Would Shanghai and Beijing be as developed as Mumbai or Hong Kong if China adopted a more democratic system?

Kowloon Walled City Park MTR exit

Having traveled to all four cities, my view is that Shanghai and Beijing are probably much more developed than Mumbai.

Hong Kong is more developed than Shanghai and Beijing but the margin is slowing closing.

,MumbainMumbai might be an u201cinternational cityu201d but 42% of its residents live in slumps.

,Mumbai also has a significant number of unfinished constructions and housing - these projects stopped work - as told to me by locals - because of corruption-related overruns.

,As it currently stands, Mumbai is among the worldu2019s most polluted cities.

,Poverty is also a major social problem as the rich-poor gap is significant - it is the 10th richest city in the world but yet slump living and begging is common.

Extreme poverty and wealth co-existing and contrasting each other side by side is a key feature of Mumbai.

,More than 80% of Mumbaiu2019s population uses its public transport system so it is very stretched.

,According to the economist, Mumbai is ranked #11 in terms of Safe Cities Index for cities with population >15mm.

Beijing and Shanghai are ranked #4 and #5, respectively (https://safecities.

economist.

com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Aug-5-ENG-NEC-Safe-Cities-2019-270x210-19-screen.

pdf),ShanghaiI generally find Shanghai to be more spacious.

That being said, public transportation can also be challenging during rush hours.

,Infrastructure is much better in Shanghai than Mumbai.

The city finished 19 major infrastructure projects in 2018 while started 23 more.

,Slums are inevitable in mega cities and Shanghai is no exception.

,Air pollution is probably equally bad, if not worse than Mumbai.

,BeijingThe real comparison for Beijing is problem New Delhi rather than Mumbai.

I generally find Beijing more cultural and Shanghai more westernized.

,Slums also exits in Beijing.

,Beijing is probably as well known for bad traffic and bad air as the Forbidden City.

,Hong KongHong Kong is an interesting case.

It is called the u201cPearl of the Orientu201d and always had character - and it is this u201ccharacteru201d that made people - locals and foreigners alike - to love the city.

,One of the key features of colonial Hong Kong was the Kowloon Walled City (1898u20131994), a 2.

6 ha slum that housed 50,000 residents, and was controlled by local triads run amok with prostitution, drug abuse and gambling.

Donnie Yen and Andy Lauu2019s film u201cChasing the Dragonu201d is based on the Kowloon Walled City.

,Today, the site is turned into a historical park.

,For the longest time, Hong Kong had one of the most challenging airports to fly into - the Kai Tak Airport (1925u201388), which sits in the middle of East Kowloon, not far away from the Kowloon Walled City.

,Today, it has been replaced by the HKIA in Lantau Island.

The HKIA is one of the busiest and best airports in the world.

,Hong Kong had a subway system since 1979 - it was a relatively small 15.

6 km network that spans East Kowloon to Central.

,Today, the MTR network is over 200 km and is one of the most heavily used subway systems in the world, with over 5 million daily ridership.

,In summary, colonial Hong Kong was largely a developed city prior to the handover and continued to modernize itself since 1997.

,In contrast, neighboring Shenzhen had developed itself from a fishing village to the technology hub of China today.

Kowloon Walled City demolished

I visited KWC in 1990.

I took this 5 minute video which is annotated (needs Flash player) with interesting facts about living there.

,,,- The Walled City was a Chinese enclave surrounded by the British territory of Hong Kong.

It was virtually ungoverned.

,- The 6.

5 acres of 10-14 storey buildings was home to 33,000 people.

1 person per square metre.

,- Construction in the City was unregulated and 14 storey tower blocks were built just feet apart.

,- It was run by Triad gangs such as the 14K and Sun Yee On,- It was one of the worlds largest opium producing centres.

,- It was well known for its cheap, unlicensed doctors and dentists.

,- Criminals in Hong Kong would make a run for the Walled City as they knew the police wouldnt follow them in.

,- KWC was known for its prostitution.

,- Although the Walled City was renown for its criminal activity, most residents were not involved in any crime and lived normal lives.

,- There was constant running water everywhere I went from leaking pipes and aircons.

This was filmed on a hot, sunny day.

,- Numerous small factories and businesses thrived inside the Walled City.

The famous, top quality Hong Kong copies were manufactured here.

,- In Hong Kong it was illegal to eat cats and dogs but in KWC there were restaurants that specialised.

,- The city didnt get running water until the 1960s.

Even then it was diverted to triad run businesses so most people never got it.

,- A few of the streets were illuminated by fluorescent lights but most were too dark for me to film.

,- On upper levels there was a network of staircases and passageways which was so extensive that residents could travel north to south across the city without ever touching the ground.

