Tag Archives: elections

Hong Kong Voters Adjust To The New Order

The Legislative Council complex in Hong Kong. Photo credit: Hong Kong government

THE OUTCOME OF the elections to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (Legco) was the sweeping victory for pro-Beijing candidates expected, given the vote was conducted under new rules that effectively barred opposition candidates.

The election had been delayed by a year, purportedly on Covid-19-related public health grounds, but it gave the government the time to restructure the elections to provide an iron-clad pro-Beijing majority.

Total Legco seats increased to 90 from 70, but the number directly elected by voters was reduced to 20 from 35, so to barely one-fifth from one-half. Forty seats are filled by a pro-Beijing and pro-business electoral college drawn from the city’s establishment. Trade and profession-based functional business constituencies elect the remaining 35. Candidates are vetted for their loyalty to Beijing (‘patriotism’).

It was also made illegal to incite people not to vote or cast an invalid vote, punishable by a three-year jail sentence.

Voter intuition was largely to stay away from the polls. Turnout was a record low, 30.2%, down from 58.3% in 2016.

Before the elections, chief executive Carrie Lam said the expected low turnout would signify Hong Kongers’ satisfaction with the government as they had no reason to register protest votes, implicitly suggesting that authorities think of voting as a confrontational act.

Many, likely, most Hong Kongers do not share that view but are resigned to the city’s new political order rather than mobilising to push back against it. If the elections confirm one thing, it is that organised opposition to the government has been broken.

1 Comment

Filed under Hong Kong

U.S. Elections Mean Little Change For Sino-American Relations

Our first take on the effect of the U.S. mid-term election results on Sino-American elections is that not a great deal will change. We don’t think the anti-China rhetoric audible in the campaigns will be toned down much for as long as job-creation is a central issue in U.S. politics, while all the bilateral issues will continue as were. The central election issues were domestic — deficits, taxes and jobs — not ones of foreign policy, and the linkages between the two were lost in the name-calling over outsourcing of jobs. Our man in New York spotted several campaign posters on his travels attacking candidates for shipping jobs specifically to China.

Such economic populism won’t abate. If anything, we expect the response of the Obama administration to the shellacking the Democrats have taken in the House of Representatives will be to sound more not less populist on economic issues and to support that by replacing some of his Wall Street economic advisors with Main Streeters. This only becomes a worry if protectionist rhetoric turns into a lessening U.S. commitment to free trade. We don’t think that will happen. Obama  does not need to make similar PR concessions on foreign policy. For one, unlike with domestic issues such as healthcare and tax cuts, there are few foreign-policy issues on which Republicans are united and take a different line from the president.

A post-script

Reading the always estimable China Law Blog today we were struck by the title of a book Steve Dickinson mentioned, “Why Is Our Life So Hard? Why Is Our Income So Low? Why Are Our Prices so High? Why Do Our Businesses Struggle So Hard?”. It is written by Larry H.P Lang, Professor of Finance at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and it is about China. Given that the exit polling in the U.S. midterms suggest American voters not so much rejected the Obama administration’s policies as expressed their anger and frustration at the slow pace of economic recovery, the same title could serve equally well for a book on the current mood of America.

Leave a comment

Filed under China-U.S.