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  • Sep 17, 2014
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My Take
PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 2:58am

Little hope for progress without visionary politicians

As a Cantonese saying goes, rice cooked by the aunt next door is always tastier. That may be why people always think Western city-states or countries are better run than their own. Still, sometimes the aunty next door really does cook better rice. So, what are those states worth emulating?

Among social scientists, this problem is sometimes called "getting to Denmark", after a classic paper by two World Bank social scientists who pointed out Denmark has most if not all of the social, political and economic institutions a developed country can desire, making it stable, peaceful, wealthy, social-democratic, anti-discriminatory and mostly free of corruption.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the probability theorist and literary auteur, prefers Switzerland, arguing its decentralised political-social structure allows it to experiment, adapt in times of crisis and learn from past mistakes.

In Hong Kong and Shenzhen, the powers that be usually single out Singapore. There are many similarities and its "executive-led" government can only make our government salivate with envy. But there is a fundamental difference: While Singaporeans may have greater formal voting rights, Hong Kong society is thoroughly democratic. Following Singapore's example would only exacerbate the inherent conflict between our non-elected government and democratic society.

Maybe it's because my children are now completely into K-Pop and my wife has nicknamed one of our cats Gangnam Kitty. I have been studying South Korea's history and have developed great admiration for its people. It is often overlooked as one of history's great nation-building projects.

Out of the ashes of the Korean war, the South created one of the region's great economies and then fashioned one of its most vibrant democracies. My neighbour - not my aunt - will only drive Kia cars. The flat-screen in my living room is produced by LG. Samsung is starting to eat Apple for lunch in the smartphone business. Korea developed under authoritarianism, but thrives under democracy.

Out of benign British colonialism and preferential treatment by Beijing, perhaps Hong Kong too would follow that path if only we could produce a new breed of competent - dare I dream - visionary politicians.

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shouken
Don't exaggerate! I am writing this comment from my home in Shenzhen, without turning on a VPN. Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, etc., are all very small regions and states and therefore easy to upgrade economically and politically. Mainland China needs at least 3 decades more.
whymak
I am a scientist and I know how scaling leads to increasing complexity, which makes it harder to manage. Mr. Lo used Denmark as a benchmark for Hong Kong. It’s appropriate because we have only 1.5 million more people than Denmark.
Suppose doubling the population makes it 10% harder to manage, the degree of difficulty in managing China's 1.34 billion is 8.67 trillion times as that of governing Denmark.
Okay, so I am exaggerating it. Let’s use 3%. Scaling up, China is still 1,208 times harder to manage than Denmark.
Denmark government employs 120,000 compared with China's 10 million. ****www.eai.nus.edu.sg/BB493.pdf
Workforce must be likewise scaled at the 3% rate. China should have a public sector workforce about 145 million!
China’s civil service is pitifully under-staffed. With many things run from top down, China is a small government by every standard. Our government may be nowhere as good as the Danes, but you should be impressed. And I haven’t mentioned we are much poorer, and started out from a lower education, technology and economics base.
Let’s leave India out of this and mind our own business, which behooves each and every one of us to convince the subversive minded compatriots, 刁民 really, not to undermine our national construction.
wwong888
shouken - are you able to access nytimes.com from shenzhen and read about papa wen's looting???? ****
wwong888
shouken - you are great communist thinker! praise the party! your 50 cent check is in the mail for your hard work today!

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