More ‘Belt and Bull’

The South China Morning Post’s lead story is its own conference yesterday about the wondrousness of China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ visionary global maritime silk thing.

SCMP-BeltAndRd

To show how important it was, the paper carries a photo of serious-looking Westerners who, thanks to three-way simultaneous interpretation, are finding it all crystal-clear and riveting.

But then the Great Super-Connector Controversy raises its head. Just a few days ago, an ugly disagreement broke out at another forum on the ‘One Belt’ silk maritime global vision. Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung said Hong Kong would be the Super-Connector, while businessman Allen Zeman said no – China would be.

SCMP-HK'sRole

But yesterday, a Mainland expert in Belt, Silk, etc affairs laid down the law. Ou (as in Oh!) Xiaoli gave CY a pat on the head for ‘ideal thinking’ but expressed skepticism. His reasoning was that many countries along the ‘One Belt, One Road’ Vision Zone don’t do business in the Western manner to which we are accustomed…

SCMP-OuXiao

So that settles the great debate – CY is wrong, and Hong Kong will not be the Super-Connector. Mass suicides break out across city plunged into shame and despair.

Ou’s comments are intriguing in other ways. Is this another criticism of Hong Kong’s failure to decolonize? I suspect that he is referring to the mysterious and exotic Central Asian states, home of such leaders as Turkmenistan’s (late) President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov. Whether you consider his rule eccentric or (he banned lip-syncing, dogs, beards and opera) sensible, you would think twice on learning that he renamed months of the year and many villages after his mother. And you would admit that contract-negotiation in such places might be best left to those more comfortable outside a rules-based system.

The SCMP swamps readers with more and more and more, asking Can HK Be a Part of China’s Takeover of Planet? and How Can HK Reap Rewards of Booming Turkmenistan Business? and When Will You Bastards Finally Start Taking Advantage of One Belt One Road Opportunities?

Among yesterday’s exhaustive SCMP coverage of ‘One Belt, One Road’ was a full-page map of the world explaining what the exciting concept means. It shows China as the centre of a large web of tendrils, fingers, stripes and other curvy linear extensions, creeping, curling and poking their way over land and across the sea into a wide range of plucky little nations and long-forgotten khanates as far away as Southeast Asia, Africa and the Indian Ocean, plus Turkmenistan…

SCMP-1B-map

Observant types noticed something more. China’s Loving Tentacles of Harmonious Co-Prosperity and Cooperation completely bypass Japan, and Korea, and Australia, and contort themselves to ensure they do not touch India. As for America… there is no America.

I wonder: where have I seen something like this before? Rummaging around on the old hard drive, I dig up a faded and tattered 14-kilobyte archaeological remnant dating back a good 10-12 years.

It was a time when Mainland officials were seething at Hong Kong’s uppity bureaucrats, who didn’t give them enough respect. Drooling at the sight of free flows of capital and trade, they wanted cooperation and partnership and face and possibly some freebies. Instead, they got smarmy, sneering, patronizing and insultingly low-ranking British-trained civil servants who, holding their nose against the sooty Shenzhen air, signed meaningless agreements and posed impatiently for a photo before dashing back to the lushness of Lower Albert Road.

The Mainland officials came up with their ultimate weapon – the central planners’ fantasy cartographical tantrum…

PRD-map

It showed the Pearl River Delta as the future cradle of human civilization. The orange bits will be the Vibrant Hi-Tech Whizzbang Zones. The green lines mark Eco-Green-Sustainable High-Net-Worth Tourism Districts. The red parts are the Financial Global Tons-of-Dosh Hubs. The brown areas are Bio-engineering-Logistics-Super-Connector Dragonheads. And sitting in the middle in a special depressing shade of grey – lost, cold, forgotten and starving, Without a Role – is Hong Kong, the place where they treated us like bumpkins and now nothing happens.

(‘One Belt One Road Hub Silk Partnership Cooperation Zone Concept Vision’ in a nutshell, so far as I can see… The deal: You – impoverished corrupt backwater country – pay our idle overcapacity infrastructure companies to build white-elephant projects all over your displaced peasants’ lands. In return, we let you become a tribute-paying vassal state of the Middle Kingdom. And that includes you losers in Russia. It’s a win-win!)

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18 Responses to More ‘Belt and Bull’

  1. Gooddog says:

    All this belts and braces gabfest is just a shit-ton of bullshit. Piles and piles of the stuff. What a waste of space. I can’t believe how rapidly SCMP is careening downhill.

  2. reductio says:

    @Gooddog

    BS indeed. If private companies see opportunities here and want to make a go of it, good for them. What HK doesn’t need is the government chucking lots of billions of $$$ down lots of Silk Road toilets, which is what will happen IMHO, given past examples of flagrant boondoggle waste closer to home.

