Hong Kong in the broader history of liberty

That is my other Bloomberg column for this week, here is one excerpt:

Still, actual life in Hong Kong seemed to be pretty free, especially compared to the available alternatives, which included the totalitarian state that was Mao’s China. Yet as the British lease on Hong Kong approached expiration, an even deeper problem with a non-democratic Hong Kong became evident: Because there was no legitimate alternative sovereign to protest, the British simply handed the territory over to China. (Compare Hong Kong’s experience to that of Taiwan, which did evolve into a free democratic state and remains independent.) Hong Kong was bartered away like a piece of colonial merchandise. Everyone learned the hard way that democracy really does matter.

Hong Kong still ranks near or at the top of several indices of economic freedom. But that may be a sign these indices have lost touch with the nature of liberty. In Hong Kong, the notion of a credible commitment to the future ceased to have meaning some time ago. Not only is there the specter of Chinese intervention, but there is also a broader understanding that the rules of the game can change at any time, including of course when it comes to extradition procedures. Meanwhile, many Hong Kong residents know their behavior is being monitored and graded, and they know the role of the Chinese government will only grow.

Thus is revealed a deeper lesson still: Freedom is not merely the ability to buy and sell goods at minimum regulation and a low tax rate, variables that are readily picked up by economic freedom indices. Freedom is also about the narratives people live by and the kind of future they imagine for themselves. Both of these are greatly affected by the legitimacy and durability of their political institutions.

The piece also offers a brief discussion of the Bruce Lee movie “Enter the Dragon.”

Comments

But the real juxtaposition of these two Bloomberg columns is whether people in Hong Kong should be allowed to form unions, particularly considering the vast amount of money that China has invested in making Hong Kong more Chinese.

What you are seeing play out is Hong Kong being placed under China's thumb. I predict that within 10 years people will be fleeing Hong Kong as China continues to oppress them.

Again. They’ve had 20 years.

But suddenly getting real.

otoh
aren't the riots in hong kong mostly
about a change in the extradition law?

Actually that was the genius of Coach Bellicose. The other team thought Tom was our point guard because he brought the ball up. But you watch close enough, everyone on our team is moving directionally from Malaki. No matter how much pressure there is, Tom’s bringing the ball up, Coach Bellicose insisted. And our whole shape, the fact that we could all dribble, that we never got tired, made it that we never got pressed. It was like we were left handed only no one could figure out why. The thing about watching tape is you pay close attention to how people act when they are winning or losing. But Malaki rose in energy when we were losing; he fouled harder, pushed off more, shot from farther away,

chip hilton +1
smith college 0
pretty sure we heard the problem was they were planning to more formally force (extridite) hong kong people from hong kong china to the other china

such an awesome article

Dr. Cowen +1
smith college 0

A quick read tells us China is not that stable. If your are Xi P guy, you have this history in mind, and you know how much debt expansion is needed and you expand and you fail and suddenly go back to many mini states.

Tree trunk to large, even China cannot maintain the Avogadro number. Why no middle? Geography? Written language?

Enter the Dragon is mostly about economics, open borders, social justice, and free markets, although in a Straussian way, so naturally MR would be all over it. In other words, punches and kicks are not really just punches and kicks.

For example,
"It's the dough, Roper"

There are so many more.
For MR readers who want to dive deep into Enter the Dragon, the full script is here:

http://global-training-report.com/dragon.htm

It's self-recommending.

bullshit. enter the dragon was about bruce lee putting foot to all kinds of ass. you econ nerds need to stop making shit up.

I remember watching on TV when the UK returned Hong Kong to China on 1997. It was the last nail to the coffin of the British Empire.

I remember too that the agreement between China and the UK was that Hong Kong could keep the political system/autonomy for 50 years. The discussion on what happens after 2047 is very interesting, see link below. https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Hong-Kong-s-year-2047-problem

Finally, on 1997 there was a great difference between Hong Kong and poor cities in China. I think China is playing a long term game to fully occupy HK. They developed Shenzen to reduce the status and desirability of Hong Kong. Today people discuss over the up and downsides of living in Hong Kong VS Shenzen, something unthinkable 20 years ago. People in HK is getting tired of the long battle, the young want to live elsewhere, not sure if by 2047 is anyone left standing against the Chinese occupation.

PS. The thousands of Hong Kong Canadians prove people prefer to leave with their money over everything else. If they don't care about their homeland, why us?

