A China Daily columnist denounces a Wall Street Journal article describing the installation of new Chief Executive CY Leung as ‘the real handover’ (presumably this or an op-ed piece very like it). The ‘real handover’ theorem/cliché holds that the first 15 years of Chinese sovereignty post-1997 were a kid-gloves exercise, and CY the Wolf is now here to impose the genuine thing. The meme is not new. The Dow Jones-run Far Eastern Economic Review might have created it back in 2002 over Article 23 (and we all remember how real that turned out to be). So this, now, in 2012, is the real real handover – really.
While eye-catching in a headline, the phrase suggests that the messy, last-minute insertion of CY Leung where Beijing’s longstanding plans called for limp-wristed Henry Tang was in some way planned all along – or that Communist hawks have been able to pounce on it as an opportunity to bring rebellious, spoilt Hong Kong to heel.
If this is a clash of rhetoric, the WSJ wins on points. China Daily is owned and subsidized by a government that proclaims devotion to the people but is implementing a highly corrupt and possibly moribund system of corporatist capitalism. The WSJ doesn’t need taxpayers’ subsidies but is a commercial product with customers who willingly pay for and read it. They are both biased/selective/self-censored, but while China Daily can state that black is white with impunity (and indeed sometimes has to), the WSJ must at least submit to logic and reason in its arguments.
The two columns bear this out. The WSJ admits that CY’s role in Hong Kong is complex but fears his loyalty to Beijing could threaten the city, citing a variety of circumstantial evidence with a dash of Mandarin speechmaking and a military parade for zest. China Daily lapses into that almost infantile whining that patriotic apologists employ in response to questioning and doubts. It rebuts the WSJ’s points too insistently for its own good, undermines its case by ignoring valid points and seals its fate with such ‘black-is-white’ arguments as Hongkongers’ adoration of the PLA. It would be far more credible to call the WSJ out for accusing CY of ‘class warfare’ (advocating social measures that have widespread popular approval). But that would mean admitting that Beijing’s last appointee, Donald Tsang, screwed up horrendously by – in effect – deliberately widening the wealth gap.
So there we have it: a classic bit of propagandistic/ideologically driven/values-based West-vs-China diatribe, with shards of red-hot polemic flying all over the place, mostly missing any useful targets. But how about adding an extra participant to the debate?
Behold: a Trotskyite analysis of the July 1 march. If this piece in World Socialist joined the fray it would start by going straight for China Daily’s jugular by repeating the dastardly lie that over 60,000-100,000 were on the street. Then it would swat the WSJ for its dismissal of CY’s class warfare with a plain list of all that’s wrong in the Big Lychee.
But then it would confound both of the other two by laying into most of the organizations behind the march:
…the Civil Human Rights Front, comprised of the official opposition parties, such as the Democratic Party and the Civic Party, as well as the trade unions, student unions, women’s associations and churches [and] various parties of the exiled Chinese “democracy movement,” including the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin, which advocates the official recognition of “independent” trade unions within China.
While the DP and CP no doubt puff with pride at being named ‘official opposition parties’, we ask where we have seen those inverted commas around apparently innocent words before, like “democracy movement” and “independent” trade unions. Why, of course, in organs like China Daily, where editors and censors grapple with things that ideologically cannot exist but nonetheless do. Thus Taiwan doesn’t have a president but a “president”, etc.
So in our three-way fight, China Daily and the WSJ are now left speechless as the Trotskyist newcomer World Socialist runs over to Emily Lau, Lee Cheuk-yan and a bunch of radical nuns and starts stomping on them for advocating one-person, one-vote. Sorry – “one-person, one-vote”.
…the common role of these groups is to contain the growing discontent in the working class by sowing illusions that protests can pressure Beijing into making concessions for limited parliamentary reforms. They advocate pro-market restructuring that would only worsen the social divide … These organisations represent no challenge to the profit system responsible for the widening social chasm between the billionaires and ordinary people.
(Trotskyites are determined that change must come through bottom-up revolution by the working class, as, supposedly, in 1789 France or 1917 Russia. Hong Kong-style urban middle-class demands to share power with landed and traditional interests – which worked in the English-speaking world, or in South Korea and Taiwan for that matter – spoil everything.)
Not content with leaving China Daily looking just a few inches away from the WSJ on basic economic principles, our Trotskyist exposes the American capitalist organ’s true timidity towards Beijing by calling the regime up there something Dow Jones or Rupert Murdoch never would: a ‘Stalinist police-state’. Ouch.
Calm and objective analysis hasn’t featured much in this battle from the very start. And at this stage the judges realize it can only come down to originality and flair, and entertainment value. And World Socialist no doubt flings its gold medal aside as bourgeois decadence.