Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Hong Kong's Colonial Flag

Never the Twain Shall Meet” at the Post Magazine was last week’s Editor’s pick.

The article contrasts the opposing views of Niall Ferguson and Pankai Mishra on the contribution and influence of the Anglo-American social-economic model on emerging Asian countries and ex-colonies. 

Ferguson who seems to shoulder a phantom “White Man’s Burden” is happy that some of Asia’s “success” is due to practices downloaded from the “West”. Naturally, he would be right to a certain degree; there were many things the world could learn from the Anglo-American century. But everyone has been learning from each other since alien tribes came into contact. The Arabs helped Europe’s theocracies to emerge from the Dark Ages by reintroducing mathematics, astronomy, even Greek philosophy. Japan was culturally indebted to China for nearly everything before redirecting its emulating talents at America. 

The “benefits” cited by Ferguson are dangerously shortsighted. In the long-term, a consumption and growth based economy is anything but “beneficial”. However, anyone who dares to slow down in this globalised game of collective destruction would be enslaved and consumed RIGHT NOW. The inventors (and enforcers) of the rules of this game have not done any human a favour, so should not expect a “thank-you card”.

Mishra’s point about “unchecked capitalism” is much more important and relevant. Resource limitation will turn everyone ugly one day. Addicts would knife each other to death over the last gramme of economic narcotic. Ferguson hopes that innovation driven by capitalism will solve all future problems. I’m afraid he’s being very naive, and blind to the absolute limits that are way beyond human resourcefulness. 

There was a particularly outrageous statement in the article: "Today, it [HK] is a Chinese city in which protesters wave colonial-era flags, incensed about the encroachment of Beijing into the civil liberties Hongkongers enjoyed under the British."  Really? I wonder if the writer could cite one or two examples of how Hong Kong is enjoying less civil liberties than it did in the colonial days. Does history still mean anything to this newspaper?

A comparison given in a comment in Hidden Harmonies (See Comment No.13 in the Happy New Year message) brilliantly illustrated this gross distortion (which somehow did not bother the SCMP editor). The lone lunatic in Hong Kong waving the colonial flag was compared to a black student who displays a confederation flag in his dorm.

About the colonial era flag-waving: . . . .  Like this one about a black college student in South Carolina who wants to display a confederate flag in his dorm room. He doesn’t think the confederate flag is a symbol of racism, he sees a symbol of pride. His parents are saddened by it, and most people would find it an oddity, and probably lump it into the same category as this black guest who appeared on Tyra Banks who said she doesn’t like black people and refuses to acknowledge she is black.

But it would be quite bizarre for a newspaper (unless they had an agenda) to write this sentence (similar to the sentence quoted above about HK and British colonial flag) to describe the historical and current political significance of the student’s actions:

“Today, Beaufort, South Carolina is a black city in which students display confederate-era flags, incensed about the encroachment of Washington into the life blacks enjoyed under the Confederacy.”

Rewritten this way, one can see more clearly how distorted and ridiculous that sentence is. The actions by a small number of oddballs becomes representative of the whole, and is endlessly repeated to give the impression that it is a widespread sentiment.

Oh well, it goes to show the editorial standard of the SCMP (and it’s already one of the better journals in Hong Kong!). 

Fifteen years ago, most mainstream mouthpieces predicted HK’s demise after returning to China. Since that has not happened, they would keep saying that it has happened, until everyone thinks that it has, without asking how.

Chinese Version: 殖民地香港旗

Guo Du 
15 .01.13


Allen said...

Between Niall Ferguson and Pankai Mishra, I actually subscribe much more to Ferguson. Mishra is out of touch in my opinion. While his anti-colonial, anti-imperial stance does resonate with him, he distorts it by painting China as also imperialistic. It wasn't only because it was weak. Now it's getting stronger, it is imperialistic - in Hong Kong, on Taiwan, regarding Tibet, etc., etc.

James Tam 谭炳昌 (过渡) said...

thanks for pointing it out. I don't know either of them on other issues but from this one article, Mishra made an important and valid point about the ultimate (now not so long term) consequence of the global name of the game that we all face. I've spent decades in environmental protection and am of the opinion that the world is wasting too much in appearing to protect the environment (but not doing enough), or dreaming unrealistically (like Ferguson) about our infinite ability to extend the resources of this finite planet.