Hopes that we could go a week without free-trade hub-zone hype-mania are dashed by the appearance of a couple of stories from Shanghai and Guangdong. Or then again, maybe not: both articles reflect glimmers of reality.
First, China’s Shanghai and other free-trade zones – which, inevitably, “could challenge Hong Kong” – could use ‘international law’. This is specifically about offshore use of the Yuan, but has wider ramifications. (Note to lazy journalists who lapse into cliché: in a genuine free-trade zone, Hong Kong firms would be allowed to enter the market and compete against local players. The former would probably benefit while the latter might suffer, which is why it won’t happen anytime soon.)
Whoever is mulling this idea is probably thinking of Dubai, which has established a special financial district using English instead of local commercial law (the UAE still has debtors’ prisons), complete with British judges flying in to sit on special courts. Such a symbolic cession of sovereignty might be OK with the Al Maktoum family, but it’s hard to imagine the Chinese Communist Party sacrificing both grip and face in any such way. The wider ramifications here apply to the whole Chinese economy: when the lack of rule of law becomes a barrier to progress, do the interests of the Party’s power or the economy’s development come first?
Second, Guangdong authorities are getting real about hopes for their own free-trade mega-blah-blah zone-hub. Again, remember what this ‘free-trade’ concept would mean: anyone in Hong Kong could transport and sell goods and services into the Pearl River Delta without paying duty or import taxes, whence they would leak out into the protected market of 1.3 billion consumers, unless they built a big wall around Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Zhuhai. The giant sucking sound, as every bottle of Yakult in the solar system is hoovered up into the hinterland would be deafening.
At least Mainland civic leaders think big. Back in the Big Lychee, the government seems to be in full retreat from ideas and action. Patriotic mouth-frother Lau Nai-keung, incensed that even off-the-record Executive Council members are distancing themselves (not to say blabbing), issues a stern warning that Chief Executive CY Leung will fight back when cornered. “A desperate rabbit will kick the eagle.” It won’t be pretty.
On a lighter note, exciting consumer news…
This odd-looking, faded, 100-year-old warehouse has suddenly appeared at the top of Lyndhurst Terrace, several hundred yards west of Central’s current designer-label-crap hub…
Apparently it is the flagship-whatever-blah-blah of Ralph Lauren, a chain selling the usual ugly, overpriced tat, founded by – amazingly – one Ralph Lauren, who (honest) was born Ralph Lifshitz. I’d have changed it too. But what will Mainlanders, the target market, make of the retro-exterior? Will it resonate as iconic-trendy, or will it just say ‘condemned building’, ‘dirty’, or ‘outdated’?
Then we have the brochure I found in my mailbox yesterday…
Essentially, if you are female and are sadly cursed with the off-putting, simpering, educationally sub-normal look displayed by the young lady in the photo, you can have a Yakult-extract called pueraria rubbed into your breasts; it will make them big and firm, and divert guys’ attention from your face. I suppose the good news is that they’re not chopping away with knives, but you have to wonder: if someone falls for this stuff, what else will they be willing to believe?
But is it halal?
We declare the weekend open with a noteworthy cartoon-comparison of Taiwan and Hong Kong.