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Once a Model City, Hong Kong Is in Trouble (nytimes.com)
274 points by acdanger on June 29, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 303 comments



As someone lived in Hong Kong for quite a while (during the tail of its heydays) but now in the US, Hong Kong is indeed in big trouble. But not for the reasons mentioned/implied in this article.

It's very easy to buy into narratives such as authoritarianism vs democracy, communism vs capitalism, China vs Britain/West, tight control vs freedom as the reasons for Hong Kong's decline, but that's just short-circuited thinking for the lazy.

The real reason for Hong Kong's decline, is the failure/irresponsibility of Hong Kong's elite ruling class. Maybe to many people's surprise, since its handover to China, Hong Kong has effectively been ruled by the local elites, NOT by Beijing. Sure, Beijing appoints the governor, but the governors are locals, and there was never any direct "order" from Beijing, well, sorta until recently, when Beijing began to see the failure of the local Hong Kong government.

Those elites are composed of mega real estate/business tycoons. Being the elites in the most capitalist city-state in the world gives them tremendous wealth and power, but to the disappointment of Spider-man, with that great power there's no great responsibilities. The ruling class mega riches don't see income inequality as a problem, but a badge of honor for themselves, to show how "they've made it", while all the poors are just not smart/hardworking enough. Any efforts to "appease the poor" are hindered by the ruling business-politician symbiotics, because those efforts get in their way of accumulating more wealth.

The frustration of the youth and the poor stems from the sense of inequality, unfairness and despair as they see no chances of upward mobility. Yet, even the poorest in Hong Kong is a capitalist at heart, so they are poor not because of the rich, and they certainly do work hard, then who's to blame? China, Beijing, the mainlanders, because they are evil, communist, denying tian'anmen square, yada yada...

On the contrary, when the ruling rich saw the rebellion of lower class, without knowing/admitting themselves are to be blamed, they seek help from Beijing. What does Beijing know about governing a country? More control! That's the only thing Beijing knows, and it's been working (kinda) with them. So that's how we get where we are now.


It goes both ways, though - the tacit deal is basically that the HK tycoons do not challenge the Chinese Communist Party's monopoly on power, and the CCP doesn't challenge the HK tycoons' economic monopolies.

But, all in all, I agree. As I've written in another thread: The grievances of HK's population are real: a political and business establishment dominated by property tycoons (and increasingly mainland Chinese political factions) keen on maintaining their privileged position; huge economic inequality; a slow erosion of political liberties ("salami tactic").

That all, of course, gave rise to the Umbrella Movement in 2014.

However, given that the Chinese Communist Party is not inclined to weaken its grip on power, and extremely protective of the (perceived) territorial integrity of China, I don't really see how this will end well. :-/ Here's hoping.

For perspective, BTW: In 1997, HK's GDP was about one sixth of China's (even though China has 200x the people), and HK was an important conduit between China and the world: HK's port had more volume than Shanghai and Shenzhen together.

Today, HK's GDP is barely 3% of China's, and the ports of Shanghai and Shenzhen together have 3x the throughput of HK. (Just have a look at these pictures: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2478975/Shanghai-por.... )

HK used to be hugely important for China. Now, it isn't, and with rising Chinese nationalism, HK is being seen more and more like an unruly and spoiled child.


>Today, HK's GDP is barely 3% of China's, and the ports of Shanghai and Shenzhen together have 3x the throughput of HK. (Just have a look at these pictures:

I am really waiting for a NY Times article that has some angle about what China can teach us, not what they should learn from us.

For the last 30 years we have been getting continuous dispatches that Communism with Chinese characteristics will fail into economic collapse, that it's an enormous bubble, that the economy can't grow without democracy, that Hong Kong needs to be a model of democracy for the rest of China, etc. This mainly comes out of the "official narrative" mouth pieces known as the New York Times and the Washington Post. Whenever I see nytimes.com in the sourcee I'm always thinking, ok what's the new angle that everyone's supposed to believe now? It would be better if they just gave the byline to someone at the State Department or the CIA.


Good point. The enormous strides China has made in recent decades, the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of people lifted out of poverty - extremely impressive, and unambiguously good.

Other things, not so much.


The thought of a truly democratic China today should be a terrifying thought to the rest of the world. It's a risky prospect compared to the current stability and growth. I'm sure they'll grow into their own version of democracy when necessary.

And speaking of "democracy" is a two party system really all that much better or different than a one party system?


I think very few people would hold up, say, the USA as a model of governance and democracy at this point. There's higher standards to aspire to.

But, yes, even a two party democracy is better than a one party authoritarian regime.


Why would it be terrifying if it was truly democratic?


Most of China is compromised of uneducated, ultra-nationalist peasant farmers. While they are lovely people I think it's in everyone's interest that they not dictate national policy.

The current government is IMHO doing a great job. Even on issues that they aren't great on, they are at least trending in the right direction. Why meddle and fix something that isn't broken?


lol


Terrifying because they are Chinese and you are not?

Is that what your unhelpful 'lol' implies?


They can teach us how to use political dissidents as organ donors, suppress protests by disappearing opponents, imprison those who point out corruption, and no doubt many other things alien to our way of life.


The United States isn't far behind in making it illegal to report criminal behaviour. Consider ag-gag laws, consider how whistelblowers get punished.


...at least US doesn't make money selling organs :(

I really like the Chinese people, but... their gov. is f*king evil mess against them


The US exploits their disenfranchised as well: see the prison system.


>imprison those who point out corruption,

To be fair, the current Chinese administration (Xi Jinping) identified back in 2012 corruption as one of the greatest threats to the Communist party (rightly so for any government imho) and began an unprecedented campaign to crack down on it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-corruption_campaign_under...


Mostly a pretext to crush his political rivals.


Exactly. If China wants to be a first class world power, they need to learn how to manufacture consent like the CIA.

Right now they are having a hard enough time trying to control their citizens. They won't be a superpower until they topple a few democratically elected governments first.


The U.S.A has 6x the per-capita prison population of China though. It's hard for me to understand how China is such an oppressive country and yet the number of people in prison per capita is so low.


In China you can avoid oppression by not criticising the government. In America, you can avoid oppression by not being poor or black. The former is a lot easier than the latter.


If your only measure of political oppression is prisoners-per-capita, I can see why it's hard to understand.


Those things, while terrible, are separable from their economic progress. Unless you believe that using political dissidents as organ donors helps the economy.


The problem is that what we understand as theoretical democracy and what is generally practically applied on the ground are two philosophically different things. An anti-thesis of democracy itself.

Prof Lawrence Lessig of Harvard nails it when he calls this type of corruption of democracy as Tweedism.

Here's a quick summary of his thesis (2015): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJy8vTu66tE

Here's a longer, more academic, version (2014): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFZEV7TeZBg

Both talks begin with the Hong Kong student protests of 2014.


Very interesting. It touches on something I've been thinking about lately. The book Why Nations Fail [1][2] makes an argument very similar to yours that there are two factors that determine (economic) success of a nation: 1) inclusive economic systems and 2) inclusive political systems. They argue that these can form a virtuous cycle where they enhance themselves. However, if nations don't have inclusive systems, they tend to form a vicious cycle.

They give the example of Venice which had (for the time) relatively inclusive systems, allowing a a middle class to rise and generate wealth for the city. This new elite started to limit political inclusiveness to protect their wealth. This tipped the scale back to extractive systems. By the 1500s Venice was in decline.

This example makes me wonder if we're headed that way. In Hong Kong -- but also e.g. in the US -- it seems there's a class of mega rich that are moving more and more into rent seeking behavior and greater income inequality. If the book's theory is right this will lead to political systems to become less inclusive over time, which will eventually lead to economic decline.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Why_Nations_Fail [2] http://www.economist.com/node/21549911


Yes this is exactly correct. Which is why rising income inequality is hugely bad news for the US. But short of going back to higher taxation, I don't see the situation improving for the US. The rich will Marshall all their significant resources to fight tax increases. Just see the amount of money and effort Koch brothers have put into corrupting the system! It is deeply disturbing.

Also, titans of economy should not be given the reins of running the country, no matter how qualified they might be. They already have a lot of power. In poorer countries, political ascendants are shot dead. In the US, you have attack ads, smear campaigns etc.


In the US titans of the economy are given the reins of the country even being totally unqualified. In fact, the anti-intellectual streak is so strong, that incomprehensible slogan babble has proven to be a very successful strategy in convincing the average blue collar worker that the most elite of the elite silver-spoon nepotists will somehow represent their interests.

Frankly with the level which facts and reason have been shown to be utterly useless in the political arena, there's no way we'll avoid this fate unless the 1% themselves come to the conclusion that their lobbying and consolidation of power will ultimately destroy the country. However I'm not holding my breath for this to happen since game theory and Upton Sinclair inform us that's not how human interest generally works.


Are you implying the Democrats were at all opposed to the 1%? For many, Trump was a hail mary protest vote, that has failed unfortunately.


But Hong Kong became prosperous during a time when it didn't have either of those.

During the booming 70s-90s, just about all high level government officials were appointed by the British. In addition, most of the upper class were British as well.

Local Hongkongers were often second class citizens.

Likewise, when Singapore, Korea, and Taiwan were booming, they were essentially dictatorships.

Heck, compare South Africa and Zimbabwe during the apartheid era to now.


What do think about Japan? They became the richest country in Asia while being a democracy.

Chauvinists don't like to admit it but they are at least partly responsible for the ROC and ROK's success too.

> Heck, compare South Africa and Zimbabwe during the apartheid era to now.

What happened a shame but the whites in those country are now sleeping in the bed they made.


Japan has not functionally been a democracy since the 1960s, when US intelligence services funded a right-wing takeover of their government that has, with little interruption, remained in place. Its wealth is largely the product of it being the primary client state of the US empire in SE Asia.

The current leader, Abe Shinzo, is actively working on dismantling what little semblance of democracy remains, including silencing the press and passing laws to lock up anyone who "plans to protest" against his government.

http://www.nytimes.com/1994/10/09/world/cia-spent-millions-t...

https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/27/the-silencing-of-japans...

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/21/national/crime-l...


The ROK was a wild economic success when it was a dictatorship that tortured and dissapeared political dissidents.

I think economic success has more to do with access to American markets, and being a 'strategic partner' in cold war geo-political games, then it did with your form of government.


The same is happening to Taiwan (stuttered growth; in-fighting, etc.). The issue is deeply rooted in local power-wielding elites conspiring or opposing the ruling government. It has nothing to do democracy. The riches have already allocated some of their wealth elsewhere (see Canada and Australia), so they don't really care. It's always easy to blame it on Beijing, isn't it?


The elites of Taiwan are mostly mainlanders (well, 1949 descended transplants who suppressed the native Taiwanese elites) who prefer closer ties with the mainland. The violent swings in Taiwan's politics between the KMT and DPP are all relate to that.


There is so much intermarriage between the 1949 Mainlanders and the Taiwanese that I don't think you can label their children and grandchildren as "Mainlanders."


I wouldn't be so sure. Last time I went in Taiwan, a friend of mine told me surprising political stuff like: "this part of town is KMT, that part is DPP", "if neighbours learn my family don't vote KMT we're in trouble" and "my grand-father is from the continent, that's why I have these facial features. So people knows I have mainland ancestors and thinks I'm KMT".

Of course it is just a data point, but that's may reveal underlying things that totally foreign for European/West way of thinking politics.


That is not true at all. There is still a lot of animosity between the two factions, even if some intermarriage has occurred (and is irrelevant given that they are genetically identical anyways, as native doesn't refer to the real Polynesian natives). Mainland-native identity politics is very real.


And, arguably, in the U.S.


The only thing left to argue about is the question of scale.


> The issue is deeply rooted in local power-wielding elites conspiring or opposing the ruling government. It has nothing to do democracy.

Seems like democracy would make this problem worse, since it redistributes power to local informal power elites.


Taiwan is a democracy, and has been for some time. Not sure what you're saying here?