No, it only proves that the few elites with means mostly don't care because they don't have to and can just leave. The one million plus that took to the streets on Sunday is proof that people do care.

" the young want to live elsewhere, not sure if by 2047 is anyone left standing against the Chinese occupation."

The CCP will be squashed like a bug in 2045.

I visited the Hong Kong Museum of History last year, and it constructs a narrative of an impoverished local people struggling against outside rule for generations who have finally achieved a measure of self-determination.

With this view, it must be crushing to see this window of freedom inexorably closing as another imperial power exerts its influence to dominate Hong Kong. At the end of the day the city-state was unlikely to become the next Singapore, and China was determined that it would never become the next Taiwan.

I was there three years ago, it was a very impressive museum. Not unfair or negative towards the British (little love for the Qing Dynasty preceding British rule, and even the attitude toward the colonial government is downright positive in regards to British efforts against Japanese invasion and occupation in WWII), and diverse in the number of perspectives and type of exhibits.

On contrasts with Singapore, while Hong Kong's current path is not enviable, it's not clear Singapore's is either.

True, Singapore's GDP per capita skyrockets above Hong Kong - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Asian_Tigers#/media/File:Four_Tigers_GDP_per_capita.svg

.... but where Hong Kong has a "normal" consumption ratio to GDP, the consumption share of GDP in Singapore continues to drop precipitously - https://www.scmp.com/business/economy/article/1420215/singaporeans-not-wealthy-gdp-figures-suggest

Singaporean GDP growth is not the growth of Singaporean living standards...

(Both Singapore and Hong Kong are actually still rather poor places in terms of consumption compared with comparable urban density in Japan, Korea, or the United States and Western Europe...).

On contrasts with Singapore, while Hong Kong's current path is not enviable, it's not clear Singapore's is either.

Singapore's GDP per capita begins to skyrocket above in the late 70s Hong Kong - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Asian_Tigers#/media/File:Four_Tigers_GDP_per_capita.svg

(Divergence of fortunes).

.... but where Hong Kong has a "normal" consumption ratio to GDP, at exactly the same time, the consumption share of GDP in Singapore continues to drop precipitously - https://www.scmp.com/business/economy/article/1420215/singaporeans-not-wealthy-gdp-figures-suggest

Singaporean GDP growth is not so much the growth of Singaporean living standards, which seems rather more stagnant...

(Both Singapore and Hong Kong are actually still rather poor places in terms of consumption compared with comparable urban density in Japan, Korea, or the United States and Western Europe...).

There is so much activity in and around China. Much of it not good. Muslims sent to camps. Christians put in jail. Taiwan gets a new shipment of arms from the US. Hong Kong fighting for its rights. China sinks a Filipino boat. Trade wars with the US. Anti-Chinese attacks in the Philippines and Indonesia. In my opinion, Trump should not just push for a trade deal but respect human rights and democracy too

Cowen: "Freedom is also about the narratives people live by and the kind of future they imagine for themselves. Both of these are greatly affected by the legitimacy and durability of their political institutions." Hmm.

'Brazil is a country of losers' - Luciano Hang, Bolsonaro supporter

Evidently, Mr. Hang was exaggerating to make a point, namely that communist rule weakened Brazil. He said that, under President Captain Bolsonaro, Brazil will be strong again.

president captain balsonaro explains it all right here
https://www.amazon.com/ROLLING-THUNDER-REVUE-1975-RECORDINGS/dp/B07NHQ1GYY/ref=sr_1_1?hvadid=77859220172405&hvbmt=be&hvdev=c&hvqmt=e&keywords=bob+dylan+rolling+thunder+revue&qid=1560441526&s=gateway&sr=8-1

Cowen: "In the early years after the handover, when China was weaker, its leadership less assertive and Hong Kong’s economy much more important to the country,"

In 1997, China's economy was 20 times larger than Hong Kong's economy and today it is closer to 50 times larger. Was Hong Kong's economy 2.5 times as important to China in 1997 than today? Hong was still pretty trivial then to China as well.

That is but one measure of economic importance. Hong Kong used to be much more critical as a financial center for China.

What is the evidence that Hong Kong was "much more" important as a financial center 20 years ago. Also, this isn't at all the same thing as saying Hong Kong's economy was much more important 20 years ago.

Maybe some evidence is provided by the growth and (re-)opening of Shanghai as a Chinese financial center?

