CPPCC chairman Yu Zhengsheng states that China will “more strictly follow the socialist path of political development with Chinese characteristics [and] not imitate Western political systems under any circumstances.” We have been hearing this from dozens of top officials, what – once a month on average? – for at least a couple of decades now. If they’re so sure about it, why do they need to keep saying it? My guess is that they know the current system is unsustainable, but, out of self-interest or genuine practical doubts, cannot accept the only known viable alternative. There is nothing left to do but rule out the alternative with frenzied vehemence and pray the Beijing Model ‘China Dream’ comes true. In fact, it is rising vehemence: note the “under any circumstances” added to the usual phrasing.
It is our friend Mr Yu, of course, who prompted the recent fuss about how any future Chief Executive of Hong Kong must be a patriot who loves the country and loves Hong Kong. More than a few rumours suggest that Beijing is petrified of the Civic Party’s Audrey Eu getting on the ballot. For what it’s worth, the Standard’s ‘Mary Ma’ column alludes to this. (Perhaps someone on the Mainland is still smarting from then-CE Donald Tsang’s awkward TV debate with the 5ft 10in barrister in 2010.)
Audrey will be a sprightly and fragrant 63 at the time of the 2017 election, with – one might venture to suggest – a trace more charisma than the Democratic Party’s Albert Ho. If Chinese officials really are that worried about her, she has an intriguing opportunity to engage in some effective realpolitik: essentially, do a deal for better governance in exchange for not trying to run in 2017.
One way would be to produce, sooner rather than later, a dynamite policy platform guaranteed to win strong public backing (all our favourites: land reform, a cap on tourists, proper health funding, a fairer school system, crush the Heung Yee Kuk, kick Disney out, free beer on Fridays, etc, etc). This would put Beijing in a spot. They might push their preferred man to promise to match her reformist proposals; they might offer her a minister-level job in exchange for backing their guy – who knows? Sadly, such a practical, results-oriented, getting-your-hands-dirty approach hardly seems likely from Audrey or any of our pro-democracy idealists. It’s so much more fun being a martyr for an abstract cause.
On a far more serious note, respected China-watcher Steve Tsang explains the black hair dye conundrum: the top leadership in Zhongnanhai sport identical heads of hair (and suits) to avoid standing out, which could mean being blamed for mistakes. Danwei’s Jeremey Goldkorn adds that the uniform look also reinforces the image of group responsibility as opposed to rule by an individual. It all makes sense: the idea of ruthless, Communist-trained engineers indulging in vanity-driven preening always seemed a bit jarring. So, logically, we can infer that anyone who does stand out is someone with no power or influence at all, but is present purely as a token. Thus…