HK: the triumph of cool


It has been a wackier-than-average week in the Big Lychee. Chief Executive CY Leung spied foreign non-reds under the bed, but refused to identify them; next day, he declared universal suffrage dangerous on the grounds that it could lead to policies that help the poor. His top officials, by contrast, said nothing of interest in their SCMP-BannersOpponentslong-anticipated meeting with student protestors and just highlighted their powerlessness. The Occupy Central movement dodged a bullet when it looked like hopelessly uncool performer of pseudo-music Kenny G was a supporter, before – to all right-thinking people’s relief – he bowed to Communist-financial pressure and backed off.

Forget CCP-patriotism and oligarchy versus freedom and democracy: Hong Kong is engaged in a battle between the cool and the cringe-inducingly unhip. On one side you have selfie-magnet flying drone-cameras, pavement chalk artists and volunteer medics; on the other you have the tragically buffoonish waste of space that is Lau Kong-wah. One side abseils down Lion Rock and unfurls a banner that can be seen from outer space; the other sends police to pull it down, and who find the job a bit too outdoorsy and so dump it on the Agriculture and Fisheries Department, who basically don’t do cliffs. One side does homework in the street, the other does pepper spray. Everywhere you look, spirited, creative rebels and guerilla satirists are running rings around a gray, dull-witted and unsmiling officialdom. It’s a PR massacre.

The South China Morning Post has used up its liberal-to-objective quota for the month and needs to cram some heavy-duty pro-Communist patriotism into its pages for a few days. Thus we get one of the hardest-hitting op-ed pieces in ages from a hitherto unheard-of Dabing Li on Why Democracy is Really, Really Crap.

It seems to have been rejected by China Daily as too ridiculous to print. By ‘democracy’, we allude to ‘Western’ values (and, quite possibly, people). The masses are ignorant and can’t be trusted with the vote. Adolf Hitler was democratically elected. All Western democracies are falling dominoes, with subprime junk loans, bribing masses with the national treasury. “All modern-day democracies inevitably degenerate into this race to the bottom.” In Hong Kong, illiterate old lady held up infrastructure project; people like her have votes = disgrace. Greece, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Philippines, Thailand = crap = democracy. Singapore, China = unique-benign-consultative = wonderful.

In fact, what he is criticizing here is not democracy, but bad policy. Democracy does not automatically deliver good policy, though it certainly can’t match the economic depravities of China’s Mao, whose idea of a development plan was to starve 30 million people to death. Democracies do deliver something that authoritarian regimes do not. It’s whatever puts places like Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand and Canada at the top of all the quality-of-life and human-rights indexes. It’s whatever convinces so many Mainland Chinese to migrate to Australia and the US, and whatever keeps so many Americans and Australians from clamouring to move to Shanghai and Beijing.

And it’s about cool. It can’t be a coincidence that Kenny G’s biggest fan base is China, or that you can’t imagine Singaporeans abseiling down a mountain with a pro-democracy banner.

CrawlingCandleCondomAs if to underline this point, the SCMP gives this diatribe against democracy what must be the most bewildering but also vaguely repulsive of illustrations – Crawling Candle-Condom. So gut-wrenching is the cartoon that I declare the weekend open with the thought that this whole op-ed article just might be the wickedest, most subversive Umbrella Movement satire yet.


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28 Responses to HK: the triumph of cool

  1. Cerebos says:

    The bio says it all! Former management consultant, investment banker, HBS alumnus and now apparently journalist – the Red Chugani no less. Tears of laughter.

    That is one bitter little puppy.

  2. Hills says:

    Today an article from Dabing Li, tomorrow Badabing Li?

  3. Maugrim says:

    They sent Lau Kong-wah, furthermore, he just sat there? Way to go Government, you’re really helping lol

  4. Cassowary says:

    “Greece, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Philippines, Thailand = crap = democracy. Singapore, China = unique-benign-consultative = wonderful.”

    Is it too obvious to point when you’re talking about political systems, the word “unique” is not a good thing? Why is Singapore the only good autocracy that anybody can think of? It’s not replicable. Every other autocracy on earth looks like Venezuela or Uzbekistan.

    But of course, Western developed countries are prosperous and stable not because of democracy but because of imperialism. Democracies are evil. They rape and loot and pillage their poorer, browner brethren. And they are such hypocrites. Just look at how riot police handled Ferguson. Therefore China is perfectly justified in annexing Tibet and cattle-prodding dissidents. After all, a rising great power should aspire to be slightly crappier than America in every respect.

  5. reductio says:

    DABING LI = I BALDING. So this is what it’s really all about. A man who can’t come to terms with his hair loss.

  6. BSL says:

    Dabing Li. Harvard man. Retired banker.

    Who has likely benefited hugely from the banking world he criticizes, and from attending a very good University that whatever one might say was developed in one of the world’s true democracies. If democracy is so shit, why didn’t he go to Uni in the motherland?

