DP can’t take a hint

In a bold display of masochism, the Democratic Party hopes to field eight candidates in the forthcoming District Council election. In order to run these days, you need nominations from members of Area, Fire and Fight Crime committees, which are all of course part of the ‘patriots-only’ milieu – the sort of folk who perhaps wouldn’t even accept a DP restaurant booking. On top of that, these people’s contact details are not publicly available.

Some say DP participation will lend legitimacy to the all-patriot election system; others think they could highlight its undemocratic nature. Are the powers that be subtle enough to allow one or two Dems onto ballots (for polls they will presumably lose)? The really interesting thing about the DC election will be how low the turnout will be. (The DAB has a plan.)

Some other stuff…

The always-readable CMP on China’s attempt to rival the Palme d’Or and Golden Horse film festival prizes – the Golden Pandas…

Why are you hearing about the Golden Panda Awards from the China Media Project, and not from Empire or The Hollywood Reporter?

…No filmmakers were seemingly involved [in overseas promotions], deepening the sense that this was about neither audiences nor auteurs, but rather about the Chinese state.

The Guardian on Xi Jinping’s summertime blues

Xi has had a rough few months, with natural disasters, economic headwinds, disappearing ministers, community dissent and international spats. But he sails on regardless, even as experts say it’s likely to get worse.

“It’s obvious he’s had a bad summer,” says New York University professor Jerome Cohen, a leading expert on Chinese law and human rights. From the international community to academia, Chinese people and the political elite, Cohen says “there’s a lot of signs of dissatisfaction”.

Asia Sentinel summarizes the latest personnel changes in China’s security apparatus…

The recent purge of many senior Chinese military officials including a defense minister, a former defense minister, and a former foreign minister suggests turmoil within Beijing’s defense establishment, with Zhang Youxia, a trusted ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is even more senior than a defense minister, believed to be next for the chopping block. Foreign and defense ministers Qin Gang and Wei Fenghe respectively have already been removed. More recently, Li Shangfu, the current defense minister, has been placed under investigation after being appointed only in March. In addition, several senior officers of China’s rocket force, which oversees its strategic nuclear missiles, have been purged and one has died.

…There have been or will be secret trials and possibly private executions of the suspects, but no public trials, because that will be too embarrassing for Xi, a foreigner who declined to be named told Asia Sentinel. “He trusted the wrong proteges.”

Bill Bishop’s latest Sinocism newsletter asks about Qin…

I have heard his mistress had an apartment near the [Wash DC] Ambassador’s residence and that he was a regular visitor, which raises a whole set of questions if that is true. Did the FBI know, and did they gather photographic/video/audio evidence of the affair? How many staff members at the PRC embassy knew but did not report the discipline violations? What happens to those who knew and either did nothing or helped Qin? Qin spent about a decade in the UK. Did he do something similar there?

Some advice from Geremie Barme to academics and others on how to engage ethically with China today. The first half is devoted to his past experiences grappling with surveillance, informants, self-censorship and other dilemmas.

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The mid-week NatSec round-up…

That’s enough illegal structures and strange church land deals. High school ‘flag teams’ receive police training in goose-stepping. A young woman is sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for rioting in the 2019 protests, when she was 16. An office worker is arrested for ‘seditious’ online posts. And Beijing demands that consulates in Hong Kong submit personal details of all their locally employed staff members within one month. (Does diplomatic immunity exempt consulates from complying? The requirements – residential addresses, ID number, etc – sound pretty intrusive.)

The UK Foreign Office releases its 53rd (!!!) six-monthly report on Hong Kong…

The authorities have extended the application of the National Security Law (NSL) beyond genuine national security concerns. For example, the authorities continue to try to use legal routes to suppress the song ‘Glory to Hong Kong’.

Arrests under the NSL and sedition laws continue at pace. The trial of the ‘NSL 47’, the largest national security case to date, is nearing a conclusion. Everyone tried so far under the NSL has been found guilty.

British national Jimmy Lai’s national security trial has been further delayed. His prosecution is highly politicised and I raised his case in Beijing last month. We continue to press for consular access. The international community is paying close attention to his case and many others. We urge the Hong Kong authorities to uphold the rule of law and to comply with international norms and standards.

