New regime hits ground running

If China’s new leadership is serious about reform, it needs to deliver action, not just words. That’s the gist of every other op-ed piece and comment column in the international press over the last few weeks. Two stories today give us a hint about what action we can expect.

First, an official think-tank urges the government in Beijing to tighten its grip on the Internet. Plucky little Hong Kong gets a name-check here, with the Chinese Academy of Social Science’s Blue Book citing the local backlash against national education as an example of the dangers of social media. The basic philosophy here is that if the ruling regime can stamp out discussion of and complaints about corruption, pollution, injustice and other government failings, the country’s problems will miraculously vanish. It’s not exactly fresh thinking, and history suggests it ultimately doesn’t work. (Echoes of the 80s in the Eastern Bloc in Europe: the USSR’s international direct dialing system was replaced by old-style operator service for ‘technical’ reasons, and in some Warsaw Pact countries people needed a licence to own a typewriter – and photocopiers were kept under lock and key.)

Second, the Big Lychee itself is to enjoy the continued attention of Zhang Mingxiao, who is appointed head of the central government’s Liaison Office here. After a quarter-century career in the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office – where he is deputy director – he obviously knows the city intimately. And his recommendations for the place he has watched so closely? That, as the South China Morning Post reminds us, we get on with implementing Article 23 of the Basic Law to introduce national security laws, and we guard against evil foreign forces interfering in local elections.

It was great fun last time, and I must say I can’t wait for another attempt at Article 23. You’d have thought after 2003 and this year’s spat over national education that these people would get the message and maybe try something different – but evidently that’s out. As for local elections, presumably Zhang feels more comfortable with the one taking place today for Hong Kong’s deputies to the National People’s Congress: hardly anyone is even aware that it’s happening, and China must have finalized the 36 winners weeks back. The new-look radical reformist regime in action. Next week, they tell the wives and children of Li Peng, Jiang Zemin, Wen Jiabao, Xi Jinping, et al to surrender their billions in shareholdings, real estate and sports cars and stick to mending socks.

If Zhang wants to make himself useful, he could urge the Hong Kong authorities to clean up some tawdry little black spots in town that desperately need some socialist civilization with Chinese characteristics. Anyone walking below Lan Kwai Fong first thing in the morning, even on a weekday, can’t help noticing that the quantity of broken bottles, cigarette butts and disgorged human stomach contents has been growing alarmingly. Today was particularly bad, with the Wyndham/Wellington Street intersection even hosting a crime scene, following what looks like a brutal and unprovoked assault on an innocent refuse bin. Who’s doing this? We can rule out one possible group of suspects because I see they are still hard at work with their studies. And I don’t think we can blame Mainland tourists.

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14 Responses to New regime hits ground running

  1. Walter De Havilland says:

    The debris and damage is probably attributable to the returning overseas educated students being disgorged from the campuses across Canada, the UK and USA. On return to the land of dim sum it is their ritual to reacquaint with school friends, re-visit bars they used when 15 years old, whilst reliving their heyday at Island School, GSIS and SIS.

  2. Property Developer says:

    So what’s new? The mainland government shows once again that it fails dismally to understand Hong Kong, and what makes this place infinitely more successful on most counts than the northern cousins.

    But that doesn’t mean they can’t control nearly all aspects of life, both by relatively subtle means like simply treating HK like the rest of the country and by employing brute force. They know that ultimately all resistance will be futile, that this brave experiment is doomed to fail.

    The only hope is a regime change in China. Hemlock makes the comparison with communist eastern Europe, and refers to the social media as powerful agents of change. But I think we’re stuck with the present setup for a decade or three.

  3. TK says:

    The people of Eastern Europe could draw on a rich culture of literature, arts, law, academia and generally on enlightenment traditions etc. which is why brainwashing and suppression could only ever go so far.

    Unfortunately, the Mainland does not have such traditions, and whatever there was, was eradicated in the Cultural revolution, which is why all the brainwashing has been so successful in breeding an entire country of hyper-nationalists who actually believe the CCP BS and behave accordingly.

    P.D. is right, we’re stuck with the present setup for a long time to come.

  4. Chimp says:

    The Mainland is following in the footsteps of leaders in human rights such as the US and the UK in placing curbs on social networking.

