The price of a One Country, Two Systems cup of coffee

Today, I went to buy a cup of coffee in a Hong Kong Starbucks. I tried to use a Shekou Starbucks “buy one get one free coupon”, which is valid in any Starbucks throughout Guangdong and Fujian. Nevertheless, the HK Starbucks did not accept my coupon because Shekou is in neidi (the interior). So I asked if Hong Kong was part of Guangdong — after all, the SAR speaks Cantonese and is justifiably proud of its Cantonese cuisine. The barista politely asked for my understanding because with respect to these kind of campaigns, Hong Kong is different from neidi and thus not part of Guangdong. However, when I asked if I could pay for my coffee using Chinese yuan, the answer was not only yes, but also that change would be given in Hong Kong dollars based on a one to one exchange rate. Thus, not only would I loose the exchange rate for the price of the coffee, but would be literally short-changed in the transaction.

Now, those of us who live in the Pearl River Delta are no doubt aware of the One Country, Two Systems policy, which in theory is designed to give Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan (at some imagined future date) a certain level of autonomy under a Mainland (Party) government. In practice, however, One Country, Two Systems is and integrated economic system, in which territorial identities create another site of unequal exchange. The most obvious example has been wage differentials between neidi and HK, Macau, and Taiwan. However, as the price of cup of coffee shows, at the level of everyday consumer consumption, these differentials also come into play because every small shop in the Delta has the potential to become a money changer.

In a related update to an earlier post on transferring Chinese yuan into accounts outside the country, a friend told me that the easiest way to get money out of China by way of Macau was to purchase chips in neidi and carry them across the border, play a while, and then exchange remaining chips for Hong Kong dollars.

Thinking Macau

Happy serendipity. I have been trying to make sense of my superficial impressions of Macau and this morning, a former student pointed me to the article, Capital Flight of China’s Wealthy Gets Ready for Takeoff. Long story short — using credit card purchases to transfer Chinese savings into international accounts. If this loophole sounds suspiciously like the money laundering another friend attributed to Yongfengyuan, that’s probably because the same group of people are involved: China’s officials and/or those with business ties to the current administration.

What have I seen and overheard? Continue reading

living rocks in dragon’s claw

To get to the Trail of Morro de Hac Sa (黑沙龙爪角家乐径), we walked past high-end shop windows — Prada and Zelga and Lv, oh my — that grace the Avenida de Sagres, under the Rua Cidade da Sintra, and waited at the feet of the New Casino Lisboa, which glittered in faint noonday sun, the buildings size and audacity dwarfing its earlier, abruptly human-scaled incarnation. A #25 bus, carried us across the Ponte Governador Nobre de Carvalho Bridge from Macau to Taipa and then trundled through Taipa and Cotai, where 5-star accommodations rise like comic book illustrations on reclaimed land. We continued past the Vila Coloane to Black Sands, disembarked, and oriented ourselves away from the beach to the coast, which shimmers, alive.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Wandering Macau’s Historic Center

Macau’s historic center presents us a fundamental conundrum. On the one hand, it’s Qing / Republican China meets Portugal spaces charm and entice; I find these older spaces beautiful in ways that the city’s casinos and glass towers are not. On the other hand, these spaces manifest colonial legacies; the East India Company’s cemetery and crucified Jesuses that adorn the Portuguese churches give visceral form to the foundational violence of the contemporary world system. Impressions of world heritage, below:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

spherical tabby

poet steven schoeder inspires me because he creates conversations across continents, cultures, and genres. moreover, his work successfully models an alternative form of globalization – attentively collaborative and wide as space.

visit his latest project with poet and artist kit kelen, this is the speech of my hands. for more prd cultural collaborations, visit the virtual publishing site, spherical tabby and read one of my favorite collaborations, in a human hand, a dialogue between steve and macau poet and painter, debby sou vai keng.