Taiwan is a "democracy", just a deeply corrupt one.


Calling Taiwan a democracy is like labelling the Culture Revolution a democratic movement.

When elderly Chinese who actually experienced the terrible Culture Revolution go to visit Taiwan, many of them had the feeling that Taiwan make them feel young again as they saw the Culture Revolution again in Taiwan.

Endless street politics for every single change to the society, hugely divided society, corruption from both sides, people are forced to pick which side is less terrible rather than which is better, President democratically elected used its official jet to move cash to foreign countries.

Personally, I don't want such toxic Taiwan to be integrated back to China, they can run their own circus on that island so people in the mainland can look at them and learn from their mistakes.


Sounds like you've been getting all your Taiwan news from 新闻联播.

Taiwan is nothing like what you said, and to compare it to Cultural Revolution China is just ridiculous.


Disagree. In a functioning democracy, you have less entrenchment of power elites.


While democracy alone makes no such promise. If majority of people votes for entrenchment of power elites, that's what you get from democracy


A HK resident recommended to me Alice Poon's "Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong" to understand the malfunction in land development that this sort of cronyism delivers; I found it a worthwhile read, and readily recommend it to others.

[0] http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2948872-land-and-the-ruli...


sadly, the exact system was introduced into China before the handover, the broken system is not just screwing HK but a huge chunk of China including all major cities.


Would you agree that the deliberate limits on participatory democracy imposed by Beijing are limiting the ability of the non-elite factions in society to redress these imbalances, or do you think, even with universal suffrage, the citizens of Hong Kong are too fractured to come up with solutions? (Similar to the current political climate in the US.)


> the deliberate limits on participatory democracy imposed by Beijing are limiting the ability of the non-elite factions to redress these imbalances

I agree all of it until "to redress these imbalances", i.e. letting the local elite rule Hong Kong was a deliberate decision by Beijing. Back then (before/during the hand-over to China), nobody knew how it's gonna work. And as of now, that decision turned out to be a failure. But letting non-elite factions to participate does not guarantee "redress the imbalances". see my comments below

> or do you think, even with universal suffrage, the citizens of Hong Kong are too fractured to come up with solutions? (Similar to the current political climate in the US.)

I do feel there's very fertile soil for political populism (not in a good way) in Hong Kong. What universal suffrage does guarantee is the emergence of a new class of pure/traditional politicians, probably armed with populist rhetorics... Are they gonna "redress the imbalance?", certainly they would say so, but... wait, I'm starting to have a deja-vu...


I dunno, generally the best argument for democracy is when things come out of balance, there is a mechanism to adjust how things work without violent revolution (which generally necessitates a greater level of destruction than is advisable). Since the general impression of Hong Kong democracy is "yeah, we'll let you vote, but the party is going to have the last word" it's hard to imagine a scenario whereby the status quo (i.e. current elites) will ever be allowed to be threatened.

Well, until it's too late, and the torches and pitchforks come out.

Am I wrong?


You are not wrong. Nobody would argue that reasoning. But seeing what populism could leads to, and based on my experience in Hong Kong, I'm just a bit cynical that the reality probably won't turn out to be what it "should have been".


> wait, I'm starting to have a deja-vu...

The last sentence from 'Animal Farm'?


Beijing never intended to let HK go forever under it's own leadership. The CCP wishes to keep as much of Hong Kong's economic muscle intact as they can, but political control of the area is the eventual goal and is far more important to it than economic growth.

The Chinese will not allow HK to become a threat to the Chinese way of life as determined by the CCP. They will loot the city of its riches, then bring it into line. The writing was on the wall for HK from day one of their transition back to Chinese rule.


That's really interesting; thanks for sharing.

But based on what you say, that sounds exactly like the narrative of authoritarianism vs. democracy. You have a bunch of elites with no responsibility that are tremendously disliked in power. In a democracy, they'd (theoretically) fear losing an election to a populist. Heck, even if they were regular despots, they'd be at least marginally afraid of revolution. But the elites in Hong Kong are installed by China; they have no fear of even a revolution.


There's a term I'm playing around with "sinecure culture" that describes a society that is very well off compared to the rest of the world because of moats. The US due to WW2 weakening many other countries and HK because it was a gateway into China. This leads to lack of motivation to constantly improve and also entitlement.

The entitlement is a result of technology equalizing the playing field making things egalitarian. To rationalize why a simple job pays thousands of times more than backbreaking or highly technical jobs in poorer areas, this society has to feel superior in some way.

Few people seem to notice that in a perfectky fair world, the highest populations have the greatest advantages.

Another thing often ignored is that there isn't enough to go around. Divided equally the world's wealth is 10k each. Livable only if the world's cost of living is equalized as well. However in the Bay Area I cannot buy the 1 dollar delicious meals in other parts of the world.

When there are only a few immigrant going to a sinecure society, it is friendly. However once resources become strained you get tribes, boundaries, and rationalizations for more pie.


Looks like this is the state of affairs in every "capitalist" state on the planet. Singapore, check. China, check. Japan, check. US, check. Corporate oligarchies will stomp on our faces for eternity, it'd seem.


I don't believe this is a natural byproduct of capitalism. Rather it could be the lack of proper government legislature adapting to technological advances. I suppose it is tricky to balance a system that supports economic growth while confining and punishing entities for poor competitive practices.

Poor sportsmanship is present in all states no matter the economic system.


And how are Hong Kong's tycoons any different from the mainland's princelings? The CCP is dealing with what it knows in Hong Kong, and the dysfunctions of both are not that different at all.


They aren't, but they make it difficult to call Hong Kong democratic, with a straight face. Half of their legislature is directly elected by corporations, for Pete's sakes.


Sure, well, it isn't that different in the mainland, where half the congress are SOE execs as well as successful business men. Anyways, can we just call it democracy with Chinese characteristics?


That's seems like the modern neoliberal city problem rather than a problem specific to hong kong.

The same problems afflicting hong kong is afflicting all modern neoliberal cities - new york, LA, chicago, london, etc.

Where the elite want to increase real estate/asset prices and the younger generation are left behind.


"It's very easy to buy into narratives such as ..."

And then caretoomuch sells us a long narrative about the problem really being elitist rulers oppressing the poor.


That is exactly the bad deal Nelson Mandela got in SA. Just saying.


Writing as someone who left HK when he was 14 who still visit every couple years, so take what I write with a load of salt.

I really think HK is over, as in it will never return to its peak glorious days. Much of the prosperity of HK came from being a middleman between China and the rest of the world. That position is eroding because China is slowly opening up. For example, of the top 5 container ports, 3 are in mainland China and HK is #5 [1]. HK was the busiest as recently as 2004. Why ship to/from HK when you can ship directly to/from China?

Much of the ruling elites (many of whom are/were businessmen or have business ties) understand this, and realize China has a lot more soft power over HK than what the Basic Law guarantees. The end game is clear, HK will become just another Chinese city, the Establishment is hoping that by pandering to mainland, they can slow down the process and maintain their self-interest. The more positive way to think about it is, if China allows, HK can become the Shanghai of the south instead of a little brother to Shenzhen.

Meanwhile, the poor. I grew up quite poor in HK and a family of 4 shared one studio. The kitchen and bathroom were shared with another 4-5 families. 4 of us slept in ONE bunkbed. Life got much better after I was 7, because we moved to public housing in the suburb. You see, there's always a big divide between the rich and the poor, but all the public subsidies made life bearable.

A big part of HK's government revenue come from land sale [2]. And land is more valuable when it's not used for public housing. That and immigration means the wait to get public housing is getting longer and longer [3]. Immigration is supposed to increase revenue too, but as mentioned because a big part of revenue come from land sale and immigration doesn't increase the amount of developable land, the overall effect is smaller.

Normally one way to deal with this is impose immigration quota, but I looked into this a few years back and apparently for family reunion, HK government does not control the quota and have to accept however many the mainland sends over. For obvious reasons many in HK have family-ties in China so politically having a smaller quota would not be popular either. I don't have numbers to prove this, but there's a general sentiment that infrastructure is not growing fast enough to accommodate population increase.

I don't know what HK can do honestly. Politically it's in an impossible situation.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_busiest_container_port... [2]: http://www.censtatd.gov.hk/hkstat/sub/sp110.jsp?tableID=193&... [3]: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education-community/artic...


I'd like to offer my views on the decline of HK -

1. HK was a middleman, it used to connect the mainland China to the world. That worked for HK very well after 1949, but clearly the people living in the mainland do not want to see HK to keep having its cut for the flow of capitals/goods for a very reasonable reason - there are more and more professionals/businesses in mainland China that are eager/qualified/happy to take over what HK was offering.

2. HK failed to develop its industrial base. Let's compare it to Singapore, you see different high tech companies in that city nation, but what HK has developed in the last few decades? You can also compare it to the neighbouring Shenzhen, if Shenzhen can offer companies like Tencent/DJI, why HK can not do the same in a so called free environment? FTA is long available to HK, there are numerous HK based companies doing business in mainland and making good profits, just in the wrong sector - they are all in real estate. Rather than blindly blame Beijing, there are more meaningful reasons to look at.

3. HK's retail sector is no longer comparable to what you can expect from tier-1 Chinese cities (Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen). Mobile payment, online shopping, delivery, large and easy to use e-commerce sites, you name it. Sure you can easily argue that HK has a few department stores with pretty good services, but is that enough to support the future of a city with millions of residencies? The consequence is simple - Chinese from the mainland stopped going to HK for shopping, they start to feel its out of date payment systems, 1990s style department stores are getting less and less attractive.

4. HK's Infrastructure is no longer considered as good. I first visited HK 13 years ago when HK's metro was far better than anything you could possibly expect in Shanghai. Today there is high speed rail that can get me anywhere within 200km radius of Shanghai, Shanghai metro's scale is 2-3x times larger. How fast you can get yourself from HK's central to Guangzhou? I can get myself to a nice office building or hotel in Hangzhou from my home in Shanghai door to door in 90 minutes.

5. HK is losing its financial capital status fast. Chinese Yuan will be internationalised eventually, that is probably THE biggest financial event in the next 30 years, but how many people would possibly believe that having HK dollar in HK is a smart move? Let's remember that HKD is never allowed to freely float, its exchange rate is fixed to USD.

All this come to a real question here: is HK declining or just returning to where it suppose to be?


Funny bringing up DJI as an example of a Shenzhen company. They were actually conceived in a Hong Kong university but moved over the border due to cheaper rents and closer proximity to factories.


DJI AFAIK moved out of Hong Kong due to the lack of funding. Hong Kong never developed any serious engineering culture & talent base and it is very difficult to start a high tech venture in Hong Kong, from a funding point of view. From a talent point of view, Shenzhen's engineering easily outnumbers and out-qualitys Hong Kong by an order of magnitude.


thanks for confirming that HK is not a good place to start a high tech company. I totally agree with that.


Chinese from the mainland still goto HK to shop, if only for the lower taxes and greater selections. The lack of wepay is hardly a concern, and many places in HK actually take it.


family currently lives in a tier 1 city

5-10 years ago, hk was still the go-to place for my family if they wanted name brand things, short of coming to the US. Now, they come to the US or even Japan if they don't stay in the country.

Recently I was in Chengdu (which is not tier 1) and the sheer number of luxury brand stores in the IFS building shocked me. That isn't even counting the surrounding shopping center that also carry similar luxury brands. It certainly at least is on par with hk shopping.

Many in the west still view china through the same lens as they did 10 years ago, and that is wildly inaccurate.


For the luxury brands, it's the same boring LV-style stores repeated in each luxury mall. They are also priced 1.5-2X more than HK because of China's VAT and extra luxury taxes.