  3. Stephen says:

    Can I ask when was the halcyon days of the Pro China Morning Post ? Was it 25 years ago when we laughed (because we knew no better) at Nury’s tee-hee humour, whilst Sinclair boomed his no nonsense “we Hongkongers” and Robin Parke, fresh from drinks with the Trainers at the Sheraton, picked the winners at Happy Valley. It has been a crock of shite for many many years. Free unread copies are strewn across my office but I rarely feel the urge. It treats the reader as an idiot as 12 year old pup reporters churn out self-censored pap that should make any adult groan.

  4. reductio says:

    @Stephen

    Don’t be such a grouch. Give it a go. The crossword’s good and there’s a fun wordsearch. “Pooch cafe” is an excellent comic strip.

    Er… that’s it, really.

  5. Des Espoir says:

    All this belt and road business is just an overland version of the Selden map of Chinese trade, currently in the Bodleian library in Oxford… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selden_Map

  6. skreader says:

    What I particularly cherished in today’s SCMP front page was how way in the lower left corner the much smaller headline “Exchange Fund suffers HK$ 63.8b loss” – such small potatoes…

  7. LRE says:

    The belt road stuff has yet to actually materialise an actual project as far as I can tell and basically just seems to be a way to get private firms to pay for the Chinese government’s soft power efforts.

  8. Cassowary says:

    The SCMP’s so-called decline is more like a return to form. Back in the 80s, before Rupert Murdoch bought it, it was a pro-government mouthpiece. The government in question was colonial, but hey, out with the old boss, meet the new boss. It’s editorial response to the 1984 taxi riot was “My, aren’t these youth rather bored? Maybe we should build more badminton courts or something” and “Our poor transport secretary, he’s so misunderstood”.

    So Rupert Murdoch actually did something good for once in his life, however briefly.

    Also, thanks Hemlock, for reading this crap so that we don’t have to.

  9. @Stephen – Kevin Sinclair may not have been the world’s greatest journalist, but he deserves recognition for coining the handy phrase “indigenous property developers” to label the Heung Yee Kuk crowd.

  10. Des Espoir says:

    Just coming back on the SCMP’s decline…. As a Lantau commuter, the SCMP of some 15-20 years ago used to keep me engrossed at least until we entered the harbour (and remember that was in the days of the 1-hour trip on the majestic old triple-deckers). Nowadays alas, I have gone right through it and binned it before Captain Wong has eased his flip-flops off the dashboard and on to the throttles….

  11. Chris Maden says:

    @Des Espoir – good find on the map.

    Apropos of the Pro China, try http://tehrantimes.com/ for some riveting stuff. You folks don’t know what you have!

  12. AHW says:

    Sudoku, Pooch Cafe, Calvin and the Racing Post. That’s it… gave up on the Sunday version completely some time ago.

  13. inspired says:

    Belt and Switch more like it…

    I do love the Mainland expert slagging off HK business as uncompetitive in a developing world environment. So many ways one could analyze that particular kettle of fish.

    Anyways, and I realize I am jumping the start with this with this my personal preference is that HK be the Flux Capacitor in the Mainland Delorean taking everything back to November 5th, 1955, when one of those lovely purges of counter-revolutionary ideas was just getting into full swing

  14. Chinese Netizen says:

    Do the tendrils reach the newest vassal kow-towers in (formerly) Great Britain?

    Today’s rant was sublime…

  15. dimuendo says:

    skreader’s comment bears repeating and emphasis.

    What is truly shocking however is the admission by “Professor” Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, the “Housing Minister” and Head of the Housing Authority, that the “government’ were unaware of the health risks posed by lead in soldering material for water pipes.

    I recently said Hemlock should not use the word “cretin” to describe our glorious civil service leaders. If I am forced to stand by that, then the said “Professor”and those like him are on their own admission frighteningly stupid and ill informed.

  16. Knownot says:

    The rising Chinese nation makes the rolling Chinese road
    Where under ancient dynasties, silk and porcelain flowed.
    If other nations travel too, and if they wear the Belt,
    China’s new soft power and hard money will be felt.

    Through the western desert and the Himalayas high
    Going to Karachi by way of Tin Shui Wai;
    And though the spirit falters, and though the road is long,
    Going to Albania by way of Kowloon Tong;
    And though the seas are treacherous and fierce winds may blow,
    Going to East Africa by way of Sham Shui Po.

    So keep on track and don’t look back; for new life will begin
    The day we go to Paradise by way of Wong Tai Sin.

    with acknowledgement to ‘The Rolling English Road’ by G.K. Chesterton

  17. haha says:

    haha. scared of qian jing?

  18. Des Espoir says:

    Chris Madden – glad you enjoyed the Selden map of China trade routes… In fact the map was “lost” (=misplaced?, misfiled?) in the shelves of Oxford’s Bodleian Library for 250 years and only just rediscovered… Don’t you just LOVE academia..? (And we think we have problems here… maybe Arthur Li could be misfiled for 250 years..??)

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