On the premise that it's always better "to jaw-jaw", in the words of Winston Churchill, than "to war-war", it's good that mainland big brothers and pan-democratic lawmakers have agreed to meet each other. And for two hours no less tomorrow!
Nothing will come out of the meeting. Pan-dems like Dennis Kwok Wing-hang of the Civic Party said they would only go if there were to be substantial discussions. But both sides understand each other perfectly already; they have spelled out their respective positions, their top and bottom lines.
The problem is not the lack of mutual understanding, but unwillingness to compromise. It's not only that no one in the room can make a deal, but that they are not even in a position to discuss the possibility of one.
Wang Guangya and Li Fei may be accorded all the official respect in Hong Kong. But they are mere functionaries, glorified policy staff and political assistants. And no pan-dems, individually or collectively, in or outside of the legislature, have the prestige of leadership to carry their unruly movement(s).
Their spiritual leaders, Martin Lee Chu-ming and Anson Chan Fang On-sang, prefer faraway meetings with American politicians to advance the cause of democracy in Hong Kong. How did they figure that?
The whole Shanghai trip is no more than a sideshow. But it has been fun to watch the pan-dems do their striptease - I won't go. I will go, but only for an exclusive meeting ... Kwok wrote in this paper that they couldn't afford to have another wasted trip like they did in 2005. Well, it will be like 2005 plus a longish, inconsequential meeting.
The pan-dem lawmakers needed the "exclusive" meeting as a cover to avoid being accused of selling out or at least looking like cheap dates like the pro-Beijingers in Legco. The reality is that both sides will be playing chicken. So there will be no real deal on offer until the very last minute.
We will see in time who blinks first or if both sides would rather have a car crash.