I lived in china for 10 years, and yes, it was much better 10 years ago, at least the air was much cleaner then. I don't see what that has to do with the current situation though, and westerners who didn't live in china always thought shopping in china was great because they could always get knockoffs at the silk market.


no more from the tier-1 cities. go to internet forums with good number of residents from Shanghai/Beijing, see how many posts are still about their shopping experience in HK. 10 years ago, I'd be seeing a couple each day on the front page, now you'd be lucky to have one in a week.

it is also questionable to believe that there are better selection in HK - the sheer number of affordable consumers and their aggregated purchasing power determine where those tier-1 brands go.


Holy shit does Beijing suck for shopping, even in 2017; it is a mixture of really overpriced luxury brands who used to make all their profits on money laundering combined with new malls with the same set of generic stores in each. Maybe Shanghai is better, but if it's anything like Beijing, well, it makes sense why people still go to Korea, Japan, Hong Kong to shop. It always made sense to head down to HK to buy a new iPhone or computer, or wait till I headed back to the states, because shopping in china is just so depressing. $100 for a pair of Levi 550s in sanlitun village that cost $30 stars Fred Myers in the states? No way.

Last time I went to HK a year and a half ago, it was still packed with mainlanders shopping like crazy in the malls.


see comments above from another hn user talking about his experience in Chengdu.

I live close to the Nanjing Rd west in Shanghai, buy yourself a ticket to visit those shopping malls on that road, then you can continue to lecture me why should people living in tier-1 cities should continue to go to HK to waste time and money.


There has never been anything special about nanjing lu. Surely shanghai has something better than that? That is like going to Wangfujing in Beijing to shop....only if you are a tourist.

The nice thing about HK is the diversity of shops. I almost feel like I'm back in the states, I can find things that I'd only find on Taobao in china. Not to mention the lower taxes make it on par with the states for pricing on electronics.

Just the savings on a MBP alone will pay for your plane ticket and a night in a reasonable hotel. I'm really baffled why you think shopping in the mainland is "better" than that when the prices are fixed much higher than HK.


Nanjing Rd has two completely different sections - Nanjing Rd East, which is a boring low-end touristy place, and Nanjing Rd West which attracts upper middle class locals. You can probably argue that lots of stuff there are overpriced, I'd happily agree with you on that, but Nanjing Rd west is definitely not for tourists.

MBP is probably the worst example you can possibly think of - I can order on jd.com and get it delivered in a few days for roughly 105% ($13,888 HKD vs 12,799RMB) of apple.com/hk's listed price. I save a trip to HK and a few hundred $ wasted on flight tickets/hotel stay.

https://item.jd.hk/1989565050.html


Some Facts 1. Most Luxury brands are more expensive in China. 2. Lots of Luxury brands sells slightly outdated products even in Tier-1 Cities. ( May not be Shanghai ) 3. Yes there is a decreasing number of people FROM tier 1 going into Hong Kong for shopping. 4. But that doesn't mean other Non-Tier 1 people aren't going to Hong Kong. 5. Yes those Tier 1 Citizens flies directly to Europe, Japan or Korea to buy what ever they want.

So to sum it up both of you were right.


I tend to disagree with you a lot, but the points you bring up here are (lamentably) very good.

> 1. HK was a middleman

Agreed. And as you say, that role is quickly fading.

> 2. HK failed to develop its industrial base.

Yes. There's always talk of making it a hub for [medicine/startups/arts/...], but efforts are half-hearted at best (compared to e.g. Singapore), and there's not much to show for it.

On the other hand, with the secular move from agriculture to manufacturing to service industries, this might not be that much of a problem - if HK maintained or developed its excellence in service industries (and the professions).

> 3. HK's retail sector

HK's retail sector lives of mainland tourists and the fact that there is no import taxes/duty and no VAT in HK (thus tons of mainlanders cross over for extended shopping sprees, supporting luxury shops that increasingly drive out shops catering to the local population, and driving up rents). It's huge in HK, but not sure that's necessarily a good thing. And, yeah, the innovation is basically that shopping malls have built-in terminals for buses to the border - wow.

Also, agreed, the chat/mobile payment system in China is very very innovative and impressive, probably way ahead of anywhere in the world.

> 4. HK's Infrastructure is no longer considered as good.

Well, by worldwide standards it's still excellent, it's just that China's infrastructure has caught up tremendously, and even overtaken it.

> 5. HK is losing its financial capital status fast.

Yes. That might not even be a bad thing. Problem is that it was one of the main drivers of HK prosperity, and I'm not sure there's a replacement in sight.

> All this come to a real question here: is HK declining or just returning to where it suppose to be?

Well. Decline seems inevitable, but implying that that's "where it is supposed to be" is a bit harsh. HK is a unique place with a unique history and people and unique achievements - it basically anticipated China's growth by a few decades.

And, of course, your "real question" reflects the Chinese perspective that naturally China sits on the top of the world, and the recent "century of humiliation" was just a temporary aberration.

I don't buy into this sort of historical determinism, and that idea of China's natural supremacy is as silly as US American exceptionalism or Hegel's notion that civilisation found its culmination in 19th century Germany.


The real problem is that Hong Kong is a finance and trading hub. And it became so because it was the easiest way to do business with China.

But business likes stability. The democracy protests have done nothing for Hong Kong, and now that China's eased access to their market through Shanghai, Hong Kong's entire raison d'être is at risk.

Also, the article is pretty spot on in other ways. Once upon a time, Hong Kong students were guaranteed success by virtue of being born there. Now, they need to compete with mainlanders, which of course is a much larger pool.

And finally, 20 years ago China wanted to build up Hong Kong as a model for it's 2 systems 1 country philosophy. However the democracy protests have all but killed that, so the Chinese will gladly simply build up Shanghai to Hong Kong's detriment, and no amount of democracy or separatism will fix it.


The real problem is that Hong Kong existed as an arbitrage hub to an artificially closed hinterland during a political time warp, and when China finally opened up, Hong Kong's fate was already sealed. Hong Kong still has some first-world advantages to exploit, but the number is dwindling day by day.


> Hong Kong still has some first-world advantages to exploit, but the number is dwindling day by day.

Beijing/Shanghai have yet to demonstrate the level of innovation that comes out of the Hong Kong/Shenzhen connection.

And, parents still send their kids across the border in mainland China to go to school in Hong Kong.

China may have opened up, and is continuing to open up more, but by no means are the gates fully open at Shanghai. Innovation still primarily comes from the south and regions that are farther from the federal government's base.


First of all, there is no federal Chinese government, it is called the Central Government of China. There is no federation any time during China's history - the central government controls everything in every province, the power of any local administration is granted by the Central Government, directly or indirectly.

Secondly, most innovations happen in Beijing, you can count whatever stats you like, such as # of patents filed, high tech start up numbers, VC funds and where they invest their $ etc. You'd be seeing more than half are in Beijing.

To give you a very quick example: Xiaomi, Didi, Mobike and OFO are the 4 unicorns of China's internet industry, all headquartered in Beijing, their R&D are done in Beijing, these four have not gone IPO and the youngest worth $1B.


That's a nice concise way to put it, and spot on.


Before pontificating too much about the doom of Hong Kong, you should observe that compared to the US, HK has:

- Far lower crime and incarceration

- Better education (measured by PISA scores)

- Incomparably better infrastructure (compare beautiful, clean HK subways with laughably pathetic US ones)

- Better health outcomes than the US, 84 year life expectancy vs 79 for the US

- Preserves an incredibly large percentage of its territory for parks (most of HK island is a park)

- No natural resources like the US

- All of this with far far lower taxes than the US (government % of GDP is roughly 14% compared to 38% in US)


Hong Kong is a port city conveniently located (politically and physically) between China and the rest of the world.

To compare a uniquely positioned city like that to the entire US population (which, for example, includes Detroit) is not particularly meaningful.


Replace the US with San Francisco or NYC and the list still applies.


Now take Manhattan Island, politically and physically isolate it, restrict freedom of movement between it and the rest of the country, and shut the rest of the country off from international trade for a few decades and you'll begin to approach an apples-to-apples comparison with HK.


Nitpick all you want, d_burfoot is right.

As Manhattan drags the West into the mire, Hong Kong leads the East's ascent.


Now compare GDP/km^2:

USA: 1,773,047 USD/km^2 HONG KONG: 63,633,823 USD/km^2.

Huh. Hong kong has almost 36x the GDP density... With comparable GDP per capita. Is that significant?


Hong Kong is a city state, so it isn't very comparable to another country. HK and Singapore models don't really scale out of their limited scope.


[flagged]


The British did colonize more places. Places like Malaysia, India, etc., that aren't as prosperous and developed as Hong Kong and Singapore. Much of Britain itself isn't as prosperous and developed as Hong Kong and Singapore. Obviously it wasn't a case of the British simply building HK and Singapore. Singapore wasn't a very prosperous and developed place when the British left in the early 60s. It became so subsequently under local elites like Lee Kuan Yew. Hong Kong and Singapore were built by its locals, who were mostly Chinese but also included Indians, Malays, and others.


The British also colonized the Middle East and Africa. So why are those places hellholes?


Indeed. The best things about Hong Kong are all colonial legacy.


I just crossed back to Shenzhen from Hong Kong yesterday. A few random observations...

In HK, a lot of the taxi drivers are old guys who can barely read, don't speak English or mandarin, and are a real hassle to deal with unless you are a Cantonese speaker. A lot of the taxis have weird fare manipulation lookup tables instead of correct metering. Although the mass-transit oriented stored value card, Octopus, was established decades ago, you still can't use it in taxis. Further, if you want to top it up, you literally can't top it up with anything smaller than HKD50 (USD$9) even if your fare costs less and you only have small denomination local money. There are no electric taxis, but plenty of rich people own Teslas. If you ask 20 odd Hong Kong banks about cross-border RMB payment APIs (HK is supposed to be a financial center, after all) not a single bank can offer you one. In fact, just to open a regular bank account is now so difficult standard waits can exceed 2-3 months (and success is far from guaranteed).

So what does HK still have to offer?

(1) A legal environment under Beijing's auspices but with nominal resistance to mainland corruption and manipulation.

(2) Superior international financial connectivity and services if you can get a bank account.

(3) Liberal visa-free travel policies for people from most countries.

That's about it.


Right on about Hong Kong taxi drivers. They also tend to be racist opting to skip non-Chinese looking passengers.

> A lot of the taxis have weird fare manipulation lookup tables instead of correct metering.

The fare table is because the Transport Department raised taxi fares on April 9th and taxis that haven't had their meters adjusted are required to use the fare table. http://www.td.gov.hk/en/publications_and_press_releases/pres...

> You literally can't top it up with anything smaller than HKD50 (USD$9) even if your fare costs less and you only have small denomination local money.

This is the same as Shenzhentong card in Shenzhen which can't be loaded with less than CNY50 at a reload machine. If your fare costs less than HK$50 and you don't have more cash, buy a single trip ticket. If you really want to pay with Octopus, top up your Octopus card with HK$50 and get a refund of the value after your trip.

Those of us that live here in Hong Kong never have to deal with adding value to our Octopus card because we can link it to our Hong Kong-issued credit cards.

> If you ask 20 odd Hong Kong banks about cross-border RMB payment APIs (HK is supposed to be a financial center, after all) not a single bank can offer you one.

Mainland China has capital controls - that is why transacting in RMB cross border is difficult. Banks aren't allowed to offer that service.

> just to open a regular bank account is now so difficult standard waits can exceed 2-3 months (and success is far from guaranteed)

You are right...the difficulty in opening a bank account is a huge problem for business in Hong Kong.

> So what does HK still have to offer?

* civil society * amazing mountains & beaches * great food * excellent sports infrastructure * public transit that is a pleasure to use * no capital gains, interest, dividends, import, VAT, or sales taxes. * territorial taxation (Hong Kong residents are only taxed on income sourced from Hong Kong) * great people both local and from abroad * ubiquitous gigabit fiber to home for < US$30/month. 10 gigabit fiber to home available in many locations.


I don't know why it's so shocking that the taxi drivers should not be masters in speaking foreign languages. I would find it odder if they were all well educated and fluent in three languages.


It sounded like a contrast to Shenzhen.

