"If you want to read a blog to get a sense of what is going on in Hong Kong these days or a blog that would tell you what life was like living in colonial Hong Kong, this blog, WALTER'S BLOG, fits the bill." Hong Kong Blog Review
"You can't draw up a few cannons and intimidate us. Those days are over."
The propaganda department of the CCP has a recruit in President Joe Biden. The boys in Beijing don't need to worry too much about their popularity; Biden is rallying the Chinese people behind them. By stating he will not allow China to become a leading world-power, Biden played into the narrative of bullying foreigners holding back the Chinese.
Whoever is advising Biden has no grasp of history, the sentiment within China, nor the likely consequences of this bravado. Unbeknown to Washington wonks, the dyed-haired brigade in Zhongnanhai is now probably grinning from ear to ear. Meanwhile, Asians (because all Asians are Chinese) suffer terrible violence in a febrile anti-Chinese atmosphere, as the racial hatred pot is stirred.
A few politicians seek to make the distinction between the CCP and the Chinese people. But that's a dead-end street for many reasons. First, all the surveys show consistent majority support for the CCP within China. Second, even if the CCP fell or some form of democracy emerged, don't imagine that Chinese public sentiment would differ. They will still demand that past shames are not repeated. That includes resisting the demands of the West.
Here it is necessary to pause and understand the deep-seated underpinnings in the Chinese mindset. A truth that ought to be acknowledged is that China was once the world's leading civilisation. Then China took a century-long detour through instability, mayhem, civil war and famine. Granted, that's very much a potted history. During this period, stronger nations waded-in to get a piece of the action, hence Hong Kong, Macau and various treaty ports. Japan exploited China's weakness to seize vast tracts of lands committing many atrocities along the way.
Well documented is China's hundred years of humiliation. Every Chinese kid knows how the British used gunboats to bombard Mainland ports to force the sale of opium. They know about the Summer Palace's sacking and the plunder of art, much of which now sits in the British Museum. Plus, that foreign powers took turns biting chunks out of China. That era remains a deep scar on the national psyche, shaping everything. Thus last week, when the West announced sanctions, China's response was swift and unequivocal, "You can't draw up a few cannons and intimidate us. Those days are over."
In forums, meetings and press conferences, the Chinese leadership make it clear they'll no longer remain silent and passive when Western nations take action. This week they've countered-sanctioned several British politicians, an academic and companies. Of course, those sanctioned claim to be upholding British values, although they appear more reticent about events on their doorstep in Batley. Strange that death threats against a teacher don't summons them to action around their claimed values.
The issue of the day is Xinjiang and claims of genocide. Getting a handle on what is happening to the Uyghurs remains challenging. A few commentators suggest the situation is comparable to Northern Ireland in the 1970s/80s on a much larger scale. Others note the geopolitical aspects asserting that Xinjiang is an ideal jumping-off point for destabilising China. Don't forget that Xinjiang province abuts Afghanistan, where a Western force has been at war against the Taliban for decades. Xinjiang is also home to the largest reserves of oil in Asia.
It's natural for anyone who recalls the whole WMD saga and Iraq to be sceptical. Recent history has told us that 'manufactured-consent' is a tool used to shape public opinion before action. Last week, we had this report affirming that Trump and his team lied about Chinese influence on US elections.
I do not doubt that China is clamping down hard in Xinjiang following a wave of terrorist incidents. And aspects of that clampdown are robust, perhaps similar to the US approach after 9/11. It's worth remember that many Uyghurs were held in Guantanamo Bay.
As the struggle between the West and China escalates, the Uyghur issue has proven a useful stick with which to beat Beijing. Yet odd, isn't it, that Muslim nations remain silent about the Uyghurs? I suspect the truth is much more complex and nuanced than we currently understand.
Over the past 40 years, with the communist experiment de facto abandoned, China moved towards an authoritarian-capitalist centralised system. This approach brought unprecedented growth. Academics in the West naively believed that such success would morph into a western-style democracy. They opined that true affluence could only come by adopting such a system.
That proved wrong. Likewise, the belief that China would disintegrate Soviet Union style. How many times did I listen to lofty professors holding forth that China would either fail or break up into feuding fiefdoms. That none of it happened illustrates that the 'experts' hardly justify their title.
