Letters to the Editor, January 13, 2013

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 January, 2013, 1:57am

Why China declined under Qing dynasty

In her stimulating article ("Reinvent HK's economic role", January 6), Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee attributed the Qing dynasty's failure to develop science and technology to an abundant labour supply.

We believe that another reason is more important in explaining why China lagged behind Europe in industrialisation. Our explanation is based upon a key difference between China and Europe in the organisation of governments.

By contrast with Europe, which comprised many small, independent states, China was a unitary centralised state governed by a huge bureaucratic system. Given the huge rents that could be extracted by the top bureaucrats of the centralised state, there was a misallocation of talent in China. The best minds spent years preparing for the civil examinations instead of starting new ventures and growing existing businesses.

Another drawback of the centralised state was that regional government officials behaved like division managers in a huge business organisation. They sought to please the emperor (or rather the officials around her or him), instead of building the local economy. The misallocation of talent and the lack of incentives of local government officials seriously impeded China's development and resulted in its decline relative to Europe.

Indeed, we can understand mainland China's successful economic reform over the last three decades as the result of addressing the two shortcomings of the centralised state. It encouraged the best minds to leave the public sector for the private sector.

Further, through fiscal decentralisation, it provided strong incentives for regional government officials to develop their local economy.

Ivan Png, professor of strategy and policy, National University of Singapore and Zhigang Tao, professor of strategy, University of Hong Kong


Unbeatable broadband service

I refer to the letter by Paul McMahon regarding upgrade to HKT's broadband service ("PCCW faces possible rude awakening", January 6).

As the premier telecom service provider in Hong Kong, HKT invests continuously to upgrade its broadband service, and in so doing strengthens Hong Kong's position as a major financial and information hub.

To meet the bandwidth demands of today, we have embarked on a massive capital investment programme to connect optical fibres directly into customers' homes and offices, enabling internet connections reaching up to 1,000Mbps for residential as well as business customers.

This investment will ensure that our customers in Hong Kong will continue to receive services that are unbeatable on a global comparison. Having made this investment we will retire older technology that has served our customers well over many decades but will not meet their future needs, whereas our fibre-based services will.

While our prices are commensurate with our investment in infrastructure and inflation, and reflect the fact that our costs are higher for customers living in less densely populated areas, they remain low by international standards for high-speed broadband services.

More importantly, our forward-looking investments will keep our Hong Kong customers at the forefront as the vast majority of consumers, even in developed markets, simply do not have access to such advanced fibre-based services.

C.K. Chan, head, group communications, PCCW


Reviewers noted lack of Asian actors

Victoria Finlay's article ("At home with The Orphan", January 6) is highly selective.

The argument over the Royal Shakespeare Company's failure to cast more than three east Asian actors in a cast of 17 for the production of its first-ever Chinese play, The Orphan of Zhao, is far from over. And the critical reception for the play has been far less positive than the article suggests. The Independent on Sunday described it as "anachronistic", especially in relation to the casting. Andrew Dickson on BBC Radio's Front Row said it suffered from a lack of east Asian actors. All the major reviews referred to the casting controversy, one going as far as to describe the "ethnicity row" as "justified". There have been objections to the casting from all over the world.

A glance at the RSC's booking website shows plenty of spare seats, calling into question the claim of "success".

What is clear from the article is that the RSC remains in denial over its archaic attitudes towards the Chinese. The issue of representation and exclusion of east Asians in Western culture is a serious one that the British East Asian Artists (BEAA) hoped the RSC's artistic director, Gregory Doran, was taking on board. However, to blame the angry response from so many on one "Britain-based Chinese actor" when there were 11 signatories to the BEAA's statement on the subject and widespread support beyond that, is most telling. The implication through juxtaposition that any of us in the BEAA called Doran a "racist" is mischievous.

We are British of Chinese heritage, not outsiders. And yet publicly funded organisations such as the RSC refuse us roles without a "Chinese connection" while white actors can play Chinese princesses and emperors as if white is the universal default for humanity. Our exclusion from our own culture is a situation we wish to see rectified. We look forward to the day the RSC and Gregory Doran abandon their entrenched position and treat us as equals.

Jennifer Lim, for British East Asian Artists, London


Devise policies to tackle ageing society

The government must address the problems associated with an ageing population in Hong Kong.

There will be many negative consequences of this trend. Officials will have to allocate more resources to help the growing elderly population, such as welfare payments and enhanced medical care.

This will leave it with less money to help young people. Having sufficient funds for all the city's needs may prove difficult for future administrations as the labour force shrinks in size. This would reduce levels of economic growth and could, in the long term, lead to recession.

Officials must devise policies that will tackle the problems I have described and they must do so as soon as possible.

Katie Choi Yuen-kiu, Tseung Kwan O


Parents could help to curb obesity

The problem of obesity and the effect it is having on children is escalating. We are seeing more obese children in Hong Kong.

It is clear that it is now time for the government to deal with it.

Childhood obesity is a problem that has not received the attention it deserves.

There is a common but dangerous misperception that an extra few pounds at a younger age does no harm.

Some parents even find chubby children more adorable and are quite happy to see their waistlines grow more than they should. But the worrying truth is that obesity can lead to life-threatening conditions like diabetes and heart disease and intervention at an early stage is important.

The statistic of one in five children being obese is not surprising in an affluent city like like Hong Kong.

A fast-food culture and a sedentary lifestyle have added to the problem.

Children are more likely to be involved in private tutorial classes and computer games than sports or other outdoor activities.

It is time that the government took action to deal with this ongoing problem.

For example, it should promote nutritious diets in schools as one way of helping children to stay fit.

However, the battle against obesity will not be complete without engaging parents at home.

They have direct responsibility for nurturing healthy eating habits and family lifestyles.

The problem has to be tackled through a community-wide effort driven by clear goals, sound policies and determination. Also, the government should promote a health campaign. Schools need to implement healthy eating policies for their pupils.

I think with the adoption of the right policies from all relevant parties this increase in childhood obesity can be reversed.

Angela Ng, Tsuen Wan


Data fraud an age-old problem

Given recent revelations about faked census data it is worth noting this is not a new phenomenon.

Lord Stamp, president of the Royal Statistical Society in the early 20th century, noted the government was keen on "amassing them".

He said, "They collect them, add them, raise them to the nth power, take the cube root and prepare wonderful diagrams. But you must never forget that every one of these figures comes in the first instance from the chowky dar [Indian village watchman], who just puts down what he damn pleases". Plus ca change.

David Ollerearnshaw, Yuen Long