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The rewards of compliance

The headline you see when you click on this BBC new story is “Macau: China’s other ‘one country, two systems’ region”, but the headline on the BBC front page that takes you to the story is “HK’s model neighbour that stays loyal to China”.

The rest of the story follows that line.

We hear that Macau has the third highest per capita GDP in the world and that China “has expanded its economy phenomenally”. The government hands out cash to residents “as part of a wealth-sharing programme”. A lady called Mrs Lam – not that Mrs Lam – says of Macau’s relations with China, “We understand the boundaries quite well” and “there has been a big focus on improving the region’s economy as well as its education system”. Even the democracy activist found by the BBC says, when reference is made to the Hong Kong protests, “This dissent does not exist in Macau.”

President Xi Jinping of China is quoted as saying, “I wish to stress that the handling of [Hong Kong and Macau] affairs is strictly China’s internal matter, there is no need for any external force to dictate things to us.”

The article reads as if Mr Xi dictated it to the BBC.

18 comments to The rewards of compliance

  • The article reads as if Mr Xi dictated it to the BBC.

    Which he might well have, given the leftwing bias at the beeb. Baron Hall of Birkenhead aka Tony Hall the beeb’s Director General probably has a direct line.

    Time the beeb was ousted from the nations pockets and forced to subside on subscription and revenues generated from the back catalog (already paid for in full by prior TV license contributions).

    I bet “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum” and the other TV series cast into the outer darkness for being “politically incorrect” would soon get an airing if it could earn a desperately needed bob or two.

    Time for the beeb to learn that desperate need.

  • Itellyounothing

    Eh, make em start from scratch those TV shows have been paid for over and over. The BBC is a force for evil and should be discombobulated promptly.

  • Edward

    A hefty chunk of Macau’s wealth comes from the megacasinos established on its territory. It’s far and away the richest gambling area in the world, surpassing Las Vegas by a considerable margin.

  • Paul Marks

    The BBC article reminds me of the history of China BBC television series by Michael Wood – I am not an expert on Chinese history (so I do know if he was lying about Chinese history), but I know the work of Dr Wood.

    Michael Wood is a liar – I know that from his BBC television history of England, which was a tissue of lies. Not honest mistakes (the stuff was too blatant for that – for example claiming that the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 was the start of taxpayer support for the poor, that this was a thing of the modern world, when actually it was an effort to REDUCE the burden on the taxpayers in a system that had grown out of control, the key word is AMENDMENT, it was an effort to change, to roll back rather than extend, an existing system), deliberate efforts to deceive. “deliberate effort to deceive” is the definition of the word LIE.

    Someone like Dr Wood would be the ideal person to hire for P.R. snow job – he seems plausible and is a good television performer.

    I think that elements in the BBC (not all of – elements of it) and of the establishment generally in the West have a pro People’s Republic of China agenda – to be blunt, they have bought (the PRC has lots of money and is generous to its friends).

    Even the Economist magazine (and people around here no how much I detest that publication) draws the line against supporting the vicious dictatorship that the PRC is – but other parts of the establishment do not.

    There is also the question of laziness – it is just easier to go with official handouts and interviews, rather than do any real investigative reporting.

  • Paul Marks

    To be fair to Michael Wood his history of England television series did start with a warning.

    Dr Wood walks among abandoned cars talking of the collapse of the Roman Empire – supposedly it collapsed because of “Imperial expansion”, “greedy bankers” and “climate change” – hence Dr Wood walking among abandoned cars.

    The Roman Empire had been on the DEFENSIVE for centuries before it collapsed – “Imperial expansion” or “overreach” or whatever is bovine excrement.

    “Greedy Bankers” – the Roman Empire had no system of fractional reserve banking (“greedy”) or otherwise.

    As for man made global warming there were, of course, no internal combustion engines during the Roman Empire – so whether or not one believes in the present theory the walking among abandoned motor cars is absurd (perhaps meant to be absurd).

    Dr Wood ends the section by saying (whilst basically winking at the camera) “remind you of anything?”

    Of course what he has said remind people of the leftist talking points used about the United States at the time.

    What Dr Wood was saying was really “if you know anything about history, switch off now – this is not going to be a history series, it is going to be political propaganda in line with the contemporary “liberal” left agenda”.