Throughout the world, taxi drivers in international cities know a couple dozen words in multiple languages. Paris, Rome, Berlin, Madrid?

Even if they didn't grow up speaking Mandarin, it sounds like a conscious decision, if they don't understand a request in Mandarin from a rider today.

Of course, this is just one person's set of impressions, too.


There are no English speaking taxi drivers in Beijing. I was freaked out when a taxi driver in Shanghai talked to me in English, it just isn't common anywhere else in the mainland.


The conscious decision would probably be learning Mandarin phrases. Presumably a mainlander who was having trouble could always write the name of their destination.

I haven't been to Europe but in Asia I don't think it's the case that most taxi drivers know much English. Some of the Japanese ones offer an in car interpretation service over the phone but I've never had occasion to use it.


I meant that they might know phrases in French, German, and Spanish more than English, though in the case of Europe English is pretty common.

However, to be fair, in my experience, some people in Europe have hang ups too about different languages. I speak Italian, can pass with a little French, and know no German. In the northern Italian mountains people would start conversations with me in German based on my appearance, and in resort towns there were a number of people who chose not to learn Italian, but English was okay.

Similarly, a friendly lady was trying to help me in a train station in Paris, my French wasn't good enough to understand some detail, her English wasn't any better than my French, and I asked her if she spoke Italian. She curtly answered no, and seemed a little offended.

I imagine I'd have similar stories if I only spoke English and French, English and Spanish, or English and German.

Would people react with occasional distaste if you tried communicating using Cantonese in Beijing?


I suspect the reaction would be more like bewilderment, because the geographical reach of Cantonese stops pretty far short of Beijing and it's rather unlikely you'll run into people who speak it. Now if you try speaking to them in Japanese they might be offended. But I have limited experience in the Sinosphere compared to Korea and Japan.


Note that you can use Octopus for way more than just transit. You can buy groceries or stuff at 7-11 with that, so you can easily use it all.

9 usd will go quickly here.


I haven't met a single taxi driver in Shenzen who understood English so that is the same across the border from my experience.

I agree with the bank account. When I worked in HK, opening a bank account was problematic. But that has been in other countries as well I worked from because I rarely had a permanent job, mostly doing contracts.


You can't possibly take Shenzhen taxi drivers and compare them directly to HK drivers...

Shenzhen was a tiny fishing village in the 1970s, HK was already a metropolis. There are many people from rural areas that flock to cities in mainland China to work, not so much in HK. Shenzhen is less than 40 years old, HK had been a British territory from 1842 to 1997.


I've never encountered a taxi driver in HK who didn't at least speak mandarin, many could even speak English. Perhaps it's just most of my interactions were to and from the airport?


There are two type of Taxi ( Actually three, but we leave it out for now ), and three type of Taxi Drivers in Hong Kong.

Two types of Taxi are Green Taxi for N.T Area, and Red Taxi for Kowloon and Hong Kong Island Area. And the three type of Taxi drivers are separated by the areas mentioned before.

If you arrive in Hong Kong Airport, or take Taxi in Hong Kong Island, you will highly likely meet a taxi drivers who could speak Mandarin, English and Cantonese, some even speak another dialect of Chinese. In Kowloon you may only see this in Tsim Sha Tsui Area where there are lots of tourist.

So if the parent arrived to HK by crossing Mainland border, you will be served by Green Taxi and I wouldnt be surprise if they dont speak anything buy Cantonese.


> There are no electric taxis

We did have them, from BYD no less. Unfortunately they kept blowing up. The owners did the only sensible thing, which was to dump them.


I thought exploding electric BYD taxis was a Shenzhen thing?


They imported the same model - the e6 - to HK (only change was right hand drive), so they imported the same problems too.


Compared to the reputation for far-seeing technocratic excellence that it acquired in the foreign business press, the CCP leadership has always been astonishingly short-sighted when it comes to foreign policy. The Taiwanese are taking note of what 'one country two systems' means in practice - absolute submission to the ruthless, brutal oligarchy in Beijing. The CCP will crush Hong Kong, destroying everything that made it appealing in the process, and find that in so doing they've permanently alienated Taiwan.


I mentioned this in the last thread about Hong Kong, but they're not as dumb as you think. Taiwan (both the Blue and Green coalitions) has always distrusted "one country, two systems", even way back in the 90s before Hong Kong's autonomy started getting salami-sliced away. China knows that, and knows they're not really losing anything by abandoning that approach.

That's not their plan anyway. The parallel tracks for dealing with Taiwan are

1) building ever-closer economic dependency, and then punishing Taiwan every time it elects pro-independence leaders, so that Taiwan has no choice but to elect pro-reunification candidates for the sake of economic security and

2) gradually muscling the US out of the region and building naval capabilities so that if 1) doesn't work out, they can take it back by force.

How Taiwan feels about "one country two systems" doesn't really matter to China.


Hmm, I'm not so sure about your assertions. The anti-mainland sentiment fuels the DPP in spite of the disastrous end of the Chen presidency and the mounting dissatisfaction with Tsai and their current legislative majority. Ma met with Xi despite of that anti-mainland sentiment; it's not a huge leap for me to imagine he would have done more if China didn't alienate the Taiwanese public so much.

Just yesterday the Senate Armed Services Committee voted for allowing the Navy to dock at Kaohsiung again[1]. It'll be interesting to see how all sides react.

1: https://www.wsj.com/articles/senate-panel-votes-to-allow-nav...


I don’t think our observations are incompatible :)

Note that I didn’t say China’s plan was necessarily working, I think that’s an open question and I’m actually bearish on it: I think the upcoming generation of Taiwanese are less interested than ever in the mainland and can see through this plot.

I’m just saying that both countries know “one country, two systems” is a dead letter and so China isn’t worried that the crackdown in Hong Kong is damaging its chances. They know Taiwan wrote it off years ago.


But maybe the better question is, why? The people of Taiwan for the most part don't want to be a part of China, and Taiwan doesn't pose a military threat to China.


Face?

Also, having that island under China's control would be militarily useful in any showdown with the US - it pushes US forces farther from the mainland.


Taiwan is very important to China strategically. It's an unsinkable aircraft carrier off of their coast. Think how sensitive the US has been about Cuba.


Why do they just -need- to have Taiwan back that they would kill for it? Just let it be.


The CCP can't formally acknowledge Taiwan's independence from the mainland because that would set a dangerous precedent for the conquered peoples living in Tibet and Xinjiang. Similarly, the party can't formally recognize and respect Taiwan's right to self-governance short of formal independence because the CCP believes (and is probably correct in believing) that any centers of power within China that are not explicitly subordinate to the party are an existential threat.

The party really has only two options - the status quo, or the subjugation of the island.


If China doesn't have Taiwan, then some other country (e.g. the US or Japan) can put a naval base there and deny access to a large area. That would be a strategic disaster.


not after China can build 6 aircraft carrier combat groups.

btw, Japan is no longer in the equation.


> The Taiwanese are taking note of what 'one country two systems' means in practice

At the end of the day, what does that matter? There are 1.4 billion who claim taiwan as part of china. Nothing is going to change that. Taiwan can note whatever they want, but at the end of the day, taiwan is going to be a province of china eventually.

A lot of what you wrote is a bit hyperbolic. Taiwan is almost entirely dependent on trade with china. If beijing really wanted to alienate taiwan, they would cut all trade with china and seize all of taiwan's asset in china. That would collapse taiwan overnight.

Also, the chinese don't see taiwan-relations as part of "foreign policy". They see it as a wholy intra-chinese policy.


This article takes an economic situation and tries to frame it as a political one. Hong Kongers don't care about the ideological differences between mainland China and HK, they care about the staggering inequality and loss of economic mobility in their once vibrant city.

Chinese money is flooding into Hong Kong and it's all being parked into real estate. This has sent real estate prices skyrocketing and far outside the reach of ordinary citizens. As a secondary effect, Hong Kong elites are now parking all their money into real estate with the expectation that the Chinese capital flight continues to drive up real estate prices. Real estate is the best investment available in Hong Kong right now. Bar none.

With all their capital tied up in real estate, the elites don't invest in startups or R&D. No increases in productivity, no new jobs, no gains for the average citizen in a city that grows more expensive by the day. This is why Hong Kong is in decline. This is why Hong Kongers takes to the streets. It's not a backlash towards conflicting political ideology, they just want the Chinese and their damn money out.


> Real estate is the best investment available in Hong Kong right now. Bar none.

Whether it still is now (prices having doubled since the 2007 bottom) is questionable, and depends hugely on political decisions.

> With all their capital tied up in real estate, the elites don't invest in startups or R&D.

Fully agreed. Not only that, it makes starting a small business extremely expensive.

> It's not a backlash towards conflicting political ideology, they just want the Chinese and their damn money out.

I'd argue the umbrella movement was borne of four related grievances:

* the enormous inequality (coupled with low social mobility)

* the extreme cost of getting your own flat (young workers live with their family for a long time, and have to save money for long time before they can put down a downpayment for a tiny apartment (they come in different sizes: shoebox, matchbox, coffin...))

* the gradual erosion of civil liberties

* and, yes, the desire for more political self-determination, e.g. universal suffrage or even independence.


> Hong Kongers don't care about the ideological differences between mainland China and HK,

Pretty sure some do. See the umbrella movement.

> This article takes an economic situation and tries to frame it as a political one

Seems short sighted to say politics and economy are unrelated. Politicians make laws that impact businesses.


I think it should be pointed out that Hong Kong never had democracy. The British ruled the country with the same iron fist the Chinese do, and indeed many of the laws currently being used against the Hong Kong citizenry originated with them.

The difference really does come down to the fact that the British, although authoritarian, ran a relatively clean ship. Meanwhile Beijing's government has been corrupt, nepotistic, vindictive, and now deadlocked.

It reminds me of the old D&D alignment battle: Lawful evil vs. neutral evil. No one cared that the government was kind of evil back while it was obsessively following the rule of law, even if the law was kind of crooked, but under the Chinese it shifted away from that and became whatever is most immediately expedient to those in power. The vaunted "rule of law" became a mere mask for Beijing party politics games.


> I think it should be pointed out that Hong Kong never had democracy. The British ruled the country with the same iron fist the Chinese do

Note that it's not because the British never tried to introduce democracy. In fact they were heavily dissuaded from doing so because of ... surprise ... China. Source: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/18/asia/hong-kong-handover-china-...

  Declassified documents from long before handover
  negotiations even began show that some British officials
  did seek to introduce more democracy in Hong Kong but were
  angrily rebuffed by Beijing.
  
  Allowing Hong Kong people to govern themselves would be a
  "very unfriendly act," premier Zhou Enlai reportedly told
  British officials in 1958. Another Chinese official in 1960
  threatened potential invasion if the UK attempted to
  introduce greater democracy to the colony.
More details here too: https://qz.com/279013/the-secret-history-of-hong-kongs-still...


Yep, and while there was never universal suffrage, most other civil liberties and the rule of law were upheld, by and large, under British administration.

And that is giving way, slice by slice, to Chinese "guanxi" (i.e., "connections", "who do you know") and authoritarian politics. :-/


This is funny given the fact that in HK what school you go to largely depends on how much money your parents have (buy bonds issued by schools) and what is their occupation.

This is strictly prohibited in mainland China - a private school recently asked education level of parents on one of its admin forms, that became national news and that school got punished in days. Selling school bonds to effectively bar average families to access equal educational rights would be criminal offence.

If you like, we can continue one public healthcare - whether the residence of Shanghai has better access to public hospital or those in HK? Requiring people to wait months or even years to have surgery in public hospital would probably causing an uprising in China, but apparently that is okay in HK as the rich how makes the law can always go to private hospital.

Your definition of "rule of law" is quite different, that is all.


Because rich connected kids in Beijing don't get into 人民中学 because of their parents money? Let's ignore all the BMW, audis, Mercedes waiting to pickup kids outside the school. That is an example of mainland China's "rule of law", which is largely hypocritical and never what CCTV says it is.


