Prompted no doubt by my modest opinion yesterday that Anthony Wu is an inept waste of space when it comes to formulation of policy for Hong Kong, the Central People’s Government sounds him out as a possible Chief Executive ‘candidate’ for 2017. This is according to the South China Morning Post’s front-page story quoting ‘a person familiar with the situation’ and a conveniently available Wu himself in consecutive paragraphs.
This implies that whoever gets picked for 2012 will get one term only, which in turn suggests that Beijing expects him or her to be too unpopular (and maybe too old or mad into the bargain) to take part in the manipulable, quasi-democratic polling system to be introduced five years later. A possible hint, perhaps, that the people picking the next CE are thinking less in terms of nice-but-dim Chief Secretary textiles scion Henry Tang and more toward nakedly ambitious Executive Council convener CY Leung, or possibly former Legislator Rita Fan.
Wu is apparently one of several possible figures being sounded out, so it may never happen. However, we can disregard his protestations that there are many people in Hong Kong better qualified for the top job. Plenty of people are or would have been vastly superior to the two Chief Executives the Chinese government has foisted on the Big Lychee since 1997, but they had no chance of being appointed because the Communist Party didn’t trust them. (And the black hair-dye brigade – an increasingly hereditary bunch, incidentally – have never been particularly comfortable about former colonial official Sir Donald Tsang.)
What sort of exciting initiatives could we expect from a Wu administration? For reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, I have images of his government reducing school physical education from one hour to 15 minutes a week, and extending the stock exchange’s lunch break to 3.30pm.
For a clue, we can look at what he does. He is Chairman of the General Chamber of Commerce (despite having little or no business background) and of the Hospitals Authority (a high-profile figurehead in the public sector). He seems to be a member of every vacuous talking-shop Donald Tsang has ever assembled: the Commission on Strategic Development, the Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council, the Task Group on Constitutional Development and of course the Bauhinia Foundation – grand-sounding bodies with no known shreds of accomplishment to their name. He sits on an array of advisory boards alongside ranks of people who agree with Sir Bow-Tie, such as the Asian Games one and the Community Care Fund one.
In other words, he is one of that public-sector/public service nomenklatura that struts around thinking of itself as the very important and professional elite that runs Hong Kong. Monetary Authority boss Norman Chan is another; lawyer to the gentry Ronald Arculli is a veteran. Beneath them are civil servants and a sub-stratum of loyal wannabes like the tragic Bunny Chan, but the cream of this establishment maybe numbers several dozen. It is a mafia of smugness: a world of shoe-shiners being chauffeur-driven between conferences, awarding each other medals and being appointed to each other’s committees, while the rest of Hong Kong looks on bemused at the way they have seduced themselves into believing that the length of their resumes and the size of their taxpayer-funded salaries reflect their true worth.
Just as our wealthiest tycoons imagine themselves to be entrepreneurial geniuses but have never tasted a whiff of marketplace competition, so these people have essentially had their positions in the political establishment handed to them on a plate. They haven’t fought their way up through a potentially deadly hierarchy like the leaders of China, or battled it out in elections like big-city bosses in democracies. They are amateurs. We can tell because, if we can bring ourselves to watch closely, we see that our top leaders like Donald and his namesake John are not really running Hong Kong. It’s embarrassing play-acting. They are pretending to run the city, but they don’t really know how to do it and they are hoping the rest of us don’t notice. At times it seems they have convinced themselves they know what they doing, but their constant fear and mistrust of outsiders with ideas proves otherwise.
And that’s what we would probably get from Wu. It wouldn’t be policymaking; it would be pretend policymaking. Still it’s a long way off, 2017. The Communist Party might fall. The Messiah could launch his second coming. Wu might be attacked and eaten by a bear. Anything could happen.