« Ambition in capitalist society | Main | The politics of abstraction »

August 19, 2021

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Ralph Musgrave

Abject failure? If the Taliban are to be taken at their word (a big "if" of course) then it would seem womens' lot has improved a bit: they'll be allowed an education.

As for the "mechanism" that brought that about, it's similar to Russia occupying and dominating E.Germany for 40 years after WWII. The message is: "go too far with your extremism, and there'll be a big penalty for you to pay."

Blissex

It was far from a failure, first there is this important quote:

"Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

That objective was full realized, plus immense profits for many american businesses, plus causing endless trouble on Iran's eastern border, plus having a privileged position from which to "observe" russian and chinese activities in central Asia.

There is an extra bonus in the collapse of the afghan government and army: state observers know very well that was had to be quick, as USA money paid for a lot of that, plus afghan army logistics were entirely subcontracted to USA suppliers paid for by the USA government. As soon the USA withdrew afghan army units stopped being paid, and stopped receiving supplies of food and munitions and all maintenance of vehicles and aircraft stopped. In those conditions the afghan army had no hope.
All the american-built equipment that the taliban will take from the afghan army will be unmaintainable, they will only be able to keep old USSR equipment they captured when they defeated the communist party government 25 years ago.

Very important details mentioned by the head of the afghan central bank about the USA "sanctioning" and freezing their account at the Fed:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2021/aug/18/afghanistan-live-news-updates-taliban-kabul-airport-deaths-afghan-crisis
«Ajmal Ahmady wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that the majority of that – about $7bn – was being held in US Federal Reserve bonds, assets and gold, adding that its holdings of US dollars were “close to zero” as the country had not received a planned cash shipment during the Taliban offensive that swept the country last week. “The next shipment never arrived,” he wrote. “Seems like our partners had good intelligence as to what was going to happen.”»

The taliban will now have to raise more taxes to fund their government, not something that works well in Afghanistan. If Afghanistan descends into more poverty and chaos it will even more "mission accomplished".

Jim

"Ground truth and implementation". All very fine and large if what you want to achieve is something real and do-able. Better still if you won't get paid unless it works. But politics is not like that. No-one gave a s%^t whether Afghanistan became a nice civilised place, just so long as the money and budgets flowed. No-one who matters that is. Politics has little to do with anything real and you will always get paid so why not ignore reality and play imaginary games.

Rory Stewart has a bit in TLS - "And because “people are ungrateful, fickle, feigners and dissemblers”, the politician must necessarily also be a “great feigner and dissembler”. Dishonesty – and indeed any other immoral conduct – is justified, for Machiavelli, provided that it leads to dominion over a powerful state. The end justifies the means (“accusandolo il fatto, lo effetto lo scusi”)". TBH I think he has the cart before the horse - kings and politicians have always had to lie and big up their story - the people merely followed suit.

Be a good liar and you will prosper. True as far as it goes but to maintain dominion over a powerful state requires you have a powerful state or something like it. That is getting more difficult and governments are circumscribed by competitor nations eating their lunch. Then competition for resources and some unpleasant facts regarding energy, global warming and the snag that most of the 'cures' don't really work. That powerful state is fraying at the edges.

Hemmed in like that, where nothing is going to work you might as well operate a pseudo government. Build on influencers, marketing folk, publicity wonks. Reality is for bricklayers.

Blissex

«They omit to ask: what’s the mechanism whereby this will be accomplished? [...] merely asserting your moral superiority without doing the hard work of thinking, discovering ground truth and – yes - making compromises.»

Tony Blair himself wrote a similar argument:

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v09/n19/tony-blair/diary
“the worst delusion of resolutionary socialism – the notion that resolutions passed at Conference have meaning or effect without real support in the wider community.”

The general argument about realism seems good to me, but it can go too far as to compromises, as Tony Blair (and nowadays Keir Starmer) seemed to identify “real support in the wider community” with pandering to those "Middle England" propertied affluent tory voters of the uppermost 10-30%.

rsm

Why isn't the mechanism simply give Afghani individuals a dollar-denominated crypto-currency implemented basic income, as well as beam in uncensored internet, and legalize opium? Can easily-replaceable phones be designed to self-destruct quickly when a Taliban patrol threatens to search you?

