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The Chinese customer is always right

Unless you have been sleeping under a rock you are aware that there is a controversy around China and the NBA due to different standards of political speech in the USA and China. Obviously the major issue that looms over the debate is the reality that at some point in the 2020s China will become the world’s largest economy, and one of the major consumer engines of the world. From a corporate perspective, this hangs over all the discussion and consideration. The Chinese market is like El Dorado.

But I would like to draw attention to something Joe Tsai, owner of the Brooklyn Nets and co-founder of Alibaba, said on Facebook:

The one thing that is terribly misunderstood, and often ignored, by the western press and those critical of China is that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country’s sovereignty over her homeland. This issue is non-negotiable.

A bit of historical perspective is important. In the mid-19thcentury, China fought two Opium Wars with the British, aided by the French, who forced through illegal trade of opium to China. A very weak Qing Dynasty government lost the wars and the result was the ceding of Hong Kong to the British as a colony.

The substance of the dispute here on their face-value isn’t too important. Rather, from a commercial perspective the opinions of Chinese matter because there are 1.4 billion of them. Additionally, from a commercial perspective, the “objective truth” doesn’t matter. The “customer” is always right. Whether the Chinese have legitimate grounds for their beliefs is less important than what their beliefs are, because there are so many of them. The substance of beliefs may dictate consumption. Whether those beliefs are true or not is secondary (ask the supplements industry in the USA).

But this is not a dynamic limited to this context. Do you remember the Islamic mosque and cultural center that was slated to be built near the World Trade Center? The project was abandoned after various groups, including some 9/11 victim families, felt that it was offensive. Though I didn’t believe that the center had anything to do with 9/11 as such, I do recall being vaguely sympathetic to their feelings. In hindsight, this was clearly the wrong call by me in light of broader trends in our culture.

Since that time the reign of feelings over facts has proceeded apace. In American society, the facts at hand matter less and less, than who the people are who have their own reaction, perception, and subjective experience, of the facts. The fact that 9/11 families were uncomfortable determined the ultimate course of construction. The fact that college students are uncomfortable that someone is going to speak who wrote something that offends them 20 years ago is key factor that determines if the invitation will be rescinded. The overall objective fact of something is incidental in comparison to the visceral reaction.

One of the things that I have witnessed which illustrates this trend is the way Richard Dawkins is viewed by young “enlightened” people. Dawkins has always been a bit of a brusque and direct individual in regards to what he believes are the facts irrespective of the target. In 2006 he was commissioned by Britain’s Channel 4 to take lead on a documentary titled The Root of all Evil. When The God Delusion was published Dawkins’ intellectual celebrity rose to new heights.

Not so in 2019. The reason? Richard Dawkins is 78. In fundamental ways, he has not changed. He is an old man. And, he has a naive and to my mind an overly simplistic view of the importance of truth above all things. But those are his sincere beliefs. As such, he expresses his views without much equivocation and in a simple and open manner which is now often highly offensive to many people who a decade ago admired him. The primary reason is that Richard Dawkins is an upper-middle-class white male, and the targets of his criticism, for example, a hijabi in Bradford, England, are not. How sympathetic the targets are matters a great deal. The logic or empirical basis less so.

In the late 2000s I recall a friend of mine at the time, an academic philosopher, explaining to me that in the context of the offense, the intent of the offender is irrelevant when compared to the reaction of the offended. This seemed like a bizarre view to me at the time, but in this decade this view has become more and more mainstream.

When these ideas were first being articulated several decades ago there was still a strong hope and expectation that economic liberalization in China would lead to political liberalization. I shared that hope. It seems that in many ways we were wrong. Rather than the internet as a means for free expression, it has become an essential tool of commerce and social control and manipulation. My vague impression is that most  Chinese are either politically apathetic or somewhat nationalist and anticipating warmly the geopolitical power of their nation-state on the world stage.

