Were Time and Fortune wrong about Hong Kong?

Cover photo on the 18 June issue of Time Asia.
Earlier this month, Time Asia published a cover feature looking at how Hong Kong has changed during the decade since it was returned to China. One article mentioned in passing that Fortune's prediction that the handover would bring about the "death of Hong Kong" was totally mistaken.

FEER's Travellers' Tales blog notes that the 1995 article by Louis Kraar and Joe McGowan under the headline "The Death of Hong Kong," far from predicting disaster, was actually "one of the more insightful and measured pre-handover analyses."

Naturally, the Chinese media picked up on the disavowal, crowing "Time got it wrong" in headlines across the country. Journalist Han Song analyzed the reaction on his blