CY’s Legco speech – maybe a big deal, maybe not

Which is less interesting: Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung’s address to the Legislative Council or the announcement of two more appointments to the Executive Council?

The appointment of legislators Jeffrey Lam and Regina Ip to CY’s top policy advisory body probably takes first prize for dullness. Lam is part of the Henry Tang/inherited wealth/bureaucrat camp that CY needs to get on side, while Regina is an opportunist who is perhaps potentially less troublesome in the tent than out of it. In colonial times, Exco had the governor, a pair of guys from HSBC and Swire, the Commander of British Forces and the Chief Secretary – that was about it. Now there are over 30 people in those meetings.

CY’s address consisted in large part of the sort of integration-is-good-for-you/we-need-the-Mainland waffle we don’t want to hear. To the extent that it’s true, we don’t need to be told again and again. To the extent that it’s alarmist, politically correct blather, it’s excruciatingly tedious and insulting to the intelligence. All cities are economically dependent on their hinterlands – so what?

Peel all that stuff away, and CY does hint at something that might be noteworthy (but, we must hasten to add, might not be; so Sphinx-like is the man that you have no clue). He dismissed Hong Kong’s 1960s official pseudo-philosophy of positive noninterventionism as ‘vague and contradictory’, and then similarly rejected the ‘big market, small government’ invented and promoted by his predecessor Donald Tsang. The implication is that government needs to be more proactive, or perhaps should simply stop pretending that it doesn’t intervene in order to do so with greater deliberation and thus, somehow, better.

Unfortunately but typically, the example CY gave was to do with CEPA, the elaborate-looking but mostly vacuous ‘free-trade’ agreement between Hong Kong and the Mainland. A better example could (but again, can’t necessarily) be drawn from his oblique comments on housing.

We often hear that measures to bar property sales to Mainlanders, penalize investors for keeping apartments empty or push developers into building homes suited for local people would offend ‘free market’ principles. Yet in a place where the government owns all the land, a cartel monopolizes and manipulates supply and demand has been magnified by an influx of outsiders with suitcases of cash, where is the free market? There isn’t one. It is distorted, and in such a way as to harm the local population – so you need to re-distort it.

Former Monetary Authority boss Joseph Yam and a writer in China Daily pick up on this. Doesn’t it warm the heart just ever so slightly to see that both use the word ‘oligarchy’?

People who drone on endlessly about integration also tend to get hugely excited by the prospect of Hong Kong playing some sort of super-important role in the internationalization of the Renminbi. It seems hard to believe that the Chinese Communist Party, with all its paranoia and semi-xenophobia – plus its need to buy Ferraris for its kids – can ever let go of the control that a closed capital account gives it. To make the currency freely tradable, China’s leaders would have to allow international markets to set either exchange rates (if the currency floats) or interest rates (if they have a peg). For ‘international markets’, read ‘nasty evil foreigners who hate China and aim to prevent the country from rising’.

Still, let’s humour people who think Communists make currencies convertible. Will they use Hong Kong to gradually free the Yuan up? Forbes columnist Cedric Muhammad believes that it will happen in… Africa. He makes some interesting points about, for example, the communities of Africans living and trading in China and the possibilities for RMB mortgages in Africa. Then he comes up with a bombshell: “I believe … that 300 million Chinese will eventually have to move into Africa to alleviate [China’s] demographic nightmare…” He has even identified a CITIC-built housing development in Angola that will host several hundred thousand of them. And he’s written a whole (US$99) report on what would be one of the most historic migrations in human history since our ancestors crossed the Red Sea into Eurasia.

I always assumed that when the demographic pyramid keels over, the rivers catch fire and the pollution starts raining down like volcanic ash, the Chinese would expand into dark, cold, morose but nearby empty places like Mongolia and Siberia. Africa sounds much more fun.

One more souvenir of Taiwan, where child abuse in the guise of learning is as rampant as it is here. There’s surely a monolingual After-After-School School out there too.

