1% of Asians cursed with ‘civic vision’ DNA

A quarter of East Asians have a genetic predisposition to suffer badly from flu, scientists say. Perhaps the researchers can next try to identify another hereditary trait found among a small but influential segment of the region’s people: compulsive agonizing about civic status.

One manifestation of the condition is ‘hub syndrome’. Hong Kong’s policymakers over the last 15 years have been tragic victims, obsessing about turning the city into a centre for every buzzword-theme from Chinese medicine to logistics to cruise ships to education to arbitration to the inevitable tech to endless dozens of others.

Jealous and vain counterparts on the Mainland are just as badly afflicted. Shenzhen wants to turn its Qinghai piece of muddy reclaimed land into the Manhattan of Asia. Across the estuary, Zhuhai’s Hengqin Island has been set to become a shipping, then a tourism, and more recently a gosh-how-original high-tech hub. And up the Pearl River, Guangzhou has been long been planning to turn the wastes of Nansha into a world-class commercial, logistics and services zone.

During the 2000s, it was almost impossible to avoid at least a weekly conference at which Pearl River Delta municipal figures would take it turns to show the audience a Powerpoint presentation. In each case, their city was to be the ‘dragonhead’, while the town next door would be the blah-blah centre, and the county up there would be the whatever zone, and Hong Kong would provide lots of cooperation and partnership. Nowhere in the region would not be a dragonhead or a hub. And it’s not just the south. Tianjin, Chongqing, Xiamen are all at it. Up in Shanghai they are, as ever, about to overtake Hong Kong, this time as a free-trade zone with every amazing world-class, international, global, cross-border advantage, you can be sure.

When not trying to turn humdrum urban sprawl into gleaming clusters of wealth-creation by decree, the obsessive-compulsive city-builders of Asia work on the principle that more equals better. The more people, trucks, ships, containers, tourists and buildings you cram into a given space, the mightier and more prosperous it will be.

Hong Kong’s previous Chief Executive Donald Tsang said that the Big Lychee needed a population of 10 million to compete as a financial centre (the additional 3 million people all being bankers, you understand). Needless to say, he didn’t get the job done. Instead, it is left to legislator, inheritor of a textiles fortune and tourism lobbyist James Tien to demand that we cram more, more, more and more human beings into every little crack and crevice in our high-rise concrete maze. In particular, he wants imported labour and, most of all, lots and lots of lovely tourists. You can never have too many tourists, only a shortage of tourist facilities, which need to be built on prime real estate at taxpayers’ expense. If Hongkongers keep refusing to see the wisdom of this – if ‘hostility continues’ – he warns, Mainland tourists will turn their back on the city and head to Paris.

Quel dommage.

To show us how it’s done, megalomaniac planners in Singapore’s National Eugenic Hygiene Directorate proudly present: the Lion uber-City, where locals who refuse to breed fast enough will be shoved aside into reservations to make way for several million young, energetic and obedient foreigners, carefully selected for their willingness to mate with university graduates. Already blessed with taxi-drivers trained to tell overseas visitors about the world’s cleanest streets and number-one container terminal, Lee Kuan Yew’s gift to humanity will gain its 6.9 million population target and thus be assured its 1,000 years of magnificence.

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24 Responses to 1% of Asians cursed with ‘civic vision’ DNA

  1. Bela Hubbub says:

    Glad you updated us on hubs. We all love them, as you know.

    The UK is devising a campaign to discourage unwanted visitors:


    Isn’t it about time Hong Kong followed suit: pictures of Long Hair, Rita Fan, Vagina Ip, Yau Ma Tei after dark, Soho on Friday night, the FCC at chucking out time, Neptune III any time at all….just suggestions that spring to mind…


  2. Walter De Havilland says:

    Strange you should mention Singapore because the natives there appear restless. The LEE family dictatorship is under threat from pissed off voters as shown by the recent by-election with the People’s Action Party getting its second drubbing in eight months. No doubt the residents of Punggol East can expect civic funding to evaporate as the PAP rewards them for not supporting their vision of a new Singapore.

