Generation 40s – 四十世代

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Hong Kong’s education system should teach children how to be diplomats

CommentInsight & Opinion


Kelly Yang says soft skills such as empathy and tact are essential for children’s post-automation employment, as well as for teaching them how they (and their countries) should work together

I recently had to speak on the state of Hong Kong education to a group of Year 13s. I was dreading it, because, where do I start? I’ve been teaching in Hong Kong for the past 12 years – and the one thing every student needs is more empathy.

In an increasingly hostile world, it is the most important skill we can give kids. Empathy is the ability to look at something from another person’s perspective before opening one’s mouth (or Gmail) and ranting. It’s the ability to deal with people in a sensitive way, and it’s lacking the world over, especially in Hong Kong.

At its heart, diplomacy is about listening before reacting and knowing how to control your impulses. A lot of people equate anger with power (just look at the US election). In debating, we often talk about delivering powerful rebuttals. But real life is rarely about slamming the opponent. It’s about compromise, teamwork and the ability to get along with others.

People come in many shapes, sizes, colours and from all walks of life, which is why, for schools to teach empathy well, they need diversity. Diversity is the foundation of diplomacy, because if you never interact with people different from you, how will you know how to interact with them tactfully?

My greatest worry for Hong Kong schools is that they can’t teach diplomacy because, fundamentally, they are not diverse. This is a problem with international and local schools alike.

There are few opportunities for the two circles to mix, which is a tragedy. Not only does it make education boring, it fails to produce future leaders. The world is fraught with conflict. There’s less demand and opportunity for people who can sit at a desk all day and do paperwork. They are being replaced by machines.

Jobs of the future will involve soft skills, such as creative arts and communications, specifically the ability to resolve problems sensitively, productively and tactfully.

Quite frankly, future peace depends on whether our children acquire this skill. For that, a few things need to change. International schools need to have more financial aid programmes to let in kids from different walks of life; local schools need to switch from Cantonese to English as the main language of instruction so non-Chinese and non-Cantonese have access; children need to attend clubs, activities and programmes that bring them together from different schools. And all schools need to invest more in teaching emotional intelligence, like empathy, resilience, grit and diplomacy.

If we want Hong Kong to remain a global city, we need to reframe how we see education.

Kelly Yang is the founder of the Kelly Yang Project, an after-school centre for writing and debating. Her latest children’s novel, Front Desk, is due out next May.



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Beijing’s cruel eviction of its migrant workers is a stain on China’s urbanisation drive

CommentInsight & Opinion

Audrey Jiajia Li says the rural masses who go to the cities in search of a better life do not deserve to be treated as disposable labour, particularly given their contribution to China’s development


The popular Chinese comedian Guo Degang tells this joke: a millionaire once claimed that while he couldn’t care for all the poor in the world, he would never turn a blind eye to people suffering from poverty in his neighbourhood. Later, he evicted them all from his neighbourhood and, sure enough, there have been no poor people there ever since.

In her 2012 science fiction story Folding Beijing, Chinese writer Hao Jingfang imagined a future Beijing divided into three spaces, where residents of different social classes share the same area in a 48-hour cycle: at the top, the ruling class of 5 million people occupy the space for 24 hours, after which the Earth’s surface would turn, moving residents of the second, then the third class up, and those 25 million middle-class people and 50 million low-class people would have the city for 16 and 8 hours respectively.

It’s hard for those of us who are comedy and science fiction lovers to believe that these stories would one day come close to reality.

Recently in Beijing, a fire broke out in a building crammed full of migrant workers, killing 19. The municipal authorities soon ordered citywide safety checks, in the process of which apartments identified as not meeting certain standards were targeted for immediate demolition. Tenants were given just a few days’ – in some cases, just hours’ – notice to pack up and vacate their home, or their water and electricity would be cut off. Many were chased away in the freezing Beijing winter.

A new expression – “low-end population” – went viral on social media. It was initially thought to be some kind of satire made up by internet users. That was before some seemingly official documents calling for action to “avoid the massive influx of the low-end population” and demanding “tight control of the low-end population” were revealed.

After four decades of development, China is well along the path of urbanisation. In 1978, at the beginning of Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms, the number of urban residents accounted for only 16 per cent of the nation’s total population. In 2012, for the first time in history, people living in Chinese cities outnumbered those in the countryside, with the urbanisation ratio surpassing 50 per cent. This grew to 57.3 per cent in 2016.

The number of urban dwellers has grown from 170 million to 793 million over the past 40 years.

Urbanisation remains the most durable engine driving the economy, providing the biggest potential for the country to expand its domestic consumption. It boosts demand, from concrete and steel to daily goods such as food, household items and automobiles, and has led to a surge in public services and infrastructure projects.

Rural residents leave for the cities to seek a better life, given the widening income gap between the cities and the countryside. Income inequality is high in China. For over a decade, the Gini coefficient that measures such inequality has remained at a high 0.46, despite the rapid economic growth and the rise of average living standards.

