Sunday, September 14, 2008

A response

Blogs are interesting things. I have wondered why I write one on occasions over the years. There seems to me to be a certain amount of arrogance required in thinking that other people will be interested in what you have to say; or possibly a certain amount of stupidity. At least whenever I use the "Next Blog" button provided by Blog Spot I often see the most banal, shallow and trite blogs. Sometimes that is OK, a shallow blog can be funny and interesting in small doses just as Bugs Bunny is funnier in an 11 Minute cartoon than a 90 minute movie; but it should be evident to lots of people looking than many people writing blogs are not writers but parrots who simply spout prepackaged political, cultural or religious ideas often in immature, insulting or derogatory ways.

Now to be fair, I have also run across some very good blogs using that button as well and it is a good way to spend an otherwise dull lunch hour with something besides my sandwich and coffee. The question "Do I have anything unique or meaningful to add to the discussion of the human condition with this blog is one I've asked myself over the years? Since I write, in large part for a group of friends and family back in the US as a sort of open letter or circular letter this is a question I can often ignore because I am really writing for a group of people who know who I am for whom the inside joke, the hyperbole and verbal jesting that goes on between family and friends is part of the conversation. Other readers are, for me, a bonus. That is why I normally just post comments to this blog and make any replies in the comments section.

However, someone named Paul left a quite detailed reply to my post about creating a free trade zone between Hong Kong and Shenzhen and it deserves a longer, more detailed reply. Because I am responding to a comment this post is very different one than normal because it is primarily to people who do not know my name. Indeed, it deserved it last week but I've been fighting a cold and been otherwise occupied. I need to get back into the habit of posting three times a week.

Paul's questions are in red my answers in normal black

Question #1
But to open the border would mean a much larger infrastructure to handle the number of people crossing everyday.

No. It would simply mean removing the checkpoints at the four crossing points between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. The infrastructure is already there the train stations are next to each other the trains go there so it would just mean that more people could go back and forth easier. Just like taking the train from Manhattan to the suburbs up on Long Island.

Would it mean more people crossing the border everyday? I don't know but if they didn't have to clear customs each way I would imagine that the number could double and it would still be less congested.

Actually, a massive upgrade would be needed.

No, I do not think that is true as explained above. Thousands or tens-of-thousands of people cross the Hong Kong Shenzhen border everyday already. I think that the biggest issue might actually be (Please remember I suffer from Anglo-phobia) that in Hong Kong we use right hand drive vehicles while in China they use the more civilized left-hand vehicles. Thus, going from one city to the next without the border check could be an issue because drivers leaving Hong Kong would find themselves on the wrong side of the road or vice-versa. This might require some innovative freeway interchanges but given the poor level of driving quality both in Hong Kong and the PRC it is also entirely possible that nobody would notice.

Do you think
Hong Kong has the right to encourage people to live in Shenzhen?

The classic red herring. The real issue is that right now people here, for the most part have no choice but to live in Hong Kong. If you live in the UK and decide you do not like London you can pack up and move to Leeds. In Hong Kong if you decide that you don't like Hong Kong you can pack up and either, immigrate to another country or put up with Hong Kong. Thus I am proposing giving them the freedom to do so if they wished. But, I think many of the poor and middle class people in Hong Kong would. They need no encouraging from me.

The people on that side of the border make those decisions, and would it be in their interest?

I think that Shenzhen would love to have something like this happen. The issue is that it would probably cause the Hong Kong property market to collapse and while that would benefit Hong Kong in the long term by lower the cost of living and doing business here in the short term it would cause considerable economic disruption.

They already decide who can come here via the individual travel scheme. Side trips to Macau are being rationed now as well.

Shenzhen is an SAR just like Hong Kong. The rules are different there than the rest of China. While this is an issue it may not be a major one.

