Rogue column bursts into SCMP

Bloom-ChinasMarsh

We never forget you have a choice. China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ visionary mega-concept strategy is as historically amazing as the Marshall Plan, or is a worthless pile of flimflam with nothing in common with the Marshall Plan.

The cheery and optimistic story comes from Bloomberg. It is actually a report on a report, quoting a fund manager in London. The Marshall Plan was about resurrecting the largely destroyed economies of Western Europe after World War II. If that comparison doesn’t work for you, the guy also offers an analogy with expansion of the European Union – a group last seen losing its second-largest member-economy.

But it is, naturally, the negative gloom-and-doom story that attracts our interest. This is partly because we just can’t resist anything that mocks pretentious BS of any sort, anywhere (but especially, in truth, coming out of Beijing, and even more especially when it’s the tiresome ‘Belt and Road’ claptrap). Even more because it is by esteemed former South China Morning Post columnist Tom Holland. And even even more because it appears in – yes – the SCMP itself.

It was in yesterday’s Business section, but the link has mysteriously been buried on the site today (though it stubbornly crops up in the ‘Most Popular’ box). How exactly did it get there?

‘Belt and Road’ is currently one of the most venerated idols among Hong Kong’s Beijing-worshipping community. Although recently overshadowed by loud and clumsy denunciations* of ‘Hong Kong independence’, public adoration of ‘Belt and Road’ is pretty much compulsory among the local business/bureaucrat establishment. The more embarrassing the better: Chief Executive CY Leung devoted his Policy Address to it and is reserving local university places for eager young Kazakhs and Uzbeks, while his tragic rival Regina Ip has set up a weird youth-oriented Maritime Silk Road cult to prove her devotion.

SilkRd-AGM

The official line is that ‘Belt and Road’ offers Hong Kong a range of dazzling opportunities, albeit ones that are never specified. Holland’s column does not mention the local perspective, but then it hardly needs to: he demolishes the whole grandiose scheme from the top down.

The SCMP rightly gets criticized for duplicating China Daily, carrying print versions of SCMP-TomHCCTV’s forced confessions or the diatribes of quasi-academics claiming Philippine and Vietnamese waters for the glorious motherland (and for puff pieces about its proprietor’s other companies). More typically, its opinion pieces ponder bland non-issues or are simply ineffable bilge. It also, at least occasionally, has comment that is independent, provocative and even at odds with the standard pro-Beijing line. But this column is seriously off-message – a barbarian iconoclast trashing what is locally considered an unquestionable, sacred mission to achieve national glory by selling Kazakhs and Uzbeks high-speed trains with which to whizz their yak exports to Venice via Nairobi, and adding further insult by comparing it with some old failed Japanese scheme. Tom’s previous column was in March 2014. Not sure how long we will wait for the next one.

*For an example of the standard pro-Beijing line, masochists shouldn’t miss that Ho Lok Sang RTHK talk on Hong Kong independence. We can’t be independent, he intones, because we have more people than Denmark or New Zealand but less space, and therefore will have no food or clothes. Or water (don’t forget the water). This is argument at its most inept – essentially implying that independence is possible except for some minor logistics issues (especially for the globe’s textiles-trading hub). But someone decided it should be the official line. The guy is a university professor, by the way.

 

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10 Responses to Rogue column bursts into SCMP

  1. reductio says:

    Good link Hemmers: “Leaders from Top-notch [as opposed to crap] Enterprises Speak at “Combining Hard Power with Soft Power” Conference

    The top management of three leading Chinese enterprises in Hong Kong … spoke at “The Belt and Road Initiative – Combining Hard Power with Soft Power” Conference on 27 February.”

    “Combining hard power with soft power”. What on earth does that scary phrase mean? Sending in groups of militant suicide Pandas? “Xi Akbar, Xi Akbar…”

  2. Monkey the Unreconstructed says:

    Great column today – made me laugh out loud.

    Give me cynical Russian tragi-comedy over vapid American sitcom comedy any day of the week.

  3. Enid Frost says:

    Is there a life on Mars? There definitely isn’t any Hong Kong way.

    I saw that the great Bradley Winterton, once of Lantau, has now moved from Taiwan to Vietnam. He may be giving some people a clue.

    Hong Kong is not the Big Lychee, it is the Big Latte: unstimulating and full of froth.

    If you don’t get interesting soon I will completely stop reading you. You have become too representative of Hong Kong. One big yawn.

  4. Joe Blow says:

    I have a few almost new silk ties that I would like to donate to the Maritime Silk Blouse Association gents that cannot afford their own, apparently. Address ? By the way, where does Vagina get those people ? More ominously: no Al Semen, no Aching Bones, not even a token gwailo or Indian ?

  5. Regislea says:

    Today’s SCMP:

    “In our multimedia package, the South China Morning Post documents the unassuming city’s (Hangzhou) dramatic transformation as China showcases it on the international stage as a shining example of all that the country has achieved so far and what more it can deliver in the future.”

    Pass the sickbag, Martha!

  6. malik says:

    I see parallelism between the ‘9 dash line’ to the ‘one belt, one road’ slogan. The 9 dash line was recently quashed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration as illegal. Tom Holland’s column audaciously leads the way…

  7. Dirty Gerty from No. 30 says:

    Hong Kong is a big bucket of crazy good. And don’t you forget it.

  8. Red Dragon says:

    Oh Enid!

    You’re going to stop reading? Does that mean you’re going to stop commenting too?

    Please say it’s true.

  9. Probably says:

    Re: Ho Lok Sang, a country with a smaller population than HK as well as a smaller land mass that is dependant upon water supplies from it’s much larger Northern neighbour with whom it used to be in political union? Hello Singapore – which is an independent country when I last looked!

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