In contrast, in the United States I feel we are in a parochial cultural moment. On the Right, the slogan “Make America Great Again” is reflective of nostalgia for the 20th-century. On the Left, particular concerns with the failings of the American project loom larger than the larger dynamics in human history (as opposed to the mass decline of poverty in places like China over the last generation). Around the year 2000 many Americans had a view of the 21st-century where prosperity would transform the rest of the world into cultural clones of America. This would have resulted in universal particularisms and sensitivities. That is, the ascendency of post-modern thinking, and the rise of subjectivism would have been constrained by a common cultural framework directed and shaped by American and European elites. What is “problematic” here would be “problematic” there.

That has not happened. Rather, Alistar McGrath’s general prediction in The Twilight of Atheism has come to be. I say general because atheism has not collapsed in a specific sense (on the contrary, as irreligion has increased greatly in the United States). But particular cultural understandings of what is right and proper have come to the foreground with more muscular robustness as the Enlightenment ideal of a universal shared reality fades.

One of the more nihilistic aspects of the intellectual revolution triggered by the influence of Michel Foucault is to reduce perception and comprehension as simply outcomes of power relations. I would argue that what we see today in the corporate response to the rise of Chinese economic power is the reshaping of truth and sensitivities toward broadly Chinese outlines due to Chinese power. What one sees here is the convergence between capitalist kowtowing toward power, and the reality that more and more people acknowledge and accept that power determines our understanding of reality.

The world is not out there, the world is created by us.

78 thoughts on “The Chinese customer is always right

  1. @Twinkie – BTW, I think you misread ‘name change’. He/she said “Yes well HK does *not* have the best riot cops.” At most they can muster 6,000 of them at peak, and that is really stretching their resources, and as the violence has dragged on week after week for over 4 months it has inevitably worn them down, although they are sticking grimly to task, and has also inevitably diverted them from other important tasks (so when the radicals knock out 80 sets of traffic lights all over HK in one night, the Police can’t spare the manpower to put an officer to direct traffic at every single intersection, which obviously makes for a lot of very risky situations.)

    Initially they were often heavily outnumbered. Since then, I have sensed two countervailing trends: (i) the numbers of violent radicals have been gradually but steadily reducing as the number of arrests keeps steadily mounting, but as that has been happening (ii) they have continually amped up the levels of violence and destruction, seemingly out of a sense of desperation that it is them who are being worn down by a long drawn out campaign of attrition. Many have even been quoted as saying they know they are losing, but they don’t care, they just want to go on wrecking stuff to express anger, even though they admit it is pointless to do so.

    So they are now adopting different tactics – they appear suddenly and unexpectedy in small groups all over HK (which, contrary to the usual description, is not a single self-contained city, but a territory of 1,100 square kilometres with a lot of separated urban centres interspersed with green belt), erect road blocks, quickly smash up and set fire to things, and disappear again, to reappear unpredictably somewhere else. These tactics have been very difficult for the Police to try to combat, as initially they were trying to chase them all over the territory and arriving too late. But the Police now are also modifying their tactics accordingly and are splitting their forces into smaller groups, and staking out sites which are likely targets for the radicals (e.g. Mainland owned banks, businesses and shops, and businesses and shops owned by anyone who has expressed any opposition to what they are doing, plus they are physically attacking anyone who dares to speak out against them or who they even think *might* not be supportive of them).

    This seems a more promising approach, now that the Police can field smaller numbers of officers in any one location without being overwhelmed by greatly superior numbers. In the process, the radicals have got some things wrong, of course, and have attacked banks and other businesses they thought were affiliated with the Mainland, but which actually aren’t, like the The Shanghai Commercial and Savings Bank, which is actually based in Taiwan (duh). That has not won them too many friends.

    Police have also done fairly well so far in finding people who are making bombs (the explosive kind), and large numbers of Molotov cocktails, and amassing other stockpiles of offensive weapons.

    I could ramble on endlessly, as a lot has happened over the past more than 4 months, but I’ll leave it there at least for now.