Paulc156

@Ralph Musgrave.
Hardly a counter argument against the charge of 'abject failure'. That women 'may' be allowed some form of education as opposed to the counterfactual where had Taliban been left in power these last 20 years, they 'may' also have evolved and allowed some limited form of women's education. So a trillion dollars later and tens of thousands of lost lives (including several thousand western lives) leads to almost identical scenario.
You can put lipstick on a pig all you want, but...

ltr

And then there are those centrists and Tories who now deplore Johnson’s corruption and incompetence but who failed to prevent it in 2019 by the only means possible – supporting Labour. In the 2019 election supporting Corbyn was the only means of preventing a Johnson premiership. Not doing so was to fail to ask: what’s the mechanism?

[ Perfect, perfect. Perfect essay. ]

Nanikore

"western military strategy as it was implemented failed."

The military strategies were arguably successful.

The failure was in the occupations.

Can occupations be a success? Yes they can. For example Japan 1945-1950.

Jim

What's the mechanism? Does it do more than one thing? Can those things co-exist?

What would it have taken to invade Afghanistan and made it like Surrey or Idaho? Use past invasions as a model - snag is that there are no close analogies. Past successful invasions have had more to work with. Here we must start from first principles.

General Carter has observed the Taliban are 'country boys' with a sense of honour. Something like that has been visible way back into history. Therein lies the first part of the mechanism - work with what is there or wipe it out and start again. Difficulty is that the 'sense of honour' involves chopping limbs and subjugation of women. Elsewhere in the world this does not bother us too much but to be seen working with that sort of thing is politically difficult - back home. And we are trying to make it like Surrey...

Let us imagine what would be necessary to knock this 'sense of honour' into something more acceptable. I suggest it would take several hundreds of years of trading and cultural exchange (not worked so far). Or one accepts the need to kill off the existing warlords and clerisy wholesale - the thick end of 10 million people say. Then build a new structure and prevent resurgence. The precedents are not encouraging. A scintilla of hope comes from the nearer trading nations - not quite so far away, geographically or culturally.

The mechanism is stuck. The cure? - lubrication or a hammer or the recycling yard. Which is roughly where we are.

ltr

Why would Angus Deaton believe socialism impossibly "utopian" when a Norway or Denmark or Sweden seem a realistic approach to socialism? Am I fooling myself about the social-economic construction of a Sweden?

Blissex

«Can occupations be a success? Yes they can. For example Japan 1945-1950.»

New England 1620-1776?
India 1757-1947?
Philippines 1899-1941?

:-)

ltr

Why would Angus Deaton believe socialism impossibly "utopian" when a Norway or Denmark or Sweden seem a realistic approach to socialism?

[ Reading Deaton and Case, the problem for them appears to be a subduing of "animal spirits" as even social democracy is approached. I find no reason for this to be so in the Nordic countries, but such thinking is commonplace among otherwise liberal-minded economists.

* By the way, colonialism or occupation was terrible for Indians among other peoples. * ]

ltr

What makes for such an imperial need on the part of Labour "elites?" I can understand the Tory leadership needing to represent an imperial UK, but for Labour this is ruinous. Tony Blair has been beyond hurtful for Labour, really being a Tory who found a simpler path to prominence and leadership in a demoralized Labour Party.

Blissex

«Tony Blair has been beyond hurtful for Labour, really being a Tory»

His core seems to me "radical" edwardian Liberal, but since Liberals know that universal suffrage their constituency is small, he seems to have decided that the electoral mechanism to bring Liberals to power is to pander to tory (lowercase "t") voters. Pretty much what what "whig" victorian Liberals like Osborne and Cameron have done in the Conservative party.

That is the difference between Liberalism and neoliberalism: in neoliberalism state interventions in the markets like the "Corn Laws" are accepted as long as they bring votes, or bring money to the City.