The targeted persecution of people with dissenting views persists, including overseas. On 3 July, the Hong Kong Police issued arrest warrants and bounties against individuals in the UK and elsewhere.

And right on cue

A spokesman for the HKSAR Government said, “The HKSAR Government strongly disapproves of and firmly rejects the UK’s attempt through a so-called six-monthly report again to make misleading and irresponsible remarks about Hong Kong matters. The UK’s manoeuvre with politics prevailing over law-based administration is glaringly obvious … The HKSAR Government strongly urges the UK again to discern facts from fallacies, respect the international law and basic norms governing international relations, and immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong matters, which are purely China’s internal affairs.”

On the subject of Jimmy Lai – a profile by National Review.

And Singapore displaces Hong Kong in one of those World’s Freest Economy rankings…

For the first time Hong Kong has not ranked number one in economic freedom and is expected to drop even further in future years, according to the Fraser Institute’s annual Economic Freedom of the World report released today.

“This is the first year Hong Kong has not ranked number one on the index since its inception, and the expectation is that its score will only fall further as the Chinese Communist Party continues to suppress freedom of all sorts,” said Fred McMahon, Dr. Michael A. Walker Research Chair in Economic Freedom with the Fraser Institute.

…“Hong Kong’s recent turn is an example of how economic freedom is intimately connected with civil and political freedom. The Chinese government’s aim was to crack down on political and civil dissent. These repressions, combined with the government’s efforts to control the private sector, inevitably led to diminished economic freedom. Hong Kong’s prosperity will likely suffer as a result,” said Matthew Mitchell, senior fellow at the Fraser Institute.

…Venezuela once again ranks last. Some despotic countries such as North Korea and Cuba can’t be ranked due to lack of data.

Another lengthy official response follows – though it is somewhat calmer than the one railing about the so-called six-monthly report. (Disappointed!)

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Some refreshing old-style grubbiness

The Rosaryhill School saga, and a government response. An esteemed Catholic ‘elite’ institution is to close owing to falling student numbers, while a newish private school called Dalton (‘co-founded by Everbright Charitable Foundation, Sun Hung Kai & Co Foundation, CITIC Capital Charitable Foundation Limited and asset management company Value Partners’) plans to take over its premises in a prime location on Stubbs Road. 

Rosaryhill is a local secondary school, while Dalton is a primary apparently (according to the Standard editorial) catering more to newly arrived Mainlanders, which might in theory explain the two institutions’ differing views of their future prospects. Though it says here… 

[The Dominican Mission] said the secondary student population was only 20 percent that of its prime years, while enrollment in its private kindergarten and primary section has “plummeted by a staggering 65 percent.”

One of our esteemed commenters offers extra insight here and here. If the deal is more about real estate than education, it would hardly be unprecedented for a religious organization to make a mint from land granted by the government back in the early-mid 20th century. Such murkiness should bring joy to the nostalgic as a sign that some things in Hong Kong haven’t changed.

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HK ‘back to normal’ but with ‘hostile foreign forces’

From the SCMP

Beijing’s top envoy in Hong Kong on Saturday called on local police to strictly enforce the national security law, warning that “hostile foreign forces” were still attempting to undermine the city’s stability while anti-China elements were plotting a comeback.

Being too lazy to get around the paywall, I didn’t read the part where the paper asked the obvious questions: Who are these ‘forces and elements’? Where are they from? Which countries or organizations are involved? And please don’t repeat the old mutterings about the long-departed, DAB-training and apparently omnipotent National Endowment for Democracy. 

Perhaps part of the reason is that Beijing officials do not distinguish between tangible and intangible ‘forces and elements’. They might be talking about actual people, but they might also be referring to foreign ideas. Or is it that the system simply needs threats?

At least in the UK they tell you who or what the threats are. The Spectator’s China affairs columnist distances herself from the UK parliamentary assistant arrested a few months ago…

‘Everybody can be recruited in the right circumstances,’ [a former UK intelligence] officer tells me. ‘It’s about asking the right questions to the right people at the right time.’ A recruit could be charmed with a compelling narrative of Chinese culture or persuaded China was wronged by western imperialism. Money or sex could be a factor. If there is some deep-seated anti-Americanism, this could be developed into pro-communist sentiment. ‘The recruitment of every intelligence agent is individual to the person involved,’ says the officer.

