In a world where 28,000 Chinese rivers have gone missing and women get surgery to have arms like Michelle Obama’s, it’s reassuring to hear some plain, simple truth. John Greenwood, inventor of Hong Kong’s currency peg, points out that a communist one-party state cannot accommodate a freely convertible currency. The multitudes of bores who never cease blathering away about China’s Yuan ‘taking over’ from the dollar and becoming the world’s main reserve currency and medium of international exchange should now fall silent. But probably won’t.
A communist dictatorship can, on the other hand, accept the celebration of May Day tomorrow. According to the old saying, the workers of the world have nothing to lose but their chains. However, Hong Kong’s striking dockers possibly don’t see it that way. Although they claim that Hongkong International Terminals is suffering, there is little evidence that the port action is seriously affecting trade. Their jobs and livelihoods could be at stake. Not surprisingly, their leadership seems to be showing signs of flexibility, which suggests that a magnanimous gesture from the employers – following arm-twisting by the government – could get the dispute resolved before long. Alternatively, the employers could play hardball and crush the strikers into submission or plain joblessness.
The political dynamics of this industrial action are complex. On the one hand, pro-Beijing left-wingers detest the dockers’ pro-democrat organizer Lee Cheuk-yan so much that they would love to see him fail. In other words, they would dance with joy at the prospect of the strikers’ wives and kids starving on the streets. That’s right: they are in practice siding with tycoon Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man and owner of HIT. Such are the perversities of United Front enforcement of Communist Party rule.
Meanwhile, where are the Big Lychee’s tycoon and sub-tycoon caste? Li’s own Hutchison running dogs complain loudly about the strikers’ use of ‘cultural revolution’ tactics of demonizing the great man and gathering outside his home. But the rest of the local business community are, mostly, curiously silent – almost as if they are closet supporters of the proletariat.
The reason seems to be KS’s son Victor, who is running the HIT show. Unlike his father, who by all accounts has sufficient humanity to understand that it is probably counterproductive to exploit monopoly power to the full, the scion has an almost robotic determination to squeeze the last penny out of everything, everywhere, always. He apparently thinks this is how he can in due course prove himself to be superior to the founder of the family empire. “He will destroy his father’s company,” one minor-league tycoon recently told me. With a deeply satisfied smile.
Some holiday viewing for those who haven’t seen it: the 3.5 minute-long So Long, My Hong Kong by Gregory Kane. Yes, it’s a bit mawkish; it’s a bit ‘what the Tourism Board would do if they had the brains’; it’s a bit sanitized (no haze or overcrowded streets?); and the music doesn’t quite belong. But it’s still stunning to watch, cleverly edited (spot the visual puns) and deserves more of an audience than the camera geeks at Vimeo.