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.