…It should be made very clear to anyone in Westminster where the line lies between above-board information-sharing and covert dalliances. Could the parliamentary researcher have been a useful idiot, not quite realising the seriousness of what he was doing?

The wrong reaction, though, would be to assume that people with experience of China are already compromised, or that those who advocate a more sophisticated approach to the country … I would say this, though, wouldn’t I?…

Good unrolled thread on the comparisons between the Japanese and Chinese development models, starting with…

You start as a discredited elite. You brought absolute ruin to your country. You need to justify your rule, fast. You start with a rural reform (Japan 1946-50, China 1978). Small farmers get a plot of land. Agricultural productivity goes up. There is a food surplus…


– Use state-controlled banks to drive loans to fund productive capacity and infrastructure – Focus on politically connected companies without thinking too much about future profits.

– Direct it all by a powerful, but competing bureaucratic fiefdoms: ministries in Japan, provinces in China – Get everyone into an interlocking web of relationships of patronage and debt to assure that you control things: keiretsus, SOEs, state banks, developers, exporters…

…and finally…

The system you have built is not a proper market economy. It is a giant web of personal relations optimized for wage suppression; production, infrastructure and housing investment; and carefree liquidity

You realize everyone that matters is involved. You have no idea how you will distribute the losses without getting a lot of important groups furious Worst of all you do not even have the institutional capacity to implement the theoretical interventions the economists suggest…

In another thread, Michael Pettis responds to the notion that Beijing won’t fix things simply because ‘Xi opposes consumerism’…

For well over a decade, China’s growing imbalances should have been fairly obvious, even if many analysts didn’t recognize them. The implications of transforming this model and reversing these imbalances should also be fairly obvious.

It requires a transformation of deeply embedded business, financial, and political institutions along with, inevitably, changes in the structure and composition of business, financial and political elites. It is that, not ideology, that is the hard part.

And for those interested – Patrick Boyle interviews Bloomberg scribe Zeke Faux on his (reportedly hilarious) book Number Go Up about the rise and more recent ugly and inevitable collapse of the crypto mania-fetish-scam-bubble, featuring the bizarre ape-cartoon NFTs, Sam Bankman-Fried and all the rest.

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Late-night Wild Carnage Freak-out Committee swings into action

The ‘Night Vibes’ rejuvenation extravaganza initiative-cum-scheme is launched to modest and perhaps rushed fanfare. The video clip shows a small stage occupied by rather unenthusiastic (let’s say insufficiently rehearsed) nocturnal skateboarding dancers. Attended by Financial Secretary Paul Chan, Allen Zeman, etc, etc. A standard box-ticking HK Civil Service event launch – just like the ‘Hello Hong Kong’ one, but in the dark.

Stay out late to enjoy some lame discounts from abstemious mall owners and extended opening hours at… government museums.

Perhaps it’s supposed to boost tourism, but the sudden obsession with the nightlife economy looks more targeted at local consumers, who simply don’t go out as much as they used to.The Covid era – working from home and semi-shuttering of bars and restaurants – changed people’s evening schedules and killed off many outlets. The prolonged travel restrictions ended all tourism and pushed many higher-earning residents to emigrate. Many, especially younger, Hong Kong people will go to Shenzhen for a night out because it’ll cost maybe a third what they would pay in Hong Kong. 

As numerous critics point out, officials trying to launch ‘night bazaars’ are trying to create synthetic versions of the very activities and buzz they have deliberately eradicated over the years – whether it’s through disapproval of fishball vendors and other street food, the phobia about outdoor dining, bans on ‘unauthorized gatherings’, or the dismantling of neon signs.

Doing my bit – Chiuchow dinner last night…

NGO Liber Research Community finds dozens of possibly illegal structures/garden extensions at luxury developments like Redhill Peninsula. 

Interesting aerial photos. (Some might think that if you had a house with a backyard that adjoins a patch of unused and otherwise inaccessible scrubland, wouldn’t you ‘borrow’ some of it too? Preferably not on a crumbling clifftop.)

