This week has been very lax which is not surprising since it is the week after CNY and most people are still getting to grips with having to get back to work again while many others are still out of the office on holiday etc but nevertheless this is not to say the week just went by with very little getting done. For me, it was very productive as I began work on a new project that will hopefully prove useful for both Mannkal and Lion Rock. It will deal with looking at populist movements such as the Tea Party Movement that is making a mark in American politics, as exemplified in the recent congressional mid-term elections where a number of tea party supporting, “We the People” Republican candidates scored sweeping victories in the House of Representatives thereby ending 4 years of a Democratic majority. Ideally, I hope to analyze what it is that has brought the grassroots movement to such prominence and hopefully look to its’ broader implications and thus provide insightinto some of the way in which populist movements could be brought to fruition and be effective in creating change within other jurisdictions.
What I’ve found so valuable this week is the crash course I received from the editorial team at Lion Rock which has distilled in me some of the core skills needed to write convincingly and ‘package’ the message/s I am trying to get across to the average ‘Hongkonger’. In effect, everything comes down to getting the average reader interested about Libertarianism and the virtues that it espouses which is sadly getting more and more difficult to invigorate in today’s Hong Kong where the general public is become more risk-averse and the atmosphere reflects quite strongly increasing undercurrents of distrust and resentment of the entrepreneurial individuals in Hong Kong who have worked hard and achieved success and prosperity in their respective fields. This reality stirred me to do some research on local legend and world tycoon LiKa-shingwho to me, has come to epitomize the Hong Kong dream of rising up from poverty to achieve success through hard work, unending commitment and ambition. In the words of Li, “I wasn’t lucky. I worked hard to achieve the goals I set for myself.” He used to be admired being coined the ‘superman’ of past generations yet his popularity is clearly in decline yet story is one thatreflects best what HK’s free-market system has allowed individuals to achieve. Li started from such humble beginnings in mainland China having to flee at the young age of 12 to Hong Kong as a poor immigrant in order to escape from the turmoil that came with Japanese invasion. In 1943, he was subsequently forced to drop out of school at the age of 15 to work 16 hour days at a plastics factoryfollowing the death of his father in order to support his family. Yet, it was his entrepreneurial flair, determination, stamina and willingness to take risks amidst all adversity which is what led him to start his own plastics factory in 1950 and then go on to create one of the largest conglomerates in the world with businesses covering nearly all facets of everyday life in Hong Kong; banking, construction, electric power, real estate, plastics, cellular phones, satellite television, cement production, retail outlets, hotels, airports, electric power, steel production, ports, and shipping. On top of these achievements, he is also noted as one of the world’s most generous philanthropists having donated in excess of 1 000 000 000 US while having further pledged recently to donate an additional third of his fortuneto philanthropic projects across the world. Sadly, his peak has seemed to pass as hostility towards those who have attained success and wealth is driven by envy and a belief that corporatist activity in Hong Kong is rife having allowed some to use to generate their wealth through political links which is understandably why the entrepreneurial spirit amongst the people is waning which is further threatened by increasing external obstacles set in place by an increasingly interventionist government (increasing regulation, taxes etc). I think that one of the important goals of a free-market think tank in Hong Kong is to make sure the the spirit doesn’t wane and become a thing of the past but celebrate all that Hong Kong has achieved backed by it’s traditions of enterprise and love of success.
I took time over the weekend to do a bit of sightseeing of ‘Hong Kong Island’ and the Central district which was the earliest place of development by the British colonialists. The area served as a centre for trade and financial activities in the early days of the colonial eraand now continues with this legacy serving as the principal area for financial and commercial business in the city with many financial corporations such as HSBC and the Bank of China housing their headquarters in the area. Most of the pics I’ve included with this week’s blog can give you a good idea of great fusion in the area between new and old with some of the oldest surviving colonial building such as the ‘Legislative Council Building’, ‘Court of Final Appeal’ and ‘St John’s Cathedral’ juxtaposed to some of the more ostentatious skyscrapers of the ‘HSBC Main Bulding’, ‘Bank of China Tower’ and the more recent ‘International Finance Centre’ which can boast being the eighth-tallest office building in the world.
The week was concluded nicely with meeting up with a friend of the Institute from the US who had also been an intern for some time at LRI but is now completing a masters in economics at the University of Hong Kong.