Chaos theory

I switched on the radio this morning to hear someone saying how 15 members of the Legislative Council need to sign up to a particular motion in order to execute some parliamentary procedure. It concerned Chief Executive Donald Tsang, so I vaguely assumed it was about requiring him to give evidence to the Select Committee on Tycoons’ Yachts or something. But no: they were talking impeachment.

There are lots of words to describe Sir Bow-Tie – arrogant, vain, unimaginative, inflexible, jumped-up and so on – but ‘corrupt’ is not one of them. If anything, there is something rather tragic about such a man being flattered by the attentions of tatty second-tier plutocrats with their sleazy status symbols. If tobacco-empire scion Charles Ho took a break from pushing his agendas in his own newspapers and offered me a ride to Macau in his luxury cruiser, I would politely make an excuse. I’d feel more wholesome wedged between rows of snoring Mainland tourists in the back of a Jetfoil, thanks.

Impeachment won’t happen. But the fact that it is even being mentioned is a sign of how deranged things have become.

It is hard to believe Donald’s sad (and suitably silly and little) frailties have come to light right now by chance. The same probably goes for Henry’s basement woes – which could in theory lead to criminal charges – and CY Leung’s oddly insubstantial West Kowloon conflict of interest. We have chaos, of a sort. But did it come from Beijing, or did it arise locally?

One theory is that we are at the mercy of an especially fluid political situation in the Central People’s Government, with factions jostling as the national leadership transition gets underway. A new power-balance comes into being in Beijing; the longstanding plans for Henry Tang are trashed at the last minute, our local establishment are shoved aside, and CY takes over, ushering in social and economic reforms and whatever other measures the diehard patriot has in mind. This assumes that Henry is to be dropped in favour of CY because the Chinese leadership’s Tang-friendly Shanghai faction has lost its grip up north. In this case, Henry’s basement revelation was orchestrated, and his subsequent egregious behaviour something he himself stupidly contributed to help his enemies.

On the other hand, maybe the political situation in Beijing is less disorderly than we think. As dissident Yu Jie says from the safety of Fairfax, Va: “The country’s leader is simply a guy selected by a few of the most powerful families in China to work for them … To maintain the status quo, they’ll do whatever they can.” Maybe the ‘fluid situation’ up there is what we infer to make sense of our chaos here. Maybe the leaders in Zhongnanhai are relatively unified and have more pressing things to bicker about than who runs Hong Kong, and it is simply the Chinese officials sent to the Big Lychee to direct everything behind the scenes who have lost their grip.

Under this scenario, everything springs from York Road, Kowloon Tong and Henry Tang’s ruining of his own integrity. The power-hungry CY and desperate Henry camps, baited by a free press, have abandoned Beijing’s unwritten rules of quasi-election etiquette and are in a real fight. With the two-horse race now presumably set, Beijing can drag the two candidates apart (Henry pleading “he started it”) and tell them which has been chosen – and get on with the mock-election.

Given Henry’s utter unacceptability, we could end up with CY-lite: CY Leung, but defanged and chained down by the lifelong bureaucrats and tycoons’ buddies who would have kept Henry’s administration on the non-reformist path of continued cronyism and collusion. Or, as a matter of principle and to save face, the black hair-dye brigade may refuse to bow to public opinion and let Henry ‘win’ the quasi-election next month anyway. Let the masses march and get it off their chest, then back to This Is The Way It Shall Be as usual.

So: if the chaos is up in Beijing, we have big changes ahead under wolf-man CY; if it’s local, it’s going to be more of the same, whoever they say is in charge. As for which we prefer – that’s irrelevant.

 

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15 Responses to Chaos theory

  1. maugrim says:

    One more theory. What if Beijing wants this round of the election to somehow stall until a second round of voting occurs, thus giving them the time to ‘encourage’ a third acceptable candidate to step forward?

  2. Sir Crispin says:

    Off today’s topic, but in-line with general sentiments round these parts, there now seems to be scientific evidence for why the well-off in this town act like selfish pricks.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2012/02/27/health/rich-more-unethical/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

    “A series of experiments conducted by psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that people who are socially and financially better-off are more likely to lie, cheat, and otherwise behave unethically. . . Drivers with shinier, newer, and more expensive cars were more likely to cut off other motorists at a busy four-way stop and less likely to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.”

  3. PropertyDeveloper says:

    Your analysis, measuredly weighing up the alternatives, often the less likely first, on the basis of the various sorts of evidence, before proceeding to the next logical stage, is masterly, and beats hands down the “rigorous”, survey-based, two-steps-behind glosses coming from academia and the media these days. Might you be a retired social scientist of the old school?

    One element you underplay is the dramatically increasing social unrest, both here and up north. Since it’s less likely to be a cause of political changes on the mainland (their instinct in such a case would be to batten down the hatches in HK), it could instead be a symptom of the beginnings of a deep-rooted transformation in Chinese politics, in which case all the bets would be off.

    The current, largely unjustified humiliation of the CE, which will strip the position of some of its dignity even for future incumbents, cannot in my view be the work of the mainstream factions in Peking: they’re devious, dishonest and ignorant, but they’re certainly not stupid. So the three orchestrations, with their tit-for-tat aspect, may be largely homegrown.

    Assuming, as you do, that Peking hasn’t yet decided which of the candidates to select, as time goes by, if the masses stay restless but not openly revolting, they may even think the unthinkable, and let the 1195 selectors decide, although in practice I still think Henry has the better chance. (Just a gut feeling, knowing how fickle public opinion is and the tendency to try to brazen things out.)

    Interesting times indeed!

