Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung’s National Day speech mentioned the words ‘co-operation’ or ‘partnership’ six times and the words ‘children’, ‘air’, ‘health’ and ‘life’ zero times. The purpose of human existence, the address implied, is economic competitiveness (‘economy’/’economic’ nine times; ‘competitiveness’/’competition’ four times). He credited the people of the Big Lychee – ‘all the people’, indeed – with achieving it, but he made clear that our future well-being relies almost entirely on the munificence and might of China (‘our country’ eight times).
Presumably, CY’s words were aimed at the Mainland officials gathered to celebrate the 64th anniversary of the PRC. Beijing constantly warns Hong Kong to ‘focus on the economy’, and the message yesterday was that we are obeying, staring fixedly at the ground in concentration, studiously not thinking any thoughts about whatever else might enter our minds. Oh yes.
At least CY was optimistic that Hong Kong’s GDP and productivity, and the Mainland’s GDP and productivity, were going to be evermore wonderful in the great era ahead. The South China Morning Post, on the contrary, repeated its frequent, not to say increasingly wearisome, warning that we are mostly doomed because of the Shanghai free-trade zone (latest rubbishing here).
The bulk of the SCMP’s news and comment about the Shanghai FTZ ranges from factual (no-one has a clue what activities the FTZ will allow) to the skeptical (it looks like another property price-ramping scam) or, today, both. Writer George Chen, however, seems to be reporting from a parallel universe in which the Chinese Communist Party can and will allow free Internet access in a big chunk of the nation’s commercial capital, which will also accommodate economic liberties so wide-ranging that financial and other companies 800 miles away in Hong Kong will rush to move there.
Bear in mind that this stuff appears in a ‘news’ (banking and finance) section of the paper, not in a ‘fantasy fiction’ column. The writer reported yesterday that companies are abandoning Qianhai – a Shenzhen zone also supposedly permitting as-yet undetermined business activities – for the Shanghai FTZ, and (of course) they might do from Hong Kong…
Qianhai first, Hong Kong next?
While Hong Kong officials have been concerned about the impact of Shanghai’s free-trade zone, it seems it is already stealing business from Qianhai.
Financial industry sources said several domestic and global firms that had originally planned to set up shop in Qianhai – the smaller special economic zone only an hour’s drive from Hong Kong – were seriously considering the 29 square kilometre free-trade zone in Shanghai instead.
The article quotes the usual anonymous sources as saying that a planned Taiping Life Insurance-Sinopec pension fund joint venture might move from the Shenzhen super-special hub to the Shanghai one; it then repeats some background and alludes to the sheer vagueness of all this endless ‘zone’ hype before concluding with the tired old tripe about Hong Kong being undercut/overtaken/blah blah. So: a district promising to host economic practices ultimately incompatible with Communist one-party control is losing so-far non-existent business to another district promising to host economic practices ultimately incompatible with Communist one-party control.
Could it be that the Taiping Life-Sinopec people are getting impatient about learning what, if any, grubby tax/forex/investment perks they will get at Qianhai, and are hinting at locating in Shanghai as a way of kicking Shenzhen officials up the backside? Could it be, in other words, that a guileless SCMP reporter is being used as a PR tool? If so, maybe someone in the editorial process could in future mark such stories for the convenience of readers – maybe by printing them with ink of a greenish-brown equine-dung hue, while leaving stories containing known facts in black.
On the subject of facts: SCMP editorial meetings are held in a place called… the Shanghai Room!