Sep 07

City of Dreams, or nightmare?

Written by guest on Monday, September 7th, 2009 at 5:33 am
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The Boston Globe article on this Sunday.

“In 1842, on a British warship anchored off the city of Nanjing, Chinese and British representatives signed a treaty that brought the First Opium War to an end. The British victory had been decisive, and along with the reparations and trade concessions exacted from China was the requirement that Hong Kong, a coastal island sparsely populated by farmers, fishermen, and the occasional pirate, be given to the British in perpetuity as a crown colony.’

A kind of upset of the article twisting history and the truth. It reflects the ignorance of the west and journalists.

How outrageous to say the opium pusher (the Britons), was good for the victim (Chinese)?

If it is your reason using force to enforce the opium trade to developing countries, what kind of civilization we’re in?

The British Parliament favored trade profit over justice. They had nothing to trade with China’s silk, porcelain…, but plenty of opium grown in India.

Britons did provide Hong Kong with stability (but stole a lot from Hong Kong as most colonial masters did). HK’s success is on mainly due to its special location (close to China), the expert businessmen from Shanghai and the cheap labor of the refugees.

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24 Responses to “City of Dreams, or nightmare?”

  1. Dragan Says:

    vow, interesting, idealistic, utopian vision with a colonial twist ; ) that’s a new flavour for me…thanks for sharing.

    sure that british rule provided right environment for traditional chinese entrepreneurship to bloom, in a sense, it is a collaborative effort of both sides that lead to relatively wealthy HK. But, would you like foreign power to govern your city? Would like to understand the business model, it is difficult to believe that foreigners would not finish with all the power and all the money. If big powers of West really wished to empower other countries they could have done that by consulting them – but the truth is it plays well for them to have “remote” parts of the earth inhabited with corrupt and unefficient regimes, for many reasons.

    I agree with Romer in one – “Aid programs today, he argues, think too small – they aim simply at keeping people in poor countries alive, or at making their farms more productive or their schools marginally less bad.” That I find to be true, everyone is focused on “small but tangible gains” there, but there is not a breakthrough, actually things are becoming worse overall. we need a new paradigm for development but I hardly see establishing more of crowded, polluted sities based on the same old economic model a solution

  2. pug_ster Says:

    I wouldn’t say that Romer is exactly correct. Hong Kong benefited at the expense of mainland China during British rule. During 1842 to 1978, mainland China has experienced instability thru communism, famine, internal strife, wars, etc, that caused many rich people to flee into Hong Kong. Their low ‘flat-tax’ structure only benefits the rich and people who has money usually has influence over Hong Kong.

    Since the mainland takeover in 1997, I am beginning to see the reverse trend is going on. Hong Kong’s growth has been relatively low compared to the mainland. Many international companies are moving their Asian headquarters out from Hong Kong to more cities like Shanghai. Alot of my wife’s friends who had good paying jobs in HK got laid off and are looking for jobs in the mainland. In the coming years this trend will only continue.

    It is not uncommon for someone who lives has family settled in Hong Kong, works in Shanghai for 5 days a week while going back to HK once a week or month.

  3. Shane9219 Says:

    ZaoBao: 中国学者: — 美国将介入香港政制 — 须避免发生“颜色革命” — 2012和2016年是关键 —


  4. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Hi Tony,
    interesting article. Is HK what it is today because of British rule? Is HK what it is today in spite of British rule? As with most things, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, and not on either extreme. That notwithstanding, the question is entirely untestable. So it would be a debate with no resolution…which, come to think of it, is perfect for this blog 🙂

    As a model for societal/economic development, the HK model worked with some degree of success in its day, given its unique circumstances. Would a similar model, in the 21st century, airlifted into sub-Saharan Africa as the author suggests, be similarly successful? That would seem to require a leap of faith. Moreover, social/economic experiments based on a model that required 99 years to fully evolve may be a tough sell both for the sponsor nation, as well as the target one.

  5. Wukailong Says:

    @Shane9219: If I had the time, I would translate that article and post it here for others to discuss. I just read it through. It’s a very interesting topic.

  6. Shane9219 Says:

    @Wukailong #5

    Go ahead if you got time. I was tempted to use google translator, but I think the author deserves something better.

