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  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 9:44am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2012, 3:36am

This is one place where you don't mention the Diaoyus


Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.

From time to time we are invited to diplomatic cocktail parties, usually to celebrate national day or the sovereign's birthday. These are usually polite convivial occasions which include diplomats, government officials, prominent nationals, and a sprinkling of local business people and minor tycoons. While generally agreeable, they don't stand out as must-go-to events.

However, there is one of these functions coming up shortly, which may be more interesting than your average diplomatic party. This is being hosted by the consul-general of Japan, Yuji Kumamaru, to celebrate the birthday of his majesty the Emperor of Japan.

It is normal at these functions for the Hong Kong government to send a senior minister or even the chief executive to attend, as Donald Tsang Yam-kuen did several years ago. Given the recent tensions between Japan and the mainland over the Diaoyu Islands or the Senkakus as Japan calls them, we thought it would be interesting to see how the Hong Kong government intends to play this. Our chief executive CY Leung appears to have sidestepped this one, and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah has drawn the short straw to make the customary government speech.

This usually starts with general pleasantries, a joke even, followed by polite praise of a recent achievement by the country in question, discussion of trade and warm words for future relations, and a toast. Will Tsang mention the island word? We couldn't help wondering if it would be considered an ''unpatriotic act'' to turn up to this. Will attendance be interpreted as support for the Japanese position? So far we are unaware of official "guidance" on this. Either way the function is likely to attract a higher level of interest than most diplomatic functions

Royal paint job

It is not often we get to meet royalty in our line of work, not even a minor royal. So you can imagine the thrill when we received an invitation from luxury real estate agents Engel & Völkers, that held out the possibility of such a meeting. But sadly, rather like those mail order advertisements that offer a special discount to the first 10 applicants, the "exclusive" interview is only being offered to "early media responses and requests". It's rather like order now while stocks last. Anyway the royal in question is no less a personage than Princess Bettina Wittgenstein, who is head of Global Corporate Communications for Engel & Völkers. The reason she is gracing our shores, we are told, is to illuminate "a celebration ceremony to paint the store front red as a symbol of the global real estate group's shift towards Asia …"

Not to be missed.

National Education?

Good to see that it's never too young to start one's political education. The website Shanghaiist has an interesting tale of a mainland kindergarten which incorporated military style games into its parent-child sports day. The children, some as young as four, according to the site, played "defend the Diaoyu Islands".

Dressed in fatigues and carrying plastic guns, the children had to find their way through a number of obstacles before planting a mainland flag on a model of the disputed island chain. Sounds great fun. This is clearly something we in Hong Kong could consider should national education ever be considered for children at kindergarten age, or indeed even older.

What about the turkey?

Today is the US Thanksgiving holiday. Although it is a US holiday, various organisations use it as an opportunity to entertain clients or even the press. The centrepiece of any Thanksgiving meal is generally roast turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

It's not normally something we celebrate, but we were nevertheless delighted to be invited by China Resources Enterprise to a thanksgiving media lunch which is actually tomorrow, but that's okay. But we were a little surprised by the food on offer. Instead of turkey we are being treated to hairy crabs.

Life in the limelight

We saw this cheery note on Twitter yesterday. "Now that UBS has put the Adoboli rogue trading scandal behind it, it can now turn its attention to preparing itself for the Libor scandal."


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This article is now closed to comments

jpinst, have we ever met? My confession today is that when I was first married my wife and I went on a tour of pyjama tour of Europe. We took two suitcases. Suitcase 1 was packed with instant noodles and suitcase 2 some clothes (but not enough). In each city we bought new tourist T Shirts so as we ate our way through the noodles we created space for dirty laundry.
FYI, Lyon Chinese restaurants close before midnight. If you are really hungry then about 5 streets along from the front of St Peters (Rome) on the left has a good restaurant, open on Sundays as well. Chinese restaurants in Holland tend to give larger portions than elsewhere in Europe. It's difficult to find a Chinese restaurant at 9:00am in Nice, but near the Avenue de Anglaise you will find a Vietnamese one that does rice. Venice is a real let down.
Is this Comments section now a Lonely Planet travel guide and Find lost friends forum?
Come on captam join in the season of goodwill and fun. Let me be the first to wish you a happy XMAS and CNY.
Thanks, a little premature perhaps, but Christmas does arrive earlier each year. I noticed certain supermarkets had Christmas puddings on sale in October. I almost bought one mistaking it for mooncake. Come to think of it, the contents of both look suspicious............ And now we have to face those bleedxxx and distorted carols blaring out of loudspeakers nonstop when all I want is another quiet bottle of wine.
@ “diplomatic cocktail parties and the customary government speeches”
Use this opportunity to create a precedent and cut out all the speeches. Most are there just for the free booze and sandwiches or merely to be seen. When it comes to the toast, stir things a little and use the title of a book published some years ago by the late Jack Edwards, “Banzai ,You Bastxxds”
Jack would have settled this dispute in ten seconds. The islands are obviously geographically part of Taiwan........................ so that makes them part of China. Game over!
A hairy crab in a Hong Kong dim sum lunch restaurant costs 20 times as much as a pound of white turkey meat in a US supermarket. One must say Mr. Winn is being treated most royally.
…and so…its a cultural issue.
They are not inviting them to "lunch." It was dubbed "thanksgiving media lunch." Roast Turkey is the stable at any American Thanksgiving meal.
Often, even Chinese in America have the customary turkey in the center of the table, surround by other dishes of Chinese food. It's all about cultural awareness, of which most mainland Chinese have none.
Could I invite a group of Chinese reporters to a Chinese New Year banquet and then serve Mexican food? I suppose I could do whatever I wanted, but it would indeed be odd to do that. I am certain my guests would complain as well - then again, that's why Chinese tourist go to Rome only to eat Chinese food day and night.


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