«who found a simpler path to prominence and leadership in a demoralized Labour Party»

An interesting gadfly said that many New Labour MPs are those upper-middle class people who lacked the family background and the connections to become Conservative MPs...

ltr

Blissex:

[Tony Blair's] core seems to me "radical" edwardian Liberal, but since Liberals know that [with] universal suffrage their constituency is small, he seems to have decided that the electoral mechanism to bring Liberals to power is to pander to tory (lowercase "t") voters. Pretty much what what "whig" victorian Liberals like Osborne and Cameron have done in the Conservative party....

Got it, really nice analysis.

Blissex

«As soon the USA withdrew afghan army units stopped being paid, and stopped receiving supplies of food and munitions and all maintenance of vehicles and aircraft stopped»

https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/how-afghan-army-collapsed-under-talibans-pressure
“But in April, Biden announced that the remaining three thousand U.S. troops in Afghanistan would be withdrawn by September 11, 2021. Not only did those troops depart, but so did eight thousand allied troops and eighteen thousand contractors that the Afghan forces relied upon to operate their air force and for logistical support. In recent months, the Afghan military was unable to provide vital supplies such as food and ammunition to outposts scattered around the country.”

The USA military know very well the importance of logistics, and that they ensured that the afghan army was totally dependent on them for logistics, and that it would be left without it when the USA military left, seems to have been entirely intentional.

The afghan government cannot have been unaware of this, and yet they did nothing AFAIK to establish logistics for the afghan army, most likely because the USA military would not let them.

On departure the English Empire left India with the gift of a messy partition, the American Empire left Afghanistan with the gift of a crippled army. It is rarely in the interests of a departing occupier to leave behind a well functioning system.

Blissex

«“In recent months, the Afghan military was unable to provide vital supplies”»

Drawing the reader's attention to "in recent months", this is nothing new, 18,000 contractors cannot withdraw overnight.

«they did nothing AFAIK to establish logistics for the afghan army, most likely because the USA military would not let them»

Or they simply thought that it was not possible with afghani resources (even if probably Turkey would have been available), or they only cared about salting away their wealth in the UAE (or Oman etc.).

ltr

It is rarely in the interests of a departing occupier to leave behind a well functioning system.

[ Therein is the problem, wanting control even after ending the formal occupation. The French never had an intention of actually leaving northern Africa. An important observation, related to the subsequent unconcern with development after occupation. ]

Blissex

«wanting control even after ending the formal occupation»

Sometimes it is to prevent potential rise or re-rise of a rival (the USA will give up occupation of Germany, UK, Japan, Italy only when it can no longer afford to), or to punish the country to show that getting rid of the occupier has big downsides. See North America or Ireland. A quite effective "mechanism".

«the subsequent unconcern with development after occupation»

In "realpolitik" concerns with the development of potential rivals are positively avoided, and often chances to achieve that are explicitly thwarted by hook or by crook. Other than that concern with the development of a country really rests with their population and elites and their culture and their self-interest.

Japan, the famous asian tigers and China-mainland did not wait for anybody else's concern. Landes in "The wealth and poverty of nations" reports this excellent story:

«"Of all things Western, what do you dread most?" asked the Satsuma daimyo Shimazu Nariakira of his councillors. European guns and ships, came the answer. "No," said the daimyo. "It is cotton cloth. Unless we begin preparing now, we shall soon be dependent on Westerners for our clothing." In an effort to prepare, the han began to distribute better cotton seeds, purchased better spindles and looms (not yet powered), built a manufactory near Kagoshima, and set unemployed samurai to work there. The result: cotton goods costing half as much as before. [...] In 1867, it opened a mechanized cotton mill.»

That is what Singapore, China-Taiwan, Korea-sud, China-mainland also did; the original strategy was the german development model after the industrial revolution in England (when "Made in Germany" meant cheap low quality copies of "Made in England" high quality products).

ltr

It is rarely in the [perceived] interests of a departing occupier to leave behind a well functioning system.

[ Actually, it really is in French interests to work with rather than exploit Algeria and the rest of the former northern African colonies. The "mechanism" for Algerian development should be French infrastructure assistance and formation, and this in turn will quicken French growth.

