opiate of the mass-market

Today’s postcard is a bit of jump jump jump–from Hong Kong free traders to the rise of openly Nazi candidates in the 2018 midterm elections via a bodice-ripper or two. 

Here’s the question: Is E.J. Eitel’s Europe in Asia actually a Victorian-era pirate bromance before the fact? That’s the question that keeps bubbling up when I read his characterization of opium pushers free traders like William Jardine and James Matheson. Compare, for example, how smoothly the prologue from a popular historical romance links up with a passage from Eitel: Continue reading

first look at the belt and road

Its difficult when looking at a map of the proposed Belt and Road and not associate the maritime road with British colonialism, albeit in reverse and more than a century after the fact. But that’s what’s so distressing. When the British parliament dissolved the East India Company (EIC), it did not dismantle the systems of unjust and unjustifiable extraction that EIC had put in place over roughly four centuries of occupation, exploitation, and forced participation in the system. Instead, independence movements saw the rise of local elites who were determined to benefit from the system, justifying their profits with respect to local values and structures of oppression. In other words, it was never just the Brits, but also the Brits and their local running dogs (to use Mao Zedong’s felicitous phrase) and even after Independence, the dogs kept yapping, securing military support from the US and elsewhere (for the distressing tale of the fate of the Third World as a revolutionary ideal, check out The Darker Nations by Vijay Prashad).

The problem, of course, was that the profitability of the British system depended on opium; where would surplus profits (to fund industrialization, for example) come from without monopoly, forced labor, and addiction? Certainly, once India regained control of the Bihar plantations and China retook its ports, both countries were faced with the problem of “surpassing England and catching up with the United States” in the absence of captive markets and a drug monopoly to finance their industrial revolutions. And this may be why Europeans and US Americans fear the Belt and Road: if you’re not a running dog with Chinese characteristics, just what are your options in the new world dis/order (and yes, I’m looking at you, midwestern farmer)?

china-silk-road

Map from an early analysis of Belt and Road, eurasia review.

Continue reading

children covered in garbage

Yesterday I participated in the 蓝海生态艺术巡游 (Make Our Seas Come BLUE) parade, which was organized by CULTaMAP‘s indomitable Tracy Lee. We marched from Statue Square to the Hong Kong Maritime Museum via Victoria Harbor. The march culminated a cross-border Hong Kong-Shenzhen pedagogical collaboration to draw attention to garbage in the oceans, children’s ability to speak to issues that will shape their future possibilities, and the responsibilities of their adults to facilitate uncomfortable conversations in safe environments. Continue reading

one tradition, two villages

The entrance to Changling Village (长岭村) is located on the southern side of Luosha Road at the foot of Wutong Mountain. Before the construction of the Binhai Expressway (1999) and the opening of the East Coast Highway (2008) made traveling across Shenzhen commonplace, Changling marked the practical eastern edge of the early Special Zone. Today, however, Changling is conveniently located on the J1 bus route which connects Seaworld at the southern tip of the Nantou Peninsula to Dameisha on the eastern edge of the Dapeng Peninsula. The entire trip takes 90 minutes without traffic, but usually takes over two hours. Indeed, the J1 route traverses the entire Shenzhen-Hong Kong border, and its constituent roads—Houhai Road, Binhai Expressway, Binhe Road, Luosha Road, and Huishen Coastal Express—literally name the waterways and migrations that once shaped the area: Backwaters, Oceanside, Riverside, Luohu to Shatoujiao, Huizhou to Shenzhen. Continue reading

luohu trivia

Stumbled across a bit of Luohu trivia that suggests that cross border licentiousness has been promoted on both sides of the border as a means of generating profit. According to the Industrial History of Hong Kong Group,

The opening of the “Shum Chun Casino” in 1931, provided one of the only new areas of passenger growth [for the Kowloon-Canton Railway]. By 1934 passengers visiting the casino were a major portion of the cross border revenue until its closure on 1st September 1936. The impact of the casino’s closure was such that there was a shortfall in the last four months of the year at round 30% of the net operating revenue.

 

Communist banks in liberal Hong Kong

Damian Tobin of SOAS has a new article at the JCA website. “Continuity and Pragmatism: How Chinese State-Owned Banks adapted to Hong Kong’s Free Market (1949–1978)” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2015.1123283), examines the puzzle of how China’s post-1978 economic reforms saw its enterprises quickly adapted to the new capitalist business environment. Continue reading

shen kong: the different faces of state capitalism

A recent article from the Epoch Times asserts that Shenzhen has surpassed Hong Kong in competitiveness because of the way Beijing has intervened in the economies of the two cities. Indeed, the establishment of the Qianhai Free Trade Zone speaks to the continued transfer of international economic functions from Hong Kong to Shenzhen through the deployment of “special” policies. This is, in fact, a solution to the one country-two systems policy that–for years–many foreign commentators ignored, when it was thought would Shenzhen become more like Hong Kong? Well, it has. And inquiring minds want to know: cui bono?

From the Epoch Times article: For the first time in a decade, Hong Kong no longer tops the list of competitive cities in China, and its due to the stifling hand of the Chinese regime, commentators note.

According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ recently released Blue Book on Urban Competitiveness—a survey of 294 China cities, Taiwan included—Hong Kong now ranks number two, falling behind its neighbor just across the border in mainland China, the metropolis Shenzhen.

The survey report claims Shenzhen topped Hong Kong, a bustling international financial hub and former British colony, because the mainland city better backed innovation—in 2014, Shenzhen government spent 4.05 percent of its gross domestic production supporting its innovation and technology sector compared to Hong Kong’s 0.73 percent.

The report also said Hong Kong’s standing was affected by last year’s student-led Occupy protests. From the end of September to mid December, hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers held three areas of the city to protest a restrictive Beijing diktat on political reform in Hong Kong (more).