Thanks to the country’s hukou residential permit system, those born in the rural areas are disadvantaged when compared with those born in cities. When a farmer’s yearly income can’t buy him a fancy iPhone, while Wang Sicong, the son of China’s richest man, could buy eight iPhone7s for his dog, going to the urban areas appears to be the best option.

Most of the country’s second-generation migrant workers were born in the 1980s and 1990s. Without farming experience and eager to be part of the city, they strive not only to make a living, but also to be accepted by the society they live in. They want a fairer, more decent and more respectful lifestyle than that of their countryside parents.

At the same time, migrant workers have contributed significantly to cities’ development, especially in the past 10 years as the e-commerce industry flourished. The on-demand service industry, like food delivery, ride-hailing and online shopping, hire a sizeable number of migrant workers because they are hardworking and poorly compensated. Sadly, as a workforce, they are not only treated as cheap but are apparently also disposable.

This is not the first time the capital city has driven away migrant workers and “low end” small businesses in the name of eliminating safety hazards. There have been waves of such evictions. In the 1990s, the target was the Wenzhou vendors and small business owners; around 2010, it was the “ant tribes” – low-income young workers sharing tiny living spaces in dark and humid basements.

It is winter time in the northern hemisphere. While life for those at the bottom is harsh all over the world, their treatment at this time of year varies. In the UK, survivors of a recent deadly blaze in London were rehoused, regardless of whether they were locals. In France, from November to March each year, landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants and the government must compensate them for any possible losses. In North America, there are shelters to help the homeless cope with the severe weather.

A couple leave with their belongings after they were required to move out due to a citywide crackdown on unsafe buildings, in Xinjiancun, Daxing district, in Beijing, on November 25. We can only hope that such tactics will not be used in Beijing’s implementation of an earlier plan to cut 15 per cent of the downtown population in two years. Photo: Reuters

We can only hope that Beijing’s action last week was not an indication of the tactics authorities will employ to implement an earlier plan to cut 15 per cent of the downtown population in two years, which would amount to a reduction of about two million people.

As a society urbanises, its “hardware” and “software” should both improve. Manual workers should be respected and cherished, not repaid with arrogance, discrimination and humiliation. The cruellest urbanisation is one coloured by social Darwinism: driving people out when, in the eyes of policymakers, they are no longer needed and have become a burden.

Audrey Jiajia Li is the 2017 Elizabeth Neuffer fellow with the International Women’s Media Foundation. She is currently in residence at the MIT Centre for International Studies

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補選評析:兩個選區 兩種結果










選舉結果 泛民有悲有喜





東華選區:屢敗屢戰 有志者事竟成















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Another global financial crisis is imminent, and here are four reasons why

CommentInsight & Opinion
Niall Ferguson says that, based on the similarity between present conditions and those before the 2008 Great Recession, there is reason to believe another global slowdown is on the way

In June 2006, I observed that interest rate increases by the US Federal Reserve would sooner or later effect heavily indebted American households. In November 2006, I argued that the developed world might end up in the same mess as Japan since the 1990s, fending off deflation with monetary and fiscal expedients and stagnating.

Two months later, I found it “perfectly possible to imagine a liquidity crisis too big for the monetary authorities to handle alone … Governments would need to step in.” By autumn 2007, I argued that we confronted “a more toxic cocktail than many investors still want to believe”, and the crisis would be global.

In December 2007, I predicted a “great dying” of financial institutions as a “man-made disaster – the subprime mortgage crisis – works its way through the global financial system”. On August 7, 2008, I anticipated a “global tempest” that would swiftly make the term “credit crunch” an absurd understatement.

There is a lot about the present reminiscent of pre-crisis days. In all but a handful of housing markets, inflation-adjusted home prices are above where they were on the eve of the crisis. US home prices plunged a quarter between 2006 and 2012. They have recovered and added some on top. New York condos are 19 per cent above their pre-crisis high. And real estate isn’t the best performer of 2017.

On January 1, you would have done even better to invest in emerging market equities. Another winner for the year was the “Fang” tech companies: Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google shares are up between 30 per cent and 60 per cent. The best trade of all? Bitcoin, up by a factor of seven since the year began.

Now consider the reasons to be nervous. First, the monetary policy party is closing. The Fed and the Bank of England are raising rates. The combined assets of the big four central banks – the Fed, European Central Bank, Bank of Japan and Bank of England – peak in December 2018, but the expansion rate has already started to slow. Global credit growth in aggregate is slowing.

Second, we are at a demographic inflection point. Between now and 2100, China’s working-age population is projected to shrink from 1 billion to below 600 million. Many labour markets look tight, with unemployment rates and other measures of slack leading economists to expect a surge in wages and inflation. Countries that think immigration will help matters will be disappointed as many newcomers lack the skills to easily absorb into a modern workforce. The rising dependency ratio as populations age doesn’t translate into higher saving but higher consumption, especially on health care.