  3. Joe Blow says:

    I am surprised that nobody has ever noticed or mentioned the obvious: Tsim Sha Tsui as Asia’s “Indian Tailor Shop”-hub (‘have a look, have a look !!’). Where else can you get a cashmere suit, 3 pairs of ‘slacks’ and 6 monogrammed shirts for HK$ 1200- ? Where ?

  4. Oik says:

    The financial reporter on R3 must be a reader of this column. After the bashing he got yesterday I heard him this morning giving out his email address for those with complaints (clear vocal emphasis), comments & views about his slot. Poor chap.

  5. Klaxon says:

    Speaking of building tourist facilities on prime real estate at taxpayers’ expense, let’s mention Uli Sigg selling his collection of Mainland Chinese contemporary art for $177 million to the soon-to-be M+ Museum in West Kowloon . “…he said he had chosen Hong Kong for its freedoms and its proximity to mainland audiences.”

    My tax dollars building a museum for “mainland audiences”. Nice.

  6. Andrew Wood says:

    Dear Oik

    Actually I give out my email address whenever I have enough time on-air.

    I’m always interested in what people think, and how I can improve business coverage.

    Feel free to tell me what you think: [email protected]

    Best wishes

    Andrew Wood

  7. jing says:


    He’s knowledgeable and impartial, compared to the cosy banter drivel
    and non-journalism of others on R3.

    R3, SCMP, we deserve better…

  8. Maugrim says:

    I thought CWB was already M+ (Mainlanders +). Imagine what a museum devoted to them will look like. “And over here we have a cannister of baby milk formula, while over there, and don’t crowd please, is a photo of Times Square without any suitcases whatsover and a montage of what a vacant KCR carriage looked like”.

  9. Property Developer says:

    The last time I watched TV, admittedly about 15 years ago, apart from the ever-stimulating Diane To, Jackie Chan was encouraging us (?) to rush up to all foreign unpersons, cackle uproariously, shake hands and show them how to use chopsticks.

    Perhaps he could now target mainlanders?

  10. Walter De Havilland says:

    Can I just say my fav bit of R3 is when Vinnie comes on talking like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. We need more Vinnie!

  11. Oik says:

    (Ducking for cover) – actually I have no beef with you Andrew. You’ve got quite a chirpy voice & demeanour for that time in the morning. Felt rather sorry for you after yesterday’s bleating on here about your explaining techie terms for us thickos. You sounded rather hurt this morning or maybe I was just reading too much into your inflections. Chin up!

  12. Elephant's bottom says:

    Singapore’s older citizens are more likely to support PAP;out of habit or fear. Although the government’s drive to attract more immigrants is stated to sustain the country’s growth, you can bet that there’s also an ulterior motive – to boost PAP support as the current older generation diminish.

    New immigrants are beholden to PAP for the invitation, and given the transparent voting system (voting slips are numbered and shown against names on electoral roll so they can see how voters cast their ballot) PAP support can be assured. Helped by the funding threats, gerrymandering, litigation, etc

    80 PAP seats to 7 opposition currently. The risk is in the short term – especially during the next election – until the current and future immigrant numbers increase sufficiently.

    Thrown in the mix will be the racial distribution. See how many “foreign talents” from PRC are doing menial jobs now. The right ethnicity, the right language and compliant politically. The 75% Chinese content will be maintained.

    I see they will be “engaging and rooting talent”!!

    Good luck to Singapore Inc. Lovely place if you are apolitical and well heeled.

  13. Andrew Wood says:


    No problem! 🙂

  14. Stephen says:

    Wonder if the CCP will allow a PAP style political party to rule the Big Lychee in 2020 ? Perhaps it will called the DAB and led by the a lady named Starry. She has the right surname…

  15. Elephant's bottom says:

    ………..Singapore post-LKY is another factor. PAP power struggle ??
    You can bet LKY will arrange to be cryogenically frozen.
    In 100 years he’ll be back in charge as a brain in a jar with a voice box at the Istana.
    He can exchange notes with Walt Disney, Robert Mugabe (?) and Michael Jackson (?)……….

