28 April 2010


Dear TCG,

This concerns me..

What happens to Hong Kong after the year 2047? The Sino-British joint declaration says it will attain a high degree of autonomy for 50 years. What happens after that? I know it is not known what the PRC plans, but what do experts speculate? Is HK doomed to fall into the hands of totalitarianism?

Kevin B

Dear Kevin

Nobody knows, there are still 37 years left and I'll be an old man by then. But 37 years in world politics is a very very long time.

The 50 year S.A.R system has been set up in such a manner that allows the rest of the PRC to catch up in terms of living standards, and thus come 2047 when true reunification occurs ( and Mainland China is still a foreign country), in that some predict that the breakneck speed that the Chinese economy is growing and the increase in living standards means that HK the living standards will be comparable in both the PRC and Hong Kong. Considering living standards in HK are pretty crap anyway unless you are uber rich I am not rich.

Curiously Deng Xiao Ping before his death in 1997 wanted the S.A.R arrangement to last 100 years. Therefore there is always the possibility that they could extend this by another 50 years if they find that the two countries are incompatible in 2047. Of course this may be regarded as failure and thus may not happen face issues. However they won't be stupid enough to destroy their golden goose though.

As China can learn lots from Hong Kong's capitalistic nature, still, in that back in 2007 the PRC government lost billions in buying oil futures thinking the price would go to the sky, it didn't the oil price came back down, and they paid well over the odds for lots of oil.

There has been growing Chinatisation of Hong Kong on TVB for example they never used to show the PRC national anthem first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Nor did they used to show so much propaganda, i.e. the Chinese spaceman or the Olympics, or so much television on TVB which praises the PRC government either (there have been on TVB rather a lot of Chinese cultural programmes about non Han Chinese and also massive public works projects), which is blatant and obvious. Hong Kong Chinese have been exposed to vast amounts of advertising and therefore can filter out such propaganda, if you don't watch TV for a week and watch it again you see just how obvious the propaganda is even in the UK.

There are also some more insidious things occurring in HK since 1997

Economically by 2047 there maybe not much difference, therefore the unique way of life is no longer as unique as the tricky issue is that of the legal system which is actually developed along British law with some PRC elements added into it, you can't simply change this overnight.

The ideal situation is that by 2047 China advances and starts to change their legal system to match that of Hong Kong, as going back is kind of retrograde.

The likelier situation is that they will attempt to make frog soup where they slowly turn the heat up over time so that it is almost unobservable, cases of this have existed where ICAC have started to use China law to root out corruption. Much like the UK has slowly turned into a totalitarian state!

However this all depends on a big IF, that is IF China still exists in it's current form in 2047, the USSR only lasted 72 years before finally falling apart. Peoples' Republic of China has lasted 61 years. Though they may make claims of 10,000 years (a common method in Chinese for saying forever) there are already some big cracks appearing in China, a REALLY big one occured in 1989 as we all know. Which shocked the PRC leadership as the people were willing to pay in blood to get their objectives, you cannot oppress against that forever.

Currently growth and economic freedom are acting as an activism sponge but there are constraints to this, water, electricity resources etc. More importantly there are millions of unemployed Chinese people who have nothing.

In ALL Asian economies there is a distinct lack of welfare, Seoul, Japan (unknown about Taiwan) there are shanty towns that the tourist brochures don't tell you about, on my wanderings in Seoul 2009 I found 2 massive ones I write about them in my first book. You can see some pictures here . Millions of unemployed pissed off angry young men are dangerous, the Korean touches on this here. I was actually sucked into a huge riot in Sincheon in my time in Seoul last year. But mostly the Korean states that they bitch about life on Internet forums etc which is an activism sponge.

In China there are no such activism sponges and with land seizures, and employees being cheated (companies pay employees once every 6 months but liquidate at 5.5 months) that are chipping away steadily at the things that kept social harmony and massive numbers of young people with absolutely nothing to lose, which you can't simply execute or keep in prison. That there is a high probability of civil war and fragmentation in China before 2047.

Some of the huge problems are outlined here

This is my opinion anyway.

