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.
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.