Welcome to the brave new world of blatant self-interest

Updated: 2017-02-07 07:10

By Lau Nai-keung(HK Edition)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

The world of Donald Trump is characterized by blatant self-interest. However, Trump did not create this world, he only inherited it. The city of Hong Kong has seen this mindset in action long before Trump came to power.

Trump shocked the world by issuing the controversial executive order banning temporarily immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries. "We don't want them here," he said just before signing the order. "We want to make sure we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas."

But we saw this coming. More than a year ago, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said that, if necessary, our government might leave a United Nations convention on torture to block fake refugees from coming to Hong Kong.

Back then, local NGOs criticized Leung for alleged disregard for human rights. Today, merely a year later, the concept of human rights seems so hackneyed that we almost feel ashamed to mention it.

Welcome to the brave new world of blatant self-interest

Notwithstanding Trump's outrageous comments, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a series of record highs following his election in November, encouraged by the promise of tax cuts and simpler regulations.

Who wants these refugees? Who would not want to ditch them if they had the chance?

In Hong Kong, some argue that the city cannot be independent from China because it is not pragmatic, or it is unpatriotic and not good for business. It is as if they cannot find the right business model to make it work yet. Maybe with a lot of data and the Internet of Things, our entrepreneurs will finally develop an app to make independence work!

Yet this is no laughing matter. The changing business landscape is making once profitable business models unprofitable, and vice versa. In a world of reversed globalization and with the rise of local and fragmented markets catering to niche segments, it is very likely radical ideas will sell better than universal and high-sounding ones.

Let's take the recent APA Group incident as an example. The group is a Tokyo-based land developer and operator of 400-plus hotels. Its president, Toshio Motoya, wrote a book denying the Nanking Massacre. The hotel chain drew criticism for spreading the revisionist views of its president by placing the books in hotel guest rooms and also selling them.

Toshio Motoya's books in the hotels were brought to Chinese netizens' attention on social media. This soon caused outrage and a call for a boycott by netizens. China's tourism administration has urged tour operators to sever ties with the APA hotel chain. APA says it stands by its owner's views. It then decided to make a concession by removing the books from its hotel in Sapporo, which was to be used as a dormitory for the Asian Winter Games. The controversy is still unfolding in front of our eyes.

In the traditional marketing mindset, which sees China as a market too big not to not cater to, no president of a chain with over 400 hotels can write a book denying the Nanking Massacre happened and put it in all the guest rooms.

The new marketing mindset realizes that 400-plus hotels are not that many and they can be filled by a finite numbers of non-Chinese tourists. And by non-Chinese we should say non-mainland, because many from Hong Kong and Taiwan are now seeing APA as the hotel of choice. It is sad but true that some tourist destinations are starting to use such deterrence of mainland visitors as a selling point.

The point is, universal values were fashionable in the last couple of decades. Then they became boring. Now they are out of fashion.

Hong Kong people have always believed that ethics and profits do not mix; that's why they are decidedly amoral. When times are good, they donated to their poor cousins on the mainland; when times are less good, they elbowed their way out cursing.

(HK Edition 02/07/2017 page8)