    My predictions: (i) It will not be completely over any time soon. (ii) The Mainland will not intervene, leaving it to the HK authorities to deal with, and the HK government will not request PLA assistance.

  2. “When these ideas were first being articulated several decades ago there was still a strong hope and expectation that economic liberalization in China would lead to political liberalization. I shared that hope. It seems that in many ways we were wrong. Rather than the internet as a means for free expression, it has become an essential tool of commerce and social control and manipulation. My vague impression is that most Chinese are either politically apathetic or somewhat nationalist and anticipating warmly the geopolitical power of their nation-state on the world stage.”

    I don’t think that the belief that economic liberalization in China would lead to political liberalization has been falsified (yet), as many now seem to believe. China circa 1979 was an extremely poor country, with a per capita GDP of <$1000. It's currently—40 years later— a middle income country with a PPP adjusted per capita GDP of around $18,000. For comparison, this is somewhat less than those of Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Greece. China's total GDP is very large because it has a very large population; this is of course an extremely important fact, but I think people,at least in the West, sometimes forget that China's wealth on a per person basis isn't really all that anomalous.

    It seems to me that the combination of urbanization, industrialization and mass education that is alleged—I think fairly so— to tend to lead to democracy is still fairly recent in China. China might prove to be an exception to the seemingly global trend towards democracy of the past ~250 years or so, but I think it would be premature to take that as a given at this point. If you read a book like Richard J. Evans' history of 19th century Europe, you see that democracy there took a quite long and uneven path to emerge. The presence and persistence of democratic governments in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, as well as the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, suggests to me that Northeast Asian and/or Sinic culture isn't inherently inimical to democracy.

    I think Fukuyama was right to point to democracy and capitalism as powerful fundamental forces that have gradually but decisively swept away several powerful competitors, but I think he erred in not including nationalism as another such force. Western analyses of e.g. recent events in the Ukraine and Syria are, I think, correct to say that popular frustration with unrepresentative and corrupt governance is a major factor, but under-emphasize the concurrent and equal, or perhaps greater, role that ethnic/religious nationalism plays.

  3. But back to the topic:

    “the intent of the offender is irrelevant when compared to the reaction of the offended”

    The Dalai Lama: “An insult cannot be given, only taken.”

    Marcus Aurelius: “Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.”

  4. Latest news from the Mainland: The NBA is now back on TV screens there, but the Houston Rockets (perennial favourites with NBA-loving Mainlanders, probably largely due at least initially to Yao Ming) are notable so far by their absence.

    So at least the censors are now being more selective. Not that I care – give me a game of American baseball or football and I will lap it up, but I find basketball as about interesting as watching paint dry.

  5. I don’t particular care much about the internal dynamics of China, or rather: China is for the Chinese, their internal arrangements are theirs to figure out, and they don’t need my opinion.
    What I do have an opinion on is the rottenness of the American corporate class, and incidents like the NBA kowtowing to the Communist Chinese government while at the same time spewing seditious slander against the US Government, especially the President, give nationalists an excellent stick to beat them down somewhat. Same goes for some of the moronic sports personalities affiliated with the NBA.

  6. John Massey writes:

    He [Pincher Martin] has totally conflated “permanent resident of Hong Kong” with “citizen of China”. He is not capable of understanding the difference. Someone can be both, the former but not the latter, or the latter but not the former.

    There was no conflation.

    Hong Kong is not a country, and since the top leadership positions in Hong Kong require Chinese citizenship, being prevented from becoming a Chinese citizen effectively prevents one from being a full citizen of Hong Kong.

    I even wrote that “Most with the right of abode in Hong Kong don’t even bother to acquire citizenship.”. Permanent HK residents can vote and run for office, but they can’t run for or be appointed to the top offices – the ones with real power. They can’t be Chief Executive of Hong Kong. They can’t be a member of the Executive Council. They can’t be Chief Judge of the High Court. They can’t be the Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal. The executives in charge of administering Hong Kong must all be Chinese citizens. The President of the Legislative Council must be a Chinese citizen.

