Some Friday links…

An argument that China’s shift to greater domestic authoritarianism and overseas aggression pre-dates the arrival of Xi Jinping as leader, with a summary here if you’re short of time. This is partly not news (renewed Internet and other clampdowns started under Hu Jintao). To the extent the argument holds water, it implies that the new nastiness of the regime is part of a longer-term plan backed by most of the CCP elite, which is more worrying than the idea that it is the whim of one messianic Mao-nostalgic strong man. It also requires us to assume that the Communist Party draws up and follows multi-generational epic strategy, rather than form policy through infighting and making-it-up-as-they-go.

If there is a grand plan, China’s younger generation aren’t on board. Here’s how the CCP is engaged in a new anti-Japanese war, battling for the hearts and minds of the nation’s youth against explicit gay-themed ‘slash’ manga booklets and Doraemon (and apparently losing).

China’s latest GDP figures, and other data that don’t add up.

On local matters, why Hong Kong’s stock market goes through those weird mini-crashes.

I declare the weekend open with a little tale about Rich People’s Problems.

As a Jade (‘bespoke lifestyle services’) HSBC customer, I get exclusive mailings offering loans for moderately sizable sums of money. They would know, if they checked, that I have no use for these, as I am already sitting on quite a lot of cash in my savings account.

(Professional financial advisors would loudly protest that you should not hold this much cash. They say ‘You must keep your wealth working’, and ‘You cannot time markets’, by which they mean ‘I am not making any commission’. In reality, it depends whether you prioritize capital appreciation or preservation, which will change over time. And while no-one has a crystal ball, most of us can see whether, after a decade of central-bank money-printing, asset prices have more upside or downside right now.)

HSBC is also offering Jade customers a chance to put cash on time-deposit at an annual rate of 2.4%. This sounds attractive. But they did not send me an exclusive mailing advising me of this – I read about it in a newspaper story about local interest rates. Armed with the clipping, I went to the Luxury Customer-Service Palace, snatched some free Mentos mints, and sat down with a client-relations floozie.

She knew of this promotion. But, she made clear, I could not simply move the cash over from my savings account – it had to be ‘new funds’, transferred in from outside HSBC.

I did some cursory eye-rolling and spluttering for effect, but basically took the bad news like a man. It made sense. Sounded a bit too good to be true. The newspaper article obviously wouldn’t mention the small print. So I shrugged, said thanks and made to leave.

“No!” she said, leaning across the desk and clutching my wrist*. “You can still do it.”

She explained that if I transferred the money from my savings account to another bank and left it there for more than seven calendar days, I could transfer it back – and it would count as ‘new funds’.

I gave her an impassive hard stare. The offer expires at end-January, which was nine calendar days away. I do have an account at another local bank, but not with on-line access. I pictured endless form-filling against a running clock, and inevitably some sort of delay – maybe impertinent questions from some transaction-screening compliance officer. I would think about it. Grabbed more mints on the way out.

After less than 48 hours of the prevarication that comes so naturally to me, the whole thing became unfeasible, and the issue went blissfully away.

But anyway, here’s to HSBC – the bank that attracts new funds by telling you to move your cash to another bank.

*OK, so she didn’t clutch my wrist.


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