Not quite sure what your point is.

The school system is suboptimal indeed, and good private schools are very expensive and require some machinations to get in. Nevertheless, HK fairs very well in the international PISA studies (ahead of China, incidentally) [1].

Public hospitals in HK are good, modern, efficient, and inexpensive. Private hospitals provide an alternative if you want more personalised or faster service.

However, of this pertains to civil liberties and the rule of law (which my post was about).

The notion that access to education and health care is better in China (or more justly distributed, without special favours for the well-connected) is very questionable, as the other post highlighted.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programme_for_International_St...


Well, that is an issue of freedom.

A rich person can buy a BMW with their money, so why shouldn't they also be able to buy expensive education?


you mean 114 years after the Opium War? that was a pretty long wait.


Wouldn't China's rule be more chaotic evil?


that's a contradiction in terms, because rules don't exist in chaos, so neither does rule.


China would be less traditional D&D alignments and more of a faction-based system where the party and the nation are at the top of the loyalty priority list.


Not to doubt you - but, what's your source?

(You sound correct, but I don't know how to verify what you're saying).


Have a look at Wikipedia - especially 1991 (and before)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_constituency_(Hong_...

where else do you get the equivalent of two senate seat for the chamber of commerce, another for manufacturer's sassociation, a third for the construction industry, a fourth for the banks ..... but none elected at large by the populace

even today only half the council is elected at large


> where else do you get the equivalent of two senate seat for the chamber of commerce, another for manufacturer's sassociation, a third for the construction industry, a fourth for the banks

The City of London gives companies votes [1]. And until 1948, college graduates in the United Kingdom voted twice [2].

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_London_Corporation#V...

[2] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Representation_of_the_People...


Take a look at history - India, for example, which took one of the most famous revolutionies of all time to escape Britain's rule, which they agitated for because of awful policies like the salt tax.


There's a lot to be gloomy about but HK is also really inspirational. At a time when a lot of young people in the west are railing against democracy, free speech, and other laws that support their freedom, HK has 20 year olds pushing China to deliver the democracy they promised before 1997.


> a lot of young people in the west are railing against democracy, free speech, and other laws that support their freedom

[citation needed]


Not "railing against" to be fair to your original point but this study (FiveThirtyEight thinks it's sound) says millennials value democracy far less than their predecessors.

As a % of people who think it is "essential" to live in a democracy:

Born in 1930s - 75% millennials - 30% https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/democracy-meh/


Could it be that democracy that people born in the '30s experienced (or at least perceived) was different from the one experienced by millennials ?


The question is this just age (I've seen qualitatively similar things periodically about young vs. old people off and on for decades) or if it's a shift over time in attitudes of young people.


Some questions I'm thinking of in regards to this situation:

-Who in the world does not agree that self-determination is good?

-Britain seems to be standing up for Hong only lightly. Will they ever carry a bigger stick?[1]

-What is the difference between Hong Kong/China relationship and the often criticized West Bank/Israel relationship?

-Would the former colonies in Africa and Asia be in better hands if they were still part of their old master countries? Hong Kong is obviously not in a terrible spot, but certainly many former colonies in Africa are.

-I think it's clear that because China-Hong Kong have close economic ties, but China is much larger, that Hong Kong needs China much more than China needs Hong Kong[2,3]. Will this power dynamic further bias decisions in favor of Beijing?

[1]http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/1871316/...

[2]http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/chn/

[3]http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/hkg/


> Who in the world does not agree that self-determination is good?

Generally the self-determination of a population is opposed if that population is viewed as the same ethnicity as you. Just look at the concept of the independence or real autonomy some day of Vojvodina or Transylvania. Besides blaming such talk on a Hungarian irredentist plot, Serbs and Romanians from further south are completely aghast that some of their fellow Serbs and Romanians might not want to share the same country with them.

There's a feeling that once an ethnic group has been gathered together into the same nation state, none of them have the right to leave it. Thus in China today, it's no surprise that the Han population in China (or at least its Han-controlled government) would be uncomfortable with the idea of the Han in Hong Kong (or Taiwan) going in a different direction.


> Generally the self-determination of a population is opposed if that population is viewed as the same ethnicity as you.

"Generally" isn't the right word. "In mainland China" would be a better. In Europe there are separate countries that are more similar than different parts of China. It isn't even true amongst Han countries. Taiwan and Singapore are mostly Han and still want to remain independent countries from China. Also how does this logic apply to the parts of China that were not traditionally Han? China would never have taken them over using this logic.

> There's a feeling that once an ethnic group has been gathered together into the same nation state, none of them have the right to leave it. Thus in China today, it's no surprise that the Han population in China (or at least its Han-controlled government) would be uncomfortable with the idea of the Han in Hong Kong (or Taiwan) going in a different direction.

Hong Kong's destiny is clearly set, but your reference to Taiwan is a bit odd. Taiwan already "left". Taiwan's and mainland China have been independent countries since the end of the civil war (though many people play word games to pretend this isn't the case). So say it what it is. Mainland Chinese want to invade and take over Taiwan.


>What is the difference between Hong Kong/China relationship and the often criticized West Bank/Israel relationship?

????? Hong Kong is wealthy, developed, and cosmopolitan and the West Bank/Gaza are not??

Israel and Palestine share the same landmass and China and Britain do not??

Israel is the most powerful nation in the Middle East and Britian is not the most powerful nation in East Asia--in fact it's a nation in Western Europe???

Even when Britain was highly relevant in Asia they were only ever a colonial power while Israel as a nation is inextricably tied to the land that it shares with Palestine?????

I'm really struggling to see where you're going with this one...


I was trying to compare the political situation, not quality of life, which as you mention is vastly different.

My comparison is more that:

-China controls Hong Kong with only limited local say in the government. Israel also controls the West Bank, with limited Palestinian Authority control of certain matters.

-Hong Kong can't have a military or conduct foreign affairs and isn't internationally recognized (same as West Bank)

-Palestinians in the West Bank are separated from Israel, and are required to enter checkpoints to cross over. Hong Kong residents also need to go through (less invasive) checkpoints to go into China.

At first I thought my comparison might be unfounded, but I thought it was interesting none the less. But I'm now struggling to see real political differences in the two situations (although obviously there are many differences in scale of policy differences, and also important historical differences). I'd love to be proven wrong though. Certainly Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank is a difference. Any other major differences?


I'd say that the biggest difference in terms of the political situation is that the people in Hong Kong are Chinese, and Hong Kong is part of China. Palestinians aren't Israeli (and Israel even talks about population transfers to remove Arab citizens), and Palestine isn't considered part of Israel (Israel's stance seems to be "we control this land and maybe some of it is part of Israel but maybe part of it isn't"). When you add to that things like the military conflict, blockades, settlements, etc., you can see that the situation is vastly different.


I don't know about that. 1.7 million (20%) Israeli citizens are Israeli Arabs, many of whom are close relatives of people in the West Bank.


But that's exactly the point. There's a huge difference between the Israeli Arab citizens and the Israeli Arabs who are non-citizens. People might talk about some of the issues faced by Israeli Arab citizens, but when they talk about the problem with the Palestinians they're specifically talking about the ones who are non-citizens. The Arabs who have citizenship are in a completely different situation, just like the Hong Kong residents are in a completely different situation since they have Chinese citizenship.


I guess I don't understand. Hong Kong residents are not really functional Chinese citizens[1] (as I understand it) just like Palestinians are not functional Israeli citizens. Obviously the situations are not identical, but it does seem similar to me.

Hong Kong residents need a permit to enter/work in China just like West Bank residents need a permit to enter/work in Israel (and something like 50k-100k Palestinian citizens (non-Israelis) have permits to work in Israel).

[1]https://www.quora.com/Do-people-in-Hong-Kong-and-Macau-have-...


Did you look at that link? Excerpt:

> If you are a PRC citizen (and most HK people are), you can get a Mainland travel permit, then you can work and settle in Mainland China without restrictions. Getting a Mainland travel permit is a routine matter, and almost everyone in Hong Kong can get one.

This is completely, entirely different from a Palestinian living in the West Bank. It is _not_ a routine matter for them to get a permit to work and settle in Israel proper without restrictions; it is extremely difficult to do so.

It's worth pointing out the unequal nature of the restrictions - with Israel/Palestine, members of the dominant power have the advantage over the weaker power (Palestine). Israeli settlers are able to move into the Palestinian territories much more easily than Palestinians are able to move to Israel (and Israeli settlements and annexation of the Palestinian territories exist, while the opposite is nonexistent for the Palestinians). This is most definitely not the case in China - Mainlanders aren't given preferential treatment over Hong Kong locals.

It's also not correct to think about them as separate entities like Israel and Palestine, since Hong Kong is represented in the National People's Congress. Palestinians do not get representatives in the Israeli Knesset, as HK citizens get in the NPC. The PLA is supposed to protect HK citizens, the IDF is not there to protect Palestinians - in fact, one of the goals of the IDF is to fight against the Palestinians. The goal of the PRC is to integrate HK into the mainland proper, the goal of Israel is to exclude the Palestinians from Israel. The government of HK is a local PRC government, whereas the Palestinian governments are separate entities from the Israeli government. There has been wars fought between Israel and Palestine, and blockades put up - nothing like this has happened between PRC and HK.

This is kind of like saying "I cut my hand cooking the other day; what's the difference between that and surgery." The two situations aren't even remotely similar.


There is no chinese language. There are many languages in China and the official language is Mandarin. There are many different ethnic groups in China as well, with different languages (not dialects) and even different writing systems. In my years in China in the 80's and 90's it always struck me that almost the first thing someone asks when you meet someone new is "what are you" Canton, Hakka, Chiu Chow etc. I lived in Beijing for a couiple of years too, and it was the same. The whole "we chinese" line that a lot of people believe is meant to hide the fact that Mandarin is the language of empire. This has changed in the last 20 years, but for most people I knew in Beijing in 2000, who were not from Beijing, Mandarin was a second language. And no one I met there could speak Cantonese. My wife, a native from Hong Kong, still has to speak English when going to Shanghai or Beijing. Hong Kong started as a British Colony and is now a PRC Colony.


You're choosing to focus on superficial similarities (checkpoints!) and completely ignoring the wildly different contexts that Hong Kong and the West Bank, a place that I was standing in literally one week ago, exist in.

-Political relations are a function of wealth. If Palestine were a wealthy and economically developed nation with a large number of international connections do you think their relationship with Israel would be quite the same?

-Do you think not having a military/international recognition is the same for a faux city-state and for an occupied territory??

-Have you considered how living in a shithole and being denied economic opportunity due to not being able to travel freely might be just a tiny bit different from being mildly inconvenienced when leaving the financial capital of Asia for a developing country (yes, mainland China is very much a developing country) with a fifth of your GDP/capita?


I think my main point/question is really what is the concrete systematic difference between a "faux state" (as you refer to Hong Kong) and an occupied territory?

Of course your points about the economic differences are correct. But are you saying that you agree that the current political situations aren't that different, that it's just the economic situation that's different?

And wow, as you mention, the Hong Kong/China GDP Per capita difference is approximately 5x. Israelis have 12x the Palestinian GDP Per capita[1].

[1] https://www.google.com/webhp?ie=UTF-8&rct=j#q=west+bank+gdp+...


You've made me think about this !

I recently had to pass between Canada and the US and I, too, was forced to enter a checkpoint where I was held by someone carrying a gun, who asked invasive questions about why I wanted to cross into a different territory and I had to satisfy the guard that I was not going to present any threat and that my purpose for travel was legitimate.

Like a fool, I previously believed this was a normal thing done by countries and that these were normal border policing activities at so-called 'border crossings'.

But after reading your post, I now realize I was forced to be subjugated by an evil oppressor.

At least, that is if I accept that an otherwise normal action at territorial separation points can be re-phrased in pejorative terms through re-naming of border crossings as the more sinister sounding 'checkpoints'.

edit:typo.