The Chinese belt and road initiative needs a French counterpart. Along with Branko Milanovic, I view the BRI as the contemporary Marshall Plan. ]

ltr

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=GieO

August 4, 2014

Real per capita Gross Domestic Product for China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, 1977-2020

(Percent change)

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=GieS

August 4, 2014

Real per capita Gross Domestic Product for China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, 1977-2020

(Indexed to 1977)

ltr

"Made in Germany" meant cheap low quality copies of "Made in England" high quality products.

[ Made in Germany came to mean advanced technology production, and that is what China has been pointing towards and will increasingly emphasize. There is the next development stage for China, and as pointed out this means advancing technology research and applications from agriculture to manufacturing to healthcare. China know Germany well and values the development model. ]

ltr

Britain sought to retain considerable control of Hong Kong after giving up formal control. All British control is gone now however, and I am wondering how quickly and smoothly Hong Kong orients towards the mainland as well as maintaining and adding to international finance and trade operations especially through BRI participation.

ltr

What I want to identify and understand is the mechanism by which Hong Kong continues as an Asian Tiger from here. Does Hong Kong simply function as as a finance and trade facilitator for the dynamic mainland and surrounding economies, no economic restructuring necessary?

Blissex

«Britain sought to retain considerable control of Hong Kong after giving up formal control. All British control is gone now however»

The english "stay behind" network is probably in part still operational, see the support to the protests, which are no doubt in part legitimate, in part used.

«how quickly and smoothly Hong Kong orients towards the mainland»

That happened long ago, a lot of Shenzen businesses are owned from HK, and indeed Shenzen is there precisely because of attracting "offshoring" from HK to the mainland.

Indeed so much has been "offshored" that the HK government is trying to bring back some manufacturing:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-04-13/hong-kong-wants-to-bring-back-manufacturing-to-revive-its-economy
“Hong Kong Wants to Bring Back Factory Jobs That Left Long Ago
In an attempt to diversify the financial capital’s economy, the government is offering generous subsidies in a bid for more manufacturing.”

"Make Hong Kong Great Again"! :-)

«the mechanism by which Hong Kong continues as an Asian Tiger from here»

Hong Kong is almost purely into property speculation and finance games, with a an upper caste of masters whose wealth and power are booming, and a mass of servants with falling living standards and rising desperation (and that is a large part of the protests, more than politics).

HK is together with Dubai the model that the english Conservative Party is aiming to achieve for the M25 area. Thatcherism was invented in Hong Kong:

https://www.heritagemuseum.gov.hk/documents/2199315/2199693/Public_Housing-E.pdf
“Home Ownership Scheme

In the early stage of its implementation, the Ten-year Housing Programme only aimed to provide public rental housing (PRH) of a higher quality for needy people. With Hong Kong’s rapid economic growth, many people began to earn a stable income and accumulate savings. In response to this, in 1976 the Governor appointed a Working Party chaired by the Financial Secretary to investigate the planning and implementation of a Home Ownership Scheme (HOS). [...] From the sale of the first batch of HOS flats in 1978, the HOS was well received by the public. Almost all the sale exercises were oversubscribed. In more recent years, as property prices fell drastically, HOS flats apparently lost their attractiveness.”

The benefits of booming property prices:

https://www.businessinsider.com/crazy-pictures-of-micro-apartments-around-hong-kong-2018-1

The whole of Hong Kong has become much like the Kowloon Walled City was, and that period of time has been even the subject of museum exhibition, reproducing 1950s-1970s era housing:

https://www.wilsonquarterly.com/quarterly/transitions/going-back-home-life-as-a-reverse-immigrant/
«One afternoon during my mother’s stay, I took her to the Hong Kong Museum of History. Part of the museum’s permanent exhibition includes a reconstruction of a room in a postwar tenement building, meant to recreate the rough conditions that Hong Kong’s increasingly poor population lived in at the time. My mom’s eyes lit up when we turned the corner and the exhibit came into view. “This looks just like our first apartment! I used to sleep on the top bunk with your dai kau fu and yi yi,” my mom said, pointing to a small bunk bed tucked into the corner. “We had to sleep this way,” she gestured, holding her arm widthwise across along the bed, slicing her hand three times to represent the three children who slept there. I imagined my mother there, sleeping in a bed with her siblings like sardines, in a room so iconic in its squalor that it’s now preserved in a history museum. “The bottom bunk was where your po po and kau fu would sleep,” she continued. “And your gong gong would sleep on a cot.” The bathroom and kitchen were shared with another family of six.»

ltr

Blissex,

All makes sense and property prices are a (the) severe problem, but the future of Hong Kong rests in being a service economy directly dependent on the mainland and trade.

