Opinion

The Great Debate

from Breakingviews:

China’s Hong Kong experiment faces biggest trial

By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

China’s experiment with Hong Kong is facing its biggest trial. The former British colony has mostly thrived in the 17 years since it was handed back to the People’s Republic. But a planned “Occupy Central” democracy protest is about to test Hong Kong’s openness – and China’s patience.

Hong Kong has defied the gloomy predictions of its demise that greeted the 1997 handover. Despite competition from Singapore and Shanghai, it has become a stronger financial and commercial centre. The authorities in Beijing have mostly respected Hong Kong’s special status, which former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping summarised as “one country, two systems”. Many citizens who decamped to Canada or Australia before 1997 have returned.

Yet tensions are rising. Economic success has brought inequality, while ultra-low interest rates – the result of Hong Kong’s currency peg to the U.S. dollar – have pushed up property prices. The cost of the average apartment has doubled in five years. Regulatory demands that buyers put down a large lump sum before qualifying for a mortgage have made owning a home an even more remote prospect for many citizens.

Lots of large cities suffer from similar problems. In Hong Kong’s case, however, the outlet is rising anger at mainland Chinese who cross the border to spend their new wealth on property and luxury goods.

Mickey’s Magic needed for Disneyland Shanghai

WeiGucrop.jpg– Wei Gu is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are her own —

China has finally given a green light for Disneyland to build a theme park in Shanghai. Negotiations that started when Bill Clinton was in the White House have concluded just before President Barack Obama is due to visit. The approval looks like a coup for Walt Disney Co, but it will take all of Mickey’s magic to prevent the park from becoming another government-financed loss maker.

Disney’s last theme park in the region was anything but a hit. Hong Kong Disneyland was created in 2005 in an effort to boost employment in the epidemic-stricken region, but attendance numbers have fallen short of target. This hits the Hong Kong government harder than Disney, because the former not only took an initial 57 percent equity stake in the venture, but also spent $1.75 billion building related infrastructure like a metro line and ferry piers.

  •