Lost in Translation

Is it me or has the world gone totally off on a tangent?

When I was a child, leaders were supposed to be these erudite, polished statesmen who seemed to have learned (most of the time) from the example of WW II that discussion and consensus were far more likely to achieve positive outcomes for all concerned. But now it seems that something got lost in translation and today’s leaders posit rule by diktat as their preference (in other words, they behave like dicks). Consider Erdogan from Turkey – on August 16th/19, Bloomberg reported that he broke open his piggy bank ie. the Central Bank, which he now controls, and blew (oops, I mean “took”; oops, I mean “redirected”) just under US$4 billion to prop up the country’s finances. Is it necessary to mention that the country’s finances are in such sad shape because of other Erdogan misadventures? So now he’s doubling, tripling, quadrupling down on his bets with the people’s money – maybe he should sell his 1000-room palace and go live in the hovel that everyone else is soon going to be in.

The UK has an Eton man named Boris’
whose postulations are totally uproarious.
He leads with his chin
his reasonings are speciously thin
And his machinations are blatantly porous.

And Salvini from Italy is another ‘winner’ (sic)…..if he doesn’t get what he wants, and immediately, then he will force yet another election on a country that has had already 61 governments since the end of World War II ie. 1 in about every 14 months. Does it matter if it’s good for the country? It seems to only matter if it’s good for him.

Vladimir Putin is having problems in Russia – as BBG pointed out, the more that he now clamps down on dissent (and he seemingly defines dissent as did the czars ie. as anything not according to his wishes) the more that unrest is generated. People today do not live in a vacuum, nor are they as uneducated, or as trusting, or as docile as they were in the past.

Then we get to The Donald – arrogant? Check! Narcissistic? Check! Mendacious? Check! Unschooled? Check! And this is the leader (sic) of the Free World?! Do you know that his budget deficit already exceeds that of ALL of last year? And his idea of diplomacy is to aver on August 9th, 2019, that, “We’ll see whether or not we keep our meeting (with the Chinese) in September. If we do, that’s fine; if we don’t, that’s fine.” BBG reported that DT has, “increasingly convinced businesses that he has no idea what he is doing” and that his erratic behaviour has created an environment that actively discourages investment (something that I mentioned would happen in a much earlier issue of Global Gab).

Seeing as this last blasé attitude understandably didn’t generate any positivity from the Chinese, this bull in a china shop (pardon the pun) decided to break a few more boundaries. On August 15th/19, Reuters reported that The Donald , as a great statesman only in his own mirage of a mind, proposed to Beijing that they will get a trade deal if they come to a “humane” conclusion in Hong Kong. Instead of wasting precious ink on reporting their response, let me just say that it would be akin to the Chinese weighing in on any suggested US Government approach in Puerto Rico (and, the Lord knows, DT could use all the help that he can get there, but I digress) – can you imagine the hysterics that would be generated by a foreign power having the audacity to casually mix in to an internal matter? Furious? Check! Livid? Check! Appalled? Check! Disgusted? Check! Donald has now lost so much face, not to mention all credibility, that I think that it is doubtful that China will offer any reasonable deal and will hold out at any cost in order to drive DT out the door on a ‘honey cart’ (as the old conveyances carrying night soil were known).

And then we come to the issue of Carrie Lam in Hong Kong and Xi Jinping in Beijing…..a lot of facts about this situation are coming out, mainly as a result of fantastic efforts by The South China Morning Post which, consider the irony, is actually owned by a member of the Communist Party of China. The Beijing Government wanted the rendition law passed so Carrie Lam bypassed the established protocols and introduced it by fiat instead via the long-established route of first to the 18 Councillors…17 of the 18 said for the record that they learned about it first from the media, and that includes many who are publicly pro-Beijing in their outlook. It was apparently felt by the Hong Kong and Macau Directorate (based in Shenzhen) that protests would die down after the passing of the bill (how they reached that conclusion is probably the same as how the Chinese Government reached a lot of other conclusions….state the desired result first and then find ‘facts’ (sic) to ‘justify’ it– and we see how that went.

So now Senior Colonel Wu Qian from the Defense Ministry opined that, “the behaviour of some radical demonstrators challenging the authority of the Central Government …is intolerable”. The citizens of Hong Kong, using similar vocabulary, posit that the erosion and usurpation of their rights (something that has been ongoing for years), now without even a casual regard for the rule of Hong Kong law, is (also) intolerable. 350 middle and senior civil servants took the unprecedented step on August 15th/19 of declaring in a petition that they were, “absolutely disgusted” with the government’s handling of the protests and that they, “feel ashamed to call them (the police) colleagues”. They demand a complete withdrawal of the bill (not just the suspension that Ms. Lam has made) and, as well, an independent inquiry into the police actions (which have occasionally been so deliberately brutal as to elicit a censure from the UN, although the HK police chief said that he is, “very satisfied” (with the police response).