    This article is both timely and far-sighted. From 70s’ to 90s’ HK enjoyed an economical boom and a good degree of admiration by the West, that coupled with the radiation of its unique Cantonese-speaking culture, gave HK people in a good sense of self-pride. However, that boom and pride were built upon a special background of an isolated China. HK right now can no longer solely rely on finance, trade and real-estate to power itself further.

    HK’s political and economical future is a bit cloudy now. I think that has hurt their sense of self-pride as well as their confidence. People in HK have to find a way to further integrate with mainland’s economy.

  7. Shane9219 Says:

    ZaoBao: 强化香港国际金融中心地位 中国将首度在港发行国债

    To Enhance Hong Kong’s position of international financial center, China plans the issuance of Yuan-denominated state bonds in Hong Kong for the first time


  8. TonyP4 Says:

    This model may not work on 99% of the African countries. We have many miserable failures in US. Throwing money does not fix the basic problems. I describe in my humble opinion why it works in HK but not in some US ghetto.

    * Confucianism. Orientals have high family value and pay attention to childrens’ education. The black are not (politically incorrect but statistics never lie). Too many single parents, teenager mothers… Our generous welfare makes it worse for them.

    * Close to China. An entire shirt for export was pretty much made in China except the button and the label of Made in HK. Ever the button, material for the label and the thread were probably made in China. US did not allow Chinese products, but HK was the back door to US.

    Taiwanese needed to go to HK before they could fly to China while there are so much investments to China from Taiwanese.

    * The laborers were desperate. If they did not work hard, they did not eat – no welfare at the time.

    * The kids studied hard. Most US college graduates cannot do better in math. in our Grade 6 certificate exam in HK. Very sad but true.

    * Chinese in HK work smart and efficient (some exceptions). They know China and the west, use the best of each for its benefits. When US recognized China and legalized the trade, HK factory towns became ghost towns. However, very efficiently they moved them to S. China and became factory managers/owners. One of the many examples HKers adopt to new challenges/changes.

  9. Raj Says:


    Using the plight of African-Carribbean Americans in ghettos as an example of why something won’t work in Africa is not just politically incorrect, it can be regarded as racist. You will doubtlessly disagree with that, but it is completely false to imply that “Black” people generally do not have “high family value” nor pay attention to their children’s education.

    On the contrary, family and education is often seen as being very important in Africa. The problem is the widespread corruption and poor governance in so many parts of Africa that leads to poor services and opportunities.

  10. TonyP4 Says:

    I only speak for the black in US. However, educated citizens will lead to less corruption and better governance.

    This is the problem of trying to help the black. You cannot tell them what’s wrong with them if no one wants to risk of being called racist.

    If they do not know the problem and no one tells them so, how can they improve their race? Statistics never lie. Check the black ratio in drug addicts, drug pushers, prison population, teenage mothers, high school dropouts…

    US democratic system will face problems in the future. The majority will be black and Hispanic. If they’re voted to the office due to majority but not what they can do (and are qualified to do the job) for the country, we’ll be in deep trouble. Obama and the newly appointed justice are fully qualified even I do not agree with Obama’s ‘spend now and pay later’ policy.

  11. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Tony:
    I very much agree that one cannot solve a problem unless one first recognizes/acknowledges its existence. The social disparity that besets African-Americans is real, was a long time in the making and can easily be argued to have historical roots. You have identified the checkpoints in the vicious cycle that seem to perpetually keep significant portions of black people in the column of the socioeconomically disadvantaged. However, you almost seem to suggest that it is owing to some racial flaw…and again, when you start on the path of declaring an entire race to be somehow inferior to another, you know what’s going to be coming your way. And it’s probably deserved.

    Rather, I’d submit that a drug addict probably had a higher likelihood of being the child of a drug addict than the population average; and that addict’s child may well have a higher likelihood of becoming an addict when they grow up than the population average of his/her generation. I think the solution would not require “fixing” a race; I think it would require a breaking of the vicious cycle.

    You seem to suggest that the HK model was a success because it was borne on the backs of CHinese people. Of course you are entitled to that opinion, and it cannot be disproved since it isn’t testable. I wonder if you think HK could have prospered had it been populated by black people, but with the same advantages and limitations of its unique set of circumstances. And I wonder if you think such a model would work in sub-Saharan Africa if only it were manned by Chinese folks.

