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Let's party like it's ... 1997

By       Message Pepe Escobar     Permalink
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Here's the key Xi quote; "Fifteen years after the handover, Hong Kong has gone through storms. Overall, the principle of 'one country, two systems' has made enormous strides... Hong Kong's economy has developed well and citizens' livelihoods have improved. Progress has been made in democratic development, and society has become harmonious."

Well, not that harmonious. True, Hong Kong is the IPO capital of the world. It's the top offshore center in the world for yuan trading. It's a matchless world city -- in many aspects putting even New York to shame; the best the world has to offer in an ultra-compact environment. The city's economy grew every year except in 2009 -- during the world economy abyss. Annual GDP growth has been 4.5% on average. Unemployment is never higher than 6%.

But Hong Kong still has not made the transition towards a high-value-added, knowledge-based economy. The outgoing administration by Donald Tsang bet on "six new pillar industries" which should have "clear advantages" for growth; cultural and creative industries, medical services, education, innovation and technology, testing and certification services, and environmental industries.

But their development, so far, has been negligible. Hong Kong still relies basically on its four core industries; financial services, tourism, professional services, and trading. Over 36 million tourists a year won't turn Hong Kong into a knowledge-based society. Most of them are from -- where else -- the mainland. The backlash is immense; most Hong Kongers deride them as "locusts" -- country bumpkins with suitcases overflowing with yuan buying everything cash. And this while inside Hong Kong itself, the wealth gap is widening dramatically.

As far as Beijing is concerned, it all comes down to "crossing the river while feeling the stones." Here's Xi, once again; "The SAR [Special Administrative Region] government has united various social sectors under the strong support of the central government and the motherland." The motherland has its own ideas on reviving the Silk Road -- and perhaps Hong Kong could be part of it, a least on the financial services side.

Maybe it's time to party like it's 1997 and hit the Taklamakan again. Well, you can take the boy our of the Silk Road, but you can't take the Silk Road out of the boy.
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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)

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