Focus on China and Hong Kong

Photo by Pasu Au Yeung, Creative Commons
Hong Kong came to a halt this week as hundreds of thousands of protesters jammed the streets to protest China’s move to control democratic elections. Social unrest threatens China’s economic plans, writes Damian Tobin — but the protest is unlikely to deter Beijing’s crackdown on democratic freedoms, predicts Jonathan Manthorpe. Photo by Pasu Au Yeung, Creative Commons

Here are some of the stories on F&O that provide some clarity on the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong:


Beijing will outwait Hong Kong’s Protesters, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)


Tens of thousands of Hongkongers took advantage of today’s Chinese national holiday to join students who have clogged the city’s streets for four days demanding Beijing deliver on its promise to give the territory democratic autonomy. But the numbers do not look large enough to prompt Beijing to rethink its decision to keep control of the process by which the head of Hong Kong’s government, the Chief Executive, is chosen. The likelihood now is that the authorities will stand back, watch the protests run out of steam and wither of their own accord.

Hong Kong’s storms threaten China’s Economy, By Damian Tobin

The pro-democracy protesters in the streets of Hong Kong, once again confront Beijing with the age-old conundrum of how to balance authoritarian control and the demands of a complex modern society. For Beijing, this conundrum is particularly acute as the Communist Party has long lacked the ability to mobilise popular opinion after the discrediting of the mass, populist campaigns of the Maoist era. For Hong Kong, the conundrum offers another insight into the failure of its legislative council to adequately respond to pressing social issues and emerging threats to Hong Kong’s role as a gateway to China — and  how to maintain its reputation for business and financial probity and deal with the consequential domestic wealth inequality.


Beijing reneges on Hong Kong freedom guarantee, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

The Chinese government has confirmed what everyone has known for a long time: it was lying when it signed a treaty guaranteeing Hong Kong substantial autonomy, speedy progress to democracy and protection of the rule of law. Protesters took to the streets in Hong Kong today and burned copies of a “white paper” Beijing issued on Tuesday reminding the territory’s seven million people that their institutions will only be on a loose leash so long as they are “patriotic.”  There are profound implications in Chinese government’s publication of its position that “the high degree of autonomy of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is not an inherent power.”


Photo by Leung Ching Yau Alex, Creative Commons
Photo by Leung Ching Yau Alex, Creative Commons

 Can Disneyfication save a Chinese City’s Poetic Soul? By Michael Silk and Andrew Manley

Chinese cities are often contradictory bricolages of old and new. They wrestle with extraordinarily rapid rates of economic growth, concentrated urbanisation, the growth of a burgeoning middle class as well as extreme social, political and economic disparities. Award-winning Suzhou has not escaped the extraordinary rates of urban growth of other Chinese cities, and the traffic congestion and internationalisation that comes along with it. Yet, unlike other Chinese cities, administrators are seeking to preserve its poetic soul. 

China manufactures islands to back its sovereignty claims, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

Not content with stealing other people’s territory, the Beijing government is now manufacturing islands to boost its insubstantial claim to ownership of the South China Sea. The Philippines government has released aerial photographs of Chinese dredgers and construction teams pulling up millions of tonnes of sand and rock from the ocean floor to create islands on Johnson South Reef, which is claimed by the Manila government.

China accepts tribute from its vassal, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

The air in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People was heavy with the pungent smell of irony this week as China’s President Xi Jinping greeted his visiting Zimbabwean counterpart, Robert Mugabe, as an old comrade in the struggle against “imperialism, colonialism and hegemony.” For Mugabe had come to Beijing to give his south-east African country of 13 million people to China, if not as a colonial possession, at least as a vassal state.

China’s Xi launches his own Cultural Revolution, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

Xi Jinping is not content with being the most powerful leader of China since Mao Zedong. He also wants to play God. Xi’s ruling Communist Party announced last week it will write its own version of “Chinese Christian theology” to ensure adherents abide by the country’s party-imposed political culture. The attempt to take control of religion in China is part of a broad campaign by Xi to establish “cultural security.” The aim is to outlaw and control all foreign influences that might undermine the communists’ one-party rule.

BRICS Bank a Game Changer. By Ali Burak Güven, The Conversation

The top news from this year’s BRICS summit was the announcement of a New Development Bank. Headquartered in Shanghai, the bank will become operational in 2016 with an initial capital of US$50 billion. Its core mandate is to finance infrastructure projects in the developing world.

Weibo IPO Reveals a Company Struggling With Censorship. By ProPublica staff.

Weibo, “China’s Twitter,” has begun offering shares on one of America’s free market stock exchanges. But unlike in the United States, where freedom of expression is protected, in China social media companies rely on censorship for their business model. Weibo’s regulatory disclosures reveal a company’s balancing act between censoring too much and too little.


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