HK ‘Best of All Possible Worlds’!

When I come to write my best-selling self-improvement classic How to Shoe-Shine Hong Kong Tycoons and Get Them to Do Your Bidding, there will be a chapter on bad-mouthing democracy. Few things are more endearing to the average aging, crotchety, cartel-running Overseas Chinese mogul than an apparently reasonable and sensible argument that accountable and representative government by and for the people is a Bad Thing For Everyone.

The notion neatly justifies the one-party state and denigrates evil Western ideas, so it is of course what the leaders of the Motherland want and expect to hear. Hong Kong tycoons will know the importance of this, having read my previous work How to Shoe-Shine Communist Dictators and Dissuade Their Kids from Shaking Down Your Mainland Investments. On top of that, it is naturally what members of the Big Lychee’s business ‘elite’ themselves instinctively feel, sitting atop an economic structure of monopolies and collusion that has more than a few characteristics in common with feudalism. Or at least they want to feel it. It is hard for someone exposed to international business not to have a few nagging doubts. Why does everyone in the Third World want to live in the USA? Why do democracies have humanity’s highest living standards? Why do they never wage war on one another? Dispel those doubts, and you will spread a little comfort and joy in the more conservative and clannish boardrooms of Central.

This is especially the case if you are Western-educated, as you have acquired the critical-thinking skills and nonetheless rejected the pluralistic politics; that almost makes you living proof. And it is even better if you are an actual card-carrying ethnic Caucasian citizen: someone who has grown up with the freedom, stability and prosperity for which his forebears struggled, only to spit in its face – proof absolute, surely. The righteous gwailo!

No-one would claim that democracy produces perfect results; it’s just that – as the near-cliche tells us – no-one has come up with anything better. Forget, Stalin, Hitler or Mao, or the obvious kleptocrats. Visionaries from Plato to Lee Kuan-yew have insisted that the masses are too disorderly or ignorant to know what is truly in their interests. But the best alternative they can come up with is self-selecting oligarchy which, in order to fulfill its benign mission, has no alternative but to dispense with disruptive separation of powers and inefficient checks and balances, and to censor and persecute independent thought. The optimum outcome would seem to be a Confucian realm of obedient citizen-children, where harmony is achieved through a lack of reasoning or questioning, at the price of material or any progress.

Which is why people who bad-mouth democracy never propose an alternative, but just recite old and not unreasonable complaints about crime, decadence and unaffordable welfare, which are hardly unique to societies with elected governments (and indeed prop up most unelected ones).

When I first read the down-with-democracy letter in today’s South China Morning Post, I suspected it was one of those missives occasionally (almost certainly) produced by the Chinese government’s local liaison office. But that doesn’t make sense. The writer with the so-bland-it’s-made-up name of Alan Johnson calls the virulently anticommunist Heritage Foundation ‘prestigious’; he states that US debt is ‘due to China’ – a charge Beijing rejects with extreme overdone bitterness; and he mentions Venezuela as an economic disaster when sub-Castro lunatic Hugo Chavez and Hu Jintao were among each other’s biggest boot-lickers.

The letter’s basic claim that Hong Kong’s system is perfect is so ludicrous that no Chinese official would dare make it. Indeed, Beijing’s current moves towards guided universal suffrage here show desperate recognition of the need for change. (Even calling it a ‘system’ is stretching it a bit. It’s a mess – some of it glorious, but much of it unacceptable, some of it destructive and most of it certainly capable of improvement.) And I’m still trying to work out the last sentence: “… ways in which we can govern ourselves to achieve the best outcomes … to preserve what we have.” Maybe an SCMP typo.

So, a quick Google later, and we find that the same writer has disparaged universal suffrage before, not very originally citing the US government shutdown and Thailand, and praising China’s benevolence to Hong Kong in a tone that would make Tung Chee-hwa blush. Digging a bit further, we find someone with the same name on page 9 in the Australian Chamber of Commerce. Chambers of Commerce are of course hives of mutual shoe-shining and perfect platforms for the propagation of self-serving views that might go down well in some benighted quarters. As How to Shoe-Shine Hong Kong Tycoons will make clear, by the way, you do not have to believe what you are saying.

I declare this weekend open with a dream of being presented, by Chief Executive Regina Ip in person, with a Bronze Bauhinia Star and a seat next to Bunny Chan on the Pearl River Delta Sustainable Cooperation and Hi-Tech Partnership Advisory Committee.


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19 Responses to HK ‘Best of All Possible Worlds’!

  1. PropertyDeveloper says:

    You surpass yourself!

    Can I merely suggest some headings?

    Apples and oranges: centuries of Chinese humiliation vs negligible current foreign devil problems
    “Not a panacea”: innuendo and selective citation to promote the thousand-years of Vaterland glory
    Tangoing with sluts: under the belt ambushes
    Posiitive thinking: most ghosts are overwhelmingly richer than us, but we were civilised when they were living in caves
    Platitudes and leading questions: sneaky red herrings and devious feints
    If in doubt, just launch a biased survey

  2. Big Al says:

    It’s all bollocks if you ask me! Roll on beer’o’clock!