,- In 1993 the Walled City was demolished and replaced by a commemorative park.

Kowloon Walled City Park map

There existed a settlement until 1993 with a population density of approx.

1,255,000 inhabitants per square kilometre.

,The Kowloon Walled CityThe Kowloon walled city was a densely populated and ungoverned settlement in Kowloon City, Hong Kong.

It was originally a Chinese military fort, surrounded by walls hence the term u2018Walledu2019.

The Treaty of Nanking ceded the control of Hong Kong from China to the British, but Kowloon remained under Chinese control for military purposes.

Upon Japanese invasion of Hong Kong during World War 2, the wall around Kowloon Walled City was demolished.

,After the defeat of Japan in World War 2, and due to the Chinese Civil War in 1945, people poured in to live in the Kowloon walled city, to take advantage of the British protection, as Walled City was a Chinese territory surrounded by British territory from all sides.

,The Chinese couldnu2019t effectively rule over the region, and the British didnu2019t care about it much as it wasnu2019t under their jurisdiction anyway.

This made the Kowloon Walled City a lawless settlement, which led to increase in the number of people residing there and became a haven for crime and drugs.

The area was virtually ruled by crime syndicates known as Triads.

Triad groups such as the 14K and Sun Yee On gained a stranglehold on the Walled Citys countless brothels, gambling parlours, and opium dens.

The Walled City had become such a haven for criminals that police would venture into it only in large groups.

,There was no planned construction, these structures were made by the people themselves and went as high as 14 floors.

Due to this, most of the buildings only received a sliver of sunlight during the day and people virtually had to live without exposure to the sunlight.

,The walled city had access to almost all the amenities, from Doctors to Salons, albeit no license was required to practice medicine.

They also somehow had set up piped water-supply to the residents.

Children played on the rooftops surrounded by wires and TV antennas.

,Although the Walled City was for many years a hotbed of criminal activity, most residents were not involved in any crime and lived peacefully within its walls.

,But over time, both the British and the Chinese governments found the City to be increasingly intolerable, despite a reduction in the reported crime rate.

The quality of life in the City, sanitary conditions in particular remained far behind the rest of Hong Kong.

The mutual decision by the two governments to tear down the Walled City was announced in 1987.

nThe government distributed some HK$2.

7 billion (US$350 million) in compensation to the estimated 33,000 residents and businesses in a plan devised by a special committee of the Hong Kong Housing Authority and the Kowloon Walled City was demolished in 1994 and converted into the Kowloon Walled City Park, which preserves some historical artifacts from the Walled City.

,Note : Fellow gamers, if the Kowloon Walled City looks familiar, you must have seen it in Call of Duty : Black Ops.

It has a campaign mission which takes place in Kowloon Walled City and it is also a multiplayer map in the game.

Kowloon City

There are several stages of arrangements for the residents inside Kowloon city.

,It was built by the Qing dynasty in 1847 as a regional administration office and consulate, mainly to deal with the British who had taken over HK Island.

,In 1898 after the treaty of Peking when the British requested a lease of Kowloon Pennisula and the New Territories, the Qing still used the Kowloon city as an embassy.

After the 6 day war, a conflict between the NT villagers fought against the British, the governor believed that it was the Qing officials that were behind the plot.

As a result, in May 1899, British soldiers sieged the Kowloon city, expelling the Qing officials and their families, staffs.

,Though in 1900, after lengthy negotiations, the British withdraw from the occupation of the city, however, the Qing did not appoint any officials to station, so the city was more or less abondoned.

,During the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945, most of the Kowloon city war was demolished.

A lot of homeless moved and occupied the city during and after the Japanese occupation.

The ROC in government had negotiated with the British to execute administration authority inside the Kowloon city in Dec 1947, but in January 1948, the British governor in HK ordered an occupation of the city, demolished some houses and arrested 2 representatives voted by the local residents.

This resulted in demonstrations in Guangzhou and protest from the ROC foreign department to the British embassy.

Nothing official was concluded but from then on, the local police (RHKP) was ordered not to entering the city limits.

It turned out the area became an anarchy.

,More immigrants entered HK after the 1949 took over of China by the CCP and as a result, more people chose to live inside the Kowloon city, making it the most dangerous place in HK, buildings without approval and safety precautions.

Drugs, prostitutes, unlicensed medical and dental practice.

For quite some time, population density was the highest in the world.

,In 1961 and 63, there were plans to clear the area in order to restore order and potential danger of fire, collapse and other castestrophies but in vain, because of objections from the PRC.

,Things finally changed in 1984 when the Sino British came to an agreement for HK to be returned.

Both sides also agreed to clear the Kowloon city as from 1987 onward.

A park would be built keeping some of the artifacts discovered.