'In the 1920s, Shanghai was the major center of international trade and finance in East Asia. The position of the “Pearl of the Orient” eroded with the turmoil of the 1930s, starting with the currency crisis and the Sino-Japanese War.

After World War II and the Civil War, most foreign firms in 1949 moved their offices from Shanghai to Hong Kong, as part of an exodus of foreign investment.

As a British Crown Colony, Hong Kong was spared from the Civil War in the mainland and experienced an inflow of capital and labor, as well as Shanghai’s entrepreneurial elite. After the civil war, a new wave of migrants fled to Hong Kong, along with many corporations in Shanghai and Guangzhou. .... How do Hong Kong and Shanghai compare as financial hubs? First, Hong Kong has a deeper pool of financial services than Shanghai, with established insurance, law, accounting and other professional service firms.

With its market capitalization of $2.7 trillion, Shanghai’s stock market is worth more than Hong Kong’s, but it has fewer listed companies. For now, retail investors dominate trading in Shanghai, which translates to higher volatility.

In addition, Hong Kong is far more active in global bonds than Shanghai. It also has a mature and active financial futures market, but recently China’s State Council approved the launch of stock index futures in Shanghai.' https://www.theglobalist.com/shanghai-and-hong-kong-chinas-emerging-global-financial-hubs/

I think you are missing the point. Cowen did not write that China relied on Hong Kong's financial services much more than twenty years ago. Nothing above even shows that much.

"much more twenty years ago."

Basically, I should always quote the text I am responding to. Which in this case was 'What is the evidence that Hong Kong was "much more" important as a financial center 20 years ago..'

There is a subtext here. Hong Kong has become less important as a financial center precisely because the Mainland has become more free (though still authoritarian by our standards), allowing Shanghai, Shenzhen, etc. to develop as alternative financial and business hubs to Hong Kong. In light of that, it’s not completely accurate to portray Hong Kong protestors as pro-freedom; many of them probably wish the Mainland were less free so they would not have the competition in financial and business services. You see this in comments which frequently shade over from legitimate criticism of the the Mainland government to economic gripes about Mainland tourists, shoppers, and investors.

Notice that there’s no unrest in Macau, which is in the same boat as Hong Kong in a lot of ways. Maybe that’s because the Mainland hasn’t legalized gambling, allowing Macau’s economy to remain one of the richest in the world. I bet there would be protests in Macau if the Mainland legalized gambling, but I wouldn’t call such protests pro-freedom even if they are proximately sparked by a pro-freedom cause.

Got any evidence that Hong Kong would be in favour rather than against of Chinese practices of subsidy, state involvement in development, market protection?

These are what are termed "freedom reducing measures" when it comes to Western governments practicing them...

As a gate of foreign capital into China, Hong Kong would probably not be in favour of Chinese practices of protection and heavy market intervention....

When Boris Johnson becomes PM I hope Britain can at least enforce the 50 year rule, maybe with a quick shock-and-awe assault by the Royal Marines. Make the Chinese think twice.

But what if both our marines are busy that afternoon?

Economics and trade have been the bridge between East and West, the bridge between the U.S. and Europe, and the bridge between the U.S. and the Americas, bridges that have produced unparalleled prosperity and peace. Trump seems hell-bent on destroying every bridge all at once with his highly personal, bombastic, confrontational style, the only discernible strategy being to cement his own domestic political standing with his base. Is there any ally, any trading partner, any friend or foe that Trump has not insulted and threatened? As the risks escalate, Americans are complacent, as if ignorant of what is taking place in front of their noses. Cowen has written about America's complacency. Cowen's cure for complacency was disruption. Well, Trump has delivered disruption. Trump is leading America and the world to the precipice, the pied piper of the ignorant (and, yes, the complacent). Forget whatever crimes Trump may have committed with the Russians, Trump is leading the nation and the world to Armageddon.

We Are All Going To Die!

but not before denver turns communist by any means necessary!

http://www.theamericanmirror.com/denver-council-member-wins-with-promise-to-impose-communism-by-any-means-necessary/

There weren't any, counselor.

It's not a crime to hire free-lance British intelligence officers to put together dossiers on your political opponents either. Recycling them through the FBI to get a FISA warrant (which turns up nothing), then we're getting a little sketchy.

@rayward

"Recycling them through the FBI"

You dudes like to say things you hope will be clipped, but for what it is worth "recycling them through the FBI" is also known as "using due process."

