Shenzhen gets the King Cnut treatment

The whole of Shenzhen – population over double Hong Kong’s – locks down in an attempt to eliminate China’s omicron outbreak of over 3,000 cases. This is what the authorities were planning for Hong Kong, with all non-essential workers sent home, public transport shut down, and the whole population subjected to three rounds of testing. 

Folks over there take the opportunity to hate Hong Kong, apparently for spreading Covid to them. Does that make sense? It seems to have been Mainlanders in Hong Kong who have been sneaking over the border and bringing the disease back home. Who cares? (A constructive response to them here.)

As an SEZ launched in the late 70s, Shenzhen was the testbed for allowing economic sanity from Hong Kong into China. Maybe the Mainland will learn how to abandon zero-Covid and adopt a more pragmatic approach through the same route. Does omicron give even the proudest all-powerful leaders a choice?

Regina Ip continues her not-very-subtle campaign to be seen as Chief Executive material by helping to deflect responsibility for Hong Kong’s recent Covid mess away from Beijing. The pan-democrats are in jail, and she must officially support Carrie Lam’s hapless administration – so she picks on the civil service. 

This is unfair. Without ideological and political interference, the local health and other bureaucracies would almost certainly have pursued a more expert-driven policy on Covid – if only to cover their backsides and reduce their workloads. 

Even a quarter of a century after the handover, we still hear some milder apologists for the government claim that Hong Kong suffers from a shortage of home-grown political talent. Yet many countries with even smaller populations – Iceland, New Zealand, the Baltic states, etc – can devise clever policies on Covid and many other issues. The difference is that these places have open political systems where people with the best ideas can participate in decision-making. In Hong Kong, such individuals are systematically excluded, even jailed.

However, former civil servant Reg is on to something when it comes to the enormous gap in pay and accountability between our public and private sectors, such as…

…a penchant for seeking regular salary scale reviews, in addition to the annual pay level adjustment exercise, as a means of enhancing civil service morale. Civil service unions react strongly if awards are made to any “grade” (that is, a specialized cadre of civil servants) that upset perceived relativity and balance.

These considerations continued to play out in the government’s effort to assemble a sizeable force to undertake emergency duties arising from the pandemic. The government felt obliged to pay volunteers, recruited mostly from retired civil servants, on scales benchmarked to civil service pay. That means the payments are substantial and exorbitant compared to the meager pay most Hong Kong people with midlevel management duties in the private sector get. 

On related subjects…

HKFP on why so few residents in elderly care homes got vaccinated (essentially: isolation of residents from outside contact; a peculiar anti-vax atmosphere – even among staff – within the facilities; and a lack of incentives to get vaccinated).

A Guardian/HKFP report in which hospital staff explain how Hong Kong ended up with corpses piled up in hospitals.

And a New Yorker interview with Stephen Kotkin on ‘the weakness of the despot’…

And so we think, but we don’t know, that he is not getting the full gamut of information. He’s getting what he wants to hear. In any case, he believes that he’s superior and smarter. This is the problem of despotism. It’s why despotism, or even just authoritarianism, is all-powerful and brittle at the same time. Despotism creates the circumstances of its own undermining. The information gets worse. The sycophants get greater in number. The corrective mechanisms become fewer. And the mistakes become much more consequential.

…The biggest surprise for Putin, of course, was the West. All the nonsense about how the West is decadent, the West is over, the West is in decline, how it’s a multipolar world and the rise of China, et cetera: all of that turned out to be bunk.

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9 Responses to Shenzhen gets the King Cnut treatment

  1. donkey says:

    it may be bunk that the west is in decline, but someone needs to tell the China Autobot Tweet Army, which is even at this juncture overtly racist, ignorant, angry, mean and constantly spewing information that only the most stupid would believe. Which doesn’t give me much hope for the open society of the future.

  2. Chinese Netizen says:

    A lot of New Yorker articles go just a bit beyond the common-reader-attention-span-threshold, in my opinion (and being of short attention span). However that article Q&A-ing with Kotkin was totally captivating and I managed the whole thing til the end.

  3. Chinese Netizen says:

    Donkey: Remember that even 5-10 mil of their overtly racist, ignorant, angry, mean twats is not even a drop in the bucket of unemployed, undereducated, socially retarded button pushing (mostly) males that need to be engaged in something or else social harmony may be in jeopardy. But these guys can’t even be functioning infantrymen/cannon fodder either as they’d shit in their pants, drop rifles and turn around at the first chance. What to do with them otherwise?

  4. Mark Bradley says:

    “What to do with them otherwise?”

    Shoot them in the head for abandoning their post and refusing to be cannon fodder. They can still function as cannon fodder with shit in pants.

  5. Ho Ma Fan says:

    Ha! I think that Mark Bradley wins today’s comments section.

  6. Body of clay, spoon of wood says:

    Reading the Reg ‘Ip-replacement “big idea” for the civil service, I note her concept is roundly debunked and the real problem explained by Kotkin in his interview:

    “In an authoritarian regime, that’s not what they do. They hire people who are a little bit, as they say in Russian, tupoi, not very bright. They hire them precisely because they won’t be too competent, too clever, to organize a coup against them. Putin surrounds himself with people who are maybe not the sharpest tools in the drawer on purpose.
    “That does two things. It enables him to feel more secure, through all his paranoia, that they’re not clever enough to take him down. But it also diminishes the power of the Russian state because you have a construction foreman who’s the defense minister [Sergei Shoigu], and he was feeding Putin all sorts of nonsense about what they were going to do in Ukraine. Negative selection does protect the leader, but it also undermines his regime.”

    I suppose her own dimness is not surprising, really, given she’s one of the bluntest tools in the box.
    Admittedly some sort of kudos is due to the old girl for working out that everyone hates the government after only two years of mass rioting and protest and two years of repressive backlash from the CCP. Perhaps a trophy for participation in the form of a wooden spoon?

  7. Sam Clemens says:

    Mrs. Lam’s administration is “blue” government in action. All the blue supporters, erstwhile and otherwise, are getting exactly what they deserve. Fuck ’em.

  8. Chef Wonton says:

    Amusing irony, Hong Kong is now stuck in the same deceit America faced in 2020, when the left’s game was to steal Trump’s re-election by exaggerating COVID deaths and minimising COVID infections.

    Result = every hospital and clinic coast-to-coast hunted for cadavers they could chalk up as COVID deaths, no matter if they died with COVID or because of COVID, while meanwhile minimising and discounting testing numbers coz “Orange Man Bad/not enough government delivery”

    Hong Kong 2022 has ended in the same spot. Genius.

    Every possible cadaver is declared a COVID death, o matter if they would have died anyway, meanwhile the population has been incentivised to camouflage and under-report positive COVID tests.

    Fake Numerator up, true denominator down. Result = fake high death rate.

  9. donkey says:

    Chef Wonton needs to go back to being the private driver for Ms. Ip.

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