Learning from Macau

SCMP-The Long BetWho is behind the strange puff-piece on Macau in today’s South China Morning Post? As most people have noticed by now, China’s government under Xi Jinping is engaged in a big, wide-ranging tightening of control, affecting government, military, media, ideology, minorities, religion, Special Administrative Regions, academia and at least some aspects of business and the economy. A key part of this is the persecution and elimination of political rivals through a major (and in itself long overdue) crackdown on corruption. This inevitably includes offshore money-laundering, which in turn inevitably means casino hub Macau.

The SCMP article maintains that it ‘took much courage’ for Macau’s cops to bust the Hotel Lisboa prostitution ring and arrest casino mogul Stanley Ho’s nephew, and for the tinpot city’s banking regulator to ‘invite’ Ministry of Public Security officials down from Beijing to tackle the illegal flow of funds out of the Mainland through the China UnionPay settlement system. The truth is that it would have taken exceptional courage – not to say stupidity – not to have done these things. A puppet regime like Macau’s doesn’t ‘invite’ the Ministry of Public Security to come in and set up a real-time system to monitor credit-card transactions: it lies down so the Feds can wipe their shoes.

To read the article, you get the impression that Macau has decided of its own volition to clean itself up and reinvent itself, and Beijing is rushing to do all it can to help, out of respect and admiration for the grubby little gambling enclave. In reality, China ‘whacked Macau into line’ when the Portuguese lost control in the riots of the late 1960s. Over the years, the population has been diluted with Mainland, especially Fujianese, immigrants. The media and academia are tame. The tiny political opposition lacks support or clout. Flush with casino revenues, the government buys off the populace with an annual cash handout. Beijing’s plan seems to be to absorb Macau into a tourism-based economy around southern Zhuhai’s Hengqin – to be done in the best possible taste, of course.

For all the recent deterioration, Hong Kong’s autonomy is robust and substantial by comparison. Which brings us to one of those weird and ironic occasions when we gain relief from misleading propaganda in the SCMP from hard-nosed objective facts in China Daily. The Beijing-controlled newspaper tells us that Hong Kong can learn from Macau

Hong Kong has a highly assertive, vibrant civil society in which the media monitor the work of the government on a daily basis. It has an active political culture among the youth, which strives to defend the “Two Systems”. It will, therefore, be challenging for Hong Kong to develop in the same way as the former Portuguese colony.

This, needless to say, is a Bad Thing.

…our schools must incorporate a greater focus on the country, helping students appreciate Chinese history and gain a pride in their culture. In this respect, Macao teachers have an edge over their Hong Kong counterparts as most of them were born and educated on the mainland…

Furthermore, Macao youngsters are regularly sent to the mainland under cultural exchange programs…

Hong Kong can also learn from Macao in giving its citizens a more comprehensive education on the Basic Law. Macao not only did this through the school system, but also through many interest and professional groups, including labor unions, women’s associations, and other tongxianghui (town associations).

In contrast, Hong Kong suffers from political polarization. This hampers efforts at civic education, particularly in respect of cultivating a correct sense of nationalism and social harmony; and most importantly, an awareness of the civic responsibility that goes along with civic rights.

And how exactly do we acquire this correct zombie thinking?

Hong Kong can also learn from Macao in cultivating new political talents by helping them develop their public speaking JoshWongnskills and political confidence through participation in socio-political events. In contrast, Hong Kong’s pro-business and pro-establishment groups lag behind the rise of many social groups, especially student organizations…

…If this is not rectified soon, Hong Kong’s civil society will continue to exhibit an imbalance between anti-government and pro-establishment forces, resulting in a divided civil society … A more balanced approach to rebuilding the divided society is urgently needed.

Finally, Hong Kong can learn from Macao in terms of active regional integration with the mainland…

And so on until…

Hong Kong must learn from Macao’s adaptability. Otherwise, Hong Kong will see a decline in its long-term competitiveness.

