Tag Archives: Umbrella Revolution

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.

 

You’ll find lots of great free stories inside our site, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising, and reader payments are essential for us to continue our work. Journalism has value. We need and appreciate your support (a day pass is $1 and a monthly subscription is less than a cup of coffee).  If you’d like to give us a try before throwing pennies our way, drop me a note at Editor@factsandopinions.com, and I will email you a complimentary day pass. — Deborah Jones

Posted in Current Affairs Also tagged , , |

Hong Kong’s storms threaten China’s Economy

Photo by Leung Ching Yau Alex, Creative Commons

Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution confronts Beijing with the age-old conundrum of how to balance authoritarian control and the demands of a complex modern society, writes Damian Tobin. Photo by Leung Ching Yau Alex, Creative Commons

By Damian Tobin, SOAS, University of London
October 1, 2014

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.

Recent developments including Alibaba’s decision to launch its IPO in New York, uncertainty over the direction of political reforms and the emergence of new financial centres on the Chinese mainland have all cast doubt over Hong Kong’s future as a business and financial gateway to mainland China. On the surface these events might appear to signal the end of Hong Kong’s special advantage as a gateway to China.

But despite this, its role as a globalising force for Chinese business and financial sectors has remained. Financial stability in the Special Administrative Region (SAR) remains a non-negotiable concept. Hong Kong successfully weathered one of the world’s worst financial crises and offers an interesting model for mainland China in addressing its own fragile and dysfunctional financial sector.

And, as we have seen this week, the social challenges now facing Hong Kong which politicians have failed to address, including the widespread inequalities of wealth, provide a powerful forewarning to the mainland on the dangers such issues pose.

Threats to Hong Kong’s position are not new. During the Cold War era it was assumed that PRC’s intervention in the Korean War would spell an end of Hong Kong’s entrepôt status. The subsequent embargo on US dollar transactions, which only ended in 1972, threatened Hong Kong’s free market, especially its involvement in the sterling trade.

A succession of banking crises during the 1960s and the revelation of high levels of official corruption threatened its reputation as a financial centre. The relocation of HSBC to London in advance of the 1997 handover, despite the reassurances of Deng Xiaoping, also threatened to derail Hong Kong’s post-1997 future as a financial centre.

Yet Hong Kong has proved remarkably resilient in responding to these challenges. After the US embargo, Hong Kong’s free market emerged as one of the PRC’s only points of safe access to international markets. The public backlash against official corruption witnessed changes that saw Hong Kong emerge as a model of clean governance and business integrity in the region.

During the 1970s, PRC banks in Hong Kong provided the first tentative efforts at promoting the Renminbi as currency of trade settlement, following the collapse of Bretton Woods. Since 1993 Hong Kong has been the destination of choice for the IPOs of some of China’s largest business and banks, including the IPO Agricultural Bank of China in 2010, which represented the world’s largest bank IPO.

Against this, the development of free trade zones and financial centres in neighbouring Qianhai and in Shanghai has to date been disappointing. And while Guangdong’s GDP surpassed that of Hong Kong in 2003, this has not witnessed financial centres such as Qianhai moving up to displace Hong Kong.

History indicates that the success of major financial centres such as London and New York was due to quality and liquidity. The slow pace of development in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone succinctly illustrate the both the caution of Chinese financial reforms and the time it will take to achieve full capital account convertibility, allowing capital to move freely in and out of mainland China.

It is no accident that Hong Kong has provided the institutional interface for the internationalisation of the Renminbi. For these reasons, it is unsurprising that the Chinese leadership continue to view Hong Kong as vital to the development and prosperity of southern China and for advancing the country’s financial reforms.

Perhaps more importantly, Hong Kong offers the mainland an alternative governance model to that of the Anglo-Saxon world. When it came to banking, Hong Kong did not play the Anglo-Saxon game, thus avoiding the worst excesses of the Anglo-Saxon model. This offers the Chinese leadership a powerful example of the value of strong prudential controls over bank behaviour.

Similarly, allowing state enterprises to list shares on Hong Kong’s stock exchange has exposed these enterprises to international governance standards without relinquishing control. A recently announced pilot programme to connect the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchange offers an incremental and controlled way of reforming the Mainland’s capital markets.

But Hong Kong’s development also offers cautionary lessons on the political and social dangers of tolerating widespread poverty alongside high levels of affluence. Hong Kong’s reluctance to address these issues and its apparent obsession with fiscal austerity despite having ample fiscal resources appears at odds with rising social expenditures and concern with for these issues on the mainland.

Beijing’s role in the selection of political candidates may be the focus for now, but for Hong Kong a more pressing concern is how to maintain its reputation for business and financial probity and deal with the consequential domestic wealth inequality.

Creative CommonsThe Conversation

Damian Tobin, Lecturer in Chinese Business and Management at SOAS, University of London, does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Images of the Umbrella Revolution

Leung Ching:Yau Alex.jpgPhoto by Ansel Ma.jpgPhoto by Leung Ching Yau Alex.jpgPhoto by Mario Madrona.jpgPhoto by Roger Price.jpgUmbrella Revolution. Photo by Chet Wong.jpg

Photos by Mario Madrona (Dreamer); Ansel Ma (Cry Harder); Chet Wong (Ladder); Leung Ching Yau Alex (Hands up), Creative Commons

Facts and Opinions is a boutique for select journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? We appreciate, and rely on, your interest and support:  for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1. A subscription is required for most F&O original work. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in the form on the right of this page. We won’t share your address. You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

Posted in Also tagged , |

Clouds over Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution. Photo by Pasu Au Yeung, Creative Commons

Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution. Photo by Pasu Au Yeung, Creative Commons

Beijing has balked at loosing the virus of democracy that could sweep, ebola-like, from Hong Kong across the country and herald the end of the one-party state, writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe. He argues there is little hope that protests in Hong Kong will force Beijing to compromise, after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress announced in late August that Hongkongers in 2017 can freely elect their Chief Executive — but only after Beijing has selected candidates of unimpeachable loyalty. An excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column, Beijing will outwait Hong Kong’s Protesters (paywall*):

 Photo by Chet Wong

Photo by Chet Wong

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. If the protesters do get re-energized, the authorities may well feel the bulk of Hong Kong’s citizens will accept police action to clear the streets, so long as it does not involve riot squads, tear gas and pepper spray used against the protesters last weekend.

For Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, a serious review of its objectives, strategy and tactics is clearly necessary if it has any hope of achieving its objectives. There has already been fracturing of the movement and more rifts are likely. This carries the danger of militant factions emerging. Until now the demonstrations in favour of political reform in Hong Kong have been almost universally peaceful and even astonishingly courteous, with demonstrators clearing up their own litter before going home.

But frustration with Beijing’s obdurate refusal to acknowledge the aspirations of its citizens may lead some to turn to violence … log in first to read Beijing will outwait Hong Kong’s Protesters (paywall*).

Click here for Jonathan Manthorpe’s columnist page or here to subscribe or purchase a $1 site day pass.

*You’ll find lots of great free stories inside our site, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising, and reader payments are essential for us to continue our work. Journalism to has value, and we need and appreciate your support (a day pass is $1 and a monthly subscription is less than a cup of coffee).  If you’d like to give us a try before throwing pennies our way, drop me a note at Editor@factsandopinions.com, and I will email you a complimentary day pass. — Deborah Jones

Posted in Current Affairs Also tagged , , , |