Hong Kong is days away from legislative elections that are unlikely to alter the city’s political power balance but certain to highlight residents’ alienation from their mainland overseers.
I have an essay titled “China’s Hong Kong Dilemma” in the current issue of Bloomberg BusinessWeek in which I ponder the curious rise of Hong Kong’s “independence” movement. In fairness, to call this group a “movement” probably overstates its significance. There is zero chance China’s leaders will permit Hong Kong, which the mainland reclaimed from Britain in 1997, to break away and set itself up as some sort of separate, sovereign entity. Hong Kong relies on China for 70% of its water, most of its food and half its trade. For good measure, Beijing keeps 6,000 People’s Liberation Army troops garrisoned here.
Pro-independence leaders are a fractious and quixotic bunch–nearly all of them idealistic twenty-somethings, fresh from university. To date, their rallies have drawn crowds of no more than a few thousand. But, as with protests here two years ago, a heavy-handed response by Hong Kong’s mainland-controlled government has succeeded in transforming a loose collection of fringe dissenters into high-profile political heroes. Continue reading “In Asia’s World City, a push for “localism””
Did you miss Warcraft, the big-budget fantasy flick, when it came to your neighborhood cinema this summer? If so, you’re probably…an American.
U.S. critics trashed Warcraft even before it hit theaters (“Pricey and preposterous,” sniffed Variety). Online reviewers pelted it with Rotten Tomatoes. Despite a budget of $160 million, Warcraft grossed $47 million in North America and disappeared almost as soon as it opened.
But don’t cry for Warcraft‘s producers, Legendary Pictures. In China, Warcraft raked in $220.8 million, the third-highest gross of any movie released in mainland cinemas this year.
And now, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Warcraft has tapped the China market for even more money. The Journal says Beijing-based online video network PPTV has agreed to pay $24 million for “post-theatrical” rights to the movie — double the value of any previous online video deal for a single movie in China.
Hollywood hopes similar deals will follow. US studios have discovered success in China can give a huge boost to a film’s global box office. (Lest you doubt that, check out the chart below, which lists eight major Hollywood productions that grossed more in China than they did in North America.) But ticket sales at Chinese theaters, after booming last year, have slumped over the last three months. So American studios are scrambling to discover new revenue streams beyond the box office. Many think video-on-demand could be the China market’s next big thing. Continue reading “In China, Hollywood tries to think outside the box office”
While President Xi remains huddled with China’s top leaders in Beidaihe for the Communist Party’s summer retreat, in Beijing senior officials have begun trying to shape the agenda for next month’s G20 summit in China’s eastern city of Hangzhou. On Monday, public comments by two senior government ministers stressed that as this year’s host Xi wants to focus on the subject of global economic growth.
Vice Finance Minister Zhu Gungyao emphasized the need for the G20 to reaffirm the importance of global trade and investment and deplore protectionism: “We really do need to make sure that the people, the public, benefit from economic development and growth,” Zhu said. “If people don’t feel like they are beneficiaries of economic development, if they don’t think their lot in life is improving, that’s when they start getting all kinds of ideas.” (Ideas? Like voting for Donald Trump, perhaps? Or withdrawing from the European Union?)
Meanwhile, China’s Vice Foreign Minister, Li Baodong, said leaders at the Sept 4-5 meeting shouldn’t get sidetracked by issues unrelated to economics–for example, competing sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. “The G-20 summit in Hangzhou is about the economy,” he said. “The consensus is to focus on economic development and not be distracted by other parties.”
Sticking to economics is usually a safe bet at global gatherings. But this year, it might actually court discord. After all, growth isn’t necessarily a subject that plays to China’s strengths these days. Continue reading “Xi’s Hangzhou agenda”
China’s leaders often are portrayed in West as all-powerful dictators. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard American business executives assert that the secret of China’s rapid economic development is the ability of its communist overseers to steamroll domestic dissent. And yet the outcome of anti-nuclear protests this week in Lianyungang, a coastal city about 300 miles north of Shanghai, suggests the reality is a lot more complicated. Continue reading “Nuclear power vs people power”
When Uber Technology chief executive Travis Kalanick announced earlier this week that Uber will sell its China operations to arch-rival Didi Chuxing Technology Co he joined a long line of global tech titans forced to retreat from China.
Yahoo surrendered China operations to Alibaba in 2005. EBay withdrew from China in 2006. Facebook and Twitter have been banned since 2009. Google shut down its China search engine in 2010. Instagram and Snapchat have been blocked since 2014.
Uber’s exit provides the starkest evidence to date that China—the world’s second largest economy and No 1 market for ride-hailing— is off-limits to non-Chinese technology firms. Continue reading “Barbarians shown the gate”