  16. Property Developer says:

    E’s bottom has answered one of the questions at the back of my mind: the ethnicity of the “foreigners” in S’pore, most of whom are no such thing, since they’re from the fatherland.

    Poor Simon Yan in yesterday’s SCMP was adamant that ASEAN had to kowtow to China, for reasons he never explained, but which seem obvious.

    Lee Kuan Yew had no wish whatsoever to engage with humanity, despite Hemlock’s claim: the majority of Chinese believe they’re from a different evolutionary tree than the subject peoples, so can see no ground for such an engagement.

  17. Cerebos says:

    @ Property Developer “most Chinese believe they’re from a different evolutionary tree”. Is this true? I had a Mandarin teacher years ago who was adamant this was the case.. After a few lessons I realised she held her view to be informed and reasoned (despite being a bright enough lady in other regards – proud of her day job working for Rike Mowse), so I did the honourable thing and changed. I just assumed she was bonkers. Are university students still being peddled the fantasy that homo sinensis descends from a separate branch to the rest of us (with the possible exception of the !Kung of the Kalahari)?

  18. Failed Alchemist says:

    Spore’s Punggol East lesson send frightening shivers to the PAP. Therefore, lets not be fooled. In some parts of the world, an influx of new immigrants can be seen as a form of gerrymandering since new comers are always beholden to the new and welcoming host especially if you come from some poor country.

    In Malaysia with the Royal Commission revealing that illegal immigrants in Sabah were given ID’s for voting in droves, its no surprise some other countries apply other means with finesse. This is a matter of skinning the cat both ways – addressing the local population problems and ahem… assuring a continuity of things.

    Since HK has a pigmy political system & politicians, this is beyond their depth. However, if you look closer at the Duck’s policy to flood HK with all things north… one wonders whether the guy was really that dumb… after all, he was dreaming of 10 million and maybe turning the tide….

  19. Joe Blow says:

    now we also have to rack our brains over the political systems of Third World banana republics like S-bore and Malaysia ?

  20. AndrewWood says:


    Many thanks!

  21. Property Developer says:

    @ Cerebos, Biologically-inspired racism is inscribed in the language, with the majority of Cantonese-speakers habitually using terms denying humanity to non-Chinese.

    Martin Jacques (When China Rules the World, 2nd edn p. 298) cites Su Xiao-kang as implying that “the Chinese have different origins from everyone else… the Chinese have long held… a polygenist view… believing that… humanity has, in fact, multiple origins’. MJ also cites China Daily, that “modern Chinese man originated in… Chinese territory rather than Africa” (p. 299).

    I’m not sure what is taught on the mainland, but I do know such popular beliefs go very deep.

    Lee Kuan-yew may not be in the same boat, although it would be hard to prove that S’bore’s eugenism is not based on race.

  22. Cerebos says:

    @Property Developer. Many thanks. Have dug up quoted passage and will be grilling my friend who used to teach evolution at Chinese U next time I see him.

  23. Property Developer says:

    @Cerebos, Glad to help. It’s a sensitive topic of course, and not helped by Western hypocrisy and denial on the subject. Hemlock is aware of the issues, but in his characteristic style, just hints at them.

    The very concept of race is largely taboo in general discourse in most countries, and with it, such concepts as human evolution or genetic differences between races, although medical researchers and positive discrimination laws are ultimately obliged to address the issues.

    Do tell us what the ex-CU person says.

  24. Does no one in power make the obvious connection between an ever-growing population and a worsening shortage of housing (and of everything else, not least green space)? In my view Hong Kong should be aiming to reduce its population to about 5 million to improve the quality of life here – enough to support the amenities of a civilised city without covering every square inch of the land with concrete.

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