Not going to plan

Hong Kong is not working out according to the Chinese government’s plans (or expectations, or hopes, or assumptions based on Dengist Thought and other correct theory).

An attempt to introduce long-promised universal suffrage looks set to be stymied by pro-democracy lawmakers. Out of instinctive Communist paranoia, Beijing’s officials came up with a tightly restrictive proposal. Instead of a system where Beijing chooses a hapless incompetent as the winner and 1,200 people take part in a pretend-vote for him, the idea is for Beijing to choose three hapless incompetents as possible winners, and 3 or 4 million people will take part in a pretend-vote for one of them.

The public could have been tempted with promises of a better system later. They could even have been enthused by a vision of a serious, if guided, three-way race and genuinely more responsive government. But the Chinese government’s obsession with control and terror of not micromanaging everything had to come to the fore.

Threats that there is no Plan B, and rejection means continuing with the current system, have left the public unmoved. It is Beijing, not the populace, that has painted itself into a GoddessDemcorner here. The current system doesn’t work. Some sort of change is inevitable.

Meanwhile, the kids aren’t turning out to be quite right, either. China’s leaders must have hoped that the post-colonial generation would grow up without their elders’ obsession about democratizing the nation. They are getting what they wanted – but with a twist. A growing number of Hong Kong’s younger generation eschew any interest in changing China because (they claim) they don’t even feel Chinese. It is getting to the stage where the ones that turn up to Victoria Park to demand ‘vindication’ of the June 4 1989 massacre are the loyal patriotic ones the Communists can feel reasonably comfortable with, given that the others are demanding independence or (assuming you can get any more mind-blowingly blasphemous) a return to British colonial rule.

This wasn’t the way it was supposed to work out. The clumsy interventions by the Liaison Office since CY Leung became Chief Executive in 2012 are partly to blame, but it goes back further – to swamping the city with Mainland tourists, to trying to impose National Education and to the repeated appointment since 1997 of incompetent local leaders (apparently the only ones the Communists trust). Every attempt to force integration and squeeze out opposition – or just different-ness – produces a backlash, which prompts even more frantic attempts to bludgeon Hong Kong into adoring motherland and party. Taiwan please note.

I declare the weekend open with the question of where this all leads: does someone in Beijing come to their senses, or do they try even bigger and stupider attempts to crush opponents and instill obedience, or is there some sort of ‘muddle through’?

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18 Responses to Not going to plan

  1. Joe Blow says:

    Fascinating tit-bit of the week: Vagina Yip’s political party, the New People’s Party, only accepts members with a university degree. Which means that the great majority of Hong Kong Police’s 27000 officers are not welcome to join.

  2. Cassowary says:

    The change that’s coming is gerrymandering. They’ll carve up the middle-class pan-dem-leaning neighbourhoods and attach them to public housing strongholds of DAB grannies and grandpas. They’ll tinker with the proportional representation system too. Since the current system forces big parties to waste votes, Long Hair and his buddies/rivals/frenemies can slip in to LegCo on as little as 6% of the vote. Fiddle with the math, and boom, the populist fringe is electorally unviable. They’ll get their 2/3 somehow, and then they’ll pass whatever they want.

    Angry people will no doubt take to the streets, but hey, that’s what water cannons are for.

  3. Chinese Netizen says:

    I’m gonna guess most of those that would be “eligible” with uni degrees also have foreign connected escape hatch passports, too.
    Very motherland loving.

  4. @Joe Blow – for those desperate to join Vagina’s party, I’m sure “Dr” Elizabeth Quat can point them in the right direction towards getting a degree.

  5. PD says:

    I must protest at your revisionism. When you say “An attempt to introduce long-promised universal suffrage…”, you may be technically correct, but only in the sense that N Korea and Iran have universal suffrage.

    Also it’s not “three” incompetent stooges but “two or three”, and we all know what happens to the slightest ambiguity in the hands of the current regime: if they can claim black is white, they won’t hesitate to cut the redundant stooge.