    Which is fair enough – and I should have just switched off.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I had noticed the spin of that BBC article.

    At first reading (and i read it only once) it seemed like typical BBC spin: no outright lying, but fraudulent all the same. The sort of stuff that made me stop reading The Economist.

    The article reads as if Mr Xi dictated it to the BBC.

    That, I am sure, is not meant literally. Mr Xi would not be able to frame the narrative so skillfully; partly because English is not his native language, mainly because he has little if any experience in deceiving a Western audience.

    But the article does read as though Mr Xi wrote the first draft.

  • “Greedy Bankers” – the Roman Empire had no system of fractional reserve banking (“greedy”) or otherwise

    Sure, but the idea of a tax hungry state which squeezed the last drop of revenue in taxes (literally “tribute”) to maintain the defences of the crumbling edifice that was Rome would be the last message that a shill like Michael Wood would wish to deliver, hence the bullshit about “bankers” and “climate change”.

    There were environmental effects that impacted Rome, to be sure, but it was more a case of Rome being enormously lucky when it came to climate during their early regime. Towards the end they were simply less lucky.

    The same luck with climate brought also brought about disaster in the form of plagues, the Antonine Plague of 166 to 180 and the separate Plague of Cyprian from 251 to 270 probably wouldn’t have had the same impact and spread in the more typical, cooler climate of the areas under the control of Rome. Greater access and movement within the empire probably contributed to the spread of disease.

    The final death of Rome was more about Hun expansion pushing the Goths Westward. This involved neither hidden bankers, being “stabbed in the back” by Jews, nor some mythical climate disaster caused by Roman CO2 or lead smelting.

    It’s all very well attempting to put the fall of Rome into a modern context, but Micheal Wood is outright lying from start to finish in order to fulfil a modern reinterpretation that aligns with a cultural Marxist agenda. Nothing more.

  • Vinegar Joe

    Portugal gave the people of Macau Portuguese citizenship. The UK left her Hong Kong subjects high and dry. Of course, some of the elite who now run Kong Kong for the Communists do have British citizenship/residency. Carrie Lam and her family being an example. This is just one reason people in Hong Kong are pissed off.

  • Bruce

    Do they still have the Christmas services, broadcast live on TV, in MACAU?

    Caught one there a couple of decades ago. Didn’t understand a word of it, but those people in that little church could REALLY sing.

    The street food was excellent, too. Not basic Cantonese nosh, but heavily influenced by the ingredients and spices the Portuguese picked up in Africa and South America.

  • Macau is small and easy to control. Anyone in Macau wishing to protest China would get on the 45 minute hydrofoil to Hong Kong and protest there.

    That statement – that if you want to do something you go to Hong Kong – is true of everything else. When I visited Macau (some years before 1997), it was obvious that it had gambling, some forms of which were banned in Hong Kong, to give it an economic raison d’etre.

    I am not surprised that, as HK protests persisted, China decided to make tiny, sleepy Macau a Potemkin Village of “one country, two systems”. I share the OP contempt that anyone would fall for it.

  • Paul Marks

    A friend of mine tells me that some people from formally Portuguese Macau are in Venice (a city he knows well) and are running shops.

    I wonder how the “Social Credit” system treats Chinese citizens who go to Macau to gamble – or is that just for overseas people?

    John Galt – quite so Sir.

    The finances of the Empire start to get out of line with Septimius Severus – his decision to increase military wages.

    But, up to the time of Dicoletian the position is not impossible – he really throws the economy over the cliff. A massive increase in government spending (mostly on an enlarged military – with lots of Emperors), state ownership of a lot of production, tying people to the soil (as de facto serfs), imposing de facto compulsory guilds on almost every urban trade….. and on and on (even efforts at general price control – the ultimate madness).

    Rome itself, the actual city, was also a money pit – a large population who (in the madness of the late Republic) had come to expect government subsidies.

    The Church desperately tried to carry on the system – on a smaller scale (the population of Rome collapsed with the fall of the Western Empire).

    Pope Gregory “the Great” got estates far away from Rome to send food which he then distributed to the people – thus creating the idea that the Church would use tax-and-spend to finance the poor in Rome.

