New Year's resolutions are tricky: either they're overambitious, like political promises that often come to naught, or they're too easy, making the exercise a farce. And so it seems completely reasonable that, in politics, people just stick with "feel good" messages.
You know them: it's the best time for hope, we've all worked hard, there're better but more challenging days ahead, no challenge can be greater than our determination to overcome them, and so on.
Leaders around the world have reached for these words in their new year messages, including President Xi Jinping . We've all heard them before. But this year, the Japanese prime minister's was no yawn. In fact, his promise to build a "new Japan" raised more than a few eyebrows.
Admittedly, Shinzo Abe's "New Year's Reflection" shouldn't have caused such alarm since the words themselves aren't too provocative, at least not more so than what he has said before. But taken together with his Boxing Day visit to Yasukuni Shrine, his promise of a "new Japan" is worrying.
Remember those "more challenging days ahead" that our leaders spoke of? You can bet that Abe is going to make sure Japan adds to the world's headaches.
The pledge that Japan will "play an even more proactive role than ever before for world peace and stability" sounds scary when spoken by a revisionist who can't bring himself to see "comfort women" for the sexual slavery it was.
The world should also brace itself for more tantrums from North Korea's bad-boy-leader Kim Jong-un, since he seemed very pleased with himself for the humiliation and extermination of "factionalist scum" - his uncle - last month. On New Year's Day, Kim announced that North Korea is "on a surge of strength".
Kim further befuddled the world by calling for better ties with Seoul while sounding a warning of "massive nuclear disaster" in the same message. Perhaps this is another glimpse of the talked-out challenging days ahead. This year, it seems, the upbeat optimism of renewed strength for the new year has a disturbingly threatening ring to it.
So maybe those of us in Hong Kong have reason to be grateful for the things that didn't happen. Our top concerns of 2013 remain our top concerns for 2014. Last year was uneventful in terms of having any sort of political breakthrough. Housing and electoral reform still top the agenda for this city.
By the look of things, we may now be too cynical to be underwhelmed. With the policy address coming up, we'll be sure to get our own earful of what the government resolves to accomplish this year.
In the meantime, a little advice perhaps to the people over in Tamar busying themselves with the last stretch of preparation for the address: let's not try too hard to sound upbeat this year. Let's resolve not to renew strengths, or create some sort of new Hong Kong. We have enough on our plate for 2014.
The best we can do is get down to the nuts and bolts and talk about how exactly the government plans to get us through 2014.
Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA