model for Hong Kong. New York attracted first Jewish economic refugees in the 19th century, then intellectuals fleeing pogroms in the 20th. New York Jews meanwhile experience economic life that encompassed the wealthy wall street elites (Goldman, Baruch, Warburgs) to socialist radicals like Emma Goldman. Jew established educational, philanthropic and culture institutions in NY in the 20th century…..I think if Chinese approached Hong Kong in this way, it would be transformed into something which will be truly unique.

    Despite the diversity of backgrounds and types of Jews in NY (and Jews will argue about anything) they contributed so much to the life of the city. Jews always felt at home in New York, whether they were fresh from the Russian countryside or elites on Park Avenue. For survival, Jews knew they lived in a hostile world and needed to stick together and help each other.

    My vision of Hong Kong is that it becomes an attractive place for all the most talented people from all over the world, including the most talented Chinese people, and they can feel at home here and flourish here.

    Hong Kong already has a very powerful brand. Think of the countless millions of people who have passed through Hong Kong and the way Hong Kong has been depicted in countless movies, tv series, novels etc. These form a powerful collective memory and imagination.

    I think HK has all the ingredients for success in this respect.

    HK can become the international social and cultural gateway for global Chinese. Wouldn’t that be something?

  20. January 9th, 2013 at 11:58 | #20

    @perspectivehere

    Thanks for a well thought out and well articulated comment. I found myself nodding while reading it… My previous comment probably should be qualified as “low value-added trading gateway role”. Of course the hard part is what happened to those who were performing such role previously in Hong Kong? In a way, who moved their cheese? Complaining, or worse being nostalgic and waving the British colonial flag, won’t get anybody anywhere.

    As it stands, Hong Kong does have its tremendous advantages that can be very helpful and complementary to mainland, and it’s up to Hong Kongers to continue re-inventing themselves. One thing comes to mind is that it can become the center of the dim sum bond market.

    See, if yuan is to replace dollar to become the dominant international currency, foreigners need to be able to acquire RMB. Michael Pettis is his several opinion pieces starting at It isn’t easy being green basically has argued that it’s impossible, if China doesn’t start running current account deficits, and allow foreigners to participate the Chinese domestic equity markets, a.k.a. like today’s US. His reasoning sounds logical very much like most of his other viewpoints, only –

    It didn’t match what happened to the USD. Between 1900 and 1971, the US only ran current account deficits twice during the Great Depression. From 1948, when the trade data was first compiled after the WW2, to 1971, the US had continued running trade surpluses with the rest of the world. Actually it was rather simple: USD only became the dominant international currency because it was the best and by far the largest producer in the world. Its money was desirable only because you could get value out of it eventually.

    Then how did the rest of the world acquired USD? One, by aids and grants, such as the Marshall Plan. The other, by others issuing equities/debts in USD, allowing Americans to buy them, often in markets outside of the US. Pettis got this directionally wrong: initially RMB will be so scarce worldwide, nobody will spend yuans to buy up Chinese assets, but rather they will acquire yuans by selling to Chinese non-Chinese assets.

    In other words, China will be more like the post-WW2 US, not the recent profligate US, and it’s the only way your money can become the king money. If we compare the currency swaps with other central banks as the modern-day Chinese version of the Marshall Plan. The equivalent post-WW2 off-shore dollar market, is the dim sum bond market (with the possibility of expanding its offerings). Hong Kong can be the go-to market for that? Australian miners and Brazilian farmers want to borrow money to expand China-centric businesses? Issue yuan-denominated bonds in Hong Kong.

    Just a thought.

    BTW, I lost track of that couple. Last I knew they had 2 children. In the 70s, the desirable mates for young girls in Guangzhou were 司机,医生,猪肉佬 (drivers, doctors and butchers). I figure those who married the 2 categories other than doctors probably didn’t do too well…

  21. January 10th, 2013 at 00:16 | #21

    I have a deadline on Monday but am returning to these interesting discussions instead. Aiya!

    @perspectivehere

    The Washington Post’s “map of the best and worst countries to be born today” is of course a skewed view of what is “good” (though the editor has casually qualified this in the beginning). If they change the study heading to “Which countries give their kids the highest chance of becoming unthinking bourgeois with a narrow professional skill”, then the survey and its conclusion might become a more accurate reflection.

    I like to tease kindhearted HK friends who “pity” happy and healthy rural kids in the mainland because they have only one pair of shoes and, oh dear, must walk a few kilometres to school. Meanwhile, their own children in HK, thickly bespectacled, playing with his new i-Pad, is “oh so much luckier”. I personally feel sorry for his privileged kids instead, and envy the country boys and girls. Furthermore, most urbanites would be spoiled by affluence within a few generations. China (and the rest of the world?) historically depends on the huge reserve of “poorer” people to renew her energy, social conscience, and common sense.

    But your remark about “it is relative, not absolute, benefits that matter” is very accurate. Kings with a bulging pile used to feel superior on horseback, notwithstanding the private agony. By contrast, modern paupers pout in air-conditioned buses because they feel deprived.

    @perspectivehere

    Applause to your “HK vision”. The frustrating thing is something so obvious is only shared by a very tiny minority of HKers. HK’s historic opportunity to be the best of both worlds is indeed fading after 15 years because most HKers prefer to deny the progress of the mainland or to focus on only negative issues (in order to feel relatively superior) rather than riding on their upward tide and be even better. The HK mind has been deeply poisoned; and the media is making sure that it stays that way. Their duty is to prove that HK is doomed being part of China, as predicted by all Western mouthpieces fifteen years ago. Since that has not happened, they’d keep saying that it has happened (like the SCMP comment on civil liberties) until everyone thinks that it has happened.