…while Macau ‘reinvents’ itself. Never has a decline in long-term competitiveness sounded so good.

HengqinHotel

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21 Responses to Learning from Macau

  1. Scotty Dotty says:

    Lawrance has been too long at it to make sense anymore.

    He’s like Elsie Tu except with good grammar: considers a story or situation, works out how it can be used to complement the Communist Party and, voila, the words flow.

    Hemlock’s review above is far more prescient than Lawrance.

  2. Chinese Netizen says:

    Has anyone ever uttered anything about Macau and included “Macau’s core values” in a statement or question? Very curious if Macau has any.
    But in the end, just compare any former Portuguese colony with any former Brit colony and there you have it.

  3. PD says:

    The first time you hear this stuff, you laugh at such childish balderdash. But when it’s repeated for the thousandth time, you wonder what sort of psychopath could be producing it year in year out. The chilling thing is that the threat of deliberately nobbling HK’s competitiveness has meanwhile been striking home.

    What sort of culture can produce a political system where this is the dominant discourse? And what sort of citizenry laps it up?

  4. gumshoe says:

    The only good time I ever had in Macau was when I walked through the local neighborhoods up to the fort overlooking the church plaza. Those steep fevela-like streets that were empty were the most enjoyable thing I’ve ever experienced in that city of vice.

  5. Stephen says:

    @Scotty Dotty

    Don’t confuse this Anthony Lawrance with the late great Anthony Lawrence who died a few year back. This article is nonsense.

  6. Cassowary says:

    This is the back-asswards worldview in which social harmony isn’t the byproduct of a well-governed society, but a goal in and of itself. It is something which is achieved by telling everybody to sit down and shut up. Voila, society has no problems!

    Even if this has a 0% chance of working, you can at least affect the posture of a put-upon paternal figure to convince your constituency (or bosses) that everything would be fine if only these annoying people would stop complaining.

  7. Joe Blow says:

    hard-nosed objective facts in China Daily.

    …..as the former Portuguese colony…….

    Errrr, Macau was not a colony like Hong Kong: it was Chinese territory under Portuguese administration.

    So much for the hard-nosed facts.

  8. Knownot says:

    The roulette wheel for ever spins
    And the casino always wins.
    – – – – – – – –

    When the vote in Legco goes
    Everyone already knows
    However popular their views
    The Democrats will always lose.

    The 2017 election
    Can only go in one direction.
    When the votes at last begin
    A Democrat will never win.

    Press reporters trim the news
    And the readers always lose.

    Developers request the right
    To build on any rural site.
    The Government will not refuse.
    Country Parks will always lose.

    All the tourists coming in
    And the landlords always win.
    – – – – – – – –

    Hong Kong should be more like Macau?
    It is already now.

  9. Scotty Dotty says:

    @ Stephen

    Thank you. Yes, aware of the Lawrance v Lawrence difference. My point was that this (Younger) Lawrance has become so repetitive he is like the senile and dreadful Elsie. The Geordie One has spent decades apologising and forgiving one of the most brutal and wicked regimes on earth, and she will try to weasel them out of any responsibility or shame.

    Both Elsie and Lawrance are the same and both are beyond salvaging.

  10. Cassowary says:

    Forgive a daft question, but what exactly is stopping the government from rezoning the many container storage dumps owned by developers and the Kuk for development? Isn’t that what the developers want? What is this strange insistence on building on ecologically valuable green belt and country park land instead of on pre-trashed land already owned by rich bastards waiting around for development?

  11. Chinese Netizen says:

    I could never figure out why the gambling industry tries to mask their “profession” with “gaming”?
    Be PROUD Anthony! You’re a shill for Adelson & Co!