  3. Stephen says:

    But in Alan Johnson’s Mid-Levels with office in Central world everything is just peachy. Doubtless the diabolical air quality has clouded his view as to why governance in this town has gone down the toilet. It sounds like he’s been reading too many John Tsang’s recent missives for his own good. Perhaps the upcoming trial of the former Chief Secretary’s and Kwok brothers may provide some pointers for him to ponder. Throw in a good weekend read of the finest broadsheet to see what Chinese leaders are doing with their wealth and Al may get to see what many others, including the CCP, are seeing. The system here is so badly broken it needs more than a little tinker.

    What an utter cock !

    Weekend open ?

  4. reductio says:


    Been a good week for utter cocks. My nominations for Cock of the Week are, in no particular ordure:

    1. Al Johnson for his missive “Democracy: it’s crap but I quite like living in one when things get dodgy”

    2. Greg So kam-Leung for his blues number “Train’s never a-coming (my baby’s all alone)”

    3. Anton Casey for his empathetic poem “Ode to Smelly Poor People”

    4. John Tsang for his starring role in the film “Being John Tsang.”

  5. pcatbar says:

    You would think such a letter could only have been drafted by a HK civil servant or PR apparatchik for a local tycoon. The fact it appears to be the work of a real western foreign resident is truly sad. It might be fun to test the extent of the SCMP’s fondness for such correspondence by penning a few ‘modest proposal’ type missives along the lines that immediate internment is required for the leaders of Occupy Central in order to save HK from anarchy etc. with suitable non de plumes just to see if they all get published!

  6. Falstaff says:

    Is this the same Alan Johnson who wrote a chatty “management-type” column for the Scump’s Sunday business page a couple of years ago? I quite liked that column. He so desperately wants to be taken seriously. Have some heart

  7. Ex Tax Payer says:

    Hemmers : It’s boring when you write columns like this that are so obviously well-argued and totally correct that there’s nothing to make fun of.

  8. Ex Tax Payer says:

    Mind you, although I would have to consult a historian of some repute to reliably refute your assertion that democracies “never wage war on one another”, I would not have to look any further than the USA to find firm evidence that democracies often ( indeed usually ? ) have civil wars

    An democracies certainly go to virtually unprovoked war on other countries not-so democratically inclined

  9. Jeff says:

    In fact you could have written a one line blog today, and saved yourself some time for maid beating, or whatever.

    Correlation does not mean Causation. Mr. Johnson has a problem with Logic.

  10. The Regulator says:

    Yet another domestic violence case was heard today in Tsuen Wan Magistrate’s Court

  11. “Works so well for whom?” is clearly the question here. Prosperous Australian businessmen living in the Mid-Levels, certainly. Old people barely subsisting on social security in subdivided cubicles, possibly somewhat less so. Those who support elitism over democracy are generally members of the elite.

    I particularly enjoyed Johnson’s claim that “Some members of the opposition have stated that universal suffrage is necessary to protect our freedoms but they fail to state who is the oppressor who may take them away”. He must be the only person in Hong Kong who needs to be told.

  12. nulle says:

    Guess what, CY Leung ordered the non-China banks (HSBC, Bank of East Asia and Standard Chartered) to remove their ads from Apple Daily as well as CCP orders Chinese banks and telecoms to remove newspapers critical to Beijing (am730.) This follows on the chief editor of MingPao Newspaper replaced with a Malaysian writing very favorably toward Beijing…

    Plus any CCP official in HK can do whatever they want, including murder and mayhem, and HK Police couldn’t prosecute or arrest them…

    Even scarier, if Occupy Central protests succeeds or public opinion can’t be controlled by Beijing, Article 23 could be activated by Beijing using ‘state of emergency’ clause. What’s even worse is now there is a very large PLA barracks and base just across the border in Shenzhen AND dressed as HK Police (including their uniforms, weaponry and training as such.)

    ** I highly suggest you read the above links for your own or your families’ safety **

  13. Ex Tax Payer says:

    Just a thought on a late Saturday evening…

    Why are those who are pushing for improvements in HK always called the “opposition” ?

    Someone has his knickers in a twist

  14. PropertyDeveloper says:

    ETP, In a word: United-Front.

    Nulle, Now I understand the meaning of “FU” on the cars driving on the right on the single-track main road to China: it’s the same as apparently the only piece of English one of my neighbours has learned after 50 odd years in English-speaking countries.

  15. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    @Nulle. Please keep taking taking the medicine. We all like the odd good conspiracy, but there are times when discussing serious issues that something called ‘evidence’ or ‘proof’ is called for. I see known whatsoever in the links you provide. The site consists mainly of rehashed stories from that bastion of news accuracy the Apple Daily.

  16. Jon Dica says:

    Drop him a line! “Alan Johnson Director, KCS Ltd [email protected]. Alan is a Director of KCS and past Chairman of AustCham. He joined Horwath Hong Kong in 1987 and…”

  17. maugrim says:

    GSB, I take your point, however, even I was gobsmacked to se on the front page of last Saturday’s PCMP, an advertorial about a Chinese naval frigate and helicopters conducting training in preparation for occupy Central, Des Voeux Rd being under water and all that…

  18. Gin Soaked Boy says:

    Dear Maugrim, the PLA has been doing exercises in Hong Kong since their arrival. I recall watching them doing a D-day style landing on the Stanley headland a few years ago much to the amusement of the onlookers. I think people are putting two and two together and getting 36.

  19. Sojourner says:

    Ah, the wit and wisdom of Gin Soaked Boy, our resident Beijing apologist, who STILL hasn’t learnt how to insert a hyphen.

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