Posts Tagged ‘China’

the failure of universal pensions in Hong Kong

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

The outgoing Chief Executive of Hong Kong failed to keep a promise to push for universal pensions. Hong Kong is a wealthy territory. Taxes are very low, and government spending is even lower, leaving large fiscal surpluses. There is no economic reason to deny Hong Kong’s elderly citizens access to a basic pension. There is a universal pension in effect, but the amount is so small that it is known as “fruit money”. What is needed is a pension large enough to satisfy basic needs.

[Chief executive] Leung Chun-ying’s question-and- answer session for his swan song policy address was cut short after pan- democrats protested the ejection of lawmaker Lau Siu-lai for playing a recording of the outgoing chief executive’s “broken promises.” ….

Leung was answering questions about the policy address he delivered on Wednesday. When it was Lau’s turn, she played a 2011 video clip on her phone in which Leung “promised” to push for universal retirement protection.

In the press conference that followed his address on Wednesday, Leung denied having shown any support for universal pension when he ran for chief executive.

But in the clip Leung can be heard telling a senior citizen, Lo Siu-lan, that “we don’t need to be vigorous in implementing universal pension, we just need to be serious.”

When Lau told Leung he failed to fulfill his election promise, Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen ordered her to leave the chamber.

Chaos broke out as 10 pan-democratic lawmakers surrounded security guards who tried to escort Lau out of the chamber.

Andrew Leung suspended the meeting and in the melee that followed several people fell to the floor, some on top of Lau and independent lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching.

After more than 20 minutes, Andrew Leung asked the pan- democratic lawmakers to return to their seats. And when they refused he adjourned the meeting at about 11.45am.

Phoenix Un, “Leung session ends in bedlam“, The Standard (Hong Kong), 20 January 2017.

See also this earlier post.


the politics of universal pensions in Hong Kong

Monday, January 16th, 2017

One of the three candidates for Chief executive of Hong Kong is a strong supporter of universal age pensions for the territory’s residents. Suffrage in Hong Kong is severely limited, though, so the pro-universal candidate has little chance of winning the election, scheduled to take place at the end of March.

Chief executive hopeful Woo Kwok-hing warned voters against his “dangerous” rival Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, describing her as an autocrat who would decide everything by herself for the Hong Kong people.

Speaking before a public forum yesterday, Woo described Lam, who resigned as chief secretary on Thursday, in a negative light when asked by Lay Yan-piau, an Election Committee member from the social welfare subsector, to comment on Lam’s disregard of University of Hong Kong professor Nelson Chow Wing-sun’s research report which endorsed a universal pension.

The retired judge said Lam was “dangerous” as she talked like an autocrat, making all the plans for Hong Kong without public consultation on issues which should engage the public. ….

Woo reiterated his support for a universal pension scheme financed by tripartite contributions from employers, employees and the government as suggested by the scholarly proposal.

Phoenix Un, “‘Dictator’ Lam mustn’t lead HK, warns Woo“, The Standard (Hong Kong), 16 January 2017.

Woo Kwok-hing (born 1946) is competing against two pro-Beijing candidates: Regina Ip (born 1950) and Carrie Lam (born 1957). A new Chief executive will be selected by the 1,200-member Election Committee on 26 March 2017. Woo would like to see the voter base for choosing the Election Committee expanded from the current 250,000 to one million by 2022, three million by 2032 and eventually near-universal suffrage.

Trump’s China policy

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

The biggest surprise since Donald Trump’s election victory is his decision to pick a fight with China. Not once in his campaign did he mention the word Taiwan. Yet all of a sudden there is now a threat over America’s “One China” policy ….

Without realising it, the US electorate appears to have opened the gates to a new cold war in which America’s hand will be far less strong than it was first time round. One of the reasons the US won the original one was its skill at breaking China away from the Soviet block. Detente between Richard Nixon’s US and Mao Zedong’s China in 1972 cemented the Sino-Soviet split and weakened Moscow’s global appeal. Mr Trump plans to do the reverse.

Michael Flynn, the retired lieutenant general who will play a key role as Mr Trump’s national security adviser, believes China is in league with Isis and other Islamist terrorist groups to defeat the US. It is a breathtaking fiction. Before he joined the Trump campaign, Mr Flynn believed Russia was part of the same anti-US axis. He has since dropped his Russia hawkishness for a Trumpian admiration. ….

Contrary to Mr Flynn’s view, China is a natural ally in America’s struggle against Islamist terrorism. ….

Can we trust Mr Trump’s instincts in a crisis? Will Mr Putin act as a restraint — or even a mediator — between a defensive US and a rising China? We cannot yet know the answer. What we do know is that Mr Trump’s closest adviser is a man who sees China as a mortal foe.

Edward Luce, “Donald Trump’s collision course with China“, Financial Times, 19 December 2016 (metered paywall).

There is much more in the full column.

Another surprise was the announcement by Trump’s transition team that it would appoint, as ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, vocal opponent of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump ignored this subject during the campaign, except for one moment, in February, when he told a town hall meeting “in Charleston, South Carolina, that he wanted to be a ‘neutral guy’ in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and not pick sides“. Instead, we now see a threat over America’s “two-state” policy for Israel and Palestine.