Until recently you could cross the border without a passport. It was pretty carefree. Why should'nt it be?


Where did you cross that someone pointed a gun at you?


>where I was held by someone >carrying a gun

Who said anything about someone pointing a gun?


Hong Kong was not wealthy, developed, or cosmopolitan to begin with. At the outset of the colonization the mean income was 1/3 that of Britain, a few decades later it was 4/3 that of Britain.


>-Who in the world does not agree that self-determination is good?

Governments of countries with secessionist movements. So, the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Russia, Ukraine, China, the list goes on.

A few of them fought bloody civil wars over the question of self-determination, both in the distant, and not-so-distant past.


> -Who in the world does not agree that self-determination is good?

China is extremely protective of its territorial integrity. So, China, for starters.


The problem is that Hong Kong was a colony for 100+ years so the effects of colonial mentality still remain.

Like black American slaves fighting for the Confederacy, we see that as wrong.


Hong Kong is not fighting to get put back under British rule.

They are fighting for self determination and to be rolled by themselves, instead of outside undemocratic dictators.


> the authorities have allowed problems to fester, including an affordable housing crisis, a troubled education system and a delayed high-speed rail line.

So not much worse off than any major western city then? In terms of education, the entire USA's system could be described as worse than "troubled".


HongKong's rise was largely due to the decline of Shanghai and mainland China falling to communist government. Now with the rest of China rise up, I can't see how HongKong can return to its former glory


A lot of "built by the British" sloganeering but just how many British hands touched a welding torch? Moved ground with a shovel? Hauled supplies?

>Hong Kong was once known for the speed and efficiency with which it built huge planned communities with ample public housing every several years. But it has not managed to do so since Britain returned it to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997.

Perhaps a central government tactic. Build up a mass of wealthy entrenched home owners hell-bent on not seeing their guaranteed rent seeking threatened by cheaper public housing.


After the British Empire lost the American colonies, they tried to compensate their loss by refocusing their efforts eastwards. However the British realized they could not profit by playing fairly, so they started smuggling narcotics into China and when that failed, they invaded them, giving origin to their presence in Hong Kong.

The Chinese have valid reasons to assimilate that territory.


If I were China I would point out the HK's entire existence is because Britain needed a staging area from which to wage war upon China so that Britain would have a market to sell all the opium it was producing in the Raj, which set the conditions for the Taiping Rebellion, which killed over 20 million people.


I never understood why the UK didn't let Hong Kong declare independence. They could have then choosen their own protector to keep China away if the UK was too scared to do so.


Because they can not? The original agreement is UK is only allowed to "rent" HK for years. They are never given ownership of the city. Plus it's politics, I don't think it would be such a simple decision made by one party.


The mainland Chinese government wouldn't have accepted it and would have intervened, militarily if necessary.


I like the design of this page!


Ofc China does not want HK to be free. China found out how to get "rich" without losing control. They want exactly the opposite of what makes HK HK. It's just sad that many strong economies feel like they need / want the growth based on chinese consumption and trade and are feeding this undemocratic behemoth.

What is scary is that China is actively promoting expansion by resettling ethnic han chinese.


Uhm... I think you forgot that ethnic han Chinese are human beings like you, capable of reasoning and driven by self-interest.

I don't appreciate being treated as as a mere weapon.


Well then complain to your government ? What is China doing in Africa is not nice.


> They want exactly the opposite of what makes HK HK

China is what made HK HK... It was china's economic boom that enriched and modernized china.


Huh? People in HK are already ethnic han chinese... If you're talking about Tibet/East Turkestan, sure.


Talking about other places yes.


Yes there are Han Chinese in HK, but the Cantonese, Hakka and Chiu Chow are not ethnic Han people. And languages like Cantonese are closer to Thai than they are to Mandarin. Hakka is very different from Mandarin or Cantonese.


1) Many people. Look at Brexit. You can argue until your face turns blue that it's bad for Britain, it most likely is, but at least they don't have unelected politicians setting rules. It's pro-self-determination no matter how you look at it.

2) Why should Britain stand up for Hong Kong? They're imperialists while they hold on to it, and then cowards when they give it back to China and say?

3) Almost invariable yes. But then that makes you an imperialist slave driver. Did bad things happen? Absolutely. Terrible, horrible things. But look at how things are now.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14664817 and marked it off-topic.


> at least they don't have unelected politicians setting rules

I have some bad news for you about the House of Lords.


The House of Lords is an absolute mess of an institution but at least they can't actually pass or prevent the passage of legislation. Their powers are limited to amending bills, making recommendations, and delaying legislation.


That's some serious hair-splitting. "They don't set rules, they just amend bills"...


It's a very limited form of amending (they can't touch money bills for example) and the House of Commons can always get its way in the end as amendments can eaisly be rejected by the "lower" house.


Right, but the difference is that the British have spent the last couple of centuries diminishing the power of the House of Lords, not seeking to aggrandize it.


Yes. But that's a far cry from somebody in Brussels creating laws and policies.


You mean the European Parliament? The body to whom British citizens did in fact elect members to?


No, the European Commission, the body on which Britain's entire representation for many years was twice-disgraced former MP Peter Hamilton. Who voted for that?


Presumably the people who voted for Britain's ruling government at the time.


The people of Britain vote for their local MPs, who vote for a government, who appointed a European Commissioner. Theoretically that's a chain of accountability (and purely theoretically it's also possible for the European Parliament to dismiss the Commission), but it's too weak for democracy to apply in practice - Mandelson could not have held an office that the British public had any real control over. The British civil service has a similarly limited level of accountability which is exactly why they're required to be politically neutral - it's a reasonable arrangement for a technical regulatory body, but obviously unsuitable for general-purpose lawmaking. Unfortunately the EU has subtly slid from the former into the latter without reassessing whether its institutions and conventions were still suitable.


>but at least they don't have unelected politicians setting rules

I guess you are referring to the European Commission that is an executive branch of the EU institutions i.e. a government. Guess what - in most cases people have no control over who becomes a member of the government - in best case they can vote for a person who becomes a leader of the government (say president in US).

In that regard the selection of the members of the EU government is more transparent and demographic and perhaps also less effective.

President of European Commission: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Commission#Appointmen...

Commissioners: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Commissioner#Appointm...

It is sad that many people do not understand how EU institutions work part due to their ignorance but also due to foreign propaganda.

But I do not argue against British (or any) people to have a right to choose their own way (but I am also not sure that this is what they actually wanted).


> I guess you are referring to the European Commission that is an executive branch of the EU institutions i.e. a government.

The difference is that the European Commission can create binding law that preempts national law, in the form of regulations.


And here we go already....

> in most cases people have no control over who becomes a member of the government in best case they can vote for a person who becomes a leader of the government

Uh, do you not support democracy? Because how else do you have a democracy except to vote for elected representatives, and you have DIRECT control of doing so through voting?

I'm not really anti-EU. I don't much care, whatever keeps that continent from boiling over in war is probably a good thing, but seriously don't come in here and say that something like the European Commissions is a more democratic institution than voting for your representatives and leaders are. That's intellectually dishonest.


>Uh, do you not support democracy? Because how else do you have a democracy except to vote for elected representatives, and you have DIRECT control of doing so through voting?

In some countries you vote to a candidate to a position but in many countries that still call them democratic you can not.

For example you could vote for a candidate into the parliament but the actual members of the parliament are selected based on a formula that sets higher preference for the candidates more upward in the voting list.

Another example. You vote for a candidate but this candidate also belongs to the party X and when this party gets majority in the parliament, the leader of this party gets appointed (by president (possibly elected by previous parliament) king/queen) to form a government. Members of such government are commonly not voted by electorate but are selected by the leader of the government or by some other agreements. So you definitely can not have direct control over selection of members into the government.

In most dramatic case the leader of the party can step down and another one out of the blue gets the change to play the lead of the state to advance her agenda.

>I'm not really anti-EU. I don't much care, whatever keeps that continent from boiling over in war

And UK just increased the change to get into the war with continental Europe or part of it.


What are you on about? The European Parliament members are absolutely voted for. Parliament in turn elects the executive branch. It is the same in many countries.

By that twisted logic, Theresa May was very much unelected. Probably even more so now...


I love how you say Africans would have been better under benevolent European rule and also say Brits should free themselves from European rule (however good it is), in a single comment.


Well, I'm looking at things how they currently are in 2017. I support self-determination of Africans (and subsequently all people), but that doesn't mean they wouldn't be better off right now under British rule. The British (and others, like the Dutch) never should have colonized Africa (or anywhere else), but they did.

Likewise, I can acknowledge that the British are probably worse-off for leaving the EU, but also support their self-determination.

I'm patiently waiting for the "but muh EU!1!" down votes to come in, even though I'm stating that the British are probably better off in the EU.


How does that old faxlore go?

  Heaven:
   British cops
   German mechanics
   French chefs
   Italian lovers
   Swiss administrators
  
  Hell:
   German cops
   French mechanics
   British chefs
   Swiss lovers
   Italian administrators
Some nation-tribes are better at governance than others. Their countries might be objectively better if they were administered by another nation-tribe, but then it wouldn't be their country.

Rhodesia was certainly a better international trading partner than Zimbabwe is now, but at least Zimbabwe is unequivocally owned by the Zimbabweans. Other countries don't exist solely for the benefit of their international trade partners.


That old faxlore is obsolete I think. From what I've heard, German cops are actually really good these days. Unlike some countries, they're not very likely to shoot first and ask questions later. And the reputation of British cops seems to have gone downhill lately. Also, I didn't think British chefs were bad (Gordon Ramsay is British after all); the main problem with British cuisine is that most of it just borrows from elsewhere, much like American food, and isn't uniquely British.

So I think an updated list would be:

Heaven: German cops, German mechanics, French chefs, Italian lovers, Swiss administrators

Hell: American cops, French mechanics, ??? chefs (Canadian perhaps?), British or American lovers, American administrators


It's obsolete and Eurocentric, but the point is that different countries have their strong and weak points. If you were to update it to include Americans, you might just use an entirely different set. But you still have to balance the list.

            Heaven         Hell
  Japanese  toilets        economy
  Chinese   labor          toilets
  Russian   energy         entertainment
  German    economy        energy
  British   health care    food
  French    food           labor
  American  entertainment  health care


I agree completely.

In European/Anglo countries, the ruling elite give back. Check out Grand Central, Rockefeller Center, the large parks and gardens throughout the great countries of the world. The ruling elite in Asia don't care about others.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14665498 and marked it off-topic.


What makes this off topic?


You know, just today I was thinking about how positively Rockefeller Center has impacted my life.


The elite in Asia give back. They just don't give back parks and gardens.


non-sequitur


I love both these comments. China doesn't have private ownership. it's still communist, right?


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14665303 and marked it off-topic.


If "no private ownership" = communism, then correct, China is communism country.

But as defined in the textbook, communism also requires highly-developed society, where citizens not work for their living, but for their aspiration, and the society provides the consumables for people's living. And many other necessary conditions to be called communism.

Even for private ownership. If I bought a house in US, do I have an ownership? Then why I have to pay property tax and have a risk of been evicted if not do so.


FFS. China has private ownership of property encoded in its constitution. What are you even talking about? Very frustrating to watch these energetic discussions with strongly-held views based on pure nonsense.

It's 2017 guys. You have a whole internet of information at your fingertips. Use it, please!


""" According to the Constitution, land in cities is owned by the State; land in the rural and suburban areas is owned by the State or by collectives. (Constitution, art. 10.) Although individuals cannot privately own land, they may obtain transferable land-use rights for a number of years for a fee. There are a series of laws and regulations regulating the land-use rights and ownership of residential property, including: ... """

https://blogs.loc.gov/law/2015/03/chinese-law-on-private-own...

I am not an expert.


Do a google image search for 'nail house'. Clearly there's sufficient property rights for individuals to hold onto their houses to that degree.


> I am not an expert

Well me neither, but I certainly doubt all those Shanghainese are dropping millions on apartments that they don't even own!

