Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, is symbolic in many ways of what is happening generally to Britain's former Far East colony. In microcosm, what has happened to the park's statue of Queen Victoria, currently surrounded in an undignified manner by the booths, billboards and myriad of visitors of Hong Kong's Brands and Products Exhibition, is happening to Asia's World City. The statue has been emasculated by this commercial fair and will be again soon when a couple of weeks from now 74,000 participants of the annual marathon invade the park. Likewise at the larger scale Hong Kong is being drowned by mainland China. Shenzhen up the road but over the frontier already is a larger city and has taken over the manufacturing Hong Kong was once famous for. Well over half a million visitors came to Hong Kong from the mainland in just four days over Xmas. Streets and stores were clogged, line-ups unending. Business may be good but underlying this is an ongoing enmity between the Chinese here and those of the PRC.
The newspapers are full of points of contention between what one might loosely term the pro-democracy and pro-Beijing factions. They push their respective agendas. The Occupy Central movement of 2014 is fresh in everyone's mind here and the Legislative Council i.e. parliament, clearly is divided. The appointment of a vice-chancellor at HK University, seen to hold outspoken political views, is one case in point, as was the removal of the symbol of the crown on local mailboxes, a vestige of colonial days. Hong Kong remains a window on the world for the People's Republic but increasingly China does not need this outlet for its financial affairs. It can connect globally in many ways now by by-passing Hong Kong. Nominally Hong Kong is a Special Autonomous Region (SAR) within China but the protections that should go with this status are becoming less and less sacrosanct. Emasculation?

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Iron Horse to Europe

China is modifying its means of getting goods to market, especially Europe. It has a history which is much longer than many recognize of reaching out. Admiral Zheng He for example is legendary for having led an expedition of 28, 000 people by ship to explore as far away as Africa and the Red Sea. That was in the 15th century. His armada was essentially one to develop trade and forge political ties. A Yale professor believes China may have reached Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and CBC The National featured his findings a few years ago. My comment that this contact was surprising being on the Atlantic coast not the Pacific was featured on the nightly news viewer feedback segment "Your Turn." Of course China was the source of the Silk Road. But now in 2015 an article in China Daily (Dec 11th) states that the central city of Zhengzhou, Henan, has been linked by rail to Hamburg. Over 150 trains a year are using this route, one of over 10,000 kms. 20 official routes now exist in China for a total of over a thousand trains a year to Europe! Talk about a land bridge. Rail is quicker and in many instances cheaper than shipping by sea. Air has over capacity. So the Iron Horse refuses to become an anachronism.