It’s also interesting that the NGO is still operating despite the NatSec system, and even gets interviewed by government-run RTHK. A few months back, it was criticized for ‘smearing’ government housing and infrastructure projects, but maybe the government is happier about going after wealthy old-style establishment types’ illegal structures. These people’s friends do not run Hong Kong anymore.

Some (allegedly) interesting reading for the weekend…

China Media Project on China’s recent proposed law against ‘clothing that hurts the feelings’, which has run into criticism domestically…

What does it mean to hurt the feelings of the Chinese nation? Many Chinese are asking exactly that question. Opened to public comment for 30 days, the draft amendment … has drawn a torrent of criticism. Public intellectuals, influencers, and ordinary netizens have lined up across social media to lay broadsides into the new language.

“Who decides what the spirit and feelings of the Chinese nation are?” asked Tong Zhiwei, a law professor in Shanghai.

Also includes a useful discussion on a shift from ‘hurt feelings of the Chinese people’ to ‘…Chinese nation’.

From a year ago, but suddenly relevant after the news about a Chinese ‘spy’ in Parliament, a paper by the Council on Geostrategy on United Front activities in the UK…

…Hong Kong-British and their families that have recently moved to the UK via the generous British National (Overseas) visa scheme are among the prime targets of CCP interference and narrative warfare. Consequently, [government should] ensure Hong Kong-British and their families are integrated into local communities and that younger generations of Hong Kong-British growing up in the UK do not fall prey to the CCP’s discourses – such as the absurd United Front ‘anti-Asian racism’ narrative prevalent in the UK.

For followers of Taiwan’s election – Frozen Garlic on the three-way race in which all candidates would struggle to step into Tsai Ing-wen’s shoes and none can get a majority of the vote. (Watch Beijing send a ‘warning’ that drives voters to the DPP.)

An academic paper on how China sees the world – through visual portrayals of noses. This is packed full of weirdness, including Tang Dynasty figurines of barbarians, comparisons with Nazi portrayals of noses, and ‘de-orientalizing’ plastic surgery for Korean War casualties. A relatively normal extract…

Through the high-bridged nose/big nose distinction, we can see the PRC’s hierarchy of good and evil Euro-Americans. This was confirmed after the onset of the Sino-Soviet split in 1960, when Chinese propaganda posters drew Russians with ugly big noses, rather than handsome high-bridged noses.67 Importantly, Chinese posters used evil images of the Other to construct the proper communist Chinese self. Although ideologically Maoism was radically egalitarian, these images show how the CCP was ‘engineering emotions’ to construct a new social hierarchy in foreign affairs. As the images show, the posters first work to include Russians and exclude Americans, and then later work to also exclude Russians after the Sino-Soviet split. The reassertion of close ties between the PRC and Russia over the past decade has seen the reappearance of Chinese images of beautifully high-bridged nosed Russians and ugly big-nosed Americans. This is important, because such images are more than propaganda for the masses: as Campbell argues for the role of self/Other relations in US foreign policy-making, such images shape the realm of possibility for Chinese policy-makers as well.

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Democratic Party avoids mentioning democracy

Most ‘moderate’ pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong are either in jail or in exile, and most broadly pan-dem organizations, like unions, have disbanded. Then there’s the Democratic Party, which has members still at liberty who think they can and should keep going. This is despite the fact that some of their former colleagues have been arrested (like Albert Ho), they have virtually no chance of being allowed on ‘patriots-only’ ballots, and indeed argue about whether they should lend credibility to such elections. Plus they can’t book a restaurant (again).

Their latest attempt to battle on as if nothing had happened is to take part in the ritual offering of ‘suggestions’ for the government’s forthcoming Policy Address. Governments have never listened to outsiders’ ideas at the best of times, and the current administration will probably not even want to acknowledge the DP’s existence with a curt thank-you note. Still, the party tries some pre-emptive kowtowing by omitting any mention of representative government in its proposals.

Why are they bothering? Are they ‘trying to be relevant’? How can a pro-democracy group be ‘relevant’ within a system whose top leaders openly oppose open elections and separation of powers? At best, it’s extreme naivety. Unless they’re desperate for a few District Council seats in order to earn some money – in which case, good luck.

