Let’s get this out of the way first…
Seen on FB, and called Hong Kong’s best news photo of 2023… Chinese tourists on Canton Rd, TST.
Do not click – or look at the ‘magic moment’ photo too carefully – if you’re eating. Only another 29,998 of these people on the way.
(Reminder of the ‘beautiful painting’ photo of Manchester, England.)
In an SCMP op-ed, former government minister (and erstwhile pro-democrat) Anthony Cheung bemoans the decline of Hong Kong’s reputation…
[Hong Kong] should ask what makes it special and why people should visit or work here. The ultimate attraction should be the Hong Kong experience: as a city of possibilities, intellectual space and exceptionalism, and a destination not to be missed.
Hong Kong should value its legacy and continue to display its vibrant streetscape, multicultural community, free space and inclusiveness. It should look for its novel elements and highlight or develop them.
Hong Kong has an image problem. Because of recent political upheavals and the national security law, there is a perception that the city is under a tighter political grip and becoming less pluralistic. Some foreigners wonder if Hong Kong is still as free a city and market as before.
Upbeat messages from the government are not enough. Many countries, including those which jeer at developments in Hong Kong, have national security laws too, but they do not let such laws cast a shadow over every facet of daily life. Hong Kong can do better than them.
He focuses on inbound tourism as a measure of success – maybe because he genuinely wants more tourists here, or perhaps because it’s a ‘safe’ topic. The changes that he (cautiously) suggests put tourists off are pretty much the same things that have driven local residents to leave. So this is another muted appeal from a despairing moderate for authorities to let go of the incessant NatSec thing. Or, as he delicately puts it, the ‘perception’.
Meanwhile: Lee Cheuk-yan’s sister-in-law Marilyn Tang is charged with perverting the course of justice.
Some mid-week links…
Asia Nikkei on layoffs among international law firms in Hong Kong…
“During the [global financial crises], starting around May 2009 deal flow came back very strong in Hong Kong, and associates there were billing very high hours through 2010, due to global hiring freezes causing significant understaffing,” said Evan Jowers, co-founder of legal recruitment company Jowers Vargas. He described the situation as “totally different” today. “Deal flow is starting to improve in the West, but in Hong Kong the big law industry is in a continued deal flow crisis and without yet any signs of light at the end of the tunnel.”
Foreign Affairs on the ‘illusory success of state capitalism’ in China…
This contrast between the Chinese and U.S. systems, and their disparate performances, led to questions regarding the effectiveness of the Western model of free markets and liberal democracy. Perhaps, as some observers have argued—including, most recently, the economist Keyu Jin—the Chinese economic miracle could be evidence of an alternative playbook to that which enabled the West’s success. China has risen, in this view, thanks to the power of statism and the wisdom of Confucianism craftily combined with the efficiency of the private sector. As China’s growth rate consistently averaged nine percent a year, the basic ingredients in standard economics came into doubt. Perhaps market finance, the rule of law, and property rights were unnecessary and, from the perspective of Chinese culture, undesirable and counterproductive contrivances.
These arguments have become less credible lately, as Chinese growth slows and capital flees in search of overseas havens.
Another visual from Twitter – the number of births in China per year falling from over 18 million to less than 10 million a year in 2016-22.
BBC report on a Belt and Road project in Cambodia…
The Dara Sakor project dates back to early 2008, when UDG, a private Chinese construction company based in the northern city of Tianjin, secured a 99-year lease – the maximum term allowed under Cambodian law – with a single deposit of $1m. This was for the right to develop 36,000 hectares initially, with 9,000 more added later.
UDG was required to pay nothing more for 10 years, and after that only a paltry $1m a year – a breathtakingly generous arrangement for control of one-fifth of Cambodia’s entire coastline.
As the land was inside the Botum Sakor national park, and greatly exceeded the legal limit of 10,000 hectares for any one project, it would have been very controversial – had anyone else known about it.
And RIP David McCallum. What’s the link between The Man from UNCLE and Absolutely Fabulous? This very creepy low-budget sci-fi thing called Sapphire and Steel, with Joanna Lumley.