The Hang Seng Index is approximately 150 points or 0.5% down this morning, suggesting that no-one seriously believes North Korea is going to plunge the world into even moderate mayhem. (In theory, any and all conceivable carnage – or good news, for that matter – should be ever-so efficiently priced in before you can blink. In practice, I’ve noticed that the market sometimes seems to have a dinosaur-type nervous system, where signals take a while to get to the brain. It could be that they will decide to freak out this afternoon.)
On the other hand, the Xi Jinping Nervousness Paranoia Index – which is buoyant even at the calmest of times – must be leaping up and testing new highs. As everyone knows (because they keep telling each other) Xi needs to be/appear confidently in control of a positive and harmonious situation as next month’s Communist Party Congress approaches. Note how Beijing rushed a neat face-saving conclusion to the recent Doklam standoff against India rather than turning up the Righteous Revanchist Panda-Petulance.
It’s one thing for Xi to neutralize or crush all his rivals and detractors, and proclaim himself Chairman for Life. It’s another for him/China to worm out of the contradictions of the duplicitous/opportunistic relationships with North Korea and the US. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. (He seems to have nine lives, so he’ll no doubt emerge intact.)
Neighbourhood update: A rare mid-evening Sunday stroll reveals a very different side to the usual weekday daylight local backstreets. Cheap garish (red) electric signs outside little ground-level businesses (curtains in the doorways?!) dominate the gloom. I’m sure this peculiar foot-massage thing is 100% above-board and wholesome. But if you want Sleazy Bangkok Ambiance for a photo-shoot, just down from genteel Robinson Road is the place to come (or something)…