    @jxie

    jxie you are so right about the world having “no sense of history”. The scary thing is our collective memory is being bombarded and diluted with huge quantities of irrelevance and junk information, getting ever shorter at an accelerated rate!

    One comment on the day when “RMB replaces the USD.” When and if that happen, I’m afraid there will be MUCH bigger conflicts. Whoever owns the printing right of the “World Currency” is the Emperor. He can command his subjects to hand over land, mineral, food, labour, everything under the “capitalistic and free trade decree” in exchange for a piece of green paper. The USD started out with economic merits as you pointed out, but is sustained mainly by military muscle.

    For this reason, I hope the RMB won’t become a world currency like the USD. In the long run, there’s very little REAL benefit to be the master of a world currency. Being the Emperor is fun for a while. But when future generations find out what the money printing machine can bring them, their lives are ruined. That’s what is happening to all the official currency manipulators. Perhaps this is their karmic retribution for pushing opium in the old days?

    BTW jxie, I forwarded your excellent analysis on China’s Railway Safety to a senior executive at the HK Rail. His comment was: “Not surprising, but of course inconvenient truths rarely make it to the mainstream. Society’s perception of risk has more and more become shaped by the screaming headlines rather than any meaningful statistical analysis.”

    Must get back to whatever I should have been doing!

  22. January 12th, 2013 at 12:06 | #22

    @Guo Du

    The goal is never about replacing another currency as the international trading currency, or even the reserve currency. The goal #1 is trying to conduct international trade in a money with a set of respectable monetary policies behind it, so 1. you think it’s stable and strong in storing value, 2. those you trade with think it’s stable and strong in storing value. At the end of the day, you trust yourself more than anybody else.

  23. perspectivehere
    January 14th, 2013 at 11:24 | #23

    @Guo Du

    Thanks for your comments. I hope you got your work deadline completed on time! This blog can get a little too addicting sometimes.

    On HK people’s perceptions, I think it just takes time. Everyone’s got a different point of view and the more one tries to force a point of view on another, the more they dig in.

    I think there are people who are open-minded and for these folks, the discussions here at HH will help to provide them with a different point of view to consider in a well-reasoned manner.

  24. perspectivehere
    January 14th, 2013 at 12:29 | #24

    The two videos below are thoughtful and full of meaning. They feature an interview with Ruth Hayhoe, a Canadian educator who is a giant in the field of educational exchange with China. Her remarks on Canadian-China educational cooperation (past and future) in this two-part interview is well-worth watching.

    What I appreciate most is her grace, clarity and sensitivity. I could sense she really understands Chinese thinking. In part 2 she speaks a bit about Hong Kong education. Her remarks are quite enlightened. I think we all have something to learn from this lady.

    Canada-China Education Projects – Dr. Ruth Hayhoe (1/2)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLT5Nc7vUGQ

  25. perspectivehere
  26. January 15th, 2013 at 00:53 | #26

    @jxie
    100% agree! That would be the fair and common sense approach, if allowed!

    @perspectivehere
    Yes I met the deadline but the document had to be in DOC format and the formatting all got screwed up when being exported from Page!

    Anyway, I noticed that “Never the Twain Shall Meet” was the SCMP EDitor’s pick so I could not help myself turning our discussion on that into a post “Hong Kong’s Colonial Flag” (http://guo-du.blogspot.hk/2013/01/hong-kongs-colonial-flag.html), quoting you. Hope you don’t mind :)

  27. January 15th, 2013 at 01:07 | #27

    @perspectivehere
    There should be more Dr. Hayhoes! I think you should post this as an independent post as it is well worth sharing. I think we are guilty of spoiling the “filing” system of this blog by lumping everything under yinyang’s New Year message :)

  28. January 15th, 2013 at 01:41 | #28

    @Guo Du

    I just left a comment at your blog (http://guo-du.blogspot.hk/2013/01/hong-kongs-colonial-flag.html). I will reprint that here.

    Between Niall Ferguson and Pankai Mishra, I actually subscribe much more to Ferguson. Mishra is out of touch in my opinion. While his anti-colonial, anti-imperial stance does resonate with him, he distorts it by painting China as also imperialistic. It wasn’t only because it was weak. Now it’s getting stronger, it is imperialistic – in Hong Kong, on Taiwan, regarding Tibet, etc., etc.

    I will see if I can find time to make that into a post… I truly think Mishra is dangerous … because he turns notions of imperialism into a mere political device…

    But besides differences on imperialism … on the world’s resource allocations, I also tend to subscribe to Ferguson’s hope that technology will expand the pie for everyone – that we can find win-win – that much of what we fight about can be turned into win-win – and that very little is really distributive (one’s gain must be another’s loss; fairness must demand reparation by one to another).

  29. January 15th, 2013 at 06:58 | #29

    @Allen

    thanks for pointing it out. I don’t know either of them on other issues but from this one article, Mishra made an important and valid point about the ultimate (now not so long term) consequence of the global name of the game that we all face. I’ve spent decades in environmental protection and am of the opinion that the world is wasting too much in appearing to protect the environment (but not doing enough), or dreaming unrealistically (like Ferguson) about our infinite ability to extend the resources of this finite planet.

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