What you actually want, when foreign intelligence services or agents "provide dirt," is for campaigns to notify the national intelligence services, and for them to use established legal procedures, like the FISA courts, to investigate.

What you don't want is for the campaign to lie, destroy evidence, encrypt communications, and then say "who, us?"

None of that parade of horribles happened. What very plainly happened was a cabal of Executive branch officials colluded with elements of British intelligence and the national media and Clinton campaign to try and torpedo Trump's candidacy. Probably not a crime but ethically and prudentially, the Executive branch should not be engaged in choosing the Chief Executive.

And any Republican who thinks this is just about Trump is a naive fool.

All of those are in the Mueller Report.

"Forget whatever crimes Trump may have committed with the Russians"

Each time we "forgot," we gave Trump a chit. In yesterdays news, he's cashing those chits. If we "forget" before, we can "forget" again.

If the DNC didn’t attempt to rig the primary to Hillary we wouldn’t be having this conversation. If NBC hadn’t been feeding debate questions to the Hillary campaign, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. If journalists hadn’t been emailing drafts of articles to the Hillary campaign for prior approval (in both the primary AND the general election), we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

This is JournoList 2.0. The veil comes off, corruption and collusion are exposed, and the Democrat Party cries foul that the exposure is un-American, an attack on our pure-as-driven-snow institutions, etc ad nauseam.

The American people deserve to know that journalists were submitting their articles to Hillary for approval prior to publishing. The fact that it took Russia to release the information is less an indictment of Trump and more an indictment of a thoroughly corrupt system.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant, you have said repeatedly. It’s 2019. I would hope that hackers steal and release everything. All RNC and DNC emails. All tax returns. All texts. Release everything.

"Sunshine is the best disinfectant, you have said repeatedly."

He's a partisan. I suspect that Anonymous is genuinely incapable of consistently applying principles evenly.

Totally bizarre.

My principle, cited repeatedly on this page, is rule of law.

You want to reject rule of law .. because some other guy on the internet likes it?

I really worry about a country that can't think straight on simple things like this anymore.

I say what does the Constitution and 200 years of law say?

You say that's partisan.

The power holders that fear exposure of their lies....are the standard bearers of the constitution? Get real dude.

Fox is basically an apparatus of the Republican Party at this point.

Expose it.

Every other major media outlet journalist is literally in a group Listserv where they discuss how to frame news (not opinion-editorials), literal news, in order to frame it as positive towards one of two parties in the US.

Expose it.

If 90% of the media output in this country is a literal conspiracy to commit information operations, people need to know.

Sunlight. Expose it.

Extradition? Geez, hasn't the US managed to get a Chinese business executive arrested in Canada, who faces extradition to the US for something or other? And then there's Maria Butina. It seems that all nation-states like to demonstrate their power over individuals. Why should the Chinese be any different?

Yes, one wonders whether the US would tolerate a semi-independent US territory like Guam refusing to extradite people to the rest of the US. I suspect not.

With regard to China, the USA is at a comparative disadvantage: respect for human rights.

I’d say we have a comparative advantage in extraditing people. We have extradition agreements with most countries while its controversial for China to even have one with its own semi-autonomous city.

A legitimate point, but I would much prefer to be extradited to the US for offending its laws than to China for offending its laws. I suspect most non-Chinese citizens would say the same.

I think it depends on what one is being extradited for. For example, I would rather be extradited to China than the US for violating unilateral US sanctions on Iran, as this would not be illegal in China but only in the US.

Hong Kong is not the only ex-European colony returned to China under a two systems policy. There is also Macau, which seems to have no unrest and is now much wealthier per capita than Hong Kong. Is it because the Chinese government is easier on the Macanese due to that colony being peacefully acquired? Is it because Hong Kongers are resentful at the fact that their economy has grown slower relative to both the Mainland and Macau? I’m no expert, but according to Wikipedia, Macau had a pro-communist government since the 1960s so its success doesn’t seem fit the standard narrative about how Hong Kong’s success is due to British institutions. A fuller analysis of goings-on in Hong Kong should also examine Macau and compare between the two cities.

Hypothesis:

Macau grew with the worldwide economic rents of FIRE, the Chinese propensity to gamble, and the prior loopholes in Chinese capital controls that Macau provided.

I think Macau hasn't ever worked hard to resist Chinese rule, and much of their business has relied on maintaining a good relationship with the Chinese State. Those casinos aren't full with only Macanese gambling all day. Hong Kong has had a democratic movement for a long time now.