Hong Kong will be stable from here, but must be structurally changed in the direction of a Singapore.

I am thinking this all through and will have more thoughts.

Blissex

«property prices are a (the) severe problem»

The point I have been repeatedly making is that they are not just an economic problem for poor people, but they are also a *political* problem in two ways:

* They create a strong pressure for far right repressive and redistributive and anti-business (and strongly USA-aligned) politics by owners of property in the middle and upper classes. It is a very well proven mechanism to achieve that, indeed the main one.

* They, secondarily, create a potential riot problem.

http://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2014/03/how-thatcher-sold-council-houses-and-created-a-new-generation-of-property-owners.html
«“It was indeed at the diffusion of property that inter-war Tories aimed, as the pragmatic answer to the arrival of democracy and the challenge from Labour. There were even prophetic council house sales by local Tories in the drive to create voters with a Conservative political mentality. As a Tory councillor in Leeds defiantly told Labour opponents in 1926, ‘it is a good thing for people to buy their own houses. They turn Tory directly. We shall go on making Tories and you will be wiped out.’”»

https://www.heritagemuseum.gov.hk/documents/2199315/2199693/Public_Housing-E.pdf
«Large-scale riots erupted in Hong Kong during the mid- and late-1960s. The overcrowded environment in resettlement estates was thought to be one of the causes of this social unrest.»

«the future of Hong Kong rests in being a service economy directly dependent on the mainland and trade.»

I would not be so optimistic: what has Hong Kong got that Guangzhou or Shanghai (or Taipei) or Xiamen or Qingdao haven't? It used to be mainly two things, and they are gone:

* Having a different and rival jurisdiction for banking secrecy and money laundering: gone in large part since 1997 and fully gone in 2047. Time flies...

* Mass immigration of very poor and low wage people from mainland China: they now go to Shenzhen instead.

«Hong Kong will be stable from here, but must be structurally changed in the direction of a Singapore.»

Hong Kong will likely be stable, even if in rentierism-induced slow decline, but won't be able to become a Singapore, which has the inimitable benefit of its own sovereignty, which allows it (like Dubai, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, etc.) to sell it to wealthy customers to shield them from the sovereignty (courts and police and tax inspectors) of their original countries.

Given that, what is the mechanism that might get Hong Kong to become more like Singapore?

Note: Singapore also is dominated by property and finance interests, it looks less so only because most middle class resident property owners get restrictive property contracts if they buy from government estates.

ltr

The point I have been repeatedly making is that [property prices] are not just an economic problem for poor people, but they are also a *political* problem in two ways...

[ Yes, this is correct and you have posed a Hong Kong development problem that I have no seemingly reasonable resolution for as yet. Could Hong Kong become a selective "free-commerce" zone like Hainan is successfully becoming? Can Hong Kong be integrated with Shenzhen?

Definitely the property sector must and will be restructured. China is now severely limiting property speculation in general and this will not change. ]

ltr

What is critical to understand the direction of Hong Kong is that there is a beautiful city, splendid infrastructure, a central position to vibrant mainland cities, a fine education system and a lasting supply of highly educated residents.

The makings of social subversion or colour revolution are gone from Hong Kong. There will be no recurrence. From here, there will be constructive renewal as a valued and necessary Chinese city-island.