And yes, real estate is leasehold, although the difference between auto-renewing leasehold and eminent domain-subject freehold seems to be a matter of semantics. The only country I'm aware of where a private citizen seemingly really can resist the ability of the state to seize their land, and thus actually does appear to genuinely "own" it, is Japan.


can't speak to china, but it's worth noting that private and personal property are distinct concepts.


It's funny to see the obviously pro-CCCP replies to you here. It demonstrates my point exactly.

No, you don't have ownership. You only rent the land for 70 years, after which it returns to the government. You can 'sell your property' to somone else, at which point the 70-year lease on the land is reset for them to 0.


Much of the land in Vancouver's west end is held under 100 year leases.

Strangely enough, people still buy and sell it, and live in it.

Perpetual ownership is not the only valid model of land ownership.


This is nonsense. A state can privately own land, and you need to own capital in order to lease it in the first place. And since when does renting not count as a form of ownership, albeit with restrictions? You're not allowed to do certain things in the US with your land, does that mean that the US has no private ownership?

I do not wish to defend the CCP, but Communism is more than just "no private property", and you're wrong on the point on private property, at least coming from the Marxian sense which the Communists mean.


No, the timing of the lease doesn't reset.


> Xiaomi, Didi, Mobike and OFO are the 4 unicorns of China's internet industry,

Lol. You're just going to ignore Tencent, founder of QQ, and countless other older, proven-to-be successful tech companies that aren't from anywhere near Beijing?

Suffice it to say, not everyone agrees with your assessment of Beijing as being the leader in innovation [1]

Being nearer the beauracracy never helps your flexibility. It helps your funding for development of things that are of interest to the state.

National government, sorry.

[1] http://www.allchinareview.com/chinas-emerging-silicon-valley...


You've broken the HN guidelines repeatedly in this thread by engaging in nationalistic flamewar. Please don't do that again.

This is an international environment and the last thing we need is people sniping at each other's nations for either internecine or xenophobic reasons. When feeling activated, we all must take care to remain respectful. (Related: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14669197.)

We detached this comment from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14669031 and marked it off-topic.


Certainly wasn't my intention. I'll be more careful in the future.

I guess I'm not sure how to debate whether one city produces more successful startups than another. I mean, I think it's safe to say that Y Combinator and SF have been more successful than, say, Union Square Ventures and NYC, so I'm not sure where the internecine is in my above comment, but I guess I'll just sidestep this topic altogether for now and think on it. Thanks for letting me know.


By 'internecine' I mean that sometimes people attack each other because their nations are close and sometimes ('xenophobia') because they are far. I'd give additional examples but I don't want to set anybody else off.

The main thing is just to err on the side of being respectful, remembering that other people feel as much love and loyalty for their side as we each do for ours.


> remembering that other people feel as much love and loyalty for their side as we each do for ours.

Oh, for sure. I try to maintain respect for all nations and their people. Are you certain you weren't targeting another comment?

I guess I could've done without the "Lol" in my comment above, and just cited Tencent without implying the commenter was "ignoring" them.

But there wasn't any internecine or xenophobia there that I could detect, because it was a discussion about Shenzhen vs. Beijing, which are within the same nation! =)

I understand if you can't give examples. Thanks again, I will try to be more respectful down the road.


[flagged]


What? That is a different subthread, not connected to this one.

vitaminbandit, please stop harassing my account.


[flagged]


We've banned this account. Inflammatory nationalistic rhetoric is not welcome on Hacker News. (The irony of doing that while criticizing nationalism in others is also worth noting.)

We understand the temptation, but please don't create accounts to break HN's guidelines with. Doing that will eventually get your main account banned as well.


I prefer to think of this comment as more of a critique on the Chinese government than the people.

However, with the way it is worded, you're right it seems to be a direct attack on people.

It is unfortunate that people of a nation get lumped together when discussing bad government policies.


No point in talking about China from the lens of traditional communism. China is an authoritarian capitalist country, 'capitalism with Asian values' as is said with Singapore arguably the architect, so being upset about Chinese communists being invited into the country because they are communist is kind of absurd. Not wanting them in the country because they support an oppressive, racist government with more state executions than every other country in the world combined, if they do in fact actually support it, is a legitimate reason to be bothered. Anecdotally living abroad, the Chinese are deeply racist and nationalist, as are all the main East Asian countries really, even younger generations to my surprise, but immigration obviously adversely selects, and even if then, you're quickly going to lose those those views when you move to a new land as a worker.


Your points are all pretty much valid. However, you're getting hung up on terms that misses the point. My use of 'officially communist' was to imply the fact that it's more of a authoritarian regime. I also find it funny how so many are getting hung up on the same use of the term. You're missing the forest for the trees.

Anyone with half a brain knows that its not the theoretical communism.


Yes, I think comments like the above are intentionally trying to divert attention from your main points.


Main points, like talking about all 1.3B people as if they are of the one mind? 1.3B brainwashed chinese, unlike the 300M free-thinking americans, none of whom buy into any sort of blind nationalism, amirite?

Also, how does 'extreme nationalism' manifest in the expat community? Is it just talking passionately about your homeland? Or are these people actually taking physical action? I mean, 'extreme nationalism' is suggestive of more than just talking.


> 1.3B brainwashed chinese, unlike the 300M free-thinking americans, none of whom buy into any sort of blind nationalism, amirite?

Textbook whataboutism. The US isn't jailing people who talk about government missteps. China does jail people who talk about what happened in 1987.

> Also, how does 'extreme nationalism' manifest in the expat community? Is it just talking passionately about your homeland? Or are these people actually taking physical action? I mean, 'extreme nationalism' is suggestive of more than just talking.

I think he meant "patriotic". The most patriotic thing is to believe your country's form of government is better than others, or at least as good as others. So, I gather that comment was asking how the Chinese can support their government while it embraces capitalism.

Personally, I don't hold the same feeling of incredulity. I think it all exists to support those currently in power and to prevent revolution. China had to adapt after Mao's policy failures, and they did so while keeping the same government in power.


>The most patriotic thing is to believe your country's form of government is better than others, or at least as good as others.

No, that'd potentially be a delusion of patriotism. Or nationalism. Patriotic would be to make your countries government better than others. Not merely believing it is.


> No, that'd potentially be a delusion of patriotism. Or nationalism. Patriotic would be to make your countries government better than others. Not merely believing it is.

I agree. The original argument of this thread was that without free press, doing things like making your country's government better is difficult, if not impossible.

Therefore, it seems contradictory to be patriotic in a system that does not permit its citizens to improve upon that system.


The US has a free press. The current president is a governmental incompetant, and is using the office to enrich his family. The latest story is that even the major personalities in his own party are telling him publicly to shape up, admonishing him like a naughty schoolboy.

What will actually change in government to prevent Trump 2.0? How will it be improved? That's the saddest thing about this whole debacle, is that nothing will be changed to get rid of a bad president. No mechanisms will be added. Everyone will breathe a sigh of relief when Trump leaves (in whatever way) and then pinky-swear that "we'll never do that again" without changing the mechanisms to actually make it so.


Trump is more constrained in the US than he would be as a leader elsewhere.

There are a number of active lawsuits against him, most important probably being the emoluments ones. These take time to prepare and put in front of a judge.

I don't know what better solution there is to wannabe dictators than a free press. Trump hates the press that doesn't agree with him. That should be a big sign that they are a thorn in his side.

Life isn't perfect, nor is government. Sometimes you get a lemon and just need to deal with it with as much reason as you can muster.


> Trump is more constrained in the US than he would be as a leader elsewhere.

O_o

In a parliamentary system, when the leader loses the backing of their own party, they're no longer leader. And you don't have to wait four years for that to happen.


> Textbook whataboutism.

Nope. I was ridiculing the idea of categorising an entire nation as all being of the one mind.

You need better textbooks.

> The most patriotic thing is to believe your country's form of government is better than others, or at least as good as others.

Nonsense. There are plenty of rabid American patriots who despise their government and want to change it, for example. And there are plenty of people who believe their government is the best form, but aren't particularly patriotic.


Disclaimer, from mainland China, knows people live in US from Hong Kong.

> There's 1.3 billion brain-washed citizens Brain-wash is a strong word. Chines people are not like some another-dimensional like minions. They think and behave reasonably and just like any other one on this planet. Please refrain from using strong word without actual evidence.

> taiwan is a part of china

History shows that Taiwan was forcefully severed from the national Chinese government. Taiwan government also say they belong to the national Chinese government, and thought the mainline CCP is illegal.

> tiannamen square didn't happen

You probably meet some people who happen to believe that. I highly doubt anyone in China now believe that did not happen, let alone those who live in Bay area.

> the CCP is ok

CCP is fine. They managed China in good shape. What's the problems one would have if you have such a government.

> how can they study here for grad school, want to stay for h1-b and get the green card, have extreme nationalism for their officially communist government yet happily participate in the fruits of capitalism and western liberalism. It's quite shocking.

1. China does not have a socialism or communism economy. You can label it as such, but the truth is they practice a national capitalism. Such belief is not in odds with western values. People do value freedom and all such ubiquitous values, so they move to western countries. 2. "Extreme nationalism for their officially communist government" Just 3 bullet points, then this label got applied onto these people?! Bias aside, the 'extreme' part is rather exaggerating. Why nationalism is tied with the government? 3 bullet point can translate to pro-communist government? And an extension to tie 'extreme nationalism' to communist? I just cannot see the connection.

3. "happily participate in the fruits of capitalism and western liberalism." No, people do not have hidden agenda to do anything out of reach. They believe in the value of western nations. The premise of what you said is unfounded, and this contrast does not bear much meaning, IMHO.


You probably meet some people who happen to believe that. I highly doubt anyone in China now believe that did not happen, let alone those who live in Bay area.

Why does the government go to such extreme lengths to suppress the information then? More people than you admit don't believe or admit it happens. The government is playing a long game here, as the younger you are the less likely you are to have had access to the information, and it gets worse over time.


In my experience anyone who wants to be politically enlightened in China can be. There's simply no plugging every single hole in the great firewall, or stopping verbal exchange of knowledge. The june fourth incident, as they call it, is very well known and every year on that day there's a flurry of awareness activism, swiftly (but not really punitively) repressed.

In my opinion it will actually get better in time. The country is not in as precarious a position as it was back then, and with the progression of stabilisation, the need to suppress embarrassing parts of history will hopefully diminish. I certainly doubt something like that could happen again.

And you might know that censorship can take different forms. The CCP has historically taken a heavy-handed approach; other countries are more subtle, but they de-emphasize and bury. I personally think that Japan's systematic memory-hole-ing of its WWII exploits is far worse than the Tiananmen suppression. And what percentage of Americans do you think know about Kent State? Dresden? Hell, dronings?

Not really defending China here, or trying to start a game of whataboutism. I'm just pointing out that they're not North Korea, their citizens are not stupid, governments will always protect themselves, and history is written by the winners everywhere.


Kent State, Dresden and dronings are well-known, if not in the US, then in Canada (where I'm from). The first one is mainly from the protest song by Neil Young which may be played more often here due to Canadian content requirements.

Of course, Canada has its own sordid moments in history... Residential schools, Oka & Ipperwash crises, Japanese internment during WW2.

I think the Chinese government may play a role in strategically choosing only the most extreme and nationalistic individuals as eligible emigrants. This will skew the perspective of Americans who don't leave their country. Chinese student-spies on American University campuses is a well documented phenomenon [0].

[0] https://nytimes.com/2017/05/04/us/chinese-students-western-c...


> Chinese student-spies on American University campuses is a well documented phenomenon [0].

Why "Chinese student protesting" is labeled as "spying". Dalai does want to make a part of China become independent. Without going into the debate into the legitimacy of this claim, can a country's citizen express their own emotion through the right channel? What makes them spy?!


The protests themselves are not "spying" per se but rather a tactic used to promote pro-Chinese government propaganda. According to the linked article, members of the student group have been accused of spying.

