So, at long last, Boris Johnson is now, as Ivanka Trump put it so cogently, Prime Minister of The United Kingston. Notwithstanding his previous adamantly categorical assurances of a No-Deal Brexit being “one in a million”, he has less than 100 days to get a deal done and his demands that the EU reopen its previous agreement and that the “Irish backstop is off the table” have been met with unusual unanimity by the EU – to paraphrase, “Boris, I say, you are over-filling the bowl and, come Brexit, that toilet paper is going to cost you more, eh, what!” Apparently, in their arrogance, the UK Government was so convinced that they would get the deal that they demanded that they have yet to do any major infrastructure work on roads around the Chunnel port (where most of the goods go in and out) and it was estimated a year ago that, using current related transport levels, that within a week of a No-Deal, the processing of trucks will be backlogged a week, except that there is no place to have them wait. Moreover, no work has been done on the Customs’ computer systems. The contention of Mr. Johnson and his cronies that leaving the EU would not cost the UK anything and actually make money has not been supported by the facts – The Independent reported in April 2019 that it had already cost the British economy 66 billion pounds in 3 years ie. 1000 pounds for every citizen, AND that 3% of GDP had already been lost according to Standard & Poors. In 5 years, the British pound has plunged from US$1.70 to less than US$1.22 today. I say, bit of a sticky wicket, what?
We can dismiss The Donald’s promises (sic), pontification, and posturing, but the effects are not so easily ignored, much less offset. It was reported (July 15/19) on Bloomberg that over 3 million people will now lose their food stamps. Not cognizant and/or caring of that condition, he proceeded to state that he would raise tariffs on US$300 billion of Chinese products “because they were not moving fast enough”, this one day after his trade negotiators had returned from the latest talks in Shanghai. Almost all his advisors, including his chief negotiators Lighthizer and Mnuchin, said that imposition of a tariff at this stage would be counter-productive but Trump was angry that he was making a public address in Ohio the next day and didn’t have anything concrete to tell the crowd about further progress on China’s importation of agricultural products. In his favour (I do try to be even-handed), China previously kept declaring that it was buying more US-grown soy beans but, again according to Bloomberg on July 29th/19, there was no concrete evidence of this even in the most recent US data. As I am writing the previous line, news came over the screen that China has now ‘suspended’ importation of American foodstuffs. Never mind that African swine flu has caused widespread and ongoing shortages of the main meat source in China and never mind the armyworm (which has no natural predators in China) is eliminating whatever crops that haven’t succumbed to an ongoing drought coupled with unbelievably high temperatures for prolonged periods of time – let’s eliminate food imports from the USA and Canada to demonstrate our political steadfastness…in the meantime, in the interests of country unity, the people can eat whatever it is they can find…..I doubt that the plutocrats will have the same strictures.
A headline in the South China Morning Post of July 18th, 2019, stated that, “The Trade War is Hiding China’s Biggest Problems” – Ruihua CPA, China’s biggest accounting firm, is now under investigation for overstating the earnings of one company by an amount of US$1.74 billion over 4 years (as I reported in a previous Global Gab), and that’s just one. China Zhongwang just got indicted in the USA for alleged misstatement of product importation to the tune of US$1.8 billion! Conveniently, the CEO, Liu Zhongtian, was out of the country.
China’s population has been affected dramatically in their consumption habits by African swine flu’s decimation of the pig population….notwithstanding the official estimate (sic) of 28% and the unofficial estimate of c.50% of the total herd being affected (ie. dead), in some provinces there are virtually no pigs to be had/seen at all. Moreover, it is now well known that many farmers knowingly sold their affected pigs to butchers who knowingly purchased them (ie. at huge discounts) and then sold same at full price to unsuspecting consumers. People want to know how this could happen and, just like the milk scandal, the drug scandal, and any number of other scandals, answers are promised and assurances are made, but nothing gets solved. Too many SOE companies are involved and too many government officials – but the people are far more educated and far less accepting and the malaise being exhibited in Hong Kong does not stop at the border to Mainland China.
The news this week almost everywhere (except in Mainland China) is overweight about the current Hong Kong state of affairs. Confidence and trust in the government and the police (Bloomberg, July 29th/19) to do their jobs professionally (ie. properly) has fallen to below 50% in a few months from an average of 70% less than half a year ago. A survey published in Bloomberg on July 31st/19 shows that Hong Kong trails Singapore in citizen satisfaction in every single metric measured and by a significant percentage in each one. Instead of addressing the complaints and the causes of the complaints, the Hong Kong and the Beijing governments’ responses seem to be right out of an old and totally out-dated playbook ie. blame someone/anyone else.
Beijing, on July 25th/19, as reported by Reuters and others, called for the US to remove “its black hands” from Hong Kong, stating that the current situation of unrest was fomented by its agents. This is a parallel to the old South Chinese caution to their children that, if they weren’t good, the gweilo (white ghost ie. pejorative term for a foreigner) would take them away. Instead of addressing the originally unprovoked brutality of the police, the high-handedness and lack of responsiveness with which the Hong Kong Government has addressed the marchers, the use of triad members to beat the marchers, the response has been to arrest a further 500 people yesterday. The head of the PLA in Hong Kong declared their “readiness to defend the sovereignty of Hong Kong” ……how can HK have sovereignty when it is part of China? Better yet, who is attacking the alleged sovereignty (sic)? The people involved are citizens and are profoundly unhappy with where their future is heading and they want to make their dissatisfaction known and have their concerns substantively and respectfully addressed, especially as they are ‘paying the freight’. Incendiary comments by another thug in uniform don’t do anything to improve the situation but, sadly, maybe that’s their ultimate goal.
2 million people from a total population of somewhat over 7 million marched peacefully on June 15th, 2019, to show a total lack of support for Ms. Lam’s extradition bill and, by corollary, her judgement and her government. She addressed none of those concerns and only declared the bill to be “dead” – but she did NOT withdraw the bill from the government roll. In the old days, the people might have been cajoled by her action or by her meaningless assurances but, in the old days, 30% of the population would not have been marching, nor would they have felt the overwhelming need to march, or to continue to march on an ongoing basis.
The Beijing Government (SCMP, July 31st/19) threatens to have Shenzhen replace Hong Kong as a financial powerhouse going forward. Ignoring the fact that it has already transferred significant assets to Shenzhen and emplaced many new ones, its one size fits all strategy does not take into account that Hong Kong is much more than a physical place – it is a state of mind. Carrie Lam, yes there has been needless violence on both sides and, certainly, it is a vainglorious expectation to think that the police will apologize for anything, anywhere, any time. But, Carrie Lam, these are your people and they are profoundly worried and profoundly dissatisfied – these are not just revolutionary (sic) students protesting; this is ALL of Hong Kong. These are the people you are neighbours with, the people who drive the cars, clean the houses, teach the children, work in and own the stores. They have a right to have a voice and express their concerns – and this is Hong Kong, not Shenzhen. And you have an obligation and responsibility, moral and legal, to address their concerns. Please be the statesperson that you are supposed to be before Hong Kong is irreparably ruined.
Do you hear the people sing?
Let me know, please. Thanks for reading.