Under the Dome - a new TED-style 104-minute documentary (in Putonghua) on China's air pollution challenges passionately delivered by former CCTV presenter Chai Jing. Released on Saturday 31st January on People.com, with the above tagline (一位资深记者的道义良心; 一个普通母亲的社会责任), the video has gone viral in China. It has since been viewed online 20 million times. See commentaries in the New York Times and the South China Morning Post
The video showcases an exceptional Chinese lady journalist able to stir the hearts and minds of millions, even beyond China if not for the language barrier.
Claims of self-finance notwithstanding, its production and release would not have been possible without high-level support. It's instructive that they coincided with the appointment of a new Minister for Environmental Protection.
However viewed, the video speaks volumes on how serious and deep-seated China's air-pollution challenges are and how they could become a game changer in defining China's energy mix and the country's greener future.
View the following for background on how China is beginning to tackle the impossible -
Dark days ahead but blue skies could return to China's cities by 2030's Click here
Blue Skies for China’s Cities - A multi-dimensional strategy Click here
China's new environmental law more promising than expected Click here
Can China really reach its ambitious goals for clean energy? Click here
An article dated 18 February 2015 by Professor Danny Quah of the London School of Economics on Brookings Online shows that as China's economy at $11.3 trillion is nearly five times larger compared with a decade ago, even slowing to 7% growth will treble the increment in the absolute size of China's economy and double the size of China's potential market for exports from her trading partners.
Likewise, a 7% slower growth rate is estimated to generate 53 million new jobs, assuming the same productivity increase at 2013 levels. This would account for over 10% of the rural migrant labor pool.
So a slower 7% growth of a much larger economy may not necessarily spell disaster for China or the rest of the world.
The universal suffrage controversy highlights the serious inherent contradictions of One Country Two Systems. Hong Kong with its distinctly diffferent identity, core values, and aspirations has to come to grips with the imperatives of its sovereign authority. While we treasure all the privileges of the Two Systems, let's not forget that we are part of the One Country which is a One-Party State. There are no precedents anywhere any time in history.
There are of course huge social, economic and indeed political inequalities in Hong Kong. All these are now coming to the fore. But the majority of the Hong Kong people are pragmatic. While most would want more democracy, they do not support using coercive tactics for an All-or-Nothing revolution against Beijing, especially when 2017 may not necessarily be the endgame.
At least a new Chief Executive elected by universal suffrage however restricted would have to face the entire electorate. Electors don't have to vote at all or cast a Blank Vote if any or all of the candidates are not supported.
Coming back to Article 45 of The Basic Law, which defines the One Country Two Sytems formula, it mandates nomination by a Committee, not individual Members of the Committee. "In accordance with democratic procedures" in the context of the Committee means a majority decision of the whole Committee, not just some of its Members.
For election of Hong Kong's future Chief Executive, nomination of candidates through a committee has widely been condemned as undemocratic and "fake universal suffrage". The Pan Democrats, student and other political activists refuse to accept anything less than "public nomination". However, let's not forget that even in the United States, the President is elected through a narrow "electoral college" of 538 Electors. Nomination of a Presidential candidate has to go through Party nomination conventions. There is no such thing as direct "public nomination".
While principles of democracy may justify "public nomination", Article 45 is designed precisely to prevent someone being elected who may pose a threat to Beijing not so much by starting a revolution on the Mainland but by fermenting a greater and greater degree of separatism. That would be anathema to Beijing in the light of rising problems of "separatist regions".
Such worries are not totally unfounded as two thirds of Hong Kong people do not identify themselves as Chinese first and foremost. Neither are Beijing's worries of possible foreign influence. The massive behind-the-scene donations to various activists behind the Occupy Central movement from one single source, the founder of the anti-Beijing Apple Daily, whose close friends include Paul Wolfowitz, former US Deputy Defense Secretary, have yet to be investigated and accounted for. Click here
I am not saying these realities are necessarily ominous for Hong Kong, being a free society. But This is no comfort for Beijing.