Whatever Biden may say, China is a dominant power in our world. It takes the lead on climate change, while the belt-and-road initiative has seen it bring much-needed infrastructure to developing countries in parts of Asia, Africa and elsewhere. Besides, the pandemic affirmed growing Chinese confidence that the West is in decline.
Despite all the bellicose noise, China does not present the kind of threat one might believe. Beijing is not seeking to promote its ideology as it ramps up economic clout and international reach. In truth, China is more occupied with its own financial, demographic and political challenges. The one-child policy proved too effective, with possible destabilising consequences meaning the country may grow old before it grows rich. In short, they may not have enough people. The emergence of a middle class pushes that process along, as educated women take charge of their reproduction.
Then atop that are debt-ridden industries and clunky state-owned enterprises proving a drag on economic progress. What China has, in its favour, are unity and focus. It's not a 'silly people' as eloquently put here by Bill Maher.
Blocking China's advance, as Biden proposed, is a blunt instrument from a Cold War mindset of military dominance. Looking ahead and returning to an old theme, the future will be far better if Beijing and Washington place cooperation above confrontation. As the tectonic plates of global strength shift, shouting at each other from the barricades won't help.
"And while you could argue the government has overreacted, I'd opine their caution is correct"
As news broke this morning of shut Covid-19 vaccination centres, a palpable fear gripped the city. The first whiff I got of something untoward was RTHK's 'Backchat' show; the presenter happily relaying reports sent to them on Facebook around 9 am.
He was keen to stress the reports as 'unconfirmed'. Yet did I detect a degree of relish in his tone? After all, such a tidbit is manna from heaven for a journalist. He repeated the breaking news at least twice, all without any verification or fact-checking.
My Whatsapp soon filled with messages. These included a forwarded picture of a makeshift sign announcing BioNTech jabs' suspended. Next, I heard that Macau had stopped jabs with a public statement. By 9:30 am, the conspiracy nut-jobs had it that a cyberattack took out the Vaccine webpage and booking system. I soon confirmed this to be untrue by logging-on to the webpage without issue.
Over the next hour, the conspiracies escalated. In various forms, the lunatic fringe claimed that the government messed up the BioNTech vaccine to force us all to opt for Sinovac. The claimed motivation is to prove Hongkong's patriotism. This gem ignored certain realities.
For starters, why would the government give us a choice of vaccines and then opt to sabotage one? Plus, to date, two-third of jabs are Sinovac. Next, the government has enough on its plate organising and promoting vaccine use. Besides, China ordered millions of BioNtech doses, which destroys the patriotism argument. So all the conspiracy theories collapse as nonsensical naked fantasies.
Also, I find it perverse that Covid-19 causes so much misery and hardship for medical professionals, yet many of them discredit the government's efforts. In some of their utterances, you can see the bias spilling forth.
Some facts. The BioNTech vaccine comes in glass vials. Each vial contains five doses, although, by careful handling, it is possible to squeeze out six shots with a fine needle. While Hong Kong uses fine needles, it opts for five doses a vial to avoid any untoward issues.
The vials have four features that prevent leakage and cross-contamination. Even if one seal fails, the others provide redundancy. The first seal is a plastic cap, the second a metal cap and finally a rubber membrane. Also, inert gas pressurises the vials to prevent the intrusion of contamination if a seal fails. That pressure will also show any leaks by causing the liquid vaccine to expel, leaving a stain.
The government states that they've found 57 identifiable defects in 150,000 vials. That sounds well within production tolerance to me.
It would appear that during transportation, unwrapping and preparation for use, a few vials sustained damage. And that damage prompted the issue we've seen today. And while you could argue the government has overreacted, I'd opine their caution is correct. You can imagine the outcry if they'd pressed-on without investigation. Also, unscrupulous types could exploit the damaged vials with leaks to the press.
If my thinking is correct, with the harm caused by transportation, it's a straightforward matter. Physical checks with a 'Mark One Eyeball' should be enough before resuming the vaccination programme.
Even so, I accept the detractors have a new drum to beat. Listen out for the beat because they must seize upon any morsel to justify their falsehoods.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.