Hong Kong has been in my life since 1990. After recent visits, my reflections on its past, present and future. China Rising Radio Sinoland 240614




Pictured above: Thanks to the Beijing-imposed 2020 HK National Security Law and the just passed Article 23 against subversion and sabotage, the days of the imperial West using Hong Kong as platform to overthrow the PRC are over. Now, Hongkongers can look to the future with optimism.

Sixteen years on the streets, living and working with the people of China, Jeff








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This is Jeff J. Brown China Rising Radio Sinoland and the founder of Seek Truth From Facts Foundation and the China Writers Group. I’d like to talk a little bit about my last trip to China that was last month, the month of May, and today is June 13th. Evelyne and I were there for a month, and then we were there for the month of October of last year. And then I was there in May of last year. So, I’ve been back in China for three months in the last 12 months.

And of course, my wife and I lived and worked in China from 1990 to 1997, based in Beijing, and traveled all over the place because of my work in agriculture. And so got to see a lot of the country many, many of the provinces and later, most of them. And then we were back in China from 2010 to 2019, six years back in Beijing and then three years in Shenzhen. This last trip was really fascinating because there were two bookends.

There was Hong Kong and a former colony of the British and then the other bookend was Taiwan, which of course, was colonized by the Japanese from 1895 to 1945 and then has essentially been an American vassal since 1949 up to the present. So, it is just really fascinating. Today I would like to, and I had never been to Taiwan. This was my first time. So, that now leaves only Qinghai on the Tibetan Plateau, and Tibet proper are the only two provinces that I have not been to.

Now that I have come to visit Taiwan Province, although I have been on the Tibetan Plateau in Western Sichuan and also in Gansu. Hong Kong has a really special place in my heart because when we were in China in Beijing in the 1990s, we used to go down to Hong Kong a lot because it was better. I mean, it was glitzy and consumerism and restaurants and stores and it was like a consumer Paradise. And it was relatively clean. And they had a metro, they had busses and everything else not that Beijing didn’t have those. When we were living in Beijing in the 1990s, the pollution was so bad.

So, many days, you literally could not see across a four-lane street. It was just like just sheet of white. And so, the environment was a huge problem. So, we would go down to Hong Kong and we had the Hong Kong Harbor and the Star Ferry and dim sum and shops to go shopping. Not only that, but my wife went down there for prenatal care for our first daughter. I went down there for orthoscopic surgery on my knee, which I regret now because my right knee is now asleep 24 hours a day and has been for the last ten years. But that’s another story.

And so, for us, Hong Kong was really a Mecca for us. And at that time in the 1990s, I traveled to Shenzhen right across the river. And Shenzhen was an absolute shithole. It was a capitalist jungle, just grotesque with country girl hookers, every ten meters, there were hookers on the sidewalks. There were fast eddies and con men and grifters, and it was a capitalist Paradise. I mean, that’s capitalism at the street level.

And now when Evelyne and I walked across the bridge across the river that separates Hong Kong from Shenzhen, and I even said this back when we were living in Shenzhen because we used to go to Hong Kong quite a bit because it’s so easy from Shenzhen. You can walk across the bridge or take the metro, take the bus, take the train, drive a car, or take a taxi. You can be there in just minutes.

And I always would say when we were leaving “Shenzhen, Goodbye, 21st century, and Hong Kong, hello 20th century”. And that’s the problem. And it’s confirmed by our spending several days in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has really not changed since the 1990s substantially. The infrastructure has grown, but it has not been for the people. It has been for the elites, the ten families that own Hong Kong. This is something that I’ve written about in The China Trilogy, where I also wrote a lot about the 1990s and comparing and contrasting when I wrote The China Trilogy (https://www.amazon.com/stores/author/B00TX0TDDI/allbooks AND https://chinarising.puntopress.com/2018/06/30/praise-for-the-china-trilogy-the-votes-are-in-it-r-o-c-k-s-what-are-you-waiting-for/).

That started in 2012. But the construction has been about commerce, business, etc. Hong Kong is one of the rare places in the world where less than 50% of the people actually own their own homes. There are not enough apartments, and they’re too damn expensive even if you want to try to buy one extremely rare compared to China, which has 90 plus percent home ownership, and 70% of those have their houses, their homes paid off.

There’s a lot of poverty in Hong Kong. I was really surprised at how much poverty there is. And of course, there are lots of articles about people living in chain-link cages and bolted to the sides of buildings and that’s a Capitalist Paradise. Over the decades more and more for the elites, more and more for the wealthy, and less and less for the working people, which is the way capitalism works. Hong Kong has a vast area north of Kowloon, which is the tip of the peninsula on the continent that looks across at Hong Kong Island and that magnificent skyline. It’s just one of the most amazing things in the world.