Even North Korea is starting to show cracks in its regime (read askakorean.blogspot.com) in that there are some huge problems outlined

I would note that HK people seem to be caring a lot less over time as the numbers who protest about it are diminishing. Also an opinion I hear quite a lot is that what is the point of democracy anyway? (I actually was acosted in Beijing by somebody in a bar who gave me a long winded speech about this he was bigger than me and thus I could not escape). In that our shining examples of democracy like in the UK there is rampant corruption, nepotism and bad law made to ensure that MPs once they stand down are given lucrative positions in big companies.

Tony Blair for example sold out the UK. I mean do you really think he got all those massively well paid jobs by typing up his CV and sending it to the banks he works for? Or rather it was pay back for the betrayal of the UK people?

22 April 2010

Self delusion

Hi, I saw your blog as I was searching for the answer to this question. I have a Chinese friend who once told me about something she called "aku spirit." I don't know how to spell it, and accordingly I haven't been able to find an in-depth description of what it is. She told me it was a Chinese way of thinking, in order to deal with loss of an opportunity. For example, say you lost $20 dollars; the "aku spirit" (sp) way of thinking might include telling yourself that you spent the $20 on a nice meal and you thoroughly enjoyed it, in order to cope with losing the $20 and not worrying excessively about it.

Are you familiar with this? And if so, can you describe the correct spelling/saying?


Dear Tobias

You don't give me much to work here, but I'll try.

This has been troubling me all week, in that I know how to pronounce this in Hakka and it shares a commonness (sp) with Cantonese too. This is familiar as language as my dad castigated me throughout life using this phrase but I can't actually remember the Chinese for it. And my dad isn't much help as he speaks to me in 4 different ways switching from Mandarin, to Hakka, to Cantonese to English often in single sentences.

The first thing I thought about was the work Ak, as you said Aku ~ Ak~ Ngak? which isn't correct as means to shake, hold or grip. It sounds a bloodly lot like Ak anyway but it is wrong as its usage in verbal form sounds correct but in written form isn't. ak - shau ~ to shake hands.

Which is wrong i.e. 你 (you) (shake) 我 (me). You go to a Mahjong den and somebody cheats if you say 你 (Lee) (Ak) 我 (Knor), they will understand, but if you wrote it down they would laugh at you and correct you. The word I was looking for was 阨 (ngak) which means to deceive, this is a pain in the arse word as it is a borrowed word which actually comes from 呃. which again is (ngak) which means the same thing.

Hence initially I wrote: (ak) 自(chee)己 (kay) ~ to trick oneself. But I know this is wrong, damned similar sounding words, the word I was looking for 阨 (ak)

(ak) 自(chee)己 (kay) ~ deceive oneself.

I have no idea what the spirit bit refers to I've never heard it before there is also:

對…作出解釋;為 自己- which means to justify it to yourself which is more closer to what you were looking. I.e. I justified the spending to myself which isn't quite right again.

I've got to be doing something right now so this post may well be altered and updated shortly. However I am fairly confidence that (ak) 自(chee)己 (kay) ~ deceive oneself. Is what you are looking for my dad often said 不(bat) (ak) 自(chee)己 (kay) ~ don't lie to yourself.

Continued the spirit issue, is tricky in that again subject to interpretation but what you posted to me earlier I think attitude is the correct saying

心态 psychology (sort of) (sam lay)
态度 or attitude (tai dough)



HTH (for now anyway)

18 April 2010

Autonomous Regions in China

Dear TCG

What are China's so called "Autonomous Regions"? (Im not talking about Hong Kong, I mean Tibet, Xinjiang, Ningxia, Guangxi and Inner Mongolia) Why were they given this designation? and just how Autonomous are they?

Kevin B

Dear Kevin

That is a HUGE question, why do you guys never ask me easy questions like everybody asks the Korean?


The autonomous Regions in China are areas where the Han Chinese people are not the majority. Han make up 91.9% of Chinese population. It is a bit of a copy of the Buryat republic and the Jewish autonomous region as well as Yakutia in Siberia they are supposed to be indenpendent but in reality are not fully independent and cannot break away into a separate country the PRC government most definately would not allow them to do this.

PRC law is suprememe to all other law even in the S.A.R of Hong Kong and Macau. The very short answer is that they are allowed to make local laws that are specific to that specific region that PRC top level law does not cover, for example in the UK London has various laws that are only applicable to London and nowhere else. The Congestion charge and the right to put parking meters on bike parking bays are an example of this.