The fact is that these same 2 demands were also requested by the protesters and also the leading group of businessmen, even though Hong Kong tycoons have to walk a very tight line between the two sides. To date, Ms. Lam has refused any and all such entreaties. It’s interesting to note that, as reported by SCMP, the Hong Kong government, “has turned a deaf ear to sentiment” and sad that the Secretary for the Civil Service, Mr. Joshua Law Chi-kong, warned that any rally or industrial action by civil servants would affect public confidence in them – no mention of the fact that public confidence is, given the state of unrest in Hong Kong, evidently dissatisfied with Ms. Lam, Mr. Law, Ms. Regina Ip, the Chief of Police, and their coterie of vendues. Beijing has termed the dissatisfaction and popular unrest as “terrorism” but have yet to comment on what they call the soliciting of triad members to beat up the protesters. A recent survey has shown that the level of confidence and satisfaction in the government and the police which, until April, 2019, was about 70% is now about 30%.

The Hong Kong government’s leaders have, for the most part, become intransigent in their power and arrogantly complacent in their ability to get what they want with a minimum of fuss and a dearth of blowback. The mechanisms that are well and long established in the political framework of Hong Kong were totally ignored in this instance…even in China, this kind of high-handed implementation is not done; but, now that it has been and not gone well, Beijing and HK have to concern themselves both with face as well as the long-lasting repercussions of their actions. This afore-mentioned loss of confidence in the government and police will not be easily or immediately offset.

Furthermore, if Beijing, and particularly Xi Jinping personally, are perceived to ‘lose’, then unrest in China will immediately grow exponentially and, as well, the ongoing effort to peaceably encompass Taiwan will never be realized during Xi Jinping’s tenure as leader. On the other hand, bringing in the 12,000 ‘riot police’ (read “thugs in a uniform”) who are currently stationed less than 10 minutes from the border is not exactly conducive to fostering good will. Demanding that Cathay Pacific Airlines fire all employees who are known to have participated in the strikes/marches (or Cathay would be denied the right to fly in Chinese airspace); arranging for a major SOE, Huarong Assets, to insist that all employees now fly any other airline BUT Cathay (including on their private holidays) certainly does not foster anyone’s confidence in future adherence to the law by the powers-that-be. That feeling is compounded by the fact that many people’s mobile phones are being examined for anti-government (or pro-demonstrator) comments when crossing the border into Shenzhen. Cathay’s shares are understandably at a 10-year low.

Beijing is becoming increasingly thin-skinned….it has long maintained a force reputed to consist of some 500,000 people who monitor the internet and shape public opinion….when Coach, Givenchy, and Versace created garments that showed Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan to be separate countries, the e-comments for damnation were immediate and resounding…the companies’ own modelling influencers dropped them like hot potatoes, even though all the companies had immediately apologized and immediately recalled all the goods for destruction. These were just stupid errors but not badly intentioned ie. totally unlike the scurrilous comments from Dolce & Gabbana some months ago. Yet these companies were effectively treated the same. Interestingly, when Huawei apparently made the same implication for Taiwan on one of its phones, the screams were muted and the ‘outrage’ died an immediate death. This double standard is a bad precedent to set, especially now.

Carrie Lam in HK pleaded with the protesters that they were taking HK into the abyss – one might reasonably counter that her efforts at fairness under the rule of established law have been abysmal. But, all that said, this current situation seems to be lose-lose for all concerned. Just as theft of proprietary tech cannot be called R&D despite every effort to term it so by China (who insists that it does not engage in tech ‘misappropriation’, much less outright malfeasance), so too must people heed the 2500 year-old maxim of Sun Tsu, that talking is always better; but, as with most ancient wisdom, the corollary is the most important….talking is better only assuming that people are listening to each other and understanding what is meant in a respectful way. Talking without understanding is just lost in translation.

And then we wind up with the mess that we’ve got.

Thank you for reading. Comments? Suggestions?

[email protected]

Global Gab #24

About the Author
Bennett

Bennett

Bennett Little is one of our experts in the Global From Asia VIP network. Get to know more about him here.

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[…] GLOBAL GAB #24 – Lost in Translation […]