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Museums want to sell luxury housing, again

Wow – the West Kowloon Cultural Hub-Zone really really wants to get into the luxury housing business. They went through all this just a few weeks ago, also loudly insisting that they don’t want to take public money. Two questions. From a financial point of view, wouldn’t it be better for museums to lease property assets to get recurrent income rather than sell it for a one-off lump sum? (Or will the proceeds be transferred to a superbly managed endowment?) And do any other government-founded non-profit cultural facilities in the world raise funds by selling up-market housing?

(A third: would it help if non-tycoons/civil servants helped head up the Hub-Zone – they might be able to think of something other than real-estate plays? As it is, WKCHZ Chair/illegal basement expert Henry Tang is calling separately for lower taxes on luxury-home sales.)

No sooner does the flooding subside than it’s back to NatSec. Exiled Ted Hui’s parents and siblings-in-law get the ‘taken in for questioning’ treatment. (Do his in-laws even like him? I’ve no idea, but spouses’ parents are not always approving.) And a student gets six months’ prison for sedition over a plan to display a banner featuring the Pillar of Shame sculpture. (Is any portrayal of the sculpture – whose Danish creator is apparently wanted in Hong Kong – forbidden? Any planned portrayal?)

(While we’re on that subject – a quick aside on comments. Yes, they are occasionally edited for ‘national-security reasons’. And non-Twitter users can no longer view all of a thread, courtesy Elon Musk. Will bear in mind.) 

Some mid-week links…

The Conversation on Beijing’s new idea to deflect criticism of its human rights record…

…China is seeking not merely to resist but to dismantle a foundational idea of the post-Cold War international order – the universality of human rights.

…The government’s new strategy is called the “Global Civilisation Initiative”. And it’s become a major weapon in the Chinese party-state’s foreign propaganda arsenal.

The initiative was first announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in March. It complements two previously announced (and similarly named) diplomatic tools: the Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative.

Together, these intentionally vague concepts are designed to expand China’s influence over international institutions and norms. They also advance Xi’s plan for the “great renewal of the Chinese nation”.

…The truth, however, is the initiative represents a kind of modern-day tribute system in which an all-powerful China sits atop a hierarchy of like-minded states from the Global South.

In exchange for kowtowing to Beijing, the Chinese government offers developing countries lucrative trade and investment opportunities and the ability to emulate its authoritarian political model.

Foreign Policy on China’s apparent preference for ‘guns over butter’… 

China’s economic growth has been slowing for over a decade, so the CCP has had plenty of time to responsibly manage the deceleration and—as urged by many Western policymakers and economists—transition to more sustainable consumption-led growth. But the party has failed to implement this advice, perhaps because it would require structural changes that might weaken its grip on power. Instead, the CCP responded to slowing economic growth by pouring resources into its military…

…We estimate that from 2015 through 2019, China’s military spending grew nearly twice as fast as China’s official GDP in real terms.

SMH interviews Joerge Wutke, outspoken head of the EU chamber of commerce in China…

Wuttke said Xi’s desire for total control would see the Chinese economy struggle, especially as the low-hanging policy fruits that had generated economic activity had already been plucked.

“China will definitely have to live with a much lower growth projection … this leadership is willing to sacrifice economic growth for the sake of ideology,” he said.

“The old equation was always that China does anything to add economic growth because that was the perception of what keeps us in office.

“Now what keeps the party in office is utter, 110 per cent control.”

Wuttke said China’s tactics were deliberate and that the economic weakness invited the question of how stable the country could be in the “enhanced Xi Jinping echo chamber” that prevails in Beijing.

CMP surveys and explains ‘old friends’ of the Chinese people…

Consider, too, the home countries of China’s “old friends,” which correspond with the country’s diplomatic wishes and concerns. With over 100 “old friends,” China’s historical enemy Japan is home to more than anywhere else in the world — by a long shot. Coming in second, with half that amount, is Beijing’s more recent great-power rival, the United States of America.

Why are there more “old friends” where friendship most eludes China? Because these places are precisely where friends are most useful. 

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Illegal basements are back

That wasn’t flooding in Sai Kung yesterday – that was ‘water accumulation’. If I read this government expert correctly, it’s flooding if the drainage system is overloaded. But if the drains are merely blocked with debris (from previous actual flooding), it’s not a ‘real’ flood. You’re just imagining it.