    There are many other limits to high-ranking jobs in Hong Kong that I haven’t even mentioned.

    But lucky John. He may become a member of the Legislative Council, provided the numbers of non-Chinese citizens like him not exceed more than 20 percent of the council.

    This prejudice is written into Hong Kong’s Basic Law. John is explicitly a second-class citizen in Hong Kong *unless* he becomes a Chinese citizen.

    And as I showed above, that is just what’s in the law. There are also administrative practices which are biased against Hongkongers of non-Chinese citizenship and against non-Chinese who have been actively discouraged from becoming Chinese citizens.

  7. Let me restate my three main points in this debate.

    1) I have maintained from the beginning that this protest movement in Hong Kong was not about independence.

    2) I have maintained from the beginning that this protest movement was the HK government’s (and Beijing’s) fault – that they kept pushing the issue of extradition until it inflamed enough Hongkongers to light the kindling under this protest movement.

    3) I have never said that Hong Kong independence was a serious possibility. I don’t believe it is. More importantly, I don’t think any Hongkongers beyond a trivial number believe it is.

    These three points seem unassailable.

    Other issues have been raised during this debate, but they are tangential to the three points I made above. We can argue, for example, about the exact size of the protesting crowds and the exact rights of Hong Kong’s permanent citizens and minorities, but they aren’t relevant to the main issues I raised above.

    Unless someone can bring something substantial to the debate that challenges one of the three main points I list above – a poll finding, some material fact beyond a measly two independent lawmakers being elected to office, etc. – I don’t think there is any more I can add.

  8. @ Twinkie,

    The days of Peak Korean are behind us. The current generation is donning makeup, making food videos for social media, and playing “e-sports.”

    I laughed.

  9. @Twinkie – BTW, I think you misread ‘name change’. He/she said “Yes well HK does *not* have the best riot cops.”

    You are correct. I did misread him, largely because of his subsequent sentences.

    @Twinkie – It was a non-starter, even in 1982 when Thatcher met Deng. HK would not have been a viable independent unit – even then it was getting much of its fresh water and most of its food from the Mainland

    It would have been difficult to sustain Hong Kong, but NOT impossible. Again, it’s a matter of will.

    Plus I seriously doubt even then that the UK could have mounted any kind of serious military defence of HK against the PLA, who could have just walked across the border from Shenzhen in very large numbers the way the Imperial Japanese army did in 1941. Argentina was a much less daunting foe. Plus obviously the collateral damage would have been horrendous.

    PLA in 1982 was not exactly the battle-tested IJA of 1941 and was technically of lower quality than the Argentinian military of the Falklands War. Nonetheless, it probably would have overwhelmed a British-defended Hong Kong after a very bloody urban fighting… which of course would have turned the world’s opinion against China and possibly lead to a powerful British retaliation with American assistance.

    I am unable to comprehend your last point, unless you feel kindly disposed enough to explain it to me.

    In the last several decades, my country, the United States, in an effort to defeat the Soviet Union, fed and grew what was a backward, peasant society into a near-peer competitor, whose overall economy might overtake its erstwhile patron in the next several years.

    If there had been a conflict between the UK (and the US) and China prior to this, the latter would not have grown into what it is today. In retrospect, the Soviet Union would have crumbled whether China was an ally or a foe of it, so the purpose of “opening China” was moot.

    We Americans always prepare for the last war, and we seem to ally with a future competitor to defeat the present one. We did it with the Soviet Union (against Nazi Germany), we did it with China (against the Soviets), and now we seem to be cozying up to India in an effort to balance China in the region (including a massive floodgate of Indian immigration into the U.S. which is profoundly affecting our IT and healthcare industries).

    If we have to balance larger competitors, I prefer that my country allied with small and mid-sized powers that cannot ever grow to be its competitors in the future. I always thought that allying with China and allowing it access to the American markets and technology was a mistake.