  12. TonyP4 Says:

    S.K., Points well taken. I am sad that no one wants to talk about the root problem of the black as it is not politically correct. My intention is to help the black to fight off the vicious cycle in a more constructive way – sometimes the parents hitting the children is for their own good. Throwing money, giving them special privilege to college/job, and generous welfare will not help them, as we’ve proofs for a long while.

    It is a culture difference for different races. It could be the background or environment, so we cannot say just just race. Here comes my coconut theory:

    If you’re in some tropical island, you sleep all day. When you’re hungry, you just climb up the tree you’re under to get the coconut, you do not need to think much but how to open the coconut.

    In the extreme case, the coconut falls, breaks open when it hits your head, so you do not really have to think at all. 🙂

    Chinese do not have a coconut tree, so they’ve to work hard and think. After many years, they could be smarter and work harder as the environment forces them to adept. My stupid theory and nothing to do with racism.

    With that in mind, I do not think the black or any race that leads a easy life would succeed if they were inhabitants of HK instead of Chinese.

    If every Chinese had a coconut tree under them, HK would not be successful for the same reason. 🙂

  13. Raj Says:


    My intention is to help the black to fight off the vicious cycle in a more constructive way – sometimes the parents hitting the children is for their own good.

    They are not children and you are not their parents. If I said that I had a right to tell Chinese people what was wrong with them because “sometimes the parents hitting the children is for their own good”, I would be virtually lynched. So just don’t go there.

    As for your coconut “theory”, as I said on the Compton thread where you put this in, Africans do not live on tropical islands so never had coconut trees to live under. Caribbeans arrived on tropical islands due to slavery, but they did not all live on coconuts and they most certainly do not live on them today. Indeed trying to live on them coconuts long-term can make you very ill.

    The idea that “Blacks” suffer from poverty in many countries because their descendants all lived underneath coconut trees is frankly racist.

  14. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Tony:
    “It could be the background or environment, so we cannot say just just race.”
    —agreed. Which is why I had some objections to #8 and #10. It comes down to nature vs nurture. Perhaps Affirmative Action has flaws, but it seems like one attempt to break the vicious cycle, by providing black people with the opportunity to be something other than a drug pusher or high school dropout. Of course, that’s not perfect either, cuz even Harvey Gates can be confused for a B&E artist.

    The coconut theory makes sense. But I don’t think Sub-Saharan Africa has ever been well-endowed with coconut trees, literally or figuratively.

  15. Wukailong Says:

    I really do not believe that welfare is to blame for all of society’s ills. It seems like a very American reaction to me, where everything can be solved by lowering taxes and getting rid of “big government.” It reminds me of when Ronald Reagan said that government is the problem, not the solution – then what was he doing?

    I’m sure it wouldn’t make an iota of difference for drug addicts whether they live in public or private housing. One problem with breaking vicious circles like this is that you also have a psychological factor – people in that situation feel inferior, apart from just being at the lower ladder of life. How do you solve the problem that people feel there’s no reason to do anything, because the situation can’t be changed anyway?

  16. TonyP4 Says:

    #14 #15.

    S.K., it is tough to avoid race when we talk about social ills. For me, affirmative actions should be abolished with a black (half black, half white) president and a Hispanic chief justice. Sometimes it back fires. How can I trust the black professionals’ services if they get to college and job via affirmative actions?

    My coconut theory actually started when I noticed where ever there are Chinese in SE Asia, the towns are richer. The local folks enjoy easy life via easy farming. Vietnam used to have several rice crop harvests before the war via the rich soil of the delta. Chinese immigrants left China due to starvation (similar to Irish to America I guess). Chinese have to work hard, think hard as they do not have a coconut tree (figuratively). We left HK escaping from the communists and easy life in US for professionals.

    Of course, there are exceptions. Norway being the richest country with resources (off-shore oil and sea food) is doing great in all areas. It could be the education, culture… I do not want to mention race otherwise I would be accused.

    Hi Wukailong, agree with you but welfare plays a part too. It is human nature to take the easy street. If some one takes away my free medical delivery, free food stamp and free rental because I have found a job, I would not work too.

    Obama’s ‘spend now and pay later’ is the foundation of big government. I hope it works to stimulate the economy. Once it works, I hope he will cut down all the bailouts and free stuffs. We the citizen should take care of ourselves. I have written the Nation of No Losers under Letter and in my blog.


