Hong Kong Free Press finds that the city’s government is offering subsidies to non-profits organizing youth exchange visits to Syria – a war-ravaged country that also merits a Black Travel Warning.
This may seem like an extreme, if potentially effective, way for Hong Kong’s embattled administration to rid itself of the city’s rebellious and militant younger generation, who are setting up pro-independence and/or anti-Beijing political groups on a daily basis. (An aside: the latest ‘line to take’ from the Establishment Official Smears and Memes Department is that the tour of US universities by Demosisto’s Nathan Law and Joshua Wong is highly suspicious in a CIA-kind-of-way because – hey, how can kids afford airline tickets for such a long journey?)
But of course the subsidized trips to distant and dangerous places – Iraq is another – are part of something even more desperate and sinister: Chief Executive CY Leung’s deranged fetishization of China’s ‘Belt and Road’ slogan-initiative.
Insofar as anyone can make sense of it, ‘Belt and Road’ is part of Xi Jinping’s egotistical and grandiose ‘China Dream’, with an unfortunate whiff of thousand-year greater co-prosperity/Lebensraum spheres. The nuts and bolts is to export China’s industrial overcapacity by conning obscure and backward Central Asian and other corrupt regimes into signing up for Mainland-built infrastructure. The ‘vision’ is to gather up much of the Eurasia landmass and Indian Ocean littoral into tributary states, thus displacing US influence, hegemony and (a particular obsession) the dollar. It is all wrapped up in pseudo-historical baloney, harking back to the ancient Silk Road and Zheng He’s Ming Dynasty voyages, complete with clunky maps featuring Samarkand and Venice.
Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, there is no evidence that these other countries want or need China to oversee their infrastructure development, let alone absorb them into a Sinocentric New Economic Order. The list of 60-odd ‘Belt and Road’ countries has been drawn up unilaterally in Beijing (and apparently by academic/think-tank bodies, so at arm’s length from the PRC government). Few or none – Pakistan may be an exception – asked to be named a ‘Belt and Road’ member or participant. There are signs that in Beijing itself, the concept is being downplayed, perhaps in recognition that at best the whole thing comes across as a self-absorbed Han-supremacist fantasy.
CY Leung’s hyper-obsession with ‘Belt and Road’ is shoe-shining on both steroids and hallucinogens. The man is apparently oblivious to local public opinion, which – to the extent people care – finds his mania bewildering and alienating.
His bureaucrats try to meet his demands for outlandish ‘Belt and Road’ schemes and projects while discreetly ensuring that no harm is done. And they succeed admirably. You can get a daily subsidy of HK$680 per person if you organize a Comradely Mutual Exchange Tour of sunny, historic Homs, but HK$1,360 if you drag the Patriotic Kids’ Club off to boring and drab Uzbekistan for some mutton pilov. In case you don’t get the hint, next week’s briefing session is in Cantonese only – a sign that this is a symbolic policy, designed to give Beijing the impression that Hong Kong is a community of fervent Communist Party/Glorious Motherland faithful. The functionaries at the Home Affairs Bureau silently plead with everyone to ignore it, we’re just going through the motions here, let it pass.