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10 Responses to CY’s Legco speech – maybe a big deal, maybe not

  1. Lois Beluga says:

    I rarely think about Hong Kong politics unless all else fails to put me to sleep.

    But imagine what life would be like with:

    H e n r y T a n g

    running things.

    CY has already solved more problems than Bow Tie ever did and begun to attack problems which Sir Donald never even recognised as problems.

    China has had a demographic nightmare for at least a thousand years. If you want to see a real demographic nightmare, walk about in London for a while.

    In my experience, the Mainland money launderers of Hong Kong don’t have suitcases. They have shoulder bags. Go to Pacific Place HSBC and watch them stuff the cash deposit machines some time. It’s unbelievable!

  2. PropertyDeveloper says:

    These gnomic hints tend to precede the long litany of interventions in the property market, populist enough to satisfy the HK for HKers’ cries, but subtle enough to deny all charges if it goes skewiff.

    China’s expansion has always been contiguous and incrementalist, steering clear of dark-skinned people, and fearful of the deep. Nibbling along the south and southwest is likely to continue. But the merest glance at a map, especially a population density one, would confirm you that eastern Russia must be the next target.

    Is it just me or has Asia shrunk by two thirds, to mean countries easily accessible by aircraft carrier, with the “middle” east getting closer every day? In this way the very existence of white foreign devils in northern Asia can be airbrushed out. Invest in Siberian native movements while you still can.

  3. mumphLT says:

    Any chance of a high speed rail link from SZ to get them direct to Africa without using the East Rail line?

  4. Maugrim says:

    I spat when I heard Regina intone that she was chosen because she has her finger on the pulse of what the man in the street thinks etc. For Leung, I think its more a case of keeping your friends close but your enemies even closer perhaps. As to Priscilla Leung being the Chair of the legal committee, she’s as much as a ‘professor’ as Dr. Pepper is a medical practitioner.

  5. TK says:

    @ Maugrim

    Hear hear. And as much a plagiarist as Dr Pepper is a soft drink.

  6. Stephen says:

    Fast forward to 2017 Vagina Ip resigns from Exco to run for the post of CE because “she has her finger on the pulse of what the man in the street thinks”

    Fortunately the CCP thinks she’s a dangerous idiot who ably assisted the incompetent Tung to get half a million protestors onto the street just 9 years ago.

    That she failed to get the required nominees in 2012 should have made it clear to Vagina that she’s going nowhere near where her ego thinks she should be.

    Go back to America and finish that degree you started ?

  7. Chimp says:

    I thought Regina was very convincing as representing the woman-in-the-street.

    Shanghai Tang have obviously become middle class, the pearls the size of robins eggs bespoke a down to earth attitude, and the (Cartier?) earrings glittered in a very forthright, woman of the people way.

    Her self congratulatory speech was a work of art, I am sure. I was overcome with nausea for some reason, and missed everything after “As a former senior official…”

  8. Real Tax Payer says:

    For once I can bid a hearty “Here Here ! ” to Bela

    Yes – it’s chaotic under CY and he seems to be lurching from one crisis to another ( poor guy — bet he now wishes he never ran for the job ! )

    But under the awful tang things would be even worse than under the awful duck, and that was bad enough

    Q: what is worse than a duck?

    A : a sitting duck

    Q what’s worse than a sitting duck

    A: a horse with an illegal cellar and more money than it knows what to do with

    Q: what’s worse than looking into such a horse’s mouth ?

    A : looking into LKS’s mouth and knowing that he’s going to swallow you together with the rest of HK

  9. Chimp says:

    By the way, I thought the litany of accusations against Eddie Ng was rather fun. He didn’t half look exercised…

    And didn’t Regina stand up for him well?

    “As a former senior official…”

  10. Joe Blow says:

    …because I have my finger on the pulse of what the man in the street thinks etc. – Vagina Ip

    That’s rich, coming from a woman whose party, the New People’s Party (or something), only admits members who have a university degree. Effectively putting away “the other 95%”.

    Maybe she should stick her finger somewhere else.

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