    I do not respond as you falsely accused me of using work of other and did not apologize. I guess you cannot face my accusing of the British empire being a nation of opium pushers. I did mention Britons provided a stable government for Hong Kong and ironed corruption that both KMT and CCP cannot. Just argue with facts and not biases.

    Admin, we need to show who votes on the post. It is childish to vote against the one you do not agree for personal reason and hypocrite to vote for yourself. The negative vote really helps me if it is not always from a certain person.

  17. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To TOny:
    “How can I trust the black professionals’ services if they get to college and job via affirmative actions?”
    —I believe I made this point before on a prior thread. While AA might allow a person to get into college or into a job on the basis of race, that individual still has to prove their worth to stay there, advance, and/or graduate, whatever the case may be. I recall someone once said (don’t know if it was you) that they couldn’t trust a black doctor because they may have gotten into med school with inferior grades. That’s patent nonsense. By having graduated med school, they had to have shown the requisite proficiency. And if you don’t make the grade, you’re not going to graduate, whether you’re black, white, or green.

    “Norway being the richest country with resources (off-shore oil and sea food) is doing great in all areas. It could be the education, culture…”
    —or maybe just the fact that they have to keep moving and keep themselves busy so as not to freeze their asses off 🙂

  18. TonyP4 Says:

    * Not most professions have certification. If you need to be operated on, do you want to find a good one or one just barely pass the requirements after many trials. It is easy to get a MD degree from Grenada, so not all doctors are the same. It is hard to talk about US social problems without including the black, and then racism. Since this is not a social blog, I will try to avoid this topic. My view on black was quite different when I was younger and lived in HK. Reality and idealism may not agree with each other. Black and Hispanic (could be due to social welfare to encourage more babies, Catholic church, or lack of entertainment (haha)) will be the majority of the US population and hopefully they will be in public office not due to vote alone. If you care about the future of US, you need to care about these groups.

    * Hope some one will have a topic comparing Norway and China. China has far higher GNP than Norway. However, miles apart with GNP per capita. To measure how wealthy a country, I prefer to use GNP per capita after PPP (purchase power adjustment). Does one country achieve high GNP per caipta due to his high natural resource per capita. If so, they should be shared due to God’s biased distribution of wealth.

  19. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Tony:
    your biases in this arena are starting to show through again.

    “If you need to be operated on, do you want to find a good one or one just barely pass the requirements after many trials.”
    —I’d want a good one. What makes you assume that a black doctor isn’t the good one, and the white or Chinese doctor isn’t the one who barely scraped through?

    “It is easy to get a MD degree from Grenada, so not all doctors are the same.”
    —admittedly, it would be sexier to be Harvard trained than Grenada trained. However, if one is to get a license to practice somewhere, you have to fulfill the requirements of that jurisdiction. Although such licensing doesn’t certify excellence, it does certify competence. Besides, are you saying that if you saw a black doctor, your immediate assumption is that they trained in Grenada, while a white/Chinese doctor is immediately assumed to have trained someplace worthy?

    I’m sure some black people and some Hispanic people will support candidates of their own race based strictly on their race, just like some CHinese people will vote for Chinese candidates based on that alone. Hopefully that’s not what most people do, but I don’t know. But I would hazard a guess (well, in reality, it’s much better than a guess) that there are black Republicans, and Hispanics who didn’t support Sotomayor as a Supreme. I agree that we need to care about minorities and the disadvantaged. But I’m not sure that assuming they’re all incompetent dolts is a good starting point.

    I admire the idealism of point #2. But as long as countries worry about countries at the expense of humanity in general, it’ll never happen.

  20. TonyP4 Says:

    SK, many good points for discussion. Here are many viewpoints.

    * Just the argument goes back to the original argument “affirmative actions backfire”. If every one is admitted to college and job based on merits and not on race, we do not have to doubt whether a black doctor is qualified or not.

    * From time to time, we have stories on how a black/Hispanic kids dropped out from a Ivy League college as s/he was admitted due to race even s/he was on the top of his/her class. If they’re admitted to a less competitive college (like I went to Calif. State U instead of the competitive U.C. system), they would finish college and be happier.

    * Grenada medical schools. Completely misinterpret my intention. Most students are white and Asians who fail to be accepted to a good medical school in US. These colleges are pretty much intended to attract foreign students (most from US) and most of them are for profit. The graduates do not proudly display their diplomas – did you see any of these diplomas. If I have a terminal disease, I would check the credential of my doctors, don’t you?