The serious bad weather story remains the Tai Tam landslide that stripped bare unauthorized basements beneath cliff-top houses at Redhill Peninsula. Or ‘unearthed’, as the Standard puts it.

It’s an ugly development, even by Hong Kong ‘luxury’ housing standards. Rows of tacky villa-ish townhouses are jammed together like snaggle teeth and wrapped round an entire mini-peninsula that was once a modest charm of nature overlooking Tai Tam Bay. Like Parkview up the road, it’s an example of privatizing – or wrecking – everyone else’s view of the scenery.

Properties vary, but typically seem to go for around HK$70-100 million. Or at least they did…

A property agent said the house [number 72, suspected of unauthorized construction and the unlawful occupation of government land] is “dragging down” neighbors, who are now worried. “Many owners of detached houses would have, more or less, illegal structures in their premises, so they are afraid of being inspected,” the agent said.

‘More or less’. Got it. Anyway – names

Illegal structures were allegedly found at house No 70 after an inspection was conducted by building officers. It is said to belong to Cyberport chief investment officer Johnny Chan Kok-chung.

The owner of house No 74 is said to have initially refused to allow inspectors in, prompting the Buildings Department to say it was seeking a court warrant.

But it is now understood the owner has agreed for inspections later this morning. The house is said to be owned by former HSBC Asia-Pacific marketing head, Yuen Wai-ming

The five-story house No 72 is owned by the former head of Blackstone Advisory Partners in Asia, Anthony Steains, who was in Thailand when the landslide occurred.

The Buildings Department said inspectors found a 17-meter by nine-meter [1,646 sq ft in English] basement on the bottom floor of No 72, with part of the retaining wall near the government slope being rebuilt as windows.

‘Water accumulation’ for the riff-raff, ‘retaining walls near government slopes being rebuilt as windows’ for the rich.

A couple of wordy but sensible threads on the alleged Chinese spy found working as an assistant in the British parliament, here and here.

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Blink, and you would’ve missed Yellow signal

A Macau Business op-ed mentions shortcomings in Hong Kong’s bad-weather warning system following the recent downpour. Raises some interesting questions. How come the Observatory raised the Yellow, Red and Black Rainstorm signals within just one and a half hours? Should the government issue an SMS alert when most of us are in bed (it didn’t)? And the general mess of Black Rainstorm/Typhoon 8/etc categories. As body found in New Territories watercourse.

Surely it would be better to have one all-purpose stay-at-home order rather than different Black/Number 8 signals. And, as David Webb points out, why was the Black signal still up hours after the rain has subsided?

Speaking of whom – a letter from Webb to the board of Allen International. Or why family-run businesses don’t always perform well and how such companies listed in Hong Kong can fail to protect the interests of minority shareholders…

With limited time left, I can no longer afford patience and would rather not leave the matter to potentially more activist successors who will manage my assets after my death.

Former White House Chief of Staff under Obama and now US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel annoyed Beijing’s media recently by eating Fukushima fish and Tweeting about China’s vanishing senior officials. My kind of diplomat! An excerpt from a recent interview on US-China relations in a WSJ podcast

….I’m for a dialogue, but I’m also not for being, as my father would say, a schmuck. And he said it with this term of endearment. I mean, what I mean by this is Xi stood in the rose garden and said, “We will never militarize the South China Sea.” The wheels of his plane were not up in the belly of the plane when they were doing exactly that. They’re part of the World Trade Organization, international economic structure. I can’t tell you how many times I had a CEO in my office when I was chief of staff, when I was a congressman, and would say that they’re stealing intellectual property, they’re stealing product, they’re making us give it to them for free, so they could basically underwrite and then also undermine your product and do nothing but replicate it. Not even a bolt or a screw is different. 

So at some point, you got to say, “Look…” Now you can sit there and say, “Well, we’d like to have a great relationship,” but if they’re going to keep the Communist Party, and specifically under XI, use lying and cheating as a modus operandi of the state and its legitimacy, then you would be a fool to go into that discussion negotiation not cognizant of what they’re doing. 

