‘Integration’ = absorption = neutering

Following the Emperor-for-Life’s recent visit to Shenzhen, lots of scary-sounding stuff about how Xi Jinping is favouring the Special Hub-Zone over Hong Kong, Shenzhen is ahead, blah blah. 

After SARS in the mid-2000s, Hong Kong officials tried to divert attention away from ‘politics’ (ie bad governance) by launching a contrived campaign of alarmism about the city’s supposedly declining competitiveness vis-a-vis Shenzhen and Shanghai. Skeptics replied that the whole purpose of Hong Kong since the 1840s has been to serve as a location where you can do things you cannot do on the Mainland. There is no point in Hong Kong trying to rival Mainland cities at their own game.

Since the CCP can’t tolerate a free press, independent judiciary and free flow of capital on the other side of the border, Hong Kong’s distinct advantages and roles should be secure. The Leninist system that keeps the party in power in the Mainland also prevents the Mainland economy from evolving to compete with Hong Kong (or surpassing middle-income status generally). Without serious institutional reforms that weaken CCP control, a Mainland city can’t ‘overtake’ Hong Kong, regardless of the size of its GDP or its tech industry.

But of course you can reverse the process by tightening CCP control in Hong Kong – weakening independent institutions – and bring the city down to the Mainland’s level. 

Officials (and many commentators) frame this discussion around visionary economic Bay Area-type plans – hence official denials that Beijing is engineering the sidelining of Hong Kong. However, it is not about economics. Whatever sidelining now happens will be a side-effect of the real project: to eliminate Hong Kong as a political threat to the CCP. 

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12 Responses to ‘Integration’ = absorption = neutering

  1. YTSL says:

    We know why the CCP is doing what it’s doing to Hong Kong. But what’s behind the Hong Kong quislings, including tycoons, effectively collaborating their home city’s demise? Are they *all* being blackmailed somehow or are many of them really so very stupid in not seeing what’s really happening/being down to Hong Kong?

  2. Chinese Netizen says:

    “Since the CCP can’t tolerate a free press, independent judiciary and free flow of capital on the other side of the border, Hong Kong’s distinct advantages and roles should be secure.”

    Well, one out of three now ain’t bad, I guess.

  3. Reactor #4 says:

    As a long-term resident who has no intention of leaving, I can see a huge number of benefits in HK becoming irrelevant. I also note that most of the stated positives that are associated with the city’s uniqueness also come with many negative ones. First, if Shenzhen takes over, perhaps the Government and its cement launderers will stop building/installing unwanted infra-structure (from super-bridges, down to pavement railings). Second, there will be far fewer business and tourist visitors. Third, and perhaps most importantly, there should be a massive reduction in the number of mouthy pilots making asses of themselves in bars. If we do ever get democracy, I’ll vote for a candidate/party who is keen to “Make HK Irrelevant!”

  4. where's my jet plane says:

    “We have to destroy the city to save the Party”

  5. Mark Bradley says:

    Rectum #4: piss off.

  6. Why wear a helmet? says:

    “… and bring the city down to the Mainland’s level.”

    As the HK construction industry demonstrates. Large mainland SOEs form JVs with local HK companies. The former have the cash and the latter have the licenses to operate. Government departments such as CEDD and Highways apparently operate on a ‘lowest price wins’ basis so, if you want to win, simply don’t bother budgeting for certain contractual items that add to your bid price (quite often safety-related). Since the big local and foreign companies need to compete and price is the key factor, they must reduce their standards or die on the vine. As ever, more pressure on subcontractors, worse conditions for construction workers and cock up after cock up with appalling cost overruns. And all hungrily overseen by the big consulting practices (Arup, AECOM, Mott McDonald etc.) who rarely seem to get pulled up after helping to orchestrate these shit shows. And this is just a microcosm of what’s happening to HK in its entirety.

  7. Goatboy says:

    I remember a comment of yours from many years ago, in the midst of all the “HK losing to SH” nonsense. You argued that when girls from HK go to Shanghai to work as prostitutes, then we should worry.
    Still hasn’t happened, as far as I’m aware…

  8. Toph says:

    YSTL – the majority of the tycoons’ investments are on the Mainland, so even if they are fully conscious of their complicity in shoving Hong Kong down the tubes, they’re not going to jeopardize their precious real estate up north. The major exception being Li Ka Shing who saw the writing on the wall years ago and diversified his portfolio. It’s been very odd to see the protesters treating the wily old bastard like he’s one of the good guys.

  9. Red Dragon says:

    Uncle Tom #4

    Glad to hear that you have no intention of leaving Hong Kong.

    You can’t imagine how happy this news will make people elsewhere in the world, many of whom have long feared that you might, like Carrie Lam, move in next door.

    Of course, it’s perfectly logical of you to want Hong Kong to become irrelevant; after all, irrelevant people are more likely than not to flourish in irrelevant places.

    You’re clearly an adaptable sort of cove, and, as far as I can tell, you’re more than content to fit in with the exciting “new way of doing things” gifted to you by the resolute satraps of the glorious motherland.

    Good luck with that, matey. But I do have a nagging suspicion that when (and not if) your new overlords start gnawing away at the legs of the stool of privilege upon which you park your well upholstered expat bum, you’ll be amongst the first to make a dash for the exit.

    Damn! Now that’s a bleak thought. You might move in next door after all.

  10. Joe Blow says:

    @Goatboy: so true. Walk into Lan Kwai Fong, or whatever is left of it, and all the hookers are from the Mainland.

  11. Ho Ma Fan says:

    @Why wear a helmet? as someone else who has experience in dealing with the likes of AECOM, Arup, Mott MacDonald etc. your theory is interesting, but doesn’t hold water as far as I’m concerned. The big consultants have seen their margins progressively squeezed over the years, especially after 2007/8 financial crash, and never to return to previous levels. As a consequence all, bar none, operate a sausage machine approach with inexperienced grads and offshore back office support to provide deliverables, and often accept running projects at cost. Naturally, quality suffers. The “low hanging fruit” is now the Supervising Officer type role where budgets are often higher than those of the designers they are checking, with seemingly little risk!

  12. Why wear a helmet? says:

    @Ho Ma Fan – I couldn’t agree more with your assessment. My point is that these organizations are supposed to be fulfilling an important QA/QC role on behalf of their client (often the government) but seem to fail to do this at some very important levels. I know several people who have worked for these organizations and they were very depressed folks indeed.

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