Again this is a yes no answer, in that they have some autonomy but they are still part of the the overall Chinese government, the autonomous regions can Ask to do things such as raise taxes, create security forces even trade with foreign nations independently. But they have to ask the main government of the PRC for permission first, and if they say no then they can't. They can't ask to leave or setup a completely independent state and if they do the PRC government doesn't like it

The mere fact that the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) has had to send troops to Xinjiang and Tibet says no.

Also even in Ningxia the highest ranking official who people have a limited say in voting for, is still beneath the Communist Party official.

So yes they can do certain things, such as make their own laws, but only if the top level government says yes.

So really they have some extra rights (for example they can have as many children as they want unlike Han families) but are not really very autonomous due to the manner in which anything they decide needs to be sought permission for from the top level of government.


12 April 2010


Please note TCG is going to be busy for a couple of days so delays to your questions might be delayed slightly but I'll get to them as soon as I can.

HK phones

Dear TCG

I am travelling to Hong Kong and beyond into China in the next couple of weeks, what sim card would you recommend for me to use?


Dear Alexio

What country are you from? Does your phone have a sim card? Korean and Japanese phones don't appear to use Sim cards. Your Hong Kong / China SIM Card will require a SIM-unlocked GSM 900/1800 compatible international cell phone. If you do not have your own international cell phone you can go somewhere like fortress or Broadway and buy a fairly utilitarian phone for about $100. Phones in Hong Kong are NOT locked, which is probably why the costs of the bigger better models is very high compared to the subsidised phones in the UK (I do not know about the US).

I had some funny conversations about that in Korea where everybody kept using my passport to buy phones. There are about 17 phones in South Korea that operate under my name. A funny story about this was I asked Park why S Korean phones don't use the GSM network that is universal around the world.

He said to me, well if North Korea attacks we can switch the phones off....

Oh... what so if North Korea attacks it means I can't say good bye to my friends and family (I have no family in Korea) they can just switch it off, oh wow great... Though this feature actually exists for the GSM network in that mobile phones will simply be turned off as per government edict.

Anyway I digress.

In Hong Kong I do not recommend a particular brand as almost all of them cost the same come loaded with 200-300 minutes local calls and charge about the same too for both calls inside HK and roaming as well as IDD. So if you buy a $88 sim card it will often have $88 loaded onto it.

Note HK networks charge for receiving a call $0.13.

The competition is so fierce that there is little to choose between either of them, you get peoples, smartone vodaphone (which is one of the most expensive @ $188) 3 network, CSL etc and a million other disposable ones that are $22 but can never be recharged these typically have $100 on them of credit. My dad uses these and his number changes every month or so. It is highly annoying but then my number changes each time I go to HK.

However out of all of them I would recommend CSL purely because I know for a fact that the help line instructions etc are duplicated in English 3 and Vodaphone as well as Peoples don't. Although you can always ask the person in the 7-11 to put the credit on for you if they are not stunningly busy. CSL and Peoples will however roam in China though, it will of course cost more.

As a side though there are some dodgy practices going on where your sim card number is often sold onto marketting companies who will call you on withheld or numbers you are unfamiliar with. This could just be my imagination but 5 minutes after activating my CSL card at the airport I recieved a marketting call. When I had given that telephone number to nobody, although this happened on 3 and vodaphone too.

An oddity you may experience is that the telephone display will not always show CSL as your carrier, it sometimes flips over to vodaphone sometimes 3 sometimes Orange, sometimes a mess or morass of characters this doesn't matter as they all share and share alike the cell phone masts and end up reconciling it between themselves. Though Macau of course is considered to be a completely different country for phone purposes.

For China

China Unicom is popular everywhere sim cards they sell everywhere. and you can get IDD calls for $0.16 a minute to the US and UK. IIRC there is a vendor on the China side of the Lo Wu border.

Don't buy them before you go, they will generally rip you off, as the moment you land in Beijing, HK or Macau you can go to a vending machine or a 7-11 store (everywhere) and buy them much cheaper.

In Hong Kong coverage doesn't matter except in the small villages in the NT, my dad lives in dead zone curiously.

In China in cities it is everywhere in the countryside variable much like the state of play in the US today.


11 April 2010


Dear TCG,

I am a Korean, and I guess I'm a rather nationalistic one at that, although not too crazy (in my opinion).