Straight out of that article:

Li Fengzhi, a longtime employee of the Chinese Ministry of State Security who came to the United States in 2003 as a graduate student at the University of Denver, said that the Chinese government did not see the group so much as a spying operation, but rather as a propaganda and “information collection organization.” Mr. Li eventually defected and was debriefed by F.B.I. counterintelligence agents about the group’s activities.


> Li Fengzhi, a longtime employee of the Chinese Ministry of State Security who came to the United States in 2003 as a graduate student at the University of Denver, said that the Chinese government did not see the group so much as a spying operation, but rather as a propaganda and “information collection organization.”

I could not find any other sources to cross-reference this information. All the information that I could find about Li Fengzhi (wikileaks, washingtonpost) talks about his link to Ministry of State Security (MSS), and make no mentions of comments made on the student groups. So it would appear that he was talking about MSS when talking about "the group".

- http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/mar/19/exclusive-ch...

- http://voices.washingtonpost.com/spy-talk/2010/09/li_fengzhi...

- http://voices.washingtonpost.com/spy-talk/2010/10/li_fengzhi...

- https://wikileaks.org/gifiles/docs/12/1231001_re-spytalk-li-...

Of course I could be wrong and NYT had the first hand information on that, but the entire Li Fengzhi story ended in 2010 so it is not likely that NYT had the information without publishing it before 2017.


I know you said you don't want to start a "game of whataboutism", but I've been thinking about the suppression of knowledge about the "June Fourth Incident" and it really blows my mind.

No one in America will repress you, punitively or otherwise, for talking openly about, for example, the "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.” This is a horrifying and deeply shameful thing, tears well up in my eyes even to think about it, and here is a government site describing it: https://www.cdc.gov/tuskegee/timeline.htm

Today, in China, Falun Gong practitioners are being imprisoned and having their organs harvested.

The people who comprise the CCP are scary. What is the world gives someone the right to try to lie to a whole nation of billions of people? To define a false reality and insist with strength of law that it's real? The incredible grotesque arrogance of the thing! And what a mind-fk for a nation to do to itself!?

But then I think, what would I do, how far would I go, to prevent another Taiping Rebellion?


I am not sure you are really replying to my comment. I said nothing about CCP being what, I am defending Chinese people's behavior, and rebuttal the ideas that Chinese people are a group of "extreme communism supporter who happily enjoy the value of freedom and hide their true color".

CCP does much worse things than you western people even remotely understood. That does not mean that Chinese people are spies/extremist/...

> suppression of knowledge about the "June Fourth Incident" and it really blows my mind.

This is correct and true. And governments around world are learning quickly. That's the part we all should be aware.

> Today, in China, Falun Gong practitioners are being imprisoned and having their organs harvested.

I am not sure where you got this "fact"... This is a well-known fabricated lie of the Falun Gong leaders... Again, I cannot prove that no such thing, just as I cannot proven that there wasn't human organ harvesting in US. I can only say that all the sources to claim the existence of such thing is not true.

> The people who comprise the CCP are scary.

CCP has 80MM members. Please do not randomly exaggerate fact... If 80MM people are skilled practitioner of CCP tricks, China will already be the master of the world before 1987...

> What is the world gives someone the right to try to lie to a whole nation of billions of people?

No one. And no Chinese people or very few of them think CCP has the right either.

> To define a false reality and insist with strength of law that it's real?

Not sure what do you mean by "false reality".

> The incredible grotesque arrogance of the thing!

No clue what "grotesque arrogance" refers to.

> And what a mind-fk for a nation to do to itself!?

Please, do not mix CCP and Chinese people. People do not align themselves 100% at all time with the government or the party.

> But then I think, what would I do, how far would I go, to prevent another Taiping Rebellion?

Interesting. If you read CCP's propaganda, Taiping Rebellion is proclaimed as the righteous movement of the people to overthrow a corrupted government.

While in reality, Taiping Rebellion is more like a group of manic that causes havoc across the nation. It brings no advance to anything, and killed 10MM+ people. And is considered a setback to the overall progress of Chinese society.


I'm not sure I was replying directly to your comment either. I apologize.

I only recently learned about the whole "washing" of the "Incident" and it has really made me think.

I certainly agree with your rebuttal. I do not conflate the CCP with the Chinese people. And I'm aware that there are hundreds of millions of Chinese people who don't even live in China.

I also recognize that most of the members of the CCP are good people, the ones I call "scary" are a small minority. (Even if I don't agree with Communism.)

All things considered, if I'm thinking clearly, the most important thing I can recognize about China and the Chinese people is my own deep ignorance. :)

- - -

some points:

In re: the Falun Gong, they have newspapers and occasional demonstrations where I live, and they manage to make a very sober and sobering account of it. If they are lying they are damn good at it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organ_harvesting_from_Falun_Go...

I don't know the truth of it myself, I hate to believe it.

> > What is the world gives someone the right to try to lie to a whole nation of billions of people? > No one. And no Chinese people or very few of them think CCP has the right either.

Which is reassuring in one sense but dreadful in another: the concept of the "Mandate of Heaven" is still valid, even if you take it just as a metaphor?

> Not sure what do you mean by "false reality".

I mean the attempt to pretend the Tiananmen Square Massacre didn't happen.

> No clue what "grotesque arrogance" refers to.

I mean that the folks responsible for the decision to try to change history are being arrogant, institutionally if not personally.

> Please, do not mix CCP and Chinese people. People do not align themselves 100% at all time with the government or the party.

I agree. But taken together, as a Nation, that's a lil schizophrenic. Part of the nation knowing about the massacre and part "knowing" that it was merely an "incident" or even a myth, that's very schizophrenic. Even if most of the people see through it, it's still unhealthy I think.

In re: Taiping Rebellion. When I read about it I was horrified. A vast horde hopped up on rebellion and bad religion and overrunning everything they could... And they call it a "righteous movement"..?

Anyhow, sorry for my ignorance.


Falun gong... Your wiki link has 4 external links and they are all YouTube videos... I am not sure there is any credibility in this form of data source...


I think you are right. But I want to point out that most college educated people know there is a tianmen incident. They may view it as a unlawful riot, instead of what believed by western people.

My statement "I highly doubt anyone in China now believe that did not happen" seems too rush and was from my own experience only, because I learned Tianmen incident in college.

Or I should say most people eventually will be ignorant about what's tianmen incident. They neither believe it happened or not happened, they simply have no such idea, like in an alternative universe.


"On June 4 1989, absolutely nothing happened here" :)


What's the context of this reference?


Just a combination of those joke plaques that say "On this site in 1897, nothing happened" with the date of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.


I can't seem to find any studies on Chines-American or Chinese-in-the-US views on the Chinese government, but my anecdotal experiences are different than yours. I find a more typical view of, "It's a difficult situation, and there's not much we can do about it" and not "The Communist party is the best and democracy is terrible".

And on the spectrum of Complete Communism->Complete Capitalism (no country is completely on either end), I'm not so sure China is too far off from some completely western countries. According to the Index of Economic Freedom, China is only slightly lower than Croatia (EU Member), South Africa and Italy[1].

[1]http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking


Dude, they love their government with extreme pride. You're probably talking to them as an obvious American, and they are backing down and downplaying it to hide it, because they know it's your home turf and they'd rather not get in a fight with a 'Murica-dude over it.

Try talking to them as another asian or foreigner. You will see their nationalism come out.

If you don't believe me, ask your non-American non-Chinese friends for their anecdotal experiences.

And yes, of course it's not all of them.


Most of them that have moved to America exhibit China as a "difficult" situation. Speaking to them as someone of Chinese ethnicity (I was born in Phoenix with parents from Taiwan and I also spent time in Taiwan), I don't think they believe China is great. Many are leaving because the air is bad, some believe a bubble is going to burst, etc.

I mean, that's some serious cognitive dissonance if they're living in America yet exhibit hyperpatriotic attitudes.


> Dude, they love their government with extreme pride

I'm going to present as much evidence as you have - none - but in my experience this is categorically and absurdly untrue. And your claim that others don't see this because they're "obvious American" is the opposite of reality. The only times I have seen Chinese express "love" for their government is when it's criticised by a foreigner. Between themselves they complain non stop. The best the CCP can hope for from the vast majority of its populace is, as far as I can see, a kind of grudging respect.

You really need to learn the difference between extreme pride in your country and in your government, because they are two very different things. Plenty of peoples have the former - including the Chinese and indeed Americans. I struggle to think of any large population of the latter and they certainly do not live in China.


I concur with this. I once saw an American student, studying in Europe. A European student was critisizing her country's government. The conversation did not go well, she eventually cried out in tears. That is when I realized Americans care deeply about their country. Americans complain among themselves about their government all the time but it is a different matter if an outsider complains about your government. Probably the same thing is happening when you talk to Chinese students.


> You're probably talking to them as an obvious American, and they are backing down and downplaying it to hide it

Not sure how do you get that. I suppose you do not have the super power to read mind.


The problem with your first item is that Taiwan's political orthodoxy ALSO says its part of China... the disagreement is about which government is the legitimate ruler of both zones.

I personally believe Taiwan is a separate country be every objective measure, but the current mess isn't just the PRCs making, past and present Taiwanese politicians deserve some blame here too.


Unless by "political orthodoxy", you mean the KMT military dictatorship in power before Taiwan became a democracy, your comment is simply false. You will not find any elected politician on the island claiming that Taiwan is a part of China.

The political views of the mainland soldiers who invaded Taiwan during the 50s and the views of the people of Taiwan who were at their mercy weren't the same, even when dictatorship made it impossible to speak freely. Many had to acquiesce to the system to get by and some did for decades. A prime example would be the first Taiwanese native to succeed in the KMT. After decades of doing the party's bidding, he made it to the very top and destroyed the dictatorship from the inside by allowing opposing parties to form, participate in elections and ultimately win.


The ones I've met are fairly critical of their government and know about Tienanmen. Yours is one anecdote, as is mine. Only a study can give concrete conclusions, but since the nature of life in the US is in direct contrast to that in China, I doubt they're unreasonably supportive of a authoritarian government in China


It is time to cut it off this type of brainwash mumbo jumbo .. when other people have different opinion, it is simply not civilized to invoke such an argument ..


Let's just assume all what you alleged is true. Then what do you suggest we do with "the Chinese" or at least "Chinese like that" in the US/West/Wherever-you-are-referring-to?


I suspect that their degree of extreme nationlism is inversely related to the amount of time and # of family members who are here.

That's why a few other members say their anecdotal evidence hasn't seen that much extreme pride - I suspect the people they are talking about have spent 5-10 years here at least, and arrived here in the late 90's-early 2000's when China was still weak and not as rich.

Try talking to new grads and mid-late 20's who are here, who arrived here when China became rich. They are very very prideful. You won't see it if you're an obvious American dude; they will not show their colors.

Obviously you do not encourage westernization by blocking them off. The US strategy is probably to encourage them to be here to gradually acclimate them to western liberalism over time, where they can go back eventually as the ruling elite and gradually shift attitudes in their country.


I highly doubt there could ever be any coherent "US strategy", but let's say there is/will be one. So you are suggesting the way to "deal with the Chinese" is to let more of them move/live in the west? Looks like the US has been doing that for quite a while, so nothing seems in need of any change...


Of course it's not an actual coherent 'strategy' per se. What I was referring to was the openness inherent in western liberalism, which together with its institutions and competitive ideals, has caused it to be adopted and spread throughout much of the world, ie, the rise of the west, since the 1500's.

An example of the first to adopt such ideals, would be Japan.


I think it should be justifiable for me to downvote this on the grounds of uncivil remarks against the entire nationality. However, I am not going to do so because I acknowledge that this is a common mind sight of a Westerner and it is not really you fault to think that way.

Let's keep the discussion civil and hopefully we all can get something out of this.


this seems like a straw man if not outright nonsequitur.


chinese gov is not communist government at all as you think.

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