As for the residents and households, most were relocated to a public housing project near by and some received a compensation from the government.

Kowloon Walled City inside

I visited KWC in 1990.

I took this 5 minute video which is annotated (needs Flash player) with interesting facts about living there.

,,,- The Walled City was a Chinese enclave surrounded by the British territory of Hong Kong.

It was virtually ungoverned.

,- The 6.

5 acres of 10-14 storey buildings was home to 33,000 people.

1 person per square metre.

,- Construction in the City was unregulated and 14 storey tower blocks were built just feet apart.

,- It was run by Triad gangs such as the 14K and Sun Yee On,- It was one of the worlds largest opium producing centres.

,- It was well known for its cheap, unlicensed doctors and dentists.

,- Criminals in Hong Kong would make a run for the Walled City as they knew the police wouldnt follow them in.

,- KWC was known for its prostitution.

,- Although the Walled City was renown for its criminal activity, most residents were not involved in any crime and lived normal lives.

,- There was constant running water everywhere I went from leaking pipes and aircons.

This was filmed on a hot, sunny day.

,- Numerous small factories and businesses thrived inside the Walled City.

The famous, top quality Hong Kong copies were manufactured here.

,- In Hong Kong it was illegal to eat cats and dogs but in KWC there were restaurants that specialised.

,- The city didnt get running water until the 1960s.

Even then it was diverted to triad run businesses so most people never got it.

,- A few of the streets were illuminated by fluorescent lights but most were too dark for me to film.

,- On upper levels there was a network of staircases and passageways which was so extensive that residents could travel north to south across the city without ever touching the ground.

,- In 1993 the Walled City was demolished and replaced by a commemorative park.

Kowloon Walled City tour

Kowloon Walled City (2021)

(1) Thanks for the A2A.

,(2) This is a Singaporean perspective.

,(3) The Hong Kong (HK) conundrumu2026,(4) HK, the capitalist paradise since Brit colonial times.

,(5) In the colonial era, the Brits controlled all the levers of power:,political,,economic,,social.

,Effectively a dictatorship of sorts.

,But, they did it artfully, elegantly, gracefully unlike other blustering colonizers like the French, Dutch, Germans.

,And they controlled the media, masterfully making it seem liberal and free.

,And indeed, they let Capitalism run free, because it suits their geopolitical self-interest.

,Perfidious albion.

,(6) Poverty, u201ccaged homesu201d, Kowloon Walled City, socioeconomic issues were glossed over.

,Even romanticized as the ooh-so-exotic East.

,The World of Suzie Wong,Love Is A Many Splendored Thing,Kowloon Walled City, a curiosity, a quaint cute shadowy world unto itself.

,(7) And so, HKers were molded by this harsh lived experience reality into an enterprising, resilient, hardy, street-savvy breed.

,The social cost of this was artfully kept much under the dank blanket.

,(8a) A digression hereu2026,Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) of Singapore (SG) was socialist/left-inclined in his early days.

,He made a state visit to colonial HK.

,He was suitably impressed with the freewheeling capitalism, global financial center dynamism, and the high entrepreneurship spirit.

,I donu2019t think his itinerary included immersion dalliances into economical caged homes, and the a-mazing Kowloon Walled City.

,(8b) Upon LKYu2019s return to SG, his inclination shifted right.

,This was also the Thatcherism era, when arch conservative Thatcher stridently remodeled the UK to be more competitive, which was timely for the UK.

,If East Asian heritage HK can flourish like so, so too can East Asian heritage majority SG.

,(8c) But, if LKY weaned down on welfarism, he did NOT do so for Public Housing, because it was basic and fundamental, upon which all other social, economic and political realms are foundationed on.

,No home ownership, everything else rings hollow, including nationhood.

,Public Housing also gave a psychological ballast to citizenry stakeholding, in a fledgling nation.

u201cI have a home, a tangible asset to defend, if SG is at risk.

I am not defending SG to protect the assets of the wealthy elites.

I have skin in the game.

u201dLKY in fact ratcheted up Public Housing.

,Maybe he did slip out of his hotel room in the wee hours of his HK state visit, to not embarrass his hosts, to have a look-see at the infamous u201ccaged homesu201d?,(9) HK continued stridently capitalist (neoliberal).

,The then economic pillars were,Financial Services (Global Financial Center),,Real Estate,,Logistics (e.

g.

port operations),,Manufacturing.

,HK has Rule of Law.

,China, iffy Rule by Law.

,HK is the global external-facing banker for China.

E.

g.

Chinese mega corporations seeking global funding raise IPOs via HK.

,(10) At Brit handover to China, China cultivated the tycoons in the new HK power structure.