So, of course, I have been following the debate about the ancient Asian kingdom of Goguryeo - whether it's Korean or Chinese. I feel like there is much more evidence supporting the Korean side than the Chinese side, but how do you feel about the issue?

Thank you!


Eulji Mundeok

Dear Eulji Mundeok

I actually remember seeing an awful lot about this in the Seoul museum last year and there was a lot of mention of this in the Seoul museum. However I am most definitely not nationalistic, I'm a bit more mercenary in things. Are you a Kyopo? (an overseas born Korean) the answer to that was yes more than once.

I'll tell you a silly story, in that in S Korea the sign for hotel and Jinjilbang are the same or rather when I arrived in Sokcho I found a hotel with this sign, a bowl with 3 flames. When I arrived outside Busan fairly late on my bike trip, and couldn't be bothered to find a river or a beach to camp on I found a huge building with a similar sign to that below.

I thought hmm this is a weird hotel and found myself in the company of an incredibly large number naked Korean men. Kyopo? Asked one of the blokes next to me, erm yeah.

Anyway I digress, the controversy surrounding this is the North Eastern Project in that sometime between 1990 and 2004 the PRC government sponsored some research about the North East region north of modern day North Korea. It came to some conclusions that Goguryeo wasn't an independent autonomous state.

Rather it was part of greater China and that China is and was always a multi ethnic society, most people see China as full of Chinese, it is but you can subdivide them into minorities that are still counted as Chinese here there are probably more. In ancient times there wasn't even much disambiguation like we do today. This in addition to the fact that people did and could blend into different minorities quite easily. For example Qin Shi Huang the first emperor of unified China conquered the Han and 2250 years later in 2010 China is full of Han people.

The oddity was with the PRC's change on history was that in previous times pre 1990 it had maintained a similar view of yup Goguryeo did belong to the Koreans, but the view of Koreans is that post 1990 they began to re-write history. Japan did this too in 2005 (remember the key to re-writing history is to make sure nobody can contradict it!).

Koreans like yourself says it used to belong to you.

Which is the source of all this friction, and some people thought it was a threat, even though it was a hotly debated research paper which even some Chinese scholars did not agree with. Motivations for this are probably the noises that North and South Korea are going to be reunited

If North and South Korea unite they may lay claim to the greater Goguryeo area via might = right rule as currently the South Korean armed forces are opponents to the North Korean military, but a combined North and South Korea would make a phenomenally powerful army, so while right now if either of the Korea's demand China to give it back. China with its massive armies in a region filled with tanks and infantry anyway due to the Demansky Island / Zhenbao Island build up that nearly bought Russia and China into a massive war. The PRC government could have said MAKE ME.

I digress yet again.

The sticking point is this

Some people say that Goguryeo Kingdom belongs to Chinese heritage and others argue that it belongs to Korean heritage.

In my opinion, it is hard to say the kingdom belonged to one country modern China or modern Korea because when it existed. For starters modern China didn't even exist before 1949 with the foundation of the PRC, I'm not so sure about the modern governments of Korea but I am pretty sure the modern versions did not exist before the second world war.

Goguryeo had existed in a period where land borders were not absolute. With Islands such as Japan and even the UK this isn't clear cut either as Scotland vs England border and Hadrian's wall . Even Japan in the Sengoku Jidai period borders between kingdom states was in flux. So it is hard to say the absolute borders of ancient China and ancient Korea. And China isn't exactly a stable place between 220BC and 1949AD, as the changes of power from the Song, Jin, Ming Manchu Mongols etc etc is far too extensive to list.

But is goes a bit deeper than that too, in that there is an inter meshing of societies, much like the UK has a Scottish prime minister or James I who was a Scot and became king of England (I think). In that although 1421 by Gavin Davies is often considered a work of fiction the fictional elements mostly remark on the voyages of Zheng He 馬三寶 rather than Imperial Ming history. In that in Zheng He was sent to ask (ask is a loose term in that it may well have been under duress i.e. give or we will TAKE) was sent to the Kings of Korea to demand virgins to fill a wing of the Forbidden city. If you've been there the Forbidden city built by Zhu Di 永樂 is it massive and could have fit 100s if not 1000s of not 10,000+ concubines .Considering the life of the emperor in ancient china was to smoke opium and have sex multiple times a day with multiple partners as it was seen as something that would give longevity.