  12. NIMBY says:

    It’s contagious this sort of sport of comparison, Mark Twain observed it is the death of Joy:

    On Hugo Chavez…
    John Kerry: “Throughout his time in office, President Chavez has repeatedly undermined democratic institutions by using extra-legal means, including politically motivated incarcerations, to consolidate power.”
    New York Times: “A Polarizing Figure Who Led a Movement” “strutting like the strongman in a caudillo novel”

    Human Rights Watch: “Venezuela: Hugo Chávez’s Authoritarian Legacy”

    On King Abdullah…
    John Kerry: “King Abdullah was a man of wisdom & vision.”
    New York Times: “Nudged Saudi Arabia Forward” “earned a reputation as a cautious reformer” “a force of moderation”

    Human Rights Watch: “Saudi Arabia: King’s Reform Agenda Unfulfilled”

  13. PD says:

    Cassowary, It’s complicated (as our bureaucrats invariably reply).

    But basically, nothing. A child of five who looked at a land-use map of HK would see that most of it is empty space. However, land-reform questions have brought down governments worldwide; China’s economy, outside the cities, is essentially based on local governments profiting from (unsustainable) land grabs (the basis of US expansion in the 19th century); and here there are vested interests…

    The government has great difficulty — ie often completely fails — in imposing its will on the rural NT, whether in policing, preventing motor vehicles in the country parks, controlling cross-border movement, limiting the damage by the thrice-yearly Chinese forest burning festival, picking up rubbish, etc. etc. It may have always been like this to a certain extent.

    In practice, any civil servants brave enough to try and draw the slightest line will find their own staff subverting the initiative, mobs of villagers preventing access, packs of unlicensed dogs marauding, DAB members questioning and general passive and active aggression and resistance.

    Remember Carrie’s This Time We Mean It abolition of illegal structures? It simply resulted in a rush to beat the amnesty deadline…

    In theory, the government has the power to do nearly anything, including recommending rezoning to its captive committees or simply ignoring it. But in practice…

  14. Alice Poon says:

    Cassowary, the initiative to rezone lies with whoever owns the land. Those lands are sitting in the rich guys’ “land bank” and the government can’t do anything about them.

  15. Stanley Gibbons says:

    The container storage dumps are seen as necessary for “port back-up” uses, as there is inadequate supply of land for that purpose generally. The Lands Dept had a “Task Force Black Spots” to get rid of or improve such sites years ago. I think they successfully arranged to remove or screen off about 3 sites before folding after several years of banging their heads off a brick wall, and being told to piss off left right and centre.

    Paul Chan SDEV has no appetite for any of that. It’s easier to go for the fringes of the country parks and green belt and so on, as no Heung Yee Kuk etc.

  16. Stanley Gibbons says:

    @ Alice Poon

    Correct, but Government can also take the initiative to rezone, say from storage or industrial (or indeed “green belt’) to a “higher” use (such as residential) so as to encourage the owner to pursue redevelopment. That’s how South Horizons arose from a former oil storage depot.

  17. Cassowary says:

    How can that land be more profitable as container storage sites and junk yards than as housing? Why aren’t the owners trying to have it rezoned for development? Is the Kuk waiting for a market downturn so they can build on an upswing?

  18. Chinese Netizen says:

    @NIMBY: fair.org is a good site.

  19. Rancid puke says:

    @Scotty Dotty, @Stephen

    The chap in question, exhibit A, m’lords, one Anthony Lawrance, is/was the publisher of a number of rags on that sceptred peninsula off to port.

    Formerly the business development-type for the SCMP on the mainland, he built up quite the network, promptly finagled them from the dozy old Malaysians, spun that polyester-heavy thread into the publishing biz there, and then created his own version of the publishing human centipede by selling it all back to the SCMP.

    Apparently he is now the goodwill ambassador for the roughly half-millennium-old clusterfuck that is Macau.

  20. Alice Poon says:

    Stanley, I think you meant to say “a sensible Government” can also take the initiative…..

  21. Alice Poon says:

    Cassowary, yes, you’re right – they always wait for a market downturn, because rezoning would entail lease modification, which requires payment of a premium. Sometimes they wait for surrounding infrastructure to go up first.

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