    This meant that Rome became famous for the poverty on the streets – indeed Whig Classical Liberals used to point at Rome, and the Papal States generally, as classic examples of bad government encouraging an idle population. Although there was also their general Protestant dislike of Roman Catholics at work in their attacks.

    A later Pope Gregory even confiscated the property of every family in the Papal States who could not prove (with documentary evidence) that their family had justly acquired their property (try proving that everything you own was “justly acquired” – it is not possible), he “needed” the money to help-the-poor and engage in cultural and scientific education and scholarship – the Gregorian calendar (created by his scholars) is named after him.

    The Papal States became know for poverty and banditry – Pope Leo XIII (the man who wrote the Encyclical of 1891) had been a governor in one of the Papal possessions in his youth – and he came to the conclusion that the rich were bandit chiefs, which may have actually been true in the area he governed. Perhaps he should have asked himself the question of WHY (IF this was the case – IF) it was the case that the rich the Papal States tended to get rich by criminal activity – rather than productively developing landed farming estates and manufacturing.

    A State (government) that denounces the dishonesty of the population – should, perhaps, have a good hard look at ITSELF.

    China is also known for these sudden confiscations of property – great businesses develop with “cutting edge” technology for the time, but then some Emperor of some dynasty has the business enterprises confiscated – and China goes into decline.

    Statism (regulations controlling prices and so on) and state ownership of manufacturing and state “redistribution” of landed property are common causes of the decline of various Chinese dynasties – because in China there was no lawful way to challenge the state.

    The same was true in the Roman Empire – iF some despot such as Diocletian wanted to steal your factory (or whatever) he could, and there was no way you could lawfully oppose that.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Extremely interesting, Paul. Thanks! 😀

  • Snorri Godhi

    Let me add my thanks to those from Julie.

    What Paul wrote about the Roman Empire, i already knew in outline from Joseph Peden.
    I did not know anything about the Papal States, though.

    Let me attempt to get a bit deeper into the causes. Paul wrote:

    Rome itself, the actual city, was also a money pit – a large population who (in the madness of the late Republic) had come to expect government subsidies.

    The reason why Rome had a large population on welfare was, as i understand, that once Rome became a de facto empire (even if still under a constitutional government), independent farmers conscripted into a war outside Italy had to sell their farms to large-estate holders. Those previously free-standing farmers would then move to Rome and live on welfare. The root cause of the fall of the Roman Republic was expanding outside Italy.

    As for China, an account that i read in Samuel Finer’s magnus opus is of a cycle of declines similar to the Roman Empire and the Papal States. Most dynasties started with low expenditures, but expenditures grew until it started to be profitable for farmers to turn brigands. Due to the increased number of brigands, expenditure on the army had to be further increased. That led to higher tax rates, and hence even more brigands.

    Eventually, a brigand band would become so powerful that it would take over a city. At that point, there was a good chance that a general would join the brigands instead of fighting for the Emperor. Sometime the Emperor would win in the following civil war, sometime he would lose. In the latter case, a new dynasty would get to power.

  • A major problem as the empire aged was how often the Roman reaction to a problem was to try to solve it by forceful state action. If, for example, there was a bread shortage, the Roman authorities would often decree a maximum price for bread and punish bakers who sought to evade it. On one occasion in Antioch, the increasingly brutal punishments caused all bakers to flee the city – and did not solve the bread shortage (‘unexpectedly’, as instapundit might say). After a long discussion of such incidents, A.V.Jones naturally writes that

    When force failed, occasionally other methods were tried.

    but as this tended to pursue other methods happened only occasionally, the empire, as it acquired problems, had a tendency to acquire more and worse problems.

  • Paul Marks

    Snorri – quite so, and thank you for the information.

    And Niall is also quite correct.

    But we must not forget the good guys.

    I would point to (for example) the Emperor Marcian got the finances of the Eastern Empire under control – not an unimportant achievement, for where government spending is out of control then the government “has to” resort to plundering which destroys the very society that the government is supposedly trying to defend.

    For his cuts in domestic spending Marcian was denounced by the mob in Constantinople – and that could have led to his death (for the Eastern Emperor lived in Constantinople – Western Emperors tended not to live in Rome by this time, due to it bad strategic location and the ease with which an enemy force could cut off food supplies to Rome).