    Of the three choices available to the Pekingese, I can’t see any hope of reasonableness. They will surely tighten the thumbscrews and neck irons, perhaps imperceptibly at first (your “muddling through”), but then with all the (considerable) force they can muster.

    Thanks for the daily dose of sanity.

  6. Stephen says:

    To mind it goes further back. Banning (taking away their home return permits) almost all “pro-Democracy” Legislators from the mainland in the hope that they would just go away – They didn’t – even as hopelessly divided as they are they still won nearly 58% of the popular vote last time out. However it’s a two way street as the Pro-Dems should have shut their collective gobs about overthrowing the CCP in China. Belatedly some are now doing so.

    What happens next largely depends on next year’s Legislative Council elections (complete with all the functional fun). If the Pro-Dems again get their veto and roughly the same percentage one would hope sensible heads would sit down and deconstruct the existing nominating / election committee and make it more representative – forget civil nomination it’s not going to happen. If they don’t do well in the elections then this current proposal will probably be rammed through in time for 2022. As no serious contender for the CE Post will want to be selected by the 1200 member Election committee I see ‘689’ remaining in post until then. Hardly the sensible head we need.

    After 18 years it’s not hard to conclude that the CCP has completely fecked up Hong Kong and it’s difficult to see how to reach a consensus especially now that the CCP / PLA are now getting worryingly nationalistic.

  7. Probably says:

    When will the CCP learn? I believe it was Einstein who said (to paraphrase) “The definition of. Stupidity is to try the same thing again and expect a different result”. Can someone let them know?

  8. FunB3 says:

    I’m not a big fan of Mao but some of his quotes are with repeating.

    “There are two principles here: one is the actual needs of the masses rather than what we fancy they need, and the other is the wishes of the masses, who must make up their own minds instead of our making up their minds for them.”

    I have no doubt the CCP will continue to take advice from vested interests in HK that have gauged the mood so badly over the last 18 years & this makes me genuinely sad for HK. Still love the place but the future is not rosy unless they start addressing the causes of discontent.

  9. Cassowary says:

    Beijing’s sole politically correct response to public discontent is “you’re doing it wrong”. The only acceptable reasons for why people are being surly and uncooperative is that they’re ignorant, ungrateful, malicious, under foreign influence, or all four.

    On the Mainland, they’ll occasionally climb down and offer compromise (after arresting all the ringleaders) if it’s a small local issue like an unpopular chemical plant being built, but when the stakes are high, they would rather chew their own arms off than look weak. The only option is to bulldoze through.

    They haven’t had a big enough bulldozer to do this to Hong Kong yet, but I’m sure they’re trying to build one. The Umbrella Movement taught them that international capital has quite a high tolerance for slow-burn repression. The Americans, the Brits and the Europeans have all basically told them “We’re cool with what you’re doing in Hong Kong, keep sending us iPhones, thx.” The money launderers (cough: multinational banks) will stick around unless there’s a massacre.

    I think all we can do now is try to stall the bulldozer. They’ll be stuck pounding their chests and governance will go even more to crap, but at least they won’t be able to run over us without a bloodbath, which is the only thing they can’t afford.

  10. Monkey Uncensored says:

    @Cassowary, i agree with your bulldozer metaphor. However, a massive influx of international capital and deepening of co-operation between the CCP and multinational banks and corporate America happened in the 90s, not very long after the Tiananmen massacre, which appears to contradict to your conclusion.

    Something of a truism, but the leaders CCP (in its current form) must remain perennially insecure because of a lack of a clear democratic mandate of their political organisation. If the CCP secured a democratic mandate through open and transparent means (even a one-off referendum to maintain the current political system), then it would no longer have the same form as its currently does.

    Considered in isolation, one can argue that economic development, improving livelihoods and education levels, and the growth in political self-awareness that – historically – follows from such social transformations will lead to ever-increasing demands for civil enfranchisement and constitutional governance by the state. A la the UK and Europe during the industrial revolution, with the gradual enfranchisement of adult society across economic sectors and classes, races, and eventually, genders.