China has been steadily building for decades, and will be steadily building indefinitely with Hong Kong a valued component.

ltr

Here is the mechanism:

http://www.news.cn/english/2021-08/24/c_1310146357.htm

August 24, 2021

14th Five-Year Plan shows central govt's staunch support for Hong Kong: Carrie Lam

There is a Chinese middle class of 400 million and growing rapidly. There will be no shortage of this educated middle class ready to take advantage of opportunities in already highly developed Hong Kong, and there will be no subverting of opportunity from within Hong Kong. The years-long effort to undermine the Hong Kong economy is over and done. Now the builders will be controlling the city-island. The mechanism is already in the Five-Year Plan.

Blissex

«Could Hong Kong become a selective "free-commerce" zone like Hainan is successfully becoming?»

Shenzhen is already a SEZ, and the special status of HK makes it another one.

But the status it had before 1997 was that PRC State Security could not access bank etc. records in HK, and now they do, and they will never give that up, and if they say the give it up, nobody will ever trust that to have really happened.

«Can Hong Kong be integrated with Shenzhen?»

It is already fully integrated with Shenzhen...

ltr

Really, Hong Kong is a geographically attractive sliver of China, already hard and soft infrastructure rich. China knows how to grow and keep growing and even out growth about the country. Hong Kong will grow well from here, because China will insure the growth of the city-island. Hong Kong is now and always will be wholly part of China.

All that was necessary for Hong Kong to thrive in the end was to end the foreign driven subversion:

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2021-08-24/HKSAR-LegCo-Reformed-trustworthy-and-assisting-national-objectives-12XYx81x3nq/index.html

August 24, 2021

HKSAR LegCo: Reformed, trustworthy and assisting national objectives
By Grenville Cross

ltr

China prizes administrative flexibility and having problem solvers. This should be evident after these decades of growth with no parallel, for all the problems encountered. Look to problems China has encountered, then to the resolution over and over.

Right now, China is becoming an advanced technology economy all through. Just as China needed to solve myriad problems in independently developing a satellite and space exploration program, so too the simpler remaking of the Hong Kong economy will be accomplished now that the city is so peaceful again.

China looks to mechanism.

Blissex

«The makings of social subversion or colour revolution are gone from Hong Kong.»
«There is a Chinese middle class of 400 million and growing rapidly.»
«China is now severely limiting property speculation in general and this will not change.»

And that is again the political problem: most (all?) CPC cadres are part of those 400 million (seems to me an overestimate: there are only 220m privately owned cars in China-mainland), and most (all?) of the middle class own a property portfolio because the party made the huge mistake of essentially abolishing old age pensions and state health provision. In many ways the party chose the development model of China-Taiwan and Korea-south (and of HK), including these aspects.

So the CPC have created a large lobby (actually two, even if renters and buyers are less cohesive than owners) with highly similar interests. The party was been worried of a rival political force like "Solidarnosc" arising in China-mainland, but they ended up creating an "emergent" one, a huge lobby of property owners (only those in job-rich areas matter), much more implicitly cohesive and dangerous politically than Falung Gong or other "civil society" explicit organizations.

I hope that the finest minds in the CPC are thinking hard how to escape the property "mechanism". The party may *wish* to do a "soft landing" of the property market, but that is very difficult indeed.

ltr

...because the party made the huge mistake of essentially abolishing old age pensions and state health provision.

[ Good grief, this is incorrect.

Pensions and healthcare insurance have become inclusive and will be steadily increased. The ending of severe poverty in China was actually accomplished in 2020, while well-being much above poverty level was dramatically improved as severe poverty was being ended.

The measure of the leadership is in providing for increasing well-being and that accomplishment is evident all through the country.

China is in no way economically like Korea or Hong Kong for that matter. ]

ltr

A sense of what China is becoming is the provision for exercise parks through cities, so that there is to be an equipped park within 15 minutes walking distance of every address.

Property speculation is, by the way, being limited. This is a matter raised by the leadership frequently, and I will pay attention from here on.

ltr

Remember, Chinese programs to end poverty involved building any number of family homes and providing for utilities. When President Xi travels about rural China, which is often, kitchens and bathrooms are inspected as often as landscapes. There is running water and electricity in homes from Tibet to Xinjiang, not just in Beijing. As for Beijing, there is an entire new partner city being built to add to residential space. Shanghai is expanding as well....