It is a question of trust. For the One Country Two Systems to work, how can we have a Chief Executive Beijing doesn't trust?
There is now a serious lack of trust between Hong Kong and the Beijing/Hong Kong governments. This cannot be bridged by coercive tactics. Trust can only be built through working together in a partnership that BOTH can accept, not just a method demanded by one side.
Hong Kong may not like all these constraints. But realities dictate that Hong Kong's fight for greater democracy may need to take one step at a time. Indeed, Beijing and the Hong Kong government have said as much.
Hong Kong's deep social divide must be addressed. But this cannot happen if we do not take a first step forward.
In any case, a sea change is likely to follow if for the first time, Hong Kong's people can cast their votes for their Chief Executive, one way or the other, provided that the nominating process is reasonably open, transparent, inclusive, and competitive, within the confines of the Basic Law and the decisons of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, as mandated by Beijing.
This would pave the way for Hong Kong under universal suffrage to build a trustful working relationship with Beijng and to heal wounds in its social and political fabric in the years ahead. I have floated a few ideas how future better governance may be achieved in my recent piece in the South China Morning Post.
The debate about Hong Kong's political reform is far from over. To advance Hong Kong's struggle for greater democracy, it is extremely important to secure One Man One Vote in 2017 first, however constrained to start with. Idealism, wishful thinking, or endless confrontation is no substitute.
This line is also taken In a think-piece published in the South China Morning Post dated 14 January, by Professor Kerry Kennedy, director of the Centre for Governance and Citizenship at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. He urges that it's time for the pan-democrats to realize that wishing thinking is no strategy. They must adopt a new vision for democratic development - and that means working with the political realities, and not simply ignoring them.
Giving the power to the voting public to reject all of the nominated candidates through a NOTA (None of the Above) vote may be an effective check and balance to enhance the legitimacy of the election process. This may be an idea to break the current impasse between Beijing and the pan democrats. Click here
This front-page leader in the New York Times of 4 Janury 2015 shows how the West is trying to read the tea-leaves of President Xi's political stance and what they mean for China. Grasping the tail of the elephant, the animal's shape is perceived as tubular, latter-day, Maoism.
The whole truth is more multidimensional.
The fallacy of the New York Times article lies in its fundamental contradictions. On the one hand it fears a lurch away from the market, the rule of law and a rebound towards cultural revolutionary rhetoric.
On the other, it fails to note that it was President Xi who for the first time elevated the Market to a "decisive role" in the economy with policies to built a more equitable and just society (Third Plenum). It was he who mandated that to enhance Party legitimacy, the Rule of Law (or Rule by Law) needs to be upheld regardless of ranks (Fourth Plenum). It was also he who brought about the downfall of the Bo Xilai gang who trumpeted red-revolutionary fervency.
The reality is that China is now entering into a socioeconomic and political watershed in deep and turbulent waters. When one of the writers of the NY Times article says Xi was the guy the Communist Party wanted from the start, he is telling only part of the truth.
The whole truth is that the Party has realized that without transformational reforms, not least to fight entrenched corruption and power abuse, the whole Party boat may sink, bringing everybody down. And Xi was the leader chosen to do the job.
However, that doesn't mean China wants or has to copy the West's short-sighted and confrontational nultiparty politics. Indeed, China wants to find her own development model. However, meanwhile, she is unlikely to give up the one-party rule any time soon. Click here
But while the quest continues, China wants above all to maintain political stability, which is essential for the country with 1.3 billion people to try out various reform agendas. If this means cracking down on certain forces that seem to rock the boat too much, so be it.
Perhaps President Xi could be more relaxed about liberalism. But once the big genie is allowed out of the bottle, with nearly 500 million peasants, it would be difficult to put it back again.