The end of the 35-year bond bull market is nigh. Bonds will sell off; long-term rates will rise. The question is whether inflation will increase as much or more. If not, then real interest rates will rise, with serious implications for highly indebted entities. The Bank for International Settlements has published “early-warning indicators for stress in domestic banking systems”. Two big economies with flashing red lights are China and Canada.

Point three: a networked world – whose biggest companies are dedicated to reducing the cost of everything from shopping to searching to social networking – is a structurally deflationary world.

According to the World Bank, a range of occupations – from food processors to finance professionals – have a 50 per cent or higher probability of being “computerised”, with technology entirely or largely replacing human workers. Already, Waymo’s driverless cars are on the streets of Phoenix, Arizona.

Workers clamp pieces of pipe while drilling an oil well near Fort Stockton, Texas, on May 4. According to the International Energy Agency, the United States is presently in the midst of the greatest increase in oil output in history. Photo: Reuters

Oh, and if you debtors pin your hopes for an inflation surprise on a new Middle Eastern [17] crisis, according to the International Energy Agency, America is halfway through the biggest expansion in oil output by any country in history thanks to shale oil drillers. Even without electric cars, we would avoid a serious oil shock if Iran and Saudi Arabia went to war tomorrow.

No two financial crises are the same. But there will be a next one and, as the monetary medication begins to be withdrawn, it draws nearer.

Niall Ferguson’s new book is The Square and the Tower: Networks, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power

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Asia’s world city? Hong Kong is mediocre at best, if we’re honest

CommentInsight & Opinion
Peter Kammerer says stagnant Hong Kong, with its low liveability rankings, need only look at Melbourne to see what a real globalised city offers residents by way of living
standards and civil liberties

Hong Kong’s government has been throwing around that tired old “Asia’s world city” tag since 2001. Anyone who gets to experience what’s on offer elsewhere knows that’s not true; it may arguably have been once, but no longer. We’ve fallen so far behind on representing global standards and values that such a claim is a joke. It’s time to rebrand, with an eye on honesty.

This was brought starkly home during a recent trip to Melbourne. I worked there in the mid-1980s and found it a pleasant enough city, but not sufficiently special to make me stay longer than two years. I moved to Hong Kong and was captivated. But the longer you stay somewhere, the more comfortable and less demanding you get; and I realise I’ve become far too complacent.

Melbourne has moved ahead by leaps and bounds since I lived there, which makes me realise how little Hong Kong has changed.

There’s culture, art and sophistication in downtown Melbourne; pedestrian precincts, roadside dining, street art and performance, free inner-city trams and large areas set aside for leisure pursuits – all with pristine air to breathe. This is a place that thinks about people and puts them first.

I’m not the only one impressed. The Economist Intelligence Unit has, for the past seven years, put Melbourne at the top of its annual global liveability ranking of 140 cities (Hong Kong placed 45th in the latest, and Singapore 35th). Lifestyle magazine Monocle’s top 25 liveable cities list for 2017 has Melbourne at number five, with Tokyo at the top, Hong Kong 15th and Singapore 21st. US consulting firm Mercer’s yearly quality of living study for expatriates ranked Melbourne at 16th, with Vienna at the top and Singapore 25th. Hong Kong only managed 71st.

These studies take into account factors like rights and freedoms, social and political stability, infrastructure, food prices, rent, public transport, education and air quality. Australian, Canadian and Western European cities usually take the top spots. In Asia, Japanese cities fare best, with Hong Kong and Singapore close behind.

Given that the research is by European and North American firms, their results understandably reflect liberal Western viewpoints.

In a world of globalised business, employment and education, it’s right to expect certain standards. Rule of law, freedom of speech and expression, and a reasonable quality of living are as essential as infrastructure, to attract major firms and talented employees. A city that doesn’t offer such fundamentals is bound to lose out. Cities are expected to follow trends and make improvements.

Melbourne has done that well and it’s paying off, with a booming economy and population growth in line to make it Australia’s biggest city by 2031. Hong Kong hasn’t had such dynamism. Worse, for all the gloating of the government’s Brand Hong Kong website about the city being “anchored on the bedrock of the rule of law”, with a “fair and stable society that cherishes freedom of expression”, there are those among us who increasingly have their doubts.

Recent comments by Beijing officials, court rulings and a continued lack of genuine democracy are just the start. High poverty levels, unfair treatment of ethnic minorities and the elderly, congested traffic and bad air quality say much; there’s been little, if any, change since we started contending to be a world city.

Those denied gay marriage, bike riders told they can’t have cycle lanes in urban areas, those lamenting the lack of outdoor eateries and shopping zones free of vehicles and diesel-choked streets, make plain we’re not what we claim to be.

So let’s rebrand. The obvious choice is Asia’s Mediocre City.

Peter Kammerer is a senior writer at the Post