  10. “John is explicitly a second-class citizen in Hong Kong *unless* he becomes a Chinese citizen.” But a while back you were telling me I am not a Hongkonger. Now you are admitting that I am a HK citizen.

    You are fishing. Actually, you have no idea whether I am a Chinese national or not. You have done quite a bit of fishing to try to get personal information out of me. I don’t intend to oblige you.

    But let’s assume for the sake of argument for the moment that I am not a Chinese national. Far from being a second class citizen of HK, I have rights in HK that a lot of Hongkongers don’t have. I am entitled to two votes in Legislative Council elections, one in my geographical constituency and one in my functional constituency. A lot of Hongkongers don’t belong to a functional constituency, so they only get one vote. So, far from being ‘second class’, I am more equal than many Hongkongers. I think that is wrong – in any democratic election, it should be one person/one vote, but I get two. How does that make me ‘second class’? (Functional constituencies were introduced by Christopher Patten when he was the last British governor of HK, to try to give the Chinese central government one in the eye and ‘introduce more democracy into HK’, but all he achieved was to establish a system in which some HK citizens are more equal than others. Well done Fat Pang.)

    As for the other stuff, no one in his right mind would want to be Chief Executive after what has happened to the first four, and I’m not qualified by profession to be a Chief Judge or Chief Justice. As for the administrative practices that you hint darkly about but choose not to elaborate on, I’ll bet I know a lot more about them than you do.

    As to your pathetic little ‘debate’:

    1.No one has said it was. But you have persisted in not distinguishing between the large peaceful protests in June, which had nothing to do with independence, and the current violent protests involving much smaller numbers of people, which do.

    2. The Chief Executive has already publicly admitted she made a big mistake in trying to push the extradition legislation through too quickly. You’re flogging a dead horse.

    3. I have already said that independence for HK is an impossibility – politically, militarily and physically, and it would be strongly against the interests of the HK people to try to pursue it. That does not mean that there is not a significant independence movement in HK (as pointless as it is) – there is, as ‘name change’ and I have tried to explain to you. He/she and I are in HK seeing it, and you are not. But you adhere to one random sample of 1,000 people taken in 2016 as reported in the HKFP (which is a joke), while ignoring the much larger numbers of people in two geographical constituencies who voted for pro-independence candidates in 2018, the banning of a pro-independence political party last year, the legal ruling obtained since that people espousing pro-independence views are not permitted to become Legislative Councillors (if it was ‘insignificant’ as you claim, there would have been no need to seek that ruling) and the position taken by the violent radicals involved in the ongoing violent and destructive protests (and if you think they are insignificant, try living here now).

    You’re right, there is nothing more you can add. You had nothing of value to say in the first place, and you are an intellectually dishonest sophist who would do everyone a favour by shutting up.

  11. Twinkie – No substantive argument from me, except that HK minus northern Kowloon, the New Territories and the Outlying Islands (which include the international airport) would not have been viable. All the Mainland needed to do was turn off the tap, and everyone in HK would have died of thirst, for one thing. Maybe a small enclave could have been sustained by sheer will and at a lot of cost, but it would have been a hellhole to live in, assuming China tolerated it, and I think most people would just have bailed out of it.

    Plus, I doubt that China will overtake America economically in the near future, but I don’t see many people agreeing with me. I can’t give well articulated reasons to support my feeling about that.

  12. But a while back you were telling me I am not a Hongkonger. Now you are admitting that I am a HK citizen.

    How many people would accept second-class citizenship as true citizenship in the land they truly loved?

    Not many that I can think of.

    Here is exactly how I put it you earlier:

    If you’re a white guy, then, no, you’re really not [a Hongkonger]. You might have a residency permit and/or some citizenship rights; you might speak Cantonese and be married to a local woman. But you’re not a Hongkonger.

    And the Chinese there know it.

    The only thing I would change in this is my emphasis on what I had assumed to be your race, since I suppose even a white guy could pledge allegiance to China and convince the Hong Kong authorities to give him Chinese citizenship.