We wait with bated breath for more hints of what Trump’s foreign policy initiatives might be.


stumbling toward universal pensions in Hong Kong

Saturday, December 17th, 2016

Sad news from Hong Kong. What is the point of government consultation with voters, if government chooses to ignore dissenting views?

An official advisory commission on universal pensions, after three years of discussion and consultations, convened and released its Report on Thursday, 15 December. The Commission on Poverty of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) discussed the Report. LegCo is expected to retain a means-test for social pensions, even though the Report finds overwhelming public support for universal pensions. (more…)

political crisis in the USA and in China

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

I have long thought that governance in the USA is converging with that of China (and other countries of the so-called third world). The convergence is to a style known as ‘crony capitalism’, which has well-known defects. Two op-ed columns in today’s Financial Times, one by Edward Luce and another by Martin Wolf, remind me how governance in the two countries are coming to resemble each other, even though one country is evolving from a democratic system and the other from a Communist system. There is danger of turmoil in each country. (more…)

China’s “debt funding bubble”

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

Here is an interesting column from a seasoned FT researcher.

When Marco Polo went to China [in the 13th century] he discovered something better than alchemy. Rather than turning base metals into gold, he marvelled that the Chinese were creating money out of paper. ….

the future of Sino-American relations

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

Australian politician Kevin Rudd (born 1957), in a Financial Times op-ed, describes three analyses that he thinks might shape China’s response to Donald Trump: the “instability” school, the optimistic school and the pessimist school. (more…)

global warming viewed from China and the United States

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

US president-elect Donald Trump has transformed China into a world leader in the struggle against global warming. FT columnist Jamil Anderlini explains.

In mid-2012, Donald Trump fired off this tweet: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”

Apart from its sheer absurdity, one of the most striking things about Mr Trump’s assertion is how similar it sounds to the paranoid ravings of Chinese nationalists, who blame almost everything on the CIA and evil, imperialist America. ….

Thanks to the election of Mr Trump, who remains unconvinced by the overwhelming scientific evidence of anthropogenic climate change, China is now poised to become the world’s leader in tackling global warming and the environment. Nobody is as surprised by this new responsibility as China itself. Less than a decade ago, the Chinese government still refused to admit that the acrid clouds of choking smog hanging over most of the country had anything to do with industrial development.

Jamil Anderlini, “China’s leaders emerge from the fog of pollution denial“, Financial Times, 30 November 2016 (metered paywall).

liberal policies and economic growth

Friday, July 29th, 2016

For your enjoyment, here are more excerpts from Bourgeois Dignity.

Dignity and liberty still work. …. Shenzhen in mainland China, a suburb of Hong Kong, went from being a small fishing village to an eight-million-soul metropolis in two decades. it didn’t happen without some nasty rent-seeking by party officials and their friends, true. But out of such creative destruction are average incomes raised, to the benefit eventually of the poorest. Such a shift required a shift in rhetoric: stop jailing millionaires and start admiring them; stop overregulating markets and start letting people make deals, corrupt or not.

…. You can still hear people … [declare] confidently that the market of course needs to be closely regulated, or that trade needs to be fair, or that immigration must be restricted, or that jobs are to be created by governmental programs, or that businesspeople routinely cheat, or that markets are chaotic, or that the more complex an economy is, the more it needs government regulation, or that banking or financial speculation is robbery, or that governmental bureaucracies are always fair and efficient.  …. Such antibourgeois people … do not believe the bourgeois axiom that a deal between two free adults has a strong presumption in its favor ….

This seems to be extremely libertarian, but five pages later, McCloskey explains that she is very much a classical liberal (a follower of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and others):

Liberty, I say again for the enlightenment of my libertarian colleagues, does not by itself suffice. The political scientist James Otteson asserts … “Those countries that respect private property and efficiently administer justice prosper, and those that do not do not. It is as simple as that.” Not quite, I would argue …. Prudence is not enough. We need to assent to bourgeois virtues.

Two chapters later McCloskey affirms this even more clearly:

[We should not celebrate] “greed is good,” which I argued at length in [my book] The Bourgeois Virtues is a childish and unethical rhetoric, however popular it has been on Wall Street and in the Department of Economics.

Deirdre N. McCloskey, Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World (University of Chicago Press, 2010), pp. 397, 402, 446.

the psychology of financial markets

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Financial markets are like small children. They find it hard to focus on more than two things at once.” That is the conclusion drawn by one of my colleagues after a lifetime of professional investing.

Whether small children can focus on anything at all is a matter for debate. Chocolate, perhaps. But he has a point when it comes to global markets. Investors have been so focused on the Brexit vote and its aftermath that they have missed the big picture, which is that the global economy is still worryingly dependent on US growth and the extreme efforts of central banks. ….

Big picture: China might be more stable but is no closer to resolving its structural and financial imbalances than it was a year ago, and it is still exporting disinflation to the rest of the world via a weaker exchange rate. US import prices from China fell by 3 per cent in June, the largest monthly drop since 2013.

Stephanie Flanders, “The world leans ever more on America“, Financial Times, 27 July 2016 (metered paywall).