Are we admitting that large-scale emigration is a worry now? A classic bureaucratic hairball-policy: let’s try to prop up the property market while reversing the brain drain, all at once. How many overseas ‘talents’ hearing that extra stamp duty on an apartment purchase will eventually be reimbursed will say ‘Yes! Packing my bags right now!’
Fingers crossed that the Mainland officials don’t notice: Hong Kong takes another giant leap towards normality by allowing live music in bars again, subject to regular Covid tests by performers and other measures to make it as complicated as possible. The authorities might even allow outdoor gatherings of up to 12 people. (Are our oh-so scientific advisors going to stop being neurotic about barbecue pits? Or is reopening them still the ultimate unthinkable risk. Did one of the health experts have a nasty childhood experience with a charred chicken wing?)
A protester unfurls a banner in Beijing criticizing anti-Covid controls and the government. Censors reportedly respond by banning the word ‘Beijing’ on social media. Hilarious propaganda guy insists ‘there is nothing to see here with this thing that isn’t happening, please look in the other direction’.
Some weekend reading…
Foreign Policy asks why dictatorships can’t do ‘soft power’.
Despite the vast resources these authoritarian trendsetters have poured into media, education, technology, and entertainment, public opinion surveys suggest that they are largely failing to generate soft power: the ability to get people to view a country positively and obtain preferred outcomes by attraction rather than coercion. Scholarly research and journalistic investigation is struggling to explain this disconnect.
Successful ‘soft power’ is mostly non-state-driven – popular culture, awareness of heritage, lifestyle, tech – rising from vibrant civil societies and private enterprise. By definition, it can’t exist (much) if the government controls everything. Also, dictatorships are just uncool, if not obnoxious.
Instead, authoritarian states are reduced to public diplomacy by ranting and co-opting clapped-out and self-serving elites.
CNN on China’s future under Xi Jinping…
As Xi ages, and further tightens his grip, his circle of friends and advisors will inevitably shrink, as will his ability to process new information and new ideas.
We’ve already seen this in the Xi administration’s decision to blindly follow its “zero-Covid” policy, despite overwhelming evidence that it is now counter-productive. Will this sort of inability to correct course become the norm?
In this situation, it’s not out of the question to foresee a period of slow but steady decline setting in, with the leadership around Xi unwilling to engage in economic reforms or allow the sort of freewheeling intellectual life that in previous decades had allowed China to flourish.
China Media Project on the ‘dualism of Xi Jinping’s status’ ahead of the 20th CCP national congress…
On the one hand, there is the “core status” (核心地位) of Xi as general secretary. On the other, there is the “leading status” (指导地位) of his ideas. This is a balance that Party propagandists have signaled repeatedly in recent months through the so-called “Two Establishes,” a phrase that emerged at the Sixth Plenum in November 2021, along with a resolution on CCP history that put Xi solidly at the center.
A (long) Asia Society Policy Institute analysis of China’s forthcoming leadership reshuffle. Seriously hardcore tea-leaf readers might like the latest CCP Watch.
Hong Kong History Project on the boom in Hong Kong history online. Lots of links.
In The Wire China, Orville Schell looks back at 60 years of visiting Taiwan, including an invitation to tea with Chiang Kai-shek at the (take a deep breath) Republic of China’s Anti-Communist Regain the Mainland International Kuomintang Save the Country Youth League.
Taiwan’s soft power has come a long way.
My personal conspiracy theory is that the reason the barbecue pits are still closed is that they’re popular with domestic helpers. The sight of the serfs enjoying themselves on a Sunday would potentially remind the regular wage slaves of how miserable their own lives are under ‘patriotic rule’, thus undermining social harmony.
The lock down on govt run bbqs is more than likely part of the grand plan to cover every sq.mt of agriculture land with cement.
While the govt pits are closed, dozens of applications to develop bbq/camp sites on farm land have been approved, and supported by various govt depts, on the justification that ………………………….. they meet the recreational needs of the community!
So ‘patriotic’ NT land owners and officials instead of responding to President Xi’s decree that China become self sufficient in food production are jumping onto the latest trash the land scheme having milked dry the hobby farm, animal boarding establishment and solar panel farm options.
@ Tamey Tame
Good point – but bbq pits are also very popular with…
…young people & students
It may be impertinent to ask, but what exactly is ‘National Security’?
I can quite see why any nation would put resources into such real issues as shared intel, weaponry in the hands of capable personnel, freshwater access, energy supply, cyber-attack prevention and a host of other concerns that are dealt with, one hopes, by silent experts.
But why does Hong Kong need to plaster the city with posters with this shibboleth, mention it in every government communique, teach it as a curriculum priority, have a special arm of the police to enforce it? It, ‘National Security’.
Perhaps our Chief Exec could address exactly what ‘it’ is in his upcoming policy address. Without falling back on vaguaries like ‘foreign forces’ (copyright CY Leung).
@Old Mind Doctor -Because they are simply wa&*ker$
“ Successful ‘soft power’ is mostly non-state-driven – popular culture, awareness of heritage, lifestyle, tech – rising from vibrant civil societies and private enterprise. By definition, it can’t exist (much) if the government controls everything. Also, dictatorships are just uncool, if not obnoxious.”
I largely agree. However Three Body Problem trilogy and Tik Tok have been fairly successful soft power plays though they came from private / quasi private sources very much like soft power from pluralistic states.
In the case of Three Body, it did a very good job of pushing the Stare narrative wrapped around a compelling story. By the time you realise it, you are already pot committed and want to finish the story.
It’s a great sci-fi read that compares very favourably to western sci-fi but it also has misogyny and has an narrative that suggests feminising men puts the human race at risk. Also suggests women aren’t tough enough to follow through. Also all sides do genocide, it’s normal part of war. Democracy is bad and we need a powerful State and powerful masculine men when there is an existential threat.
It shares many themes of official state propaganda but presents them in an entertaining fashion that only someone from the semi-private sector of China could accomplish and is creative enough to work around the restrictions placed on art in a one party state.
Tik Tok is the other big one. It’s infected the minds of western youth and all data is sent back to bytedance in Beijing. It’s quasi private sector or maybe pseudo private sector. It has the nimbleness of a private company that also a hidden State guided agenda as well that serves the needs of the Party.
Most of the other soft power plays china does especially from their state media is extremely awkward and ham fisted. But something like Tik Tok almost makes up for it as long as it doesn’t become as hated as Facebook. The western youth who are in love with communism anyway don’t care the app calls Beijing.
Tik Tok also offers unsecured lines of credit to advertisers and without a personal guarantor. I do consulting for several businesses that run ads with Tik Tok.
“ My personal conspiracy theory is that the reason the barbecue pits are still closed is that they’re popular with domestic helpers. The sight of the serfs enjoying themselves on a Sunday would potentially remind the regular wage slaves of how miserable their own lives are under ‘patriotic rule’, thus undermining social harmony.”
I’m subscribing to your conspiracy theory. That sounds like something a bunch of cretinous bureaucrats would do. That love picking on helpers.
Love your play on Tammy’s name. She is such a total brainless moron.
“ But why does Hong Kong need to plaster the city with posters with this shibboleth, mention it in every government communique, teach it as a curriculum priority, have a special arm of the police to enforce it? It, ‘National Security’.”
Because they are insecure sacks of shit who know they are hated by the people.
12 in a gathering? how many can you cram into an MTR carriage? 1,000?
Lo the HKU Senate diver really has no idea. A good brown nose tho.
@ Allan Bacon But you can’t eat on the MTR
12 is max for nose bag ingestion gatherings.