    And he’ll get what he deserves for even mentioning Harvard anyway. Didn’t seem to learn much there, and likely had a daddy who paid the bill too.

    What a pretentious, hypocritical, stupid fascist prick. It’s the likes of him that make Hong Kong worse every day, every year.

  7. Tom says:

    “Big Cake” Li?
    Least intimidating triad nickname ever.

  8. delboy says:

    Read the south china morning puke at the local library this morning and saw the article by dabing dickless. What a hoot. It’s the sort of drivel like this that persuaded me, at the tender age of eleven, that this worthless paper was doing nothing more than pandering to the colonial government and the big hongs of the day.

    Nothing changed really; new owner but the same snivelling kowtowing to the ‘clique with the cheque book’.

    It does have one use though. My daughter’s guinea pig just LOVES to crap on it; but only if I can grab a copy for free.

    And good ‘ol Kenny’s really shot himself in the foot. Twice indeed. First with the locust over the border and then with his fans here in HK. Best new this week for me.

  9. Scotty Dotty says:

    Vagina Ip in 2003 (and occasionally since) also trotted out the nonsense point that Hitler was elected democratically (see – Stanford postgrads can be just as retarded as Harvard alumni).

    It’s hard to know where you start with cretins like this

    Hitler came to power in 1933 maybe (actually he was appointed Chancellor of a Coalition government after hung parliament but let’s not split hairs) but would Adolf have been re-elected in 1938 or 1943? Come to think of it, would Mao have been re-elected after he’d slaughtered the first few millions in the Great Leap?

  10. Chinese Netizen says:

    Don’t forget, Dabing also “lived through the Cultural Revolution”…as if that bit of street cred is something to brag about.
    No doubt the little worm probably turned his parents in to the local Red Guards and enjoyed the adulation as mum and dad were being beaten with canes and kicked in the kidneys.

  11. Cerebos says:

    Big “Ice” Li? Boom boom.

  12. MonkeyFish says:

    In the world in which we now live: of network structures in the real local and global political economy and civil society, that can ignite and rapidly propagate direct and massive political or civil action across geographical or social boundaries (as opposed to the “leadership” and “authority” of the feckless, corrupt or incompetent – on both sides of the political spectrum); instantaneous, distributed information gathering and dissemination, and the independent filtering and gathering capabilities it allows to the individual (as opposed to the directed “messaging” of traditional media channels dominated by vested economic interests – PCMP major case in point – or government-censored media, a less sophisticated way to reach the same objective); and rapid technological flux and evolution based on open-source development (exceptionally difficult for hierarchical structures to manage, let alone control); hierarchical structures that are built on the denial or deliberate distortion of historical facts (as many are), intended to ensure the “supremacy” of one group vis-a-vis another, are basically f*cked.

    I personally believe there are some smart fellows, perhaps overseas-educated, behind-the-scenes PhDs in Beijing who understand that in this world, the power of the idea is paramount. Presenting ideas that constitute one’s “brand” (individually or organizationally), and shaping perceptions of others, through consistent speech and action, in order to be recognized as authentic, genuine and “real”, is the critical factor in maintaining the credibility and sense of authority necessary to lead others (cf. sense of authority displayed by students during talks vs. gov officials). Hence the reluctance of the “new school” to authorize a PLA crackdown in Hong Kong, despite repeated requests and attempts to force their hand by the old school JIang faction.

    As far as the Hong Kong political and economic elite and government leaders go, the failure to even acknowledge, let alone adapt and take action within the framework of this new reality is now highly evident to the populace of Hong Kong.

    I forecast, depending on factional contestation in Beijing:

    a) civic nomination (in some face-saving form, with caveats) will be promised, and implemented.
    b) CY Leung will be publicly jettisoned (has already started to happen with Carrie running student talks).
    c) Hong Kong tycoons will be forced to accept greater involvement in China’s ongoing economic liberalization in exchange for giving up total economic and political domination in Hong Kong.


    a) we have PLA crackdown in Hong Kong – martial law – and a new government in place that is openly managed by Beijing.
    b) the tech savvy Hong Kong generation fuelling the protests realize that nationwide political reform is the only way to ensure civil and political rights in Hong Kong, and start to deploy their skills in going after the CCP (NB: the amount of material available is incredible – cultural revolution, great leap forward, tiananmen are all festering wounds in the dark recesses of the collective Chinese psyche that can easily be exploited to subvert the CCP’s historical narrative – and thereby cause irreversible damage to the legitimacy of the CCP in its current form).
    c) the CCP is forced to implement some form of political reform, separation of powers (judiciary from prosecutors from party for example), to maintain its legitimacy.
    d) the peaceful transformation of China serves as a model for the re-ordering and transformation of other hierarchical structures around the world, including western “democracies” (NB: who do you vote for in the UK/US if you are anti-war or anti-violence? Is a democracy still truly a democracy when the leaders ignore popular will and sentiment in collective decisions as fundamental to a nation’s wellbeing as declaring war? … IMO Switzerland is the only truly democratic polity in the West, as individual input to key political decision-making processes is codified and institutionalized in the referendum system).