Xi has the weight of China''s history on his shoulders. To him, it is better to be safe than sorry. But this doesn't mean that he is turning China back towards Maoism.
My live TV panel interview on World Insight with CCTV (China Central Television), Beijing on 2 January, 2015.
The interview explored what is going to be the main driver of growth in the coming decades as China enters into an era of the "New Normal". The relevant interview runs from meter reading 09:00 to 25:20.
China’s New Silk Road Strategy: Whys, wherefores and implications for the world order and businesses- A presentation on 19 December 2014 to the Chairmen Group of EGN Hong Kong, a business network originating from Denmark.
On 27 November, 2014, I spoke on the recent China-Russia energy deals and China's energy dynamics as they impact on Japan and the rest of the Asia-Pacific at a Windsor Energy Group event chaired by Lord Howell and hosted at the Japanese Embassy London by the Japanese Ambassador.
My presentation was based on the following research note.
In a speech on 9 November to CEO's at the APEC Summit in Beijing, President Xi expounded on what he meant in his recent references to the "New Normal" in China's development trajectory.
This new connect can be characterized into the following COMPONENTS -
(a) permanent change from high-speed to moderately high-speed economic growth;
(b) continuous economic re-structuring -
services and consumer demand to gradually become the mainstay of the economy;
continous narrowing of regional differences;
economic proportion of household incomes to continue rising;
greater sharing of fruits of economic development amongst the masses.
(c) change from investment-driven to innovation-driven.
The following BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES are likely to result -
(a) Even at around 7% average annual growth, China's economy will still be leading world growth;
(b) Growth will be more balanced, stable and multi-dimensionalwith new "Four Modernizations" - New industrialization, Digitization, Urbanization, and Agricultural modernization and greater reliance on domestic consumption to minimize exposure to external risks;
(c) Economic re-structuring already manifested in the first three quarters of 2014
consumption overtaking investment as main contributor to GDP growth;
share of services at 46.7% overtaking manufacturing;
high and new technologies, including machinery manufacturing registered higher rates of growth compared with industrial averages; and
government streamlining and de-regulation have resulted in greater market vitality with newly-registered enterprises growing at 60% compared with previous year.
The country must CONTINUE TO ADAPT to the "New Normal" in the following way -
(a) clear-mindedness on new contradictions and surfacing of hidden risks;
(b) intensifying of overall reform deepening-
to energize latent market vitality;
to widen paths for innovation;
to push forward high-quality outward openness;
to promote people's well-being, including equality and social justice.
A diagramitc illustration (in Chinese) is provided in the following extract dated 10 November, 2014, from the "100 Plan Organization", a state-sponsored organization to attract global talents. Click here
Live panel discussion on World Insight with Beijing's China Central Television broadcast on 26 October, 2014
At the interview I made the point that China's concept of the rule of law is different from the West. There is no intention of embracing the Western idea of separation of powers between the administration, the judiciary and the legislature. And the rule of the Communist Party cannot be challenged, even as party officials are now held to account according to law. However, there are moves to improve the independence of the judicary by elevating powers to appoint local judges and the funding of the legal system to the provincial level. Additionally, ideas of institutionalizing the current corruption-infested system of "Letters and Petitions" system are beginning to be talked about.
What the promotion of the Rule of Law or Rule by Law actually means in China is further illustrated in the latest leader in The Economist (November 1-7, 2014).
A further article in the same issue highlights the new emphasis on the role in upholding the rule of law of China's Constitution, to which all officials will have to swear allegiance to in future. 4th December would henceforth be made the National Constitution Day.
This debunks the speculation surrounging earlier officially-sanctioned attacks against "constitutionism" that at best lip-service would hence forth be paid to the role of the Constitution in China's politics. What is to be understood is that the supremacy of the Party is enshrined in China's Constitution. That means that the Party's leadership cannot be questioned by China's laws. But that doesn't mean that Party members are above the law, as the recent anti-corruption campaign is at pains to emphasize.