  4. Real Tax Payer says:

    Here’s an interesting point of view that the SCMP Liasee wrote today :

    “Many in the business community have said they have been perplexed by the curious turn of events surrounding the so-called election of the chief executive and are struggling to make sense of the process.
    The election has dramatically departed from what was supposed to be an orderly, polite exchange of views among the two main candidates, Henry Tang and C.Y. Leung, with the eventual success of Tang, who is supposed to be the one favoured by Beijing. However, the contest has descended into a bloodfight, with Tang emerging fatally damaged following revelations of his illegal basement construction and marital infidelity.

    Tang is said to be close to former president Jiang Zemin and his Shanghai faction on account of family ties in Jiangsu province that go back many years. For months now, the message from the central government has supposedly been that Tang is the chosen one. However, other informed sources dispute this, saying this message has not come from the central government but rather from people surrounding Liao Hui, who was appointed director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office by Jiang in 1997 and remained in the post for 13 years.

    Liao, who is now based in Beijing – where he remained during his tenure at the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office – kept a low profile but established close ties with many of Hong Kong’s tycoons during this period. He is currently the second vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, in charge of the affairs of the Communist Party of China in Hong Kong and Macau.

    It is these people, we are told, who are putting immense pressure on individuals and institutions to vote for Tang. Indeed the early, “it’s a done deal” message was designed to head off support for C.Y. Leung. A number of big companies wanting to end up on the right side of the election assumed that the central government wanted Henry Tang to win, and committed themselves early, though they may be regretting that now.

    As for Leung, our sources suggest that he is also well favoured by the central government since he is regarded as a trusted patriot – having spent considerable time working with the mainland authorities on land regulation issues on the mainland in the 1980s – and was involved in the drafting of the Basic Law. However, he has kept his distance from the tycoon class, hasn’t overly socialised with them and is distrusted by them. They don’t see him as one of them, we are told, and he owes them no favours.

    Various scenarios have been mooted as to how the Liaison Office will deal with the collapse of Tang’s campaign. One has been that the Liaison Office is so inflexible that it will carry on regardless with Plan A and support Tang. Another option: find a replacement candidate for Tang. And finally, given the prospect of protest marches in Hong Kong should Tang end up “winning”, make sure Leung secures victory. Our understanding is that there will be a variant of the latter. Beijing will stick with the two main candidates, and will provide “guidance”, if needed, to ensure a Leung victory.

  5. Stephen says:

    @RTP

    Rare for me to agree with the Pro China Morning Post but I think the risk of appeasing the Tycoons and going for Plan A is now off the table. The Horse has no public support and been exposed as a lying twit.

    So guidance will be given and China gets to play the good guy telling the masses you wanted him, you got him. Hopefully the formerly smug faces of Joseph Yam and David Li will drop from view.

    This has been far more interesting than any of us expected ?

  6. Big Al says:

    Sing Tao chief and luxury ferry service operator Charles Ho is quoted in the substandard as saying: “I have not done anything wrong … it is not illegal for business men to have contacts with government officials”. Therein lies the problem. It’s not illegal + we all know how unscrupulous Hong Kong tycoons are = collusion.

    He also said it was nothing more than “picking up a hitchhiker”. Yeah, right. I’m sure Charlie wouldn’t offer me a trip back from Macao in his big yacht if I stuck out my thumb. He is probably genuinely surprised about the furore – like all tycoons, he thinks he can do exactly what he wants because he is rich and has “connections”.

    Civil servants, on the other hand, are supposedly not allowed to accept any advantages although the effort of enforcement seems to be inversely proportional to the value of the advantage. Poor old Sir Bowtie may not think private ‘plane trips or yacht trips are advantages if he pays the economy class fare (and pays to whom?). I personally don’t think he is corrupt, just naïve, which is what comes of spending your entire life closeted within the alternative reality that is the civil service and listening to tycoons.

    These days it’s not about what you do or don’t do but about what it looks like you’re doing or not doing. Maybe it’s always been this way but we just find out more often. Anyway, Sir Bowtie has just had Painful Reality Lesson #1 …

  7. Ramerkang says:

    I’m surprised that some still consider Henry to be in the frame – surely his misdeeds and well demonstrated incompetence make him a lame duck. If the tycoons and/or Beijing appoint him it will be surprising if the crowds on the streets don’t make the anti-Tung march look like a picnic. Is that a risk Beijing want to take? More likely CY is already their man, albeit on the quiet as yet – or they’ll rig a second round, with Tsang II the anointed one.

  8. Bigot says:

    If BJ really cares about public opinion, why did it endorse the the CS appointment of the disgraced Stephen Lam? On this ground, Tang should not worry about his backing.

  9. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Stephen

    In agree, except that “lying twit” is just too kind to enery

    Well, having signed up to support CY I’ve been invited to some kind of video thing later this week at CY’s campaign office. Should be interesting.

    Think I’ll discreetly pass Fanny Law the final version of “Have some Madiera m’dear” – at least it will make her laugh

    I’m trying to think of a suitable repartee to the ABC campaign : Anyone But CY”

    CDE : Collusion ? Dat’s Enery

    DEF : Defy Enry and his Friends

    FGH : ForGet about Henry

    IJKL : I’m Just Killed by Laughter

    mmmmm …. can do better than that

  10. Incredulous says:

    I imagine Beijing is so pissed off they might want to hand HK back!

  11. @Incredulous: An many a Hongkongers rejoiced..?

  12. Real Tax Payer says:

    CBA : Collusion Buggers us ALL

  13. Bigot says:

    HBO: Henry’s Basement Ordeal

  14. PropertyDeveloper says:

    ABC: Anyone But Cheval?

  15. Probably says:

    @ Stephen,
    Disagreeing with the Pro China Morning Post? One shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds, eh?

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