    However this analysis fails to consider the wider geopolitical context:

    – a US state that is increasingly divorced from the polis it represents, which has also completely dispensed with any illusions of isolationist foreign policy and constitutional governance, and openly prioritises the interest of its corporate, military, bureaucratic and financial sectors whilst paying lip service only – at best – to the rights and interests of the average citizen, which when combined with big data technologies can be perceived as the deliberate deployment of what is often referred to as the “deep state”. Of all of the scams employed, unbacked money printing as a means of state and corporate confiscation of private assets, and the practice of direct and indirect proxy war (or “managed chaos as a foreign policy strategy” as the CFR puts it i believe) as a means of securing markets and rights to foreign resources appear to be the strategies-du-jour .

    – An extended, global deflationary crisis appears to have only been delayed, and not avoided since Lehman’s collapse and central banks’ co-ordinated QE1, QE2, … QE infinity schemes. Consider: a) total global debt has increased from 142 trillion USD in Q4 2007 (269% of global GDP) to 199 trillion in Q2 2014 (286% of GDP), with global govt debt in particular exploding at a CAGR of 9%; b) aggregate central bank balance sheets (SNB/BOE/BOJ/PBOC/Fed/ECB) have increased from a value of approx. 4 trillion USD in 2007 to a value of over 18 trillion in 2014; c) despite this expansion in debt and in the money supply, low to near negative or negative inflation rates continue in all developed economies; d) anaemic or recessionary economic growth rates continue in all developed economies; e) there have been massive drops in labor participation rates in Western countries since 2007 (US is down 4 to 5 %), with unbelievably high youth unemployment across Europe showing little to no sign of improvement; f) labor productivity is growing slowly or is flat and there have been no real wage gains in most Western economies since 2007; g) an under-capitalised and effectively insolvent banking sector plagues the EU, with huge on- and off-balance losses masked behind “marking-to-a-fantasy or marked-to-a-rigged market”, with many gargantuan institutions with insane leverage ratios (hello Deutsche Bank).

    – the fundamental issues at the heart of the financial collapse of 2007 have yet to be addressed: i) the over-financialisation of the US economy; ii) huge conflicts of interest in the financial system, between corporates, state regulators, politicians and financial institutions; iii) failure to enact any kind of serious reform of developed countries’ status quo political economy.

    – marginalisation of increasingly wide swathes of civil society and lower-income economic segments in developed countries continues unabated, deepening disenchantment with politics, facilitating disengagement from mass media narratives, and increasing social division, tension and conflict.

    To me, when taken in aggregate, these are conditions that spell out “Major Global War – Coming Soon to a Screen Near You” in flashing pink neon letters…

    Assuming the hypothesis that an imminent global deflationary collapse is likely (and a continuation of the slowdown in demand for Chinese manufactured exports is certain), and the probability of continued geopolitical tension and conflict as the US drives its global deep-state agenda, with its never-ending search for the next “evil” enemy already shifting eastwards to Russia and China, the prognosis for China and its symbiotic relationship with the CCP looks even more bleak. The only question of merit is a qualitative estimation: do you believe, that if push comes to shove, the leadership of the CCP would cede its domestic monopoly of political authority, or create the conditions for and then participate in a nationalistic war in order to justify harsher domestic “bulldozing”?

    Of course the contention that any state is capable of sustainably repressing a population through political persecution is demonstrably false; nevertheless the costs of working to overturn unjust hierarchies where the state owns a monopoly on legalised violence are unevenly spread across the time horizon. The risk-reward profile of being in the vanguard of anything is always assymetric when compared to the latecomers. Nevertheless the costs of doing nothing, and allowing these fucking demons in human form to run amok among us (yes, i love you Bill Hicks, RIP), are also dynamic, and nothing wakes people up like war between thermonuclear-capable states.