    * Unfortunately, most votes are based on race. Too many examples. After OJ’s verdict, on TV you saw a lot of black college students cheered while a lot white college students did the opposite. If the sentiment is not based on race, what is? Sad to say they represent the next generation of US.

    * Sotomajor’s appointment is about 75% based on race and future votes from Hispanic. It is not bad too me. She is fully qualified. We need the system to reflect minority and women’s point of view. The only objection is why no (or few) Asian judges considered for the job? The female Asian judges have a large % based on population in US system.

    * Biases are built in every one. If I were a politician or a lawyer (sorry if you’re a lawyer), I could lie, be more careful to express yourself… I am an investor. I do not care about political correctness and argue with facts only. I do not buy the stock based on running by white folk or black folk, but based on the credential of the management and the fundamentals of the company. I do want to keep race issues to a minimum as there will be no winner but a lot of misunderstanding and it is a blog for China after all.

    * For joke only here. This is what create wars when one country is richer than other. Today China ‘should’ but cannnot conquer Norway due to the EU alliance. Same reasoning for wars in the name of the imbalance of female/male ratio. 🙂

  21. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Tony:
    Point 1: fair enough. Do the potential benefits of the AA system justify the inherent flaws in such a system? Who knows. In any event, I don’t think the answer would be an absolute yes or an absolute no.

    #2: Certainly true that, while you can parachute someone into an environment based on AA, you can’t replace all their other circumstances. And the social pressures/stigma may be too much for some. The question to me is: do we want to assume people can’t handle it, and shield them from such a possibility altogether, or do we give them the opportunity, and see what they make of it? My choice would be for the latter.

    #3:”If I have a terminal disease, I would check the credential of my doctors, don’t you?” — you put a lot more weight in the source of one’s diploma than I. I think it’s a fantastic achievement to get into a top-flight school, and even better to graduate from one. But to me, that doesn’t make you inherently a better lawyer/doctor/rocket scientist/plumber than the next guy. It’s what you do with all that stuff they taught you that matters more. Besides, if I have a terminal disease, I’m just going to start smoking, drinking, and generally being merry. If I have a curable disease, then I’d be looking for a good doctor 🙂

    #4: if you’re right, then that’s a sad state of affairs in our society today.

    #5: As you suggest, if someone is qualified, it shouldn’t matter if they’re white, black, brown, or green.

    #6: agreed.

  22. TonyP4 Says:

    AA is a great system as we really needed to force a certain ratio for the minority to represent in the work force and our college. However, after a while and when the initial quota are met, we should cut down or even eliminate AA.

    Bearing gun was great and necessary for the wild, wild west, but not any more in today’s society. This is why we have amendments to the constitution.

    Some minority kids think they’re the best of the class, but they do not know the best is not good enough for the best college. Some Asian qualified kids are frustrated when these less qualified kids pass them by. At least one recent lawsuit on reverse discrimination.

    My choice is to give the chance to the black/Hispanic kid if s/he is as qualified as the Asian kid, as they’ve overcome a lot of obstacles. Same logic for admitting an Asian kid to schools on sports, dance… However, no matter what race the applicant is, the college should admit students that they will finish the program.

    Diploma represents a initial credential. No wall street broker house hires graduates from an average university for their top trainees. Even Fidelity hires college graduates with certain grades. It shows the student works hard. After 5 or so years, the diploma does not matter much. BTW, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both are college dropouts.

    I should use ‘serious’ instead of ‘terminal disease’. With terminal disease, would you chase crazy women, eat all the fatty food…? 🙂

    Thanks for a good debate.

  23. S.K. Cheung Says:

    “With terminal disease, would you chase crazy women, eat all the fatty food…? 🙂
    —maybe not crazy women… I would probably try skydiving.

    “BTW, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both are college dropouts.”
    —don’t know about Jobs, but Gates quit Harvard. Admittedly not necessarily a good move for everyone, but it worked out okay for him.

    I think it would be a good day when there is no longer a need for AA. Definitely with you there.

  24. TonyP4 Says:

    Quite interesting article about Steve Jobs.


    When you’re a genius like the two, college could be a waste of 4 years except looking for a life partner.

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