It’s hard to imagine, but – if the South China Morning Post’s soothsaying sources are correct – the imminent Horse Year could see Hong Kong people being bad-tempered; Chief Executive CY Lung having problems (or at least he ‘might’); and the city troubled by something called ‘disputes’, whatever they are, but only in April. If feng-shui masters and astrologers stuck their necks out any further, it would be the Year of the Giraffe.
What else can we predict?
With the international markets suffering US tapering/Turkish Lira/etc death-spiral mayhem right now, could this be the year the Big Lychee’s property bubble finally pops, or at least starts making a hard-to-ignore hissing sound? It won’t happen in isolation, so the question is: what would set it off? Capital flight from emerging markets as the US recovers? Wealth destruction everywhere as the US recovery is revealed as a hoax and the dollar collapses? Panic following Asian Financial Crisis Part II as the Southeast Asian and Mainland credit bubbles go boom?
If I had to guess – there is no point in gracing anything on this subject with the word ‘forecast’ – we will all muddle through. Sit tight, look after what you have, consider ‘buying opportunities’ with great care, and relax while contemplating the gentle hissing in the background. Be thankful for the Gung Hei and don’t get too worked up about the Faat Choi. One interesting thing to watch will be Beijing’s contortions in trying to sort out its shadow banking mess, if only as a metaphor for the Chinese leadership’s entire existential quandary: one-party rule versus the princelings’ stolen wealth.
Whither Hong Kong’s constitutional reform? There’s a seriously asymmetric game of chicken going on between the pro-democrats and the Chinese government. The pro-dems’ threats of Occupy Central and vetoing a reform bill are pretty hollow, but paranoid Beijing officials refuse to believe it. The result is a cycle of ever-hardening positions.
One leading establishment figure is (half-) openly and gloomily giving political reform a 70% chance of ultimately failing altogether. More likely, the pro-democrats’ destiny in Horse Year is to split between the Long Hairs who want the guided-democracy package to fail so we can all take to the streets, and the Ansons who proclaim a readiness to reject anything but full universal suffrage, but secretly could be flexible if Beijing makes the right noises. The only thing we can be 100% sure of is that Communist one-party regimes do not accommodate any real, potential or even theoretical independent source of political power, ever.
How many more Mainland shoppers can be crammed into Hong Kong before one of the seams bursts, and an ugly great hemorrhage of Yakult, milk powder, pink suitcases on wheels and Mandarin-speaking people with slightly odd hairstyles spews all over passing ships? Since Commerce and Economic Development Secretary Greg So’s recent pronouncement on welcoming a further 50 million visitors a year, everyone has been looking at maps and Google Street View, trying to work out exactly where we can fit them in. So does a very convincing imitation of a complete idiot, essentially promising to accommodate the 50 million extra people by providing the very facilities that will attract them here in the first place – when a five-year-old would know you just nail the damn door shut. An alternative explanation is that So is in fact a cunning genius, spreading panic and disbelief to give the government the ammunition it needs to put up the ‘Full’ sign.
OK: whatever else the Horse brings, this will very likely be the year that people’s patience with ‘tourism’ finally snaps, and our visionary leaders get the message.
I declare the new lunar year open.