I think the PRCs behaviour still fits the prevailing narrative. "Economic freedoms are fine but not political freedoms are not. Do not question the rule of the Party. "

Macau is probably still poorer than Hong Kong in consumption data - crossplot of Actual Individual Consumption against GDP per capita (world bank): https://imgur.com/a/wihaNkC

And rather poorer for a heavily urbanized area really compared to similar regions in the west/Japan/South Korea (as I say above like Singapore, though HK is more ambiguous than I think now I look at the data).

Hong Kong is a "normal economy" where Macau has a bizarre economy with a heavily inflated GDP per capita that is not driven by local living standards (despite that these are still high relative to Asia). Macao is an *extreme* outlier by world standards, almost on the level of Qatar...

The Macanese model probably does relate to a small population (7.8% the size of Hong Kong) following an extreme model of tourism and tax haven policies (which would be impossible at a high population, even if you wanted them, which you wouldn't if you care about the living standards of your people).

The differences in GDP per capita between Macao and Hong Kong are not remotely because they are following a similar trajectory and the PRC government are "going easy" on the Macanese because they don't "rock the boat".

"That story [of free market capitalism] was true — for the most part. It underemphasized some of the more statist sides of Hong Kong, such as the government’s involvement in land rights and real estate, and the public hospitals and government-backed health insurance system."

I think this paragraph captures how much to ask for, vis-à-vis economic freedom. Things like land rights, and yes the public hospitals and government-backed health insurance systems can enhance functional economic freedom across the board.

As you yourself pointed out, the lease expired and China was unwilling to extend it. There was no question of not handing the leased territory back. It is silly to criticize Britain over this.

Only Hong Kong Island itself was "permanently" ceded. All of the mainland territory and the other islands that comprised the colony of Hong Kong were only leased for a 99-year period, which expired in 1997.

The British sensibly decided that a rump Hong Kong consisting of only the island itself was non-viable. The island contains less than 10% of the total land area, and as of today, only about 20% of the total population. And in any case, if push came to shove, China could have snatched it back whenever they felt like it, like India did with Goa.

Not quite true: Kowloon Peninsula, excepting Kowloon Walled City, was leased in perpetuity to the British. The New Territories were leased for 99 years. However, Kowloon and the NT became increasingly integrated over the 20th Century, increasingly developed, and about half of Hong Kong's population lived there at the time of the handover. Nonethless, it would have been a very awkward border, especially once the outlying highlands to the west, east, and south of Hong Kong Island are factored in.

The British could have permitted wider democratic rights earlier, knowing full well that HK would be handed back at the end of the lease. If they had allowed a full and open franchise back in the 70s (say), it would have been nearly impossible for the Chinese to remove their right to vote in 97, and those democratic institutions would have been considerably stronger.

And in that scenario while the sovereign would transfer from the Crown to Beijing, presumably far fewer powers would have transitioned. For instance, today, if Beijing couldn't stack the Legco with its own appointees, then Carrie Lam wouldn't be the Chief Executive, and Beijing wouldn't have a simple mechanism to exert day to day control.

I think this was a huge mistake.

I think the British were worried that in the event that they increased local autonomy before the transition China would use this as an excuse to invade earlier. There was no way for the British to defend Hong Kong against a Chinese invasion. Hong Kong provided no real strategic or commercial benefit to the UK, especially after WW2, the only reason the UK hung on to it so long was to protect the local inhabitants. Thankfully, from the evidence of Hong Kong especially the Chinese finally realized that communism didn't work and before the handover of HK started to transition to a market economy. Imagine if the take over had happened at the height of Maoism.

Maybe the main criticism on the handover is that the UK could have provided more UK passports. Some 800k people in HK did get them, but I guess the entire population could have been given them.

Hong Kong's relationship with China is proceeding exactly as it must. "[Y]ou know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."

Macau's success is due to foreign casino money, so there may be more of a sense there that agitating for more rights risks the golden goose, by scaring the foreign gaming companies into leaving. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that HK generates its wealth much more domestically, which perhaps makes it more assertive and less concerned about rocking the boat.

Pretty rich coming from a guy whose top priority is stripping local governments of any autonomy or authority and handing it to unaccountable authoritarian supranational powers.