    I didn’t think – and still don’t think – that’s anything but the rarest of exceptions. Most non-Chinese living in Hong Kong probably have dual citizenship – a diluted Hong Kong citizenship that gives them the right of abode and secures for them a comfortable living in a place they have a business or other interests *and* their real citizenship back in the land of their ancestry which they can escape to if things locally get hairy.

    That’s the norm.

    You are fishing. Actually, you have no idea whether I am a Chinese national or not. You have done quite a bit of fishing to try to get personal information out of me. I don’t intend to oblige you.

    I don’t find you nearly interesting enough to fish for information about you.

    You know I’m largely right about the general situation, which is why you got so emotional earlier.

    Are there a handful of exceptions? Sure, but they are rare. I once met a young white guy in Taiwan who went through the mandatory military training on the de facto island country just so he could acquire Taiwan citizenship, which he did. Most Taiwanese thought he was a weirdo.

  13. At the heart of John’s contradictory assumption about the ongoing protests in Hong Kong is that the protesters are simply independence agitators who are “criminals” and “overwrought juveniles.”

    But if that’s true, then it should be easy for the Hong Kong police to regain control of the situation, since “criminals” and “overwrought juveniles” who are eager for independence are not a large demographic in a place where almost no one believes independence is a serious possibility.

  14. You don’t know my race. You just think you do. And it is only you who is deluded into thinking I am a second class citizen.

    No, you are not ‘largely right about the situation.’ You are just fishing and trolling now, so ‘bye.

  15. You don’t know my race. You just think you do. And it is only you who is deluded into thinking I am a second class citizen.

    I admitted this from the beginning. I even preemptively apologized to you if my assumption about your race was wrong.

    But the only way you are a Hongkonger and don’t have second-class citizenship is if you have *Chinese* citizenship.

  16. What is your race, Mr. Massey? I always assumed you were mostly European-descended with a tad bit of Aborigines.

    Regardless of my race (per 23andMe, 99.9% Northeast Asian, 0.1% Southeast Asian), I am an American citizen, with all the rights and responsibilities thereof (the US government made me sign up for the Selective Service when I naturalized, meaning I now had an obligation to take up arms to defend my new country if necessary – which, of course, I gladly did).

    I don’t think you have all that in Hong Kong, notwithstanding your residency, since you are not a Chinese national. I think that’s Pincher Martin’s point. It’s not full citizenship as we understand it in the Anglo-American-founded countries… that you might be a Perioikoi there, but not a Spartiates.

  17. @Twinkie – Assumptions, assumptions. You might not know what you think you know.

    So you can aspire to be POTUS, can you? Congratulations, that must make you feel great. Except, if you were not a natural born American citizen, I don’t think you can.

    Gee, by Pincher Martin’s logic, that would mean America has two classes of citizens.

  18. @Twinkie – As for your specific point, HK has never had a system like the SSS or conscription, even during the years of the Japanese occupation of China and WWII (although there were the HK Volunteers, named formally the Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers) – HK citizens who volunteered for military service, and they fought against the Japanese during their invasion of HK in 1941). Before 1 July 1997, the defence of HK was the responsibility of the British military, and the Volunteers came under their command; since 1 July 1997, it has been the responsibility of the People’s Liberation Army. The HK Volunteers were disbanded in September 1995, and have not been replaced by anything equivalent.

    I notice that under the SSS, both US citizens and immigrant non-citizens are required to register, so I am not clear on the point you are making – it seems that you would have been required to register whether you were naturalised or not.

    I am eligible to apply to enter the HK Auxhiliary Police Force, which I guess is about the nearest equivalent, but their duties are pretty uninspiring, so I have chosen not to do so. I have instead served in other public positions of responsibility on a voluntary basis, beside my regular employment, including one to which I needed to be appointed (i.e. I couldn’t just apply for it, I needed to be invited by the government, and I needed to swear an oath of loyalty to be sworn in) – as Pincher Martin seems to have some obsession with ‘power’, that position has some, but I don’t view it that way – I see it as my public duty as a HK citizen.