And my view is keep doing what you’re doing. You’re the one with 30% unemployment among youth, not us. You got 10 years of housing with nobody in it. You got people that are getting fleeced by the big developers and the banks. You got municipalities in China that makes Chicago look like a AAA-rated bond. Keep at it. There is nothing the United States is doing to you that measures what you’ve done to yourself. We didn’t do any of that. And so my point is I’m ready to have a conversation. I’m also ready not to get in the way of you to doing to yourself what we could never only hope on our best day could get done to you. And if you want to stay doing it and you want to walk away from the international system that you benefited from, well, therefore, the grace of God, go ahead. Why should I get in the way of that?

A good thread from Professor Michael Pettis on why China’s economy never could have overtaken that of the US. Reason: GDP measures inputs rather than just output. And China’s inputs include much capital wasted on pointless infrastructure in order to meet a set GDP target. Economies that don’t misallocate capital see more actual wealth creation…

This has been hard to explain to economists, although engineers, mathematicians, other others who think in terms of systems find it almost trivially obvious. Without hard budget constraints, there is no way to differentiate between value creation and value destruction.

A commenter rephrases it…

If economic activity is not productive, the GDP and employment it initially generates will be reversed once the debt that financed the expansion can no longer be rolled over.

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Everyone staying dry out there?

Yikes. In Chai Wan, snorkels are the new face masks. An interesting observation about last night’s discharge of water from Shenzhen reservoir. Could watch this all morning.

From China File, a comprehensive update of the evolving use of Hong Kong’s NatSec laws – ‘the newly-constructed national security state has moved into a consolidation phase’…

The government’s definition of “national security” has proved almost infinitely elastic, and has included such “crimes” as holding a primary election, publicly chanting now-forbidden 2019 protest slogans, and even efforts by journalists to report on political developments in Hong Kong. As GCAL’s research on the implementation of the NSL has made clear, the vast majority of national security cases that have emerged over the past year would not be considered crimes in other, rights-respecting jurisdictions. Instead, they would be considered constitutionally-protected acts of free expression, association, and assembly.

…Instead of acting as a check on government and defending basic rights, the court system’s approach has been to bend to the enormous political pressure it faces, and to give the government more or less everything it wants in national security cases. Every substantive verdict has gone the government’s way, and the lion’s share of procedural rulings (bail decisions, decisions on the right to a jury trial, and so on) have been in the government’s favor as well.

Summary in thread by Tom Kellogg…

One NSL stat continues to stand out above all others: the govt continues to enjoy a 100% conviction rate. A full 103 individuals have been convicted or pled guilty to nat sec crimes, most for actions that would be not be considered crimes in rights-respecting jurisdictions.

The article says (basically archaic) sedition charges have come to play a more prominent role because penalties are lighter than for NatSec Law charges, so are ‘harsh enough to serve as a deterrent, but not so stiff as to alienate relative moderates inclined to support the government’. Do the people making these decisions really worry about alienating anyone? It’s possible officials think they are more likely to get the courts to convict someone for speech crimes by using relatively vague sedition charges (‘exciting disaffection’, for example). But a system that has imprisoned, among others, a single mother for Facebook posts clearly does not prioritize mercy. (And now importing seditious books.) Wait to see if the forthcoming local ‘Article 23’ National Security Law increases the existing penalties for sedition, which were set by the namby-pamby colonial regime in the 1930s. 

(Which reminds me: are we going to get the death penalty restored in Hong Kong? It seems an obvious bit of Mainlandization that has been missed out.)

Global Times goes nuclear (or something) over Japan’s wastewater discharge, claiming that Tokyo is whitewashing the whole thing with lavish and devious PR tricks, and hinting that Carbon-14 is a health hazard with its scary half-life of 5,000-odd years.

Chinese observers pointed out that what the Japanese government’s expectation is, as long as the Geiger counter doesn’t explode within seconds after contact with the wastewater, or a Godzilla monster-like would not suddenly emerge from the sea, the dumping can be acceptable. As for questions like whether there will be man-tall crabs or Cthulhu-esque octopuses in 30 to 40 years is not part of its consideration. 

…China, by contrast, is motivated by providing an effective public good by taking a stand against Japan’s wastewater dumping. 

Sounds like an exasperated lashing-out against international public opinion that is largely siding with the country that has a reputation for scientific integrity and transparency.

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