Laissez-faire scrapped, not many notice


Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung scraps the city’s much-vaunted laissez-faire economic philosophy. As the South China Morning Post reports it, the news is superficially a Huge Radical Shock U-Turn, but under the surface it is simply Yet More Inane Blather Yawn. The clue is the way CY’s remarks link a series of unconnected themes, which happen to tick specific boxes in Beijing.

The abandonment of outdated colonial-era ‘non-interventionism’ was mentioned by his predecessor, Donald Tsang, years ago, and wannabes like lawmaker Regina Ip allude to it. In reality, official interference already massively distorts the Hong Kong economy: all land is owned by the government, and policies on housing, competition and tourism are crafted to tilt the playing field to benefit narrow tycoon and bureaucratic interests. The story here is not ‘End of Laissez-Faire’.

CY was being interviewed by Xinhua – Beijing’s propaganda agency. For the official spin, XN-InterviewHKwe should look at their version. The angle is that Hong Kong has some sort of major future role as ‘super-connector’ between the Mainland and the world, especially with regard to China’s unfathomable ‘One Belt One Road’ slogan/project. CY sees opportunities for Hong Kong companies in ‘stock farming and even chemical industry’ (and yes, it really does mean goats and sheep). He also mentions science, specifically, for some reason, the Swedish Karolinska Institute, of son-of-CY-and-property-tycoon-donation-fame.

CY ties this in with supposed rivalry between Hong Kong and the dreaded Singaporeans and South Koreans. This idea goes back decades. Do such distant and different economies really compete in a zero-sum struggle? Probably not. Korea’s ‘culture industry’ – which CY mentions in the SCMP piece – received state help, but classic (colonial-era) Hong Kong pop-cinema undermined itself through tackiness and Triad involvement.

He then asserts that the lengthy failed effort at political reform and obstruction by pro-democrats have prevented his administration from acting more on livelihood issues, including the inevitable housing.

If you can’t see the connection between laissez-faire, ‘One Belt One Road’ and the evil obstructive pro-democrats, don’t worry – you’re probably not supposed to. The intended audience is presumably in Beijing, and the message is something like: if I get a second term, I will loyally sign Hong Kong up to all the motherland/integration/China Dream blurb and crush the opposition by bringing the masses along with me through better social policies. As if lead-poisoned water, unbreathable air, inequality, paralysis on issues like traffic and overdevelopment, and a hundred other sources of anger – with more stuff coming all the time – just aren’t happening.

Recorded over the weekend, the systematic way the neighbourhood is invaded on a daily basis by tourists…


1: 9am – a small special reconnaissance unit infiltrates the area to probe local resistance and identify possible routes up the hill.

2: 1pm – spearhead company establishes forward base and gathers intelligence on ways to inflict maximum damage on locality.

3: 4pm – main assault force floods into district, forcing residents to flee.

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Laissez-faire scrapped, not many notice

  1. gweiloeye says:

    And in other news – SCMP fails to differentiate China and Singapore on it’s SG50 cover by putting a picture of mainlanders in a mainland city as part of the photo montage – note the puffy winter jackets.

    Obviously SCMP editorial staff said make Singapore look very Chinese and make sure no brown people shown.

  2. Nimby says:

    That’s been a misprint that keeps getting repeated and repeated until it became a urban legend. The proper spelling is Laissez-Fairy.

    Laissez-Fairy is one of the eight fairies of China. It is the one that hands out local monopolies. In HK it starting first with handing out the opium first to Jardines and then to Li family who worshiped just that tad more feverishly. It has not stopped handing them out yet, as fairies are immortal. One of the peaks of Pat Sin Leng is named after it, and Superman just built a bullet proof leaning tower of Buddha at it’s foot, as recipient of most of the fairy’s largesse.**

    Your tourist invasion reminds me of the Hash House Harassers, without the yells of “track” right behind little old ladies, nor the flour on the door step or garden tree.

    **Another one of those misunderstandings. Laissez is one of those French adverbs derived from largesse, which means profligate with the tax payers money.

  3. The most alarming thing about CY’s speech was not the incomprehensible economic waffle but yet another threat to hand over Hong Kong’s country parks to the developers.

  4. Big Al says:

    Speaking of “misunderstandings” the PCMP’s big focus on diplomats today (yawn) proudly quotes the US Consul General as saying “Hong Kong ‘got under my skin'” as if this is something good and praiseworthy. Maybe both the Consul General (being an American) and the PCMP (being crap) have failed to understand that this English language idiom means something that is irritating and annoying. Or maybe they both know exactly what they’re saying?

  5. Stephen says:

    I don’t think Beijing has any doubt that card carrying CY Leung will “if I get a second term I will loyally sign up Hong Kong to all the motherland …”. Unfortunately for him the 2016 Lego elections get in the way. If the United Front overcome the Pan Dem constitutional change veto then he’ll get another term and Hong Kong’s death by a thousand cuts will speed up to a point where it may never recover. However if the United Front fail I cannot see why the CCP would continue with this unpopular, divisive and combative CE any longer. Time for a change, but whom … ?

  6. Chopped Onions says:

    Also in todays SCMP, Gucci and Tag,( among other luxury brands) whining about the parasitical landlords that may force them to close…….the irony. Makes my heart bleed.

  7. pensadora says:

    re the US consul general’s remark in the SCMP interview, those come from the great cole porter’s lyrics which go:
    “i’ve got you under my skin/i’ve got you deep in the heart of me/so deep in my heart, you’re really a part of me/i’ve got you under my skin!”
    consul hart’s remark could denote deep infatuation for HK or extreme irritation, take your pick. was he presuming most hongkongers don’t know the expression, thinking he was being diplomatic or not realizing he’d put his foot in his mouth?

  8. Knownot says:

    It starts with John Cowperthwaite:
    “Loosen the reins!”
    Hong Kong grows at a marvellous rate,
    Everyone gains.

    “Government should have a light touch,
    The market should guide.”
    I don’t like either lot very much.
    Who should decide?

    CY says Government should now play
    A larger role.
    Things are different in the world today
    And need control.

    The Government’s ventures so far, like Cyberport,
    Do not impress;
    And, heavily subsidised, the Disney Resort
    Is not a success.

    It’s good if the corporate elite
    Can be restrained;
    But if the Government just takes their seat
    What have we gained?

    My mind is weary and my head is sore
    And I confess
    I don’t know who I trust more
    Or distrust less.

  9. Joe Blow says:

    Picture 3 looks like a bunch of Hitler Jugend on their way to chopping wood in das Wald.

  10. PCC says:

    The Urban Dictionary’s top definition for “under my skin”:

    1. When you meet someone and you’re drawn to them. You can’t stop thinking about them even when you don’t know them. Something about them just sparks something down deep. Your imagination starts to run wild and you’re physically and emotionally altered. They fascinate you.

    Ownership of the English language was wrested from the English a long time ago.

  11. Red Dragon says:

    I loathe the Hash House Harriers with every fibre of my being.

Comments are closed.