Blissex

«All that was necessary for Hong Kong to thrive in the end was to end the foreign driven subversion»

I guess that PRC State Security and the leadership realize it was just partly foreign supported and exploited, more than driven, and it was mostly driven by very common issues about living standards, like the 1960s riots (which were nominally an echo of the Cultural Revolution).

«China prizes administrative flexibility and having problem solvers.»

I admire that the leadership is often like that and often has an engineering background, but that is also because many of them like Chairman Xi had hard experiences during the Cultural Revolution.
Perhaps they did not pay much attention to their marxism courses and the concepts of "class" and "class struggle", which which instead the english Conservative party is very familar (they are marxists, but on the other side). :-)
The next generation of cadres was born *after* the Cultural Revolution, and their experiences and backgrounds are necessarily very different.

I have watched a lot of chinese and "tiger" TV series and the protagonists have shifted over the past 15 years decisively from "the best and nicest student at school" to "the most ruthless CEO" (like in Korea-sud or China-Taiwan) and the chinese dream seems to have gone from "get a good job as engineer or doctor" to "make loadsa money fast from finance, property, marketing, law" ("Love O2O" is a very good series halfway in that transition). Chinese mothers will soon feel something went wrong if their children choose badly paid careers in engineering or history or philosophy, as today in England.

«Just as China needed to solve myriad problems in independently developing a satellite and space exploration program, so too the simpler remaking of the Hong Kong economy»

Technical problems are a lot easier to solve than conflicts-of-interests class based problems, and changing established mechanisms. The USSR could easily solve technical problems about space exploration but remember how it ended (unable to pay for food imports...). For chinese movies a bit too optimistic about how easy it is solving technical problems I like "Shanghai fortress"" and "The wandering Earth". :-)

«Really, Hong Kong is a geographically attractive sliver of China»

Indeed, as a "suburb" of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, HK in particular will continue to be part of the coastal city story, even if in a slow decline, and a secondary place like Wenzhou or Hainan more than like Guangzhou or Shanghai or even Qingdao.
There is a very good TV series set in Guangzhou, then and now, "A river runs through it".

BTW my impression that may be wrong is that for several years chinese people from Taiwan tend to do business in and around Shanghai, not even Shenzhen anymore.

Blissex

«Chinese programs to end poverty involved building any number of family homes and providing for utilities. When President Xi travels about rural China, which is often, kitchens and bathrooms are inspected as often as landscapes.»

That is very good and I admire Xi Jinping for being (in part) a socialdemocrat and respecting Zhao Zhiyang's logic of "stages of socialism". I haven't mentioned it before but I find part 3 of Zhao Zhiyang's memoirs, about economic development, quite realistic and interesting. He was broadly right, but some of the cautions raised by Chen Yun and some others were disregarded a bit too easily in order to maximize growth.

«There is running water and electricity in homes from Tibet to Xinjiang, not just in Beijing.»

That (once) famous guy wrote "Communism is soviet power plus electrification" :-).

«As for Beijing, there is an entire new partner city being built to add to residential space. Shanghai is expanding as well....»

Those will just result in more property speculation. The only way to avoid it is to have many different centres of employment, to spread factories and headquarters around. Large cities inevitably become magnets for job-seekers, that is more tenants and buyers and big property profits.

Those are two very different mechanisms with very different political results: create magnets for new tenants and buyers like the London-Oxford-Cambridge area, and make business investment secondary to property and finance, or have many smaller places each with its industrial cluster and much cheaper property.

Growing the population of the Bejing-Tianjin or the Guangzhou-Shenzhen or Shanghai-Hangzhou-Ningbo areas seems to me dangerous. The PRC should try to have cities of no more than 4m.

BTW sometimes I think that your arguments about the PRC being able to overcome all difficulties includes a bit of wishful thinking or perhaps propaganda.

ltr

Well, your writing is vividly clear but the description and analysis is incorrect even though sympathetic. China really is successfully developing, becoming increasingly socialist or socialist with Chinese characteristics and remarkably united socially.

Also and importantly:

Finance in China is and will be functional or applied rather than directional.

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