Hong Kong’s hot new game for 2019 is ‘Guess the next Mainlandization’. All the family can join in! And you can let your imagination run wild, because the gradual smothering of the city will continue in many forms. Who would have thought you had to call that huge ugly building a ‘Xiqu Centre’, even though people make fun of it and Pinyin-challenged foreigners can’t pronounce it? Who could have guessed kindergartens would have to give Canadian toddlers ‘I love China’ textbooks? Who would have predicted that the first Western journalist would be expelled last year?
I will play safe with my forecast: the weaponization of travel advisories (in a more nationally coordinated way than the time they did it against the Philippines). The US has just renewed its advice to citizens to beware of arbitrary legal actions and exit bans in the Mainland. It would not be out of character for Beijing to issue warnings or take other measures to discourage travel to – or merely stir up popular resentment against – the US, or maybe Canada, or other countries that hurt China’s delicate feelings. How could patriotic and loyal Hong Kong not declare an alert, however embarrassingly contrived, of its own?
I declare the weekend open with a look back at the Mainlandization of discourse last year (creepy Orwellian wording in government press releases, etc). Other recommended reading if it’s too cold to go out: the South China Morning Post started the new year massively off-message with an op-ed blasting Xi Jinping for airbrushing the West, as well as Deng Xiaoping, out of the official history of reform; a Chinese professor’s candid (and swiftly censored) lecture on the state that China is in; another Mainland academic (from the now largely silenced Unirule Institute) in some detail on the Huawei affair as a clash of legal systems; and on a less-dry note, the story of the Chinese Canadians recruited for a top-secret World War II mission – interesting even though the operation never went ahead.