IAG July 2014 - page 4

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Degreesof Fear
ranapiece lastmonthon the25thanniversaryof themassacre inTiananmen
Square that reflected, perversely enough, on the benefits. “It helped spark reforms,”
suggested one Xian Liang, portfoliomanager of USGlobal Investors’ China Region
mutual fund. “It was part of the tipping point where [Chinese leaders] realized that
the priority for government policy was to create jobs and [allow people to] grow rich. That
basically jump-started privatization. It unleashed entrepreneurship and gave the country’s
growth abig legup.”
When the tanks rolled into Beijing that fateful summer of 1989 the Shanghai Composite
Index, today one of themost watched in theworld, didn’t exist. The Shanghai Stock Exchange
had been dark for 50 years, shuttered since the founding of the People’s Republic. Today it is
the world’s seventh-largest. Its formal reopening on 19thDecember 1990marked the birth of
Two watershed events, occurring just 18 months apart, kindred symbols of a time when
politics and economics collided with a force that draws blood and pulverizes dreams, when
possibility is forced to give way to necessity, as it always must—the crucible in which world
powers are forged.
Aswe look at the current unraveling of “OneCountry/Two Systems” inHongKong and its
impact onMacau it’s worth thinking about how these realities still speak to us, albeit in very
different terms depending on your side of the Pearl River Delta. Hong Kongers have battled
considerableopposition to foundamuseumdedicated to theTiananmenSquare victims,while
Macauhas allowed a fabulous old temple upnear theBorderGate—LinFong, the “Lotus Peak
Temple”—to be recast as a shrine to post-handover patriotism in the form of the Lin Zexu
Memorial Museum. In the temple courtyard just outside this showplace of clunky historical
distortion and central government propaganda is an imposing statue of the man himself,
scourgeof the foreign imperialists, hisgranitegaze frozen indistant, paternalisticbenevolence.
Lin was the imperial commissioner sent to Canton (modern-day Guangzhou) in 1839 to
eradicate theopium trade, and itwas toLinFong thathesummoned thePortugueseauthorities
toorder them toexpel thebadguys, BritsandAmericansmostly,which theypromptlydid.With
nowhere togo (Linwasabout toexpel allWesterners fromCantonaswell) the tradersmade for
thewatersoff the rocky coast ofHongKong, anobscurefishing villagehuggingwhat theBritish
already knew tobeoneof the finest deepwater harbors they’d ever visited. It wasHongKong’s
subsequent rise as a colony of the British crown that hastenedMacau’s economic decline and
led the Portuguese to the expedient of legalized gambling, preceded from China’s standpoint
bymilitary disaster, and Linwas cashieredby his emperor in the first days of it andbanished at
the age of 65 to remote Xinjiang, where he spentmost of the last few years of his life, a largely
forgotten figure until the second half of the 20th century when a revolution in need of heroes
resurrectedhim as somethingof a founding father of theCommunist state. Today there areLin
Zexumonuments andmuseums all over China.
The point about Lin Zexu is that he is a figure of enormous historical significance, the
embodiment of China’s failure in its imperial twilight to grasp the nature of themodernworld
thatwasbangingat itsdoor.Heespeciallyhadno interest in theperspectiveof thosehe’dcome
todiscipline, the “SouthernBarbarians,” as theQingwerewont to refer to theCantonese, who
of all their countrymenwere closest to that world, and the reign of terror he unleashed among
themmade theAnglo-ChineseWar all but inevitable.
Beijing may not have directly caused the political and economic crisis currently gripping
Hong Kong, but its overt hostility to the discontent it’s raised up would have been easier to
rationalize in Lin Zexu’s time. The infamous “white paper” emphasizing central government
authority (as if anyone seriously questions that) and dismissing judicial independence was a
remarkable display of tone-deafness and bad timing. The accusations of disloyalty, of foreign
conspiracies, thePLA threats, it all seems almost calculated to force a confrontation.
Nodoubt this has contributed to some of the recent skittishness among gaming investors
on the other side of the Delta. The smart money, though, senses that the worse things get in
Hong Kong the more attentive the central government has to be toMacau’s economic well-
being andmore sensitive therefore to the requirements of its principal industry. This suggests
that itwill refrain frommessingundulywith theabilityof itscitizens tobring inmoremoneyand
stay longer than its laws allow, the twobiggest fears that havehammered shareprices.
Different realities,MacauandHongKong. Somuch less tobeafraidof here thanover there.
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