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What better way to symbolize the debate about the growing estrangement between the People’s Republic and foreign countries than by China’s chief epidemiologist’s recommendation to avoid physical contact with foreigners? It seems that decades of fighting for China’s friendship have been for naught when we are so categorically classified as a health risk.
Friendship is already a fragile construct when it is primarily motivated by economic interests. It is all the more important that these interests come to light before swearing undying loyalty to each other. The author of today’s Opinion, Professor Ralph Weber of the University of Basel, has studied the influence of the Chinese party-state on our society in great detail and found that we often completely overlook the depth of the interconnection between economic exchange and political motivation by our Chinese partners.
In Hong Kong, too, ideology has come to play a much bigger role in the economic context since John Lee became the city’s new chief executive. Where once the focus had been on growth and opportunity, nowadays, the message of the importance of political stability is being spread in the spirit of the CP, writes Ning Wang after speaking to people on the ground.
Incidentally, political stability is also the mantra of Turkish leader Recep Erdoğan, who wants to be re-elected president next year. He urgently needs to create economic prospects and probably sees good chances for this in closer ties with China, as a potential member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. This is rather unpleasant news for NATO, which has to watch Beijing pave the way to greater influence over a NATO member state.
At least the Western alliance can hope that relationships formed primarily out of economic interests hardly have what it takes to become intimate friendships.
Uncertainty in Hong Kong benefits China-plus-1 strategy
Hong Kong’s new Chief Executive, John Lee, took office three months ago, but things have been surprisingly quiet around him. That may be deliberate. Whereas his predecessor Carrie Lam had clear announcements, actions and thus publicly discussed controversies, silence and unpredictability reign under Lee. This raises questions: Where is Hong Kong headed? Where are the red lines? The lack of clarity covers the metropolis like a heavy blanket, and it also causes problems for the city’s expats.
“People are becoming more and more cautious about making political statements,” says a German woman who has lived in Hong Kong for more than 15 years and would only speak to China.Table anonymously. “I have also become very cautious,” she says. On social media, she refrains from posts that might be interpreted negatively. For an upcoming art exhibition she helped organize, she chose green T-shirts for participants rather than black ones, merely to avoid an association with the 2019 protest movements. Anticipatory obedience, like one that has been known in Mainland China for a long time, is spreading.
Growing concern is now also gripping multinational companies, associations and other institutions. They are increasingly asking themselves whether Hong Kong is still a sensible place to do business. These doubts were also recently highlighted at the Belt and Road Summit in late August. One participant, who also wishes to remain anonymous, estimated in an interview with China.Table that the number of Western expats in the room could be “counted on two hands” – among more than 1,300 participants.