    Marcian also refused to continue to pay the Huns tribute (subsidies – like the subsidies for the domestic mob) – and that could have led to war with the Huns – but Attila decided the West was militarily weaker and attacked them instead.

    The Emperor Theodosius the Second (the same Emperor who founded the university of Constantinople which lasted up to the 13th century) also saved the defences of Constantinople – the Emperor Constantine had been correct in seeing its strategic location (although I would say it was too far from the Danube frontiers to really be a European capital – it was always going to turn to the east) and that it could be defended from siege as it had access to TWO seas (Rome has access to no seas at all – at least not access that could not be cut off with ease), but the weakness of Constantinople was earthquakes – if earthquakes damaged the walls they had be be repaired fast (before an enemy arrived). Yes one can give the credit to his ministers – but only a good Emperor sticks with good ministers. A bad Emperor such as Honorius in the West (perhaps not bad morally – after all it was him who forbad gladiatorial fighting) kills a successful minister out of fear the general will turn on them and make themselves Emperor – by the murder of General Stilicho the Emperor essentially handed the Western Empire to the Goths on a plate. Especially as after the murder of their commander the (mostly Germanic) soldiers of the Western Army also had their wives and children murdered by the Roman mob. To keep the wives and children of the Germanic soldiers hostage would have been wicked but intelligent – to murder them was both wicked and stupid (most of the Germanic parts of the Western army went over to the Goths after this – no surprise there). However the Western army had been going down hill since the battle of the Frigid River in 394 AD – the Eastern Army and the Goths had allied to smash the Western Roman army (which was already commanded by a German – Arbogast, who killed himself to avoid capture). The increasingly German nature of the Roman Army can be dated back to Constantine – although the Eastern Empire still often recruited from Cappadocia (the large wild lands in what is now Turkey) which did not fall to the enemy till after the terrible defeat of the Battle of Manzikert of 1071 – although it became a conflict land with the Byzantines not finally being defeated there till 1176. Some of the underground churches of Cappadocia can still be seen – although some have been destroyed by the forces of Islam.

    Lastly the Emperor Anastasius spent his long reign keeping government spending under control (greatly reducing taxation) whilst, at the same time, massively improving the defences of Constantinople.

    The West had no such Emperors as Marcian and Anastasius – at least not in this time period.

    Individuals do matter – for example, how did South Dakota go from being a Progressive State to the lowest government spending (as a proportion of the economy) State in the United States?

    Two Governors in the later 1930s had a lot to do with it – whose policies of lower government spending and (thereby) lower taxes, went in the teeth of the statism of the harmful “New Deal”.

  • Paul Marks

    Roman soldiers had been allowed to marry since the time of the Emperor Septimius Severus – part of his effort to gain the support of the soldiers (as well as massively increasing their wages – without thinking where the money would come from).

    As for the families of soldiers, indeed the soldiers themselves (when not on campaign), living in the towns and cities – rather than in military bases far from the towns. That was a “reform” of Constantine – the decline of discipline over time was predictable.

    It was also Constantine who split the army into an elite army (around the Emperor) and border troops. This is presented (by brain dead historians) as modern “defence in depth” – forgetting that ancient armies moved at marching pace, it could take weeks for the elite army to get to a province that had been invaded – by which time the farms, towns and cities of that province would be ashes and dried blood.

    In theory the elite army around the Emperor and the border troops were equals – in practice equipment and so on tended to go to the army around the Emperor (with the border troop having to make do with square helmets and rubbish shields).

    In the Byzantine period there are many cases of Byzantine armies being ambushed on Byzantine territory – how could that happen?

    Easy – as the officers of the elite army did not really know the area they were marching into. When not on campaign the main army knew the area around Constantinople.

    Earlier Roman commanders who knew that the army must be kept far from the corruption of the cities, and that the best men must be on the frontiers (so that they knew the land they were defending – and had the numbers and resources to defend it) would have considered Roman and Byzantine military policy from Constantine onward to be stark-raving-mad.

    It was really political not military – the army was concentrated around the Emperor to try and prevent frontier Generals launching a coup and making themselves Emperor.

    When the Emperor Maurice ordered the army to stay on the Danube (indeed beyond the Danube – during the winter, which was a bit potty) they revolted – and he and his family were murdered (his sons murdered one at a time in front of him). And a military officer (Phocas) made himself Emperor.