I heard a story recently about school children crossing the border everyday to come to school in the SAR. A time consuming process, and only a certain number of buses are allowed in the closed area at a time. They live in Shenzhen. Why do they come to school in Hong Kong? Who's taxes are paying for that?

I have combine two of your objections into one answer. This is an question that shows you really live here but probably do not have a child in school. There are two answers. 1st the buss issue would simply disappear; they could come if they want. The second issue is a little more complex. Schools in Hong Kong are assigned by a district. Children apply to a school near where they live but schools have the right to take a percentage of students from out side their district. In any case potential students need to provide proof of residency to apply. So, if a child lived in Shenzhen, and was not a resident of Hong Kong they could not apply to schools here with the exception of some of the international schools that are not tax supported because they didn't live here. Would people try to work the system by obtaining a false address? Sure they would but they do that anyway.

The government often talks about the user pays principle. Why is there an airport tax, but no departure tax at the land crossings?

Good question. One way to deal with right now is through toll roads and such. But, isn't the cost of a visa to enter China sort of like this? But what does this have to do with a free trade zone between Hong Kong and Shenzhen?

Hong Kong is Hong Kong
Shenzhen is Shenzhen

It would remain so under a free trade arrangement. Look at the city of Texarkana in the US. It basically straddles the border of three different states Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. You don't have to cross a border check point to reach any section of the city. Suburban communities often have a different culture and ethos than the larger cities they surround.

Who knows where we will be in the 39 years to go before 2047?

We will certainly be more fully integrated into the PRC. We can either embrace that change and try to manage it or be swallowed up by it.

If I lived in Shenzen, could I access your blog on the Internet? Would I still be able to check out news on the BBC web site?

In many places in Shenzhen yes you can just as the cell phone networks over lap. While this is an issue I think it is one that will become less important over time. As the Internet goes wireless this is going to be truer than it is today. The PRC cannot simply keep everything critical of their government out. The Internet is to vast and people are too creative. China will have to open up or it will have to become like North Korea. If it chooses the second option it won't matter where we are.

Can I post my comments on web sites without them being censored?

See the answer above. Having spent some time in the PRC getting my PhD (I know my spelling still looks like I am in form 5) I can honestly say that that I don't feel that the censorship there is as bad as it is often presented in the Western press.

Could I wear my range of t-shirts that have all sorts of vaguely political slogans on them?

Have you seen what they wear in China? My guess is as long as it is English you could probably do it now.

Can I openly ask my neighbors about what happened in Beijing in 1989, and why their kids have no idea about it?

I have done this with a table full of academics in Wuhan. What you cannot do is have such questions appear in the local newspaper.

Will the customs officers confiscate my bibles and all the magazines I bring in with me?

There won't be any customs offers at the Shenzhen check point to take them. One of the reasons the peopleand government of Shenzhen would like this is it makes them more free.

Can I ask why the mainland Olympic medalists are forced as a group to go to Hong Kong to perform in an embarrassing dog and pony show?

I doubt you could print it in a paper but you could probably ask. You might be surprised at how many people there agreed with you and how many didn't understand the question. But what does this have to do with the question at hand?

Can I trust my building management and security guards?

Can you trust them here? The home owners association in the building I live in looks to be run by triads, I don't think it would be worse there.

Hong Kong has many faults, but I wouldn't want to live in Shenzhen.

Less, crowded, less expensive, clean, well planned streets, better grocery stores lovely parks, bigger apartments are answers that come to mind. Besides, nobody is saying you'd have to. An arrangement like this would simply give you the ability to move there if you wanted to.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who might live in Shenzhen if the border was removed

1 comment:

Paul said...

I'm very late in getting back on this but you wrote ..

It would simply mean removing the checkpoints at the four crossing points between Hong Kong and Shenzhen

I think that it may be quite a few year before that could occur.

Realistically, you know it's not going to happen.

Hong Kong is not ready to allow unlimited access from Shenzhen.

Actually, how tight are the restrictions for mainlanders going into Shenzhen these days?