Wheels of fortune for mainland bureaucrats
with Alex Lo
Hong Kong may be gloating over its success as the world's top raiser of IPO funds, amounting to HK$440 billion in 2010. But that kind of money is peanuts on the mainland.
It would not even be enough to keep our senior comrades comfy in their luxury sedans.
The nation has more than five million official cars ferrying senior officials on important business trips - no personal errands, without a doubt - and they are clogging up major traffic arteries, especially in the capital. It is obviously asking too much for an official VIP to walk from one ministry to another across Tiananmen Square.
The Chinese Academy of Governance estimated it costs at least 400 billion yuan (HK$471 billion) a year to maintain the fleet, with each vehicle costing 60,000 to 80,000 yuan a year for fuel, maintenance and salary for chauffeurs. Audi 6s or Audi 6As are now de rigueur for any self-respecting bureaucrat.
Even county and township officials are demanding their own sedans, although they are not entitled to by regulations. Still, quite a few humbler ones are satisfied with a non-Audi, so long as they are of a European make.
Now we know who are really buying all those luxury vehicle brands on the mainland. Only a truly rising world power with the wealth to boast its new-found status can afford to waste its citizens' hard-earned money for face and prestige.
So that's what the rise of China amounts to.