By all accounts, the presence of Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev in Hong Kong yesterday was hard to miss, with hundreds of police sealing off buildings, roads and walkways in honour of a Muscovite procession lengthy enough to stretch from one end of the Golden Horde to the other. In theory, this elaborate welcome – largely and wisely ignored by most of the Big Lychee’s press – was aimed at encouraging the listing on our stock exchange of sleazy-sounding Siberian oil and gas companies. More likely, our local government was under orders from Beijing to pull out all the stops for the Kremlin entourage, in hopes of future deliveries of high-tech weapons to reverse-engineer and endless supplies of natural resources, until the day comes when Russia east of the Urals is so depopulated that it becomes by default a suburb of Heilongjiang.
A good reason to be in Macau, where the next big excitement is the opening of the Galaxy, the biggest, brashest, tackiest and most expensive new casino-hotel complex since the last one…
To get the investment paying off as soon as possible, the gambling bit will open first – next month, perhaps – while the corridors-and-little-shampoo-bottles bit will start receiving guests at a later date. Judging by the tariffs advertised in places like the ferry terminals, hotel rooms are not especially expensive in Macau most of the time, which suggests that they are financially a drag on the casino operators. Indeed, a cynic would suspect that the Sands, Wynn, Venetian and all the rest put luxury bedroom factories atop their roulette tables simply to maintain the pretence to the authorities that they are pushing all-round family entertainment.
In reality, Macau overtook the Las Vegas strip in gambling revenue in 2006 and is now raking in four times as much, with the flow of cash up 33%, up 48% and so on. It would be fascinating to know where it comes from, whose it is, what percentage of this torrent out of China is genuine gambling rather than money-laundering and why Beijing is so indulgent towards the Macau, Hong Kong and American interests who are accumulating vast profits out of a process that makes Russian natural resources companies look wholesome and saintly.
Far away from the casinos, up near the border, despite the easy money sloshing around the economy, entrepreneurship survives. The red banner announces, among other things, a special soup that counteracts radiation. Cow (well, bull) penis for 40 bucks…
One of Macau’s lesser-known sights is the May 1 2007 police-shooting-incident walkway, up near the border with Zhuhai…
A Macau policeman fired his pistol into the air when a May 1 demonstration by disaffected workers left behind by the gambling boom got rowdy. One round hit a guy on a moped (possibly the one in my picture, but who knows?). According to local legend, the government gave him an apartment on condition that he shut up. The demonstration, along with the uncovering of widespread corruption within the Macau administration, increased pressure on officials to take action, which resulted a couple of years later in the first cash handout to all residents. This is now an annual tradition, which has also spread to Hong Kong, where – once the geniuses in charge figure out the mechanics of distributing the money – the population will now be expecting HK$6,000 (and rising) every year in perpetuity. All because of one dumb cop.
One last bit of ‘signage’, spied this morning at IFC Mall: “Inspirational thinking and ideas weave new definition across boundaries.” Who would ever dispute it?
The inspirational thinking is apparantly a flagship Apple store, which is cold comfort I’m sure to the existing Apple resellers who reside on an upper floor.
Medvedev’s great. He’s a Peep Durple fan.
just HOW sour can grapes get?!
I miss the iron curtain.
I crack the whip and I whip your crack.
Maugrim, bend over, bad boy !!!
An Apple Store? How will the IFC vigilant security guards deal with Apple’s tedious overnight-queuing fans?
Medvedev sounds like a train that levitates on a monorail but is too costly to ever become popular.
An Apple Store? Isn’t that where one finds a lot of vegetables?