Politics or economics?

Is Hong Kong’s unrest driven by ‘economic’ or ‘political’ discontent in the city? Here’s a good discussion of the arguments.

To the CCP, of course, everything is political. Beijing’s preferred analysis is that the unrest is due to evil foreign forces and an insufficiently patriotic education system. But Mainland officials allow that material inequality plays a role and the government should pay attention to ‘livelihood’ issues. The recent Budget, with a huge boost for the police plus handouts to ordinary citizens, reflects this.

To the local business-bureaucracy establishment, it is comforting to blame factors like low incomes and housing. The government can in theory alleviate these problems without overly disrupting the overall cronyistic system. And tycoons are nervous that if Beijing sees the local power structure as part of the problem, it will further centralize control and sideline them from it.

Many international observers also assume livelihood issues must be a key factor. After all, Hong Kong’s economic distortions, and things like housing unaffordability, are in a league of their own in the developed world. How could this not push the populace to protest?

To pan-dems, it is insulting to suggest that Hong Kong people just want money when the fight is for freedom, rights and universal suffrage (and, they could add, the backbone of the movement is largely middle-class).

Economic policy and politics largely overlap anyway. The real question is whether the Hong Kong public can be bought off with better material conditions, or will only structural reform resolve the reasons for the anger?

For an answer, we can trace the development of Hong Kong’s broad-based discontent over the last couple of decades.

After 1997, Beijing installed local administrations that hugely favoured tycoon interests, hence housing prices and rents, low health-care funding, poor welfare, white-elephant infrastructure projects and an unmanageable influx of Mainland ‘tourists’. This made people increasingly angry, and bolstered support for the pro-dem camp and for democracy.

Beijing interpreted this rising opposition as a challenge to the CCP’s right to rule, and so stepped up the Mainlandization that diminishes rule of law, freedoms and local identity. This goes back to Article 23 in 2003, but gathered pace with National Education and the 2014 political non-reform. All these proposed measures provoked a popular backlash based on values. We are now in a cycle of repression and resistance: the Umbrella Movement, disqualification of pan-dem politicians, the extradition bill, the 2019 Uprising, and now a semi-police-state type of clampdown, with intimidation, the arrest of Jimmy Lai, mass arrests, and the coming chop for RTHK.

To put it simply: what started as the Hong Kong public’s discontent with a crony-serving local government has now become an open conflict between Hong Kong and the CCP. If Beijing had ordered its appointed mediocrities to fix housing and welfare 15 or 20 years ago, things might have been different. But it’s too late now.

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10 Responses to Politics or economics?

  1. Reactor #4 says:

    “……and now a semi-police-state type of clampdown”.

    I have visited several semi- and full-fat police states, and I can tell you that Hong Kong, as of 5 March 2020, is not one of them. The key thing with a police state is that you are pleased when the wheels on the plane you are on leave the ground during the departure take-off.

  2. Boris Badanov says:

    Just be done with it call them the Xiang Gang Shi Gong An Ju and give them nice Mainland uniforms

  3. You can’t separate the politics from the economics. Prople’s economic concerns are not being addressed because the current system gives us an unrepresentative government unable or unwilling to respond to them. Fix the politics, and the economic fix will follow.

  4. Stanley Lieber says:

    In my opinion, the pro-dems believe Hong Kong’s problems are 80% political and 20% economic, and the government thinks the problems are 80% economic and 20% political.

  5. Stephen says:

    You have to hand it to the new mainland (knuckle draggers) officials who are doubtless overseeing policies. They are thinking this through and all to make sure the Legislative Council is correctly formatted after September’s elections. Of course if opinion polls are not looking favourable expect a corona virus delay !

    We’ll give everyone $1ok as long as you pass a budget which contains an obcene rise in Police expenditure meaning you’ll never protest again. Next we’ll have the tycoons donating masks (surgical not Fawkes) to the masses. Naturally one or two of candidates will not be allowed to stand and there will be no Jimmy Lai handouts. I also suspect the wretched Carrie Lam will go at the appropriate time just to increase the feel good mood.

    Now what if it doesn’t work ?

  6. Hong Kong Hibernian says:

    Perhaps we’ll soon see the liaison office sponsor some ‘Communists Are Actually Really Cool and Friendly’ competitions such as the one seen in Uzbekistan. The Chinese Embassy in Tashkent is sponsoring a kid’s drawing contest on the theme “One Belt, One Road in My Heart”. One can almost feel the soothing balm…


    BTW, the word is that once RTHK gets the can, the EdB will start doing background checks on NETs working in local schools, and may even consider drug tests!

  7. William Wordsmith says:

    For the enlightenment of the white wumao who calls himself rectum#4:

    Definition of police state
    : a political unit characterized by repressive governmental control of political, economic, and social life usually by an arbitrary exercise of power by police and especially secret police in place of regular operation of administrative and judicial organs of the government according to publicly known legal procedures.


    Ringing any bells in that slavish, dimwit head?

  8. Poorer! Poorer! Poorer! governance says:

    @Stanley Lieber
    In my opinion, the pro-dems believe Hong Kong’s problems are 80% political and 20% economic, and the “government” thinks the problems are not their concern, as Hong Kongers are neither their constituents nor their bosses.

    I don’t think it’ll work — for 20 years the politburo had a perfect populace where 80% didn’t give a stuff about politics, but they took the piss once too often, and now pretty much the whole population is wide awake and paying attention. I now hear people discussing politics and policing in the office, where once it was only food, phones, watches and holidays.

    The pro “government” remnants run to about 10-20% and are obviously mostly special interests (Heung Yee Crooks; “indigenous” firstborn; DAB special needs people and others with their snouts in the trough; the very rich “establishment” who are so out of touch they think they’re still living in “the good old days”, Police who like weapons and hitting people, and niche fetishists who like to masturbate to a bit of “putting the stick about” like [insert childhood tormentor] used to do) and a few dimwits who are so uninterested that they still believe the government “knows best”. They’re mostly pretty old too, so that demographic doesn’t bode well for the future.

    Isoroku Yamamoto said it best: “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

  9. Stanley Lieber says:

    @Poorer! Poorer! Poorer!

    Very apt and you said it better than I did.

  10. Guest says:

    @Private Beach: agreed. I’ll add that fixing the economics can fix the politics, too.

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