Lessons in controlling the narrative

I now definitely declare the weekend open with the rest of this week’s attention-worthy stuff…

This seems to have been the week that China lost the battle to control the narrative on how it tries to control the narrative: Politico on Beijing’s ‘ham-fisted’ attempts to influence opinion in Europe; Axios on Chinese officials’ oh-so classy demands for public praise in exchange for medical supplies; and NPR on Chinese security agencies’ hounding and silencing of volunteers following the pandemic.

One exquisite example of CCP overzealous soft power backfiring: China Daily publishes a wishy-washy letter from Euro-Weeny ambassadors, and could easily have left it at that – but censored one marginally unflattering fact, thus creating a whole new story. In a similar vein, China is so frantically opposing any sort of investigation into the virus’s origins that it is looking far more guilty (of something) than it probably ever would otherwise. 

A flashback to 1996 – old Lu-Lu spelling out Hong Kong’s future autonomy. (Note polite laughter and overall fawning from the eternal tycoon shoe-shiners gathered round the Beijing emissary.)

Michael Chugani in EJ on Beijing’s double standards when it comes to consumer activism. Why does the Yellow Economic Circle idea immensely annoy Beijing’s officials? Obviously, it hurts their business-sector supporters. But mainly because it is an expression of popular will beyond their control: the CCP can rig ballots, but not wallets.

David Webb finds the Hong Kong government misled lawmakers to include those poor starving stockbrokers in the anti-epidemic handout to local businesses.

Minxin Pei in Nikkei Asian Review on how COVID-19 upset China’s bet on Africa. Compare Beijing’s obsession with direct control of natural resources supplies with other resources-poor countries (eg Japan), which invest in their own secondary and tertiary economic sectors, and pay the going rate (which can go down as well as up) for raw materials on global markets. The difference in attitudes probably comes down to insularity and paranoia versus trust in the outside world.

Pei also gives an interesting interview on Xi Jinping’s actual power here

…having too much power can be a liability. The decision-making process can be so skewed toward complying with the wishes of this most powerful decision-maker that many of the risks and potential pitfalls are not vetted … The Belt & Road Initiative is my favorite example. From whatever angle you look at this policy, it is a dud. But you have to ask why that policy was made and implemented with such fanfare in China.

Lisa Movius in The Art Newspaper on the migration of art galleries from Central to South Island and Kowloon. (Who will occupy the empty premises along Hollywood Road – a dozen relaunched Hooters?) And lest we forget: Wallpaper’s fave trendy Hong Kong designers – including tycoons’ kids – are also suffering. Complete with pix of curated artisanal chairs.

Finally, in the local-history department: the loss of Cathay Pacific flight 700Z over South Vietnam in 1972.

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11 Responses to Lessons in controlling the narrative

  1. Cassowary says:

    Re: Chugani and double standards. We’ve passed the point where it’s useful to talk about double standards. Double standards implies a belief that you are still living in a normal society with predictable rules that have been temporarily bent out of shape.

    There are no standards anymore. It’s legal Calvinball, raw intimidation, and literal thuggery. This is where we live now.

  2. Mjrelje says:

    Such a gruesome story of CX700Z. Thanks for the link. Land of Smiles eh!

  3. dimuendo says:

    Junius Ho in the still shot from Lego today (Fri) not wearing a face mask and positioning himself as if wanting to box.

    On what basis are “security guards” allowed in the Legco chamber and on what legal basis are they allowed to manhandle elected members?

  4. donkeynuts says:

    A quite interesting story that may seem boring to some is the development of what looks like favouritism or something when it comes to putting international schools on the dole. Why did Harrow International get a subsidy that enables them to reduce tuition by 20%, but three other schools were passed up? Could it be that the former school has a lot of pro-Beijing rich families in its ranks?

  5. Stanley Lieber says:


    You query the legal basis of a pro-government action? How quaint!

  6. asiaseen says:

    @ donkeynuts
    Snobbery must play its part. Delia School of Canada or ESF, for example, does not have quite the cachet of ‘Arrer. One might also wonder if any offspring of senior administration figures (and maybe Xinhua News Agency) are in statu pupillari there.

  7. asiaseen says:

    And, of course, being a boarding school, one would assume its primary target market is over the border.

  8. Chinese Netizen says:

    “But mainly because it is an expression of popular will beyond their control: the CCP can rig ballots, but not wallets.”

    Don’t be so sure. In the current cashless craze of storing “money” on mobile phone payment apps run by kow towers, there are already many examples of establishments ONLY accepting payment in this manner. Could it come to cash slowly but eventually being more and more scarce (and when will people really begin to notice?) and a mere swipe of the phone being the NORM?

    AND…indulge me here…when this purely app based day comes, could the government merely cut with the flip of a switch, the money accepting capabilities of any business deemed “anti establishment” (Yellow)? Remembering that the guys who run the payment apps are going to be the boot lickers and grovelers that need the government more than the government needs them (unless a senior officials’ family has invested too heavily in said app company)?

  9. Cassowary says:

    FEHD, the fire department, Electrical and Mechanical Services, Buildings Department etc. will be drafted into inspecting, nitpicking and license wanking yellow businesses out of existence long before any app based shenanigans are deployed

  10. Stanley Lieber says:

    @Chinese Denizen

    Of course you’re right about the potential for mischief by the government when e-payments become the norm.

    Fortunately, Hong Kong will be one of the last places to give up on cash.

  11. dimuendo says:


    I am not too sure about that. My local 7-11 has already a very sizeable number of (trivial) transactions paid by phone,although each transaction takes considerably longer than cash (even paying by a HK$1,000 note!).

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