    Military coups led by officers of low birth were not a problem that Western “feudal” monarchs had to worry about. The idea of hereditary rule was far stronger among the “feudal” monarchs – and soldiers (at least after the time of Charles the Bald in the ninth century) were mainly the private retainers of the landholders In many cases soldiers would be from families who had served these landholding families for centuries – and these landholding families had (in turn) served the Royal family of the “feudal” Realm for centuries. A stupid landowner did not forfeit the loyalty of his men – on the contrary they felt protective towards him (think of “Squire Trelawney” in “Treasure Island”).

    This did NOT mean that treachery was unknown in the West – of course it was known. But it was far less common than in the Roman or Byzantine worlds.

    There are ghosts of the “feudal” attitude long afterwards.

    For example in the War of 1812 the (largely American) farmers of English speaking Canada rose up to fight FOR the Crown – this was because they had sworn oaths to fight for the Crown (that was the condition they got their land on).

    It was a “feudal” attitude which the Romans and Byzantines would have smiled at (as they took the sworn word far less seriously than the “Feudal” world did).

    Even General Haig in the First World War was not too “educated” to make a moral appeal.

    In the crises of early 1918 General Haig appealed to the soldiers – “with our backs to the wall, but believing in the justice of our cause” he placed his trust in them.

    Roman or Byzantine troops would have smiled cynically – “the commander has just de facto admitted that we are losing – and that he has not got a clue what to do, let us run away, or go over to the other side!” – but the culture of the British troops of 1918 was far more “feudal”.

    Grown men, who had seen years of the horrors of warfare, wept – they were so moved by the moral appeal of their commander (in spite of all his faults). Some units fought to the last man.

    Hardly anyone (among the actual soldiers) believed that Haig was a military genius or even competent – but that did not matter (and not just because English society is one of the few in the world where to call someone “clever” is an INSULT – intelligence being seen as a sign of lack of moral fibre), their commander had admitted that the situation was desperate and had made a MORAL APPEAL to them – the “feudal” (or CHRISTIAN) reaction of the British soldiers was worthy of an old Anglo Saxon poem (or a modern one – such as the works of J.R.R. Tolkien in modern English).

  • Mr Ed

    I went to Macau for a day trip when it was still Portuguese-run and HK still British. What struck me about the place was how small it was, I remember looking west from the ‘city centre’ over the harbour and seeing a mass of trawlers tied up to the mid-point in the river where the boats stopped, and then realising that I was looking into PRC waters and the then barren hills of the PRC beyond. I walked to all the parts of Macau and up to the Chinese border gate. I saw a policeman talking on his radio, and thought ‘The PRC are listening in, and you know it’. Essentially, in Macau, you can literally see China pretty much every day, and know how big it is and how small Macau is. The sheer impotence of Portugal, then and now, as opposed to the indifference of the UK, in the face of China was obvious. Portugal having actually tried to give it over to the PRC after 1974 but Mao deciding it was more use as it was.

    The overall impression I got in Macau was, having seen 6 Europeans in total, everyone seemed to be busy working in some way (apart from pensioners playing dominoes), that no one understood Portuguese (despite 400+ years of their rule) but if you spoke English to a monoglot, they would recognise it and find someone who did speak English to interpret, and that it was just a Cantonese culture effectively untouched by the Cultural Revolution, and lightly impacted by centuries of Portuguese rule. Mandarin-speaking hawkers, looking poor and presumably coming over the border daily, were a common sight, far more than tourists.

    Macau was then noticeably poorer than Hong Kong, the pataca wasn’t quite at parity with the HK dollar, and if you paid in HK dollars, you would get change. Now the gambling industry has made it wealthy, but that is based on keeping the PRC happy.

    You can hear in the BBC’s piece a sigh that it is a shame that Hong Kong is so uppity and silly, not knowing what is good for them, as if alluding to Brexit and their alternative reality UK that is a happy part of the EU forevermore.

  • Julie near Chicago

    And, thanks for the additional history, Paul. –I don’t suppose you could pour it into bottles labelled “Drink Me” and distribute these (evenly, of course) amongst us commoners? I do assume that the contents of your brain are continuously self-replenishing.

    Please add Tincture of Niall to the elixir.

    Thank you. 😀