    As a HK citizen, I have also been required to do jury duty, and am liable to be called upon to do more, if needed.

  19. @Twinkie – Assumptions, assumptions. You might not know what you think you know.

    All I know about you is whatever you wrote here. You – as an online personality – don’t matter to me enough for me to waste time to delve further into your genetic ancestry. Either answer the question for the sake of clarity in this discussion or, if it’s a personal information you’d rather not share online, just move on. Don’t dangle it like some mystery you think the rest of us will mull over with importance.

    be POTUS

    Reductio ad absurdum is what I think of this line of argument. I can – legally – be the highest ranking military officer in my adopted country. I can be a cabinet member. I can be the chief of the highest court of the land. I can be a senator or a congressman, let alone a mayor of my city.

    Moreover, unless I committed fraud in the process of obtaining my citizenship, it cannot be revoked or taken away. Your Hong Kong “citizenship” can disappear overnight should the Chinese government in Beijing decides to control Hong Kong directly and revokes the status of all non-Chinese nationals. At the end of the day, you live at its sufferance.

    I notice that under the SSS, both US citizens and immigrant non-citizens are required to register

    Yes, IMMIGRANT non-citizen males, the idea being that they are in the process of becoming citizens. Those with NON-IMMIGRANT visas in the U.S. are not registered for Selective Service, nor are they requested to affirm that they will render military and non-military service in a national emergency.

    the nearest equivalent

    There is no equivalence. The U.S. is a sovereign nation. Hong Kong is not. It is a unique, strange little part of a very large country with an opaque political leadership that is, for the moment, tolerating that little strangeness for strategic reasons – reasons that could change overnight. It’s wonderful (for you, I am sure) that you made your home there and think of it as your country, but you are living in a fantasy if you think that your status there is equivalent to what I am in the United States.

    Any polity that does not require you to defend it when under a grave threat also does not consider you a Peer of the polity.

  20. @Twinkie – I wasn’t trying to wind you up. You asked. I would much rather no one mulled over my personal information, but Pincher Martin had the blinding arrogance to think he could tell me I am not a HK citizen. That authority rests with the HK Immigration Department, in accordance with the Basic Law, not with him, and it does not have categories – either you are a HK citizen or you are not.

    No, there is a thing called the Basic Law. That cannot be changed overnight, and my HK citizenship cannot disappear overnight, regardless of whether I am a Chinese national or not. The vast majority of Chinese nationals are not eligible to be HK citizens, and that will not change overnight either.

    As for your last point, that would mean that *no* HK citizen is considered a HK citizen, because none of us is required to defend HK militarily.

    This whole argument is pointless. My personal status is not germane to any discussion of what is happening now in HK, but Pincher Martin chose to introduce it. In fact the whole discussion is off topic. I would be most grateful if you would drop it. I am now ignoring anything Pincher Martin says because he’s a sophist and a troll, but I have enough respect for you to try to respond to the point you raised. So let’s just agree to leave it.

  21. I would be most grateful if you would drop it.


    But allow me to query you on something about Hong Kong that puzzles me:

    American citizens can live overseas as long as they please without ever losing their citizenship. Permanent residents (Green card holders), however, cannot do so without jeopardizing their status. Typically, a stay out of the country of more than a year requires a reentry permit. Those permanent residents who try to game the system (come back to the U.S. every few months for a short stay) can be flagged for revocation of that status and referred to deportation proceedings.

    How does that work for non-Chinese permanent residents of Hong Kong? Can they live out of China/Hong Kong for years and maintain that status?

  22. @Twinkie – If permanent residents of Hong Kong who are not Chinese nationals leave HK for a continuous period of more than three years, will lose their permanent resident status. If they leave for any continuous period of less than three years and then return, they will retain their permanent resident status.