Also that Zhu Di 永樂 himself may have been half Korean since in Ancient times emperors would have lots and lots of wives and would sleep with all of them.

The bottom line

In my own opinion Goguryeo probably did belong as an independent state amongst many other independent states and was annexed slowly over time, in that even in the Seoul Museum it showed maps that showed a shrinking Korea over time. In that the Chinese had nearly 800 years to move their fences ever so slightly, everybody does it. As my dad says the Russians have stolen 10,000 Hong Kongs in the annexing of land under the power of the gun for the past 100 years.

BUT! All empires fall, it is just a matter of time, the Romans, Alexander the Great, the Mongols, France, Spain, the British all made massive empires for their times. They all declined and fell.

01 April 2010

Alternative transport to HK airport

Dear TCG

Either Hong Kong is experiencing some serious inflation problems or I've gone cheap....perhaps a combination of both. But I'm sure as hell the airport express was never $90 from Kowloon when I was here 12 months ago and the MTR fares seem to have gone up also.

I dont need to be at HK airport till 3pm so what bus or MTR combo do I use to get to the airport for less than $90? , I dunno $90 isn't exactly much considering a taxi costs $230 from Kowloon.

Any thoughts?



Dear Patrick.

The airport express is fast but bloody expensive, but it is however fast, in that I've been in HK an hour before check in closes and still made it, my friends use it to cut it even closer, using online checkins and arriving 5-10 minutes before the gate closes (HK airport has its own internal MTR system so far gates are easier to get to).

The alternatives are this:

The A21 Bus is most common it goes right into Kowloon onto Nathan Road, opposite Chungking Mansions. Remember there is no such thing as change on HK buses so get thee an Octopus card or get the correct change $33 last time I recall.

Here are some videos of the route. Get on at TST and you always get a nice view in and out.

A21 Airport Bus, Hong Kong from mifan on Vimeo.

A21 Airport Bus, Hong Kong from mifan on Vimeo.

A21 CityFlyer - Hong Kong from mifan on Vimeo.

The A21 however is crowded and often stuffed full with luggage and people, if you sit at the front also be careful to do up your seat belt, no seriously. Although seatbelt law is barely enforced in Hong Kong ($5000 penalty) the issue is when the bus goes through Mong Kok. The road is so incredibly busy that the bus driver will brake harshly regularly. To stop people going through the glass as seen at about 1.41 in this video.

They have steel bars covering the front window at head height, I've seen tons of people lose their teeth on those bars when the bus stops to avoid a crash. It is not a pretty sight.

There are also these alternative buses listed here for Kowloon and also here. Due to the nature of buses being that they have to compensate for the road traffic until at least Stone Cutters Island and the expressway/motorway thing it takes 70-90 minutes and comes 4-5 times an hour the A21 that is.

The usual route that I get and most air hostesses get which is a bonus as you can oggle them if you want. Is the S1 bus from the aiport to Tung Chung MTR station. That will cost HK$3.5. As soon as you hit the MTR station you can go practically anywhere, Central on HK island is HK$18, or MK for HK$13.5. (correct as of January 2010) from the Tung Chung MTR you can get anywhere you want. I take this as even though the A33 bus all the way to Tai Po cost $14.8 it has a very long winded route and can take upwards of 2 hours.

You want it cheaper ?

There is also an overlooked option, in that the airport has shuttle buses to the major hotels nearby. That tourists generally don't know about. In that you'll usually see signs in HK airport for shuttle buses to the Novotel or the Regal based nearby the airport just to one side of Tung Chung. Jump on the bus from the airport it will take you within 3 minutes walk of the Tung Chung MTR station. So getting into say Nathan Road will cost you $15, even cheaper and faster than the A21 bus.

On the way back you can pull the same trick, but you go into the hotel reception then come out and take the shuttle bus, but hey its a $3.5 saving. So not exactly huge, but it is almost as fast as the airport express but costs 2.5/10ths of the amount.

Note this may well have changed in the past few months as I cannot keep a constant eye on developments, for example in Macau they have 'free' shuttle buses if you've gambled a certain amount as you get stamps on a card. They check as you leave via the basement special area. But asofar as Hong Kong is concerned they don't check.