And up there, the New Territories, other than Yuen Long and a couple of other places, it’s basically, especially as you get closer and closer to Shenzhen and the Mainland, it’s no man’s land. If that land were in Mainland China, they would be building low-income subsidized housing. There are approximately 8 million people in Hong Kong. So, that means 4 million don’t own a house. And so, they’d be building enough apartments, probably a million and a half apartments to get those 4 million people that don’t have housing to get into an apartment.

I did see one as we were taking the metro up to Shenzhen. I did see one complex with 30-story apartment towers, but that’s it. The construction is still heavily oriented towards the elite part of the economy. We were down to M+ and it’s nice. It’s got like 30-something cinemas and it’s got dozens of art galleries and I got on the internet and looked and they want to compete against London and New York and Paris and Tokyo to be an art and culture center.

They let Hong Kong citizens have free entry for the first year but now it’s 120 HKD, which is about 15 US bucks. And I don’t know how a lot of Hong Kong people are not going to be able to spend 15 USD to get into M+. And then right next to it, they’re building this massive, massive concrete structure in front of the Ritz Carlton Hotel. And they’re building out into the harbor. They backfill the harbor and fill it up to build to get more real estate. But that’s not what the people need. The people need housing.

The people need a couple of more subway lines up into the peninsula. The people need public parks. Kowloon is cool but it’s a concrete jungle and there are just not a lot of parks, and I don’t know how they’re going to solve that problem but the south side of Hong Kong Island is quite green. And of course, all the outer islands that make up Hong Kong are also very, very green. But it’s not like Shenzhen which is 50 percent greenery. 50 percent, imagine that with 17 million people, which is over two times the size of Hong Kong.

So, of the ten families that worked with the British, eight of them are of Chinese origin, mostly from Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. And there’s a Jewish family, I think it’s the Sassoons. And then there’s an Indian family. And in Hong Kong, you spend a Hong Kong dollar no matter where you go or what you do, it ends up getting into the bank accounts of those ten families. They literally own Hong Kong, the real estate and therefore the businesses and the rentals.

And of course, they have no incentive to build low-income subsidized housing because that way everybody has to pay rent to them. And so, this is not unusual. I’ve seen maps of Honduras in Central America where I think it has 17 counties and there’s a family and a legacy Castilian family from Spain going back 400 years. And each family has a county and they own it. And the latifundios, the huge plantations that they used to own, but now it’s no different.

Now everybody’s renting and the poor people are renting the land and renting their apartments. Another good example is the Philippines. I think it’s 12 families who literally own the Philippines. These are billionaire families just like in Hong Kong. Again, the legacy of Castilian families goes back 400 years. And they never left. And they of course, intermarried and interbred with locals and now look Filipino. But they have Spanish names because that’s where they came from originally was from Spain these wealthy, wealthy families.

So, I’m very nostalgic about Hong Kong. It’s obviously going through a tremendous transition with Shanghai coming online with its stock market, which really is providing tremendous competition for Hong Kong because Hong Kong has always been based on finance, banking, the stock market, transshipping (it’s a huge trans-shipping port), and tourism. We cannot get into mainland China without going to Hong Kong first because it’s so darn cheap to fly there.

They have so many flights coming into that place so it’s so economical to fly there and then you hop into Mainland China after that or take a flight from there to a different place in China because it’s so much cheaper that way. And I don’t want to say that Hong Kong is irrelevant but they are clearly falling behind Mainland China especially when you go to Shenzhen.

I was just reading articles now lots and lots of young Hongkongers are going to Shenzhen. It’s cheaper, it’s livelier, it’s cleaner, it’s got better infrastructure, etc. The infrastructure in Hong Kong, again, has really not changed substantially since the 1990s. And what they are building is more monuments to commerce, business, tourism, etc. That is not helping the people get the houses and the apartments that they need.

The good news is, is that since 1997 when Deng Xiaoping and Margaret Thatcher hashed out the Basic Law to turn Hong Kong over to the Mainland, a lot of people don’t know and I wrote about this in The China Trilogy, Thatcher was dying to get rid of Hong Kong because there were a lot of protests against the British. I mean, it had been a colony since 1839 and the drug cartel capital for the Queen Elizabeth and HSBC Bank to launder all the money. HSBC is still printing some of Hong Kong’s money now.

And so, the locals were sick of the Brits, and they wanted them out or at least to not be a colony anymore. Deng Xiaoping had the wisdom to say, no, no, no, no, let’s wait 50 years until 2047 to give time for China to become bigger, better, faster, and cheaper, which it is now, and to let Hong Kong stew in its juices. And that’s what’s happening. Mainland China and Shenzhen are just running away from Hong Kong comparatively just like in the 1990s for us, Hong Kong was like a Paradise.

And now Shenzhen and Mainland China are the paradises and Hong Kong is falling further and further behind. Under the current system with the ten families owning the place, lock, stock, and barrel and not prioritizing helping the people as much as they need to be helping them, by 2047, Hong Kong will be an insignificant fourth-tier city in China. We were in Chaozhou, 10 million people. We were in Meizhou 6.5 million people, in Guangdong Province on this last trip. Hong Kong will be absolutely insignificant. It will be like a small town in China by 2047.