    There were detectable signs of loosening of surveillance, or at least restrictions, in the PRC five years ago. My theory at the time was that this was, in part, window dressing for the West.

    Much to Zhongnanhai’s bemusement, the West has since embraced warrantless search, unlimited detention without trial, torture, and a wide variety of thought crimes. The US has effectively stopped genuine dialogue on human rights with the PRC because, well… it’s all a bit embarassing.

    By the standards of the Patriot Act and Theresa May’s (now binned) snooping bill, Article 23 is pretty weak stuff. Of course, there is a history behind the distrust Hong Kong people have for the Mainland government, so it’s a contentious issue. The way this discontent is expressed is amazingly similar to the kind of practical democracy H.A. Giles noted in his 1902 lectures on “China and the Chinese”. It’s free on Amazon, and well worth a read. Basically, if Giles is right, an Article 23 *could* be implemented if it was seen as “right to do so” by the populace. That would be a good trick, and one that post handover governments have yet to master.

  5. Joe Blow says:

    Every power clan in China -and there are many- has a vested interest in Hong Kong. While on the one hand they declare eternal loyalty to the CCP and what it stands for, on the other hand they are channeling their corruption money into Hong Kong stocks and property, parking their cash in local banks and sending their children to work and live here. All the political posturing should be taken with a lump of salt. They are only interested in cold, hard cash.

  6. Stephen says:

    For change in an authoritarian country you usually need a funded ‘opposition’ (person or movement) or a regime that is willing to loosen up. In present day China I see neither. What is clear is Hong Kong will not be the catalyst.

    My best guess is that it will take a serious economic downturn / collapse -capital flight and the relocation of global manufacturing to somewhere cheaper (obviously) for any significant regime change in China.

    I tend to agree with the comments above that this is some way off. Pity is that Hong Kong will probably be indistinguishable from the rest of the country by then.

  7. Adrian says:

    What sort of mind developed the “ESF Calendar 2012-13”? If I have to spend more than a few seconds trying to figure out a calendar, let alone several minutes, there’s no way my children will attend that school. With seven degrees (and three designations) between the wife and I, we wouldn’t be able to help them with their homework if that is any indication of what they are sent home with.

  8. Hendrick says:

    Off topic, but The People’s Daily gaffe prone editorial team have enlightened us not so much with sock mending but with the secrets of warming up for a body building competition. One young man looks almost ready, encouraged no doubt by the sight of his female colleague.
    If the calibre of those running the propaganda machine doesn’t ramp up quickly we’ll be having regime implosion sooner than imagined.

  9. Maugrim says:

    Adrian, surprising also that the ESF’s own website has this: “School start date shown for 2013/14 is for indication only and has yet to be confirmed, please take this into accounts when you make travelling plans for August 2013”

    Accounts? Raises eyebrows.

  10. Property Developer says:

    For Hong Kong to play the role of beacon of freedom for the whole of China, either a visionary and charismatic homegrown leader or group would have to arise here or a mass rebellious movement with a national-level grudge — both unimaginable outcomes.

    China’s two great blind-spots are the unprincipled greed visible especially in the “elites”; and the obsessional chauvinism/racism aka superiority/inferiority complex aka paranoia/belief in victimisation/thirst for revenge.

    Massive foreign capital flight would neatly combine the two, but maybe China remains self-sufficient enough to weather the storm without impoverishing the masses too much. World opinion is finally realising the nature of Chinese ambition — about time! — but whether the short-term capitalist system will follow is another matter.

    The paranoia would be proved rational if the CCP fell due to “external forces” allowed into the citadel: maybe so-called ABCs or BBCs or one of the 57 minorities?

  11. Incredulous says:

    @Hendrick. Judging by picture no 7 in your link “That ain’t no lady!”

  12. Regislea says:

    Picture 7 – that really is a big lunch – maybe she’s just pleased to see him?

  13. Real Tax Payer says:

    The People’s Daily article must be pretty hot stuff…… I cannot even access it in China !

    PS: Thanks to whoever it was yesterday who cited me in some comment when I had not even commented that day . Seems whoever it was has got a real RTP-bug under his/ her skin. Am I really speaking the truth so clearly that it is hurting that much?

  14. Jon Dica says:

    Bahaha the caption on picture #9 in that bodybuilding link:

    “It is not easy to tell Cao Jing is a bodybuilder from her baby fat face and her dresses.”

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