People say the same thing about Singapore, but I feel like I have more freedom of expression and better due process there than in America. It's not just about the government, but the whole of society. Singapore doesn't allow SJWs to become a voluntary auxiliary thought police, and its businessmen stick to business instead of wokeness.

What does the term "behavior being monitored and graded" even mean. Do we not have our own informal kind of social credit score in the West with its vigilante enforcers.

Would be interesting to hear Tyler's take on Kyle Bass's view of the likelihood of the HKD/USD peg's sustainability

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-04-25/quiet-panic-kyle-bass-hong-kongs-looming-financial-political-crisis

"The HKMA has spent 80% of their reserves over the past year or so. If the aggregate balance goes to zero, we expect Hong Kong rates will spike (as you see we are in the convex portion of the scatterplot today) and their banking system could collapse. Hong Kong currently sits atop one of the largest financial time bombs in history."

"On the financial front, the leveraged and vulnerable financial structure of the Hong Kong economy is the polar opposite of the average investor’s availability heuristic. Thirty-six years of relative stability won’t beget another decade of stability if our analysis is even partially correct. Meanwhile, China’s extradition overreach is causing tectonic shifts in the fundamental agreements that govern the economic relationships between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong."

Not unlike protectionism, (almost) everyone wants more rights and freedom for themselves and less rights and freedoms of others (which will inevitably impinge of their own rights and freedoms). Unless they are pure anarchists, in which case gangsterism and warlordism are likely results, with consequent harm to economic growth and general well-being. Of course there is another possibility, which is a compromise. But since everyone is looking out for number one, there will usually be ongoing friction. Compromise is hard.
Breaking news.

Which I should add, is addressed in Enter the Dragon.

I asked a Chinese employee (now US Citizen) about the contaminated/ineffective children’s vaccine scandal in China about a year ago. He said no one in middle class china trusts local vaccines and said they go to a foreign country to get quality drugs. He included Hong Kong as a foreign country. The rule of law is as important as broader democracy. The arbitrary rule by central committee is the long term Achilles heel of China

This article = aka Tyler, and by extension the libertarian mainstream, rediscovers talking about political liberty again?

Talking about democracy and political in a positive sense became almost a dirty and tainted when the Cold War was seemingly won and the West could afford to be complacent, and further talk about democracy in the late 90s-early 2010s became the preserve of an excuse for expensive and pointless warmongering by a neocon cabal that had little understanding of the deep roots of nations and of how possible would be true nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they hoped to somehow impose democracy.

Many of MR's libertarian commentariat, then, seem allergic, if not completely uncomprehending, of talk in terms of political rights. This renders the impression that their discussion of liberty is disingenous and mere pandering to business and the successful.

Fine for the nationalist and pro-lower middle class conservative side, who seem to have been increasingly able to harness this dialogue in the last or two year in conflict with China and organisations with severe democratic deficit like the European Union. And since I'm sympathetic to them and to ideas of 'deep' and 'real' peoples and nations (far more than the civic internationalism that will inevitably lead to conflict), mostly fine by me, viewed in terms of narrow goals for 'my side'.

But it seems like a libertarian set that can at least understand and fluently speak in the language of democratic and free institutions is probably a better thing for political culture as a whole.

TC: It is striking today to watch Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon” (1973) and see Hong Kong portrayed — with some condescension — as a poor place deserving of sympathy from Western audiences. That was not to last.

By 1980, Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” series was on television, portraying Hong Kong as a free economy experiencing huge gains in living standards. The skyline was impressive, and you could get all the necessary permits to start a business in Hong Kong in just a few days.

Not just in Friedman. Generally Hong Kong reverberated more broadly through 1980s and 1990s "cyberpunk" inflected popular culture, with its streets and urban ecology as the source image for an Asian future capitalism. Hong Kong offered a vision of a dynamically free hybrid society fuelled by technological growth. (Which Singapore does not offer, and Chinese boomtowns like Shenzhen under the Chinese Communist party, however much more tech fuelled in reality, still less.)

Mamoru Oshii's "Ghost In The Shell" depiction of future cityscapes was based on Hong Kong (more in his view than Tokyo!). "Blade Runner" too (per word of Ridley Scott). I believe the (capitalism critical, tech capitalist inspiring) father of cyberpunk, William Gibson treats it as a major source too.

The crushing of Hong Kong then, in a sense unconsciously becomes a crushing of those images too (the optimistic and the critical), and reverberates to modern Western audiences in that sense.

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