The good news is, is that since Beijing finally forced Hong Kong to pass its national security law in 2020 after all of the horrible US and Western-backed color revolutions from 2014 to 2019 on and off, it got really violent the last couple of years. The saboteurs were really tearing Hong Kong up, tearing it to pieces. And I’ve written a lot about that (www.chinarising.puntopress.com/search/?q=kong). And that’s why there were a thousand employees at the US consulate in Hong Kong. They were not there to eat chop suey and stir fry.

They were there to use Hong Kong to try to destroy Mainland China by creating a color revolution in Hong Kong. But now that they got that law and they got rid of all of these saboteurs and these local turncoats, they’ve got the legislature the LegCo, what they call the LegCo in line with Baba Beijing to the north. Now, Baba Beijing the Chinese government is reaching out to help Hong Kong. And they’re now saying Hong Kong cannot exist on finance, transshipping, and tourism forever.

And until 2047 now Beijing is starting to work with the Hong Kong government for artificial intelligence, high tech, robots, and that kind of stuff. There’s a lot of room up in the New Territories to build factories and I don’t know how that land is owned by those ten families, but I’m sure that those ten families own it, but that they get into some light manufacturing, high tech, research and development, etc. Hong Kong already has a very solid base in the medical field and so I’m sure that’s another area that they will push.

But it was really, really, really interesting. And we were there for four days, I think before we jumped over to Shenzhen and I’m optimistic about Hong Kong. But I think the people are starting to come to the realization that they’re not what they were in the 1990s, which was a Mecca for us, and that it has now become the tail on the continental dog with Shenzhen up to the north and there are still a lot of people in Hong Kong fighting to survive. When they got rid of the British, now they are standoffish with the Mainland Chinese but the Mainland Chinese are their salvation for the next 30 years until 2047.

And the more that Hong Kong works with the Mainland, the better off the people will be especially with Hong Kong. If Hong Kong can get into high-tech, light manufacturing, etc., etc., etc. it will provide a lot of jobs. That’s not going to solve the housing problem and that may not be solved until China takes back Hong Kong officially fully in 2047 and 2049 is Macau. And of course, Macau has a completely different vibe. They are essentially already integrated with China the Portuguese were not the same colonialists as the Brits.

They were basically just traders, and they were not involved in all the drug dealing and the opium and morphine and heroin up into the 20th century, like, the Brits and the royal family in England. And so, it’s a totally different vibe. And in fact, other than the fact that Macau has casinos. I think they’d probably get rid of the border already. Yeah, it’s 2049 for Macau and then 2047 for Hong Kong. However, since gambling is illegal in Mainland China, Mainland Chinese still have to go through customs and have their passports. So, they get a special pass to go to Macau.

I don’t know how they’re going to finesse that with the gambling in 2049 but Hong Kong has much, much bigger problems. And thank goodness, Baba Beijing is really reaching out and working with them. In fact, I just saw another article. There are all kinds of articles now about Mainland China really, really trying to make sure that Hong Kong does not become irrelevant but a million and a half low-income subsidized apartments would be really, really nice.

This is Jeff J. Brown China Rising Radio Sinoland signing out. Have a good day.

Further reading: https://www.scmp.com/opinion/china-opinion/article/3266010/sceptics-say-hong-kong-over-chinas-trajectory-says-otherwise


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44 Days Backpacking in China: The Middle Kingdom in the 21st Century, with the United States, Europe and the Fate of the World in Its Looking Glass https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=YBKHEAAAQBAJ


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Why and How China works: With a Mirror to Our Own History



JEFF J. BROWN, Editor, China Rising, and Senior Editor & China Correspondent, Dispatch from Beijing, The Greanville Post

Jeff J. Brown is a geopolitical analyst, journalist, lecturer and the author of The China Trilogy. It consists of 44 Days Backpacking in China – The Middle Kingdom in the 21st Century, with the United States, Europe and the Fate of the World in Its Looking Glass (2013); Punto Press released China Rising – Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations (2016); and BIG Red Book on China (2020). As well, he published a textbook, Doctor WriteRead’s Treasure Trove to Great English (2015). Jeff is a Senior Editor & China Correspondent for The Greanville Post, where he keeps a column, Dispatch from Beijing and is a Global Opinion Leader at 21st Century. He also writes a column for The Saker, called the Moscow-Beijing Express. Jeff writes, interviews and podcasts on his own program, China Rising Radio Sinoland, which is also available on YouTubeStitcher Radio, iTunes, Ivoox and RUvid. Guests have included Ramsey Clark, James Bradley, Moti Nissani, Godfree Roberts, Hiroyuki Hamada, The Saker and many others. [/su_spoiler]

Jeff can be reached at China Rising, je**@br***********.com, Facebook, Twitter, Wechat (+86-19806711824/Mr_Professor_Brown, and Line/Signal/Telegram/Whatsapp: +33-612458821.

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