    Anyways, y’all heard it here first.

    “Truth is singular. It’s ‘versions’ are mistruths.”

    “Fantasy. Lunacy. All revolutions (transformations) are, until they happen, then they are historical inevitabilities.”

    ― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

    p.s. sorry to hijack your page with a long post M. Hemlock. Very good stuff today btw.

  13. gweiloeye says:

    I think tony aka big tony aka soprano aka the boss, has got it, this guy will forever be remembered as BADABING Li. but badabing is all strip club and no gangster.

  14. Joe Blow says:

    Boycott Lan Kwai Fong !!

    Starting from today.

  15. stanley gibbons says:

    @ Joe. Agreed, but

    (a) I started boycotting LKF 15 years ago, and

    (b) my 15 year old son and his mates have just found it and will not be boycotting LKF (albeit mostly the 7/11s) anytime soon.

  16. old git says:

    Dabilings essay blames a system called Democracy but so did Lord Haw-Haw and look him up

  17. Laguna Lurker says:

    Monkeyfish, I like the way you think, but please learn how to use punctuation. Look at that first paragraph … yegods, man!

  18. PCC says:

    One of those two photographers in the photo looks a lot like my ex-wife.

  19. PD says:

    MonkeyFish, Thanks for pulling the threads together of several debates and half-taboo subjects.

    Peking, CY and the whole cronyised, semi-corrupt pack have got down to a fine art flower-pot syndrome, aka incrementalism, aka inch back and forth slowly while the music plays and hope nobody notices.

    Like all paranoid borderline-schizo real-politik-ians, they are surprisingly sensitive to normal people’s reactions, while taking the utmost pains to conceal their sensitivity.

    They indeed obsessively plan for every eventuality and re-finetune in real time often already finetuned “roadmaps”, trying to wrongfoot and thus humiliate the alien forces all around, above and even below them.

    When cornered, they resort to cruder bait-and-switch, divide-and-conquer, weasel-type forked-wormtongue promises.

    In sum, the threat being stronger than the action, they may parade the PLA and HKP armoured vehicles up and down a few times, while continuing to tolerate street-level thuggery in the less salubrious areas and instructing Carrie to continue her Cheshire-cat patronising drivel.

    And everything being in the timing, they may shortly after offer, via one of the Reginas?, non-Selection Committee nomination of virtually anyone apart from white- or brown-skinned unpatriots, a few named individuals and anyone who has ever been to west Africa, Oxford or Harlem, via approved channels and thence for the endorsement of the Selection Committee.

  20. Joe Blow says:

    @ Stanley: I too have avoided the place for many years, save my very own 7-11 sojourns. Of course, the context of “Boycott Lan Kwai Fong” means ‘boycott Semen’. The best approach therefore is to boycott the place entirely. Tough luck for the other bars with their $ 85- watery draught beers.

  21. Billy Nunchuk says:

    Lan Kwai Fong, that name rings a bell.

    Too bad it no longer exists…like TST and Causeway Bay.

  22. Cassowary says:

    “Anti-occupy demonstrators attack reporters”
    That pretty much says everything, doesn’t it? They were rallying in TST and in the complete absence of any Occupier Traitors to beat up, they turned on the media. Naturally, they call themselves the Alliance for Peace and Democracy. Can they get any more uncool?

  23. PCC says:

    BTW, Mr. Li says he “attended” Harvard Business School. We all know what that means. On that basis, I attended HBS, too, as I cut across campus on my way to the Weld Boathouse. Veritas forever!

  24. Joe Blow says:


  25. F. says:

    Does anyone even read SCMP anymore? Not only do they seem to have bottom of the barrel op-eds, but their wumaos are sub-par as well.

    While reading “Why Capitalism Sucks”, I discovered a comment that sounded oddly familiar. It starts “Today’s students and youth are part of the ME generation. I schooled my 2 Sons as a single dad” (blablabla anti-protestor diatribe). Googled it. Found it was a copy and paste comment from another article on SCMP a mere 25 minutes earlier that same day.

    It’s like they’re not even trying…!

  26. tim says:

    Bading Li’s piece was a summary (if not a plagiarism) of Francis Fukuyama’s latest book. As Mr Fukuyama’s main claim to fame is his announcement of the end of history in the 1990s you would think predictions of doom from his pen would be taken with a grain of salt.

  27. Not In My Back Yard says:

    I keep hearing the FS being mentioned as a potential replacement, due to his lack of un-popularity. This is all relative, I think the students have not forgotten this foot-in-the-mouth.

  28. Hermes says:

    Did anyone see the follow up letter from a fan of Dabing by a Dallas Reid in Tuesday’s SCMP: ” I’m delighed that an intelligent article has finally been pubished…”!
    BTW I think Dabing is ‘Big Soldier’ rather than ‘ice’ or ‘cake’ !

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