  23. I think that in a case where someone loses it under those circumstances, they can reapply, though. I don’t recall seeing any such real cases, but I don’t see everything. I imagine if the grounds are sufficiently compelling, they would get it back.

  24. @Twinkie – Sorry, I have just thought of one circumstance where that does not apply. If someone is a HK citizen by virtue of being born in HK AND having at least one parent who is a HK citizen at the time of his birth (so just being born in HK is not enough by itself to qualify for citizenship; at least one parent must also be a HK citizen), then he can’t lose it, no matter what. And that applies to both Chinese nationals and non-Chinese nationals (although people like that who are not Chinese nationals are obviously going to be fairly rare, but there would be some – I know at least one such person).

  25. Actually, I know quite a few, now that I think about it, but a lot of them have chosen not to stay in HK for various reasons.

  26. Hong Kong has two categories of citizen: permanent residency (acquired after seven years of living in Hong Kong; Indonesian and Filipino maids are excluded from this system), and citizenship. It is very difficult if not impossible for foreigners who do not have at least one ethnic Chinese parent to acquire HK citizenship, and it involves renouncing other citizenships.

    Hong Kong permanent residency for non-Chinese expires after three years of absence from Hong Kong. The HK resident ID functions like a passport in that it allows one to enter and leave Hong Kong, but one cannot get a Hong Kong passport without having HK citizenship, i.e., the ethnic route.

    Children who acquire HK citizenship through having Chinese parents need to make a conscious “opt in” choice themselves at eighteen, otherwise it expires (this applies most often if the children no longer live in Hong Kong).

    HK citizenship, for oneself or for one’s children, can be renounced by filling out a form and paying a nominal fee.

    Because of the SAR status of Hong Kong, HK citizenship marks one as Chinese (ethnic heritage rule) but the HK passport is not valid for travel to China. For that, one has to apply for a “Return to Motherland Permit” to the Chinese Foreign Affairs Bureau in Hong Kong (different department from the one where foreigners get China visas). However, those who have a Hong Kong passport cannot enter China on a foreign passport with a visa.

  27. John,

    Whether you are a first- or second-class citizen in Hong Kong, you are certainly a first-class whiner.

    I don’t have an obsession with power. In a free land, power resides with the citizens. So it’s not a minor point that Hong Kong limits real power to Chinese citizens and has a second-class citizenship for those who are not Chinese citizens.

    And this has downstream effects. For each of the very few Chinese citizens in Hong Kong who becomes Chief Executive of Hong Kong, there are a hundred others who dream of doing so and make their career choices with that aim in mind. The same goes each of the other top jobs, from those who dream of becoming the top executive bureaucrats in Hong Kong to those lawyers who desire to become one of the top judges in Hong Kong.

    So not only do the top positions require Chinese citizenship, so will all the positions that lead to the top positions and which are filled with men and women who dream of someday occupying those top jobs, whether they get them or not.

    This seem so obvious as to be hardly worth stating. China knew what it was doing when it demanded those articles be part of the Basic Law.

    Second-class citizens have the right to vote for first-class citizens to lead them and judge them and write laws for them, but they don’t have the right, with certain exceptions, to vote for other second-class citizens to do those same things on their behalf.

    How can this be surprising? Hong Kong belongs to China. It’s an SAR with many privileges no other region in China possesses (or can even dream of possessing), but ultimately it still belongs to China. And Beijing is not going to allow anything to change that.

    Gee, by Pincher Martin’s logic, that [requirement that a U.S. president be born in America] would mean America has two classes of citizens.

    I agree with the naturalization requirement for the office of U.S. president, and yet that requirement has been challenged by two potential presidential candidacies (Schwarzenegger and Granholm) without even much of a debate. That will never happen in Hong Kong. If anything, China will tighten the screws, making Chinese citizenship more and not less important to getting positions of power.

  28. Razib – when I visit the most recent post is “Books worth reading” from July 20. Only when I happened to check you out on Twitter did I notice you’re still blogging. What’s up with that?

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