Monday , November 18 2019
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How celebrities should handle Hong Kong

Summary:
Tyler Cowen has offered advice, now I’ll offer my own.  You should say: “Hong Kong is and should remain a part of China. I hope the people of Hong Kong will be allowed to choose their local government officials in democratic elections.” This is better than, “I support the HK protestors”, because it’s much harder for the Chinese government to mischaracterize your views. The Chinese government feeds a biased account of Hong Kong to its citizens. They are being told that the protestors are terrorists who are trying to achieve independence for Hong Kong at the instigation of foreign powers like the US.  Who would support that? Of course the official Chinese story is a lie, but many citizens don’t know that. (Some do, I can assure you.) My phrasing would be interpreted by Hong

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Tyler Cowen has offered advice, now I’ll offer my own.  You should say:

“Hong Kong is and should remain a part of China. I hope the people of Hong Kong will be allowed to choose their local government officials in democratic elections.”

This is better than, “I support the HK protestors”, because it’s much harder for the Chinese government to mischaracterize your views. The Chinese government feeds a biased account of Hong Kong to its citizens. They are being told that the protestors are terrorists who are trying to achieve independence for Hong Kong at the instigation of foreign powers like the US.  Who would support that?

Of course the official Chinese story is a lie, but many citizens don’t know that. (Some do, I can assure you.) My phrasing would be interpreted by Hong Kong residents as being supportive of their push for democracy, and it would not greatly offend Mainland residents who are worried about Hong Kong independence, but care very little about how the local officials are picked.

It’s possible that the Chinese government would misquote the celebrity to make them look bad, but that’s actually a bit less likely than you might assume. Many Chinese people have access to international news and the Chinese government tries to walk a fine line, distorting the news without losing all credibility. China’s government is not quite like North Korea’s, they actually care a little bit about their image. I doubt they’d completely re-write a celebrity’s comment.

I don’t expect celebrities to know any of these nuances, and hence I’d cut them some slack if they ignored my advice. Actually, I couldn’t care less what any celebrity says on any issue.


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Scott Sumner
Scott B. Sumner is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, the Director of the Program on Monetary Policy at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and an economist who teaches at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. His economics blog, The Money Illusion, popularized the idea of nominal GDP targeting, which says that the Fed should target nominal GDP—i.e., real GDP growth plus the rate of inflation—to better "induce the correct level of business investment".

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