,Shipping magnate, Tung Chee-hwa, is the archetype of that species.

,HK continued its strident capitalism.

,So, China has a contributory hand in cooking up the current HK socioeconomic hot wok.

,(11a) In popular idealized thinking, top business leaders make good political leaders.

,They donu2019t.

,Business is challenging, but straightforward in its end-objective:,financial,,the bottomline line,,profit.

,Everything converges to a convenient singularity.

You can assess any endeavor to a slick, blinding clarity Return on Investment (ROI) number.

,(11b) Politics end-objectives are abstract, in an unwieldy matrix of,economic,,social,,political outcomes.

,Payback on public investment (e.

g.

public housing) is over long-term, with many intangible factors.

,(11c) Know that it is not the goal of Business to sustain societal well-being, even if some enlightened businesses assert so.

,That is the governmentu2019s responsibility.

,The stakeholders of a company are its shareholders.

,The stakeholders of a government are its citizens.

,(11d) And so, HK was run by tycoons.

,To be fair, this was in popular global thought at that time.

Think Tony Blair, UK PM era, his transformation of the UK state machinery.

,(11e) We digress here again.

,LKY was prudent on this run-govt-as-a-biz fad.

,He was mindful of juggling the economic, social, political balls in the air, even though he had a monku2019s focus on economics.

,LKY used business leaders as political technocrats e.

g.

Dr Tony Tan, OCBC banker; Dr Richard Hu (MNC Shell regional honcho), but never as the leading, determining force.

,He always maintained a diversity of leadership:,biz,,civil servant technocrats,,military,,academia,,the professions (typically doctors, lawyers).

,(12a) We fast forward to 2019/2020 HK social unrest on socioeconomic challenges, and braying for u201cdemocratic rightsu201d.

Or, more hilariously, a return to the good olu2019 Brit colonial days when it was effectively a dictatorship (no democracy, no elections), with the Brits riding roughshod over muted HKers, who had no voice in the system.

,(12b) The key driver is socioeconomic, at the very basic, shelter, i.

e.

Housing.

More precisely, the affordability of it.

,(12c) Presumably, u201cdemocratic rightsu201d will press the u201cgeneral will of the peopleu201d to the fore, and will force the government to address teething socioeconomic issues.

,But, will it?,How is UK/US (supposedly mature democracies) democracy rights helping laypeople?,With democracy, will the power elites get even more influential and powerful, via their proxies? Look at the blatant US corporatocracy.

,Money and power are habitual dance partners, by universal human nature impulses.

,(13) As of Sep 2021, the HK government is cajoling the (private) property developers who hold the land banks, to build affordable, small-sized (box-like) housing.

,But, these are not terribly profitable for the property developers, i.

e.

incongruent to business calculus, in land scarce HK.

,(14) Beijing has warned the HK property developers to u201cplay ballu201d, for a larger societal good, as HK society is sitting on a social powderkeg.

,But, this is incongruent to business impulses.

Unnatural.

,(15) There is no HK public housing capability/capacity to fallback on, unlike SGu2019s HDB.

,And if a move is made in this direction, the HK power elites will, self-interestedly, frustrate it, democracy or no democracy.

,(16) Can the HK government appropriate land from the property developersu2019 land banks, to build public housing?,Yes, but there are practical limits to it, per the sacred principle of u201cSanctity of Property Rightsu201d, a pillar of Political Philosophy:,sanctity of life (else, life will be meaningless),,protection of property rights (else, nobody will bother to work because whatever assets you work for can be stolen or seized at whim by others),,enforcement of contracts (else, there will be no trust, so no commerce).

,Remember, HK thrives on strident freemarket capitalism.

You canu2019t mandate this and that in the freemart, or it wouldnu2019t be a freemart.

,(17) Bottomline:,Capitalism gone awryu2026,The u201cinvisible handu201d of Adam Smith.

,Know that Smith was first and foremost a moralist (1759: The Theory of Moral Sentiments), then, an economist (1776: Wealth of Nations).

,u201cDemocratic rightsu201d will do nothing for young HKers, to buy homes.

,Who are culpable for this shitstorm? Manyu2026,Colonizer Brits creating the foundation of all this, artfully neglecting socioeconomic issues, sweeping them under the rug,,HK tycoons, they did whatever because they could,,CCP, cultivating the HK power elites,,HK government, lack of spine,,current young HKers, being misled by external shit-stirrers who have no interest in their well-being,,foreign geopolitical shit-stirrers, particularly from the US/UK, and the Anglosphere, who have no interest whatsoever in the well-being of lay HKers, other than to destabilize HK/China, to slow Chinau2019s economic juggernaut.

,When everybody is in charge, nobody is in charge.

,When everyone is culpable, no one is culpable.