    Vis-a-vis China, the prevalent common sense of its people, combined with rampant distrust of authority may be, ironically, its greatest asset in the event of global war. The Chinese have seen dynasties come, and seen dynasties go, and the idea that the mandate of heaven is temporary in nature is programmed into the cultural DNA of the place. Chinese militaristic nationalism in the context of a global conflict will be a short-lived thing indeed; all that needs to occur is that the costs perceived and experienced by the Chinese citizenry of continuing the status-quo, i.e. doing nothing, meet or exceed the costs of taking action to enfranchise themselves and demand accountability and transparency from their own state, i.e. 1 million people in the street in 10 major metropolises and a PLA that is unable or unwilling to take the political risk of “being the Chinese who are massacring other Chinese”. Having millions of your national brethren lost in a war that you did not choose to enter and you do not truly support is, if nothing else, a tragic but effective wake-up call. A lesson that I suspect will be significantly more painful for citizens of the US of A and some of its geopolitical allies, who actively propagate and deeply believe in their own insidious propaganda.

    So to come back to Hemlock’s question: yes a bigger bulldozer is coming, and more insane, frenetic bulldozing, right up to the point where the people of the Chinese nation tell the CCP to fuck-off. Then maybe a China-driven, decentralised network of collaborating nation states creating, instilling and embedding a real, lasting and sustainable global peace in the collective consciousness of this planet, if we are lucky.

    As it is in heaven …

  11. PD says:

    Thanks to Cassowary and MU for excellent analyses.

    A bulldozer is indeed a good metaphor for China under the heel of the CP: unsubtle, dangerous but oh so effective within closely-defined parameters. But a tank is historically and culturally more apposite: it needs a team to operate, is less vulnerable, it brazenly displays its aggressive function, and is perfect for blitzkriegs.

    But by their very closure, tanks can be stopped, by sabotaging the tracks, by suborning the operators, by gas, ditches, steel, extreme heat and so on. The point for the Chinese regime is that it will be betrayed from within, by its own hubris.

    MU aptly points out that a failing CP would distract the masses by baiting its many foreign enemies just a little bit too much. For the moment, China is so unified, at least the Han parts, that its internal stability is assured. But, like the Japanese attacking America, they are total ignoramuses in understanding how the outside world works — which means the well-oiled repression will act irrationally, almost blindly, outside the borders. China’s historical strategy of successfully bullying its neighbours will only fail, then, against an even bigger tank — but will fail all the more catastrophically.

    Cassowary is entirely correct, in sum, in that HK itself can do little apart from lie down in front of the massed tank battalions, and hope something will turn up.

  12. NIMBY says:
    There’s always the KMT….. giggle.

    Very few in HK are or ever were true CCP believers, by the definition of choosing to live in this refuge. Those who were active in the United Front were buying insurance. The few communities of true patriotic feeling were split up as part of the British Empires price of a few more years of peace from the CCP. The CCP has made the louse ridden bed the Liaison Office sleeps in here,.

  13. LRE says:

    @ Joe Blow
    I look forward with great relish to Vagina expelling Semen for not having a university degree. Douches all round!

  14. Cassowary says:

    Sadly, I agree that capital flight due to a violent crackdown will be temporary. The banks will be back in a few years, like last time. But it will cause a shock to the Chinese economy, so I would wager that Zhongnanhai will calculate that they cannot afford such a shock at a time when economic growth is weak.

    The other wildcard is how they think the Mainland public will react to a massacre in Hong Kong. Do think think they can pull off “move along, nothing to see here, they deserved it anyway” again?

  15. Joe Blow says:

    @LRE: a Vagina expelling Semen: not something I enjoy visualizing.

  16. @LRE – Semen has an honorary doctorate. Presumably Vagina only requires him to possess a degree, not to have earned one academically.

  17. Chinese Netizen says:

    @Joe Blow 10:43 & Outside Influence 12:34 – So can we now call Seman “Dr. Creampie”??

  18. Joe Blow says:

    Dr Semen has a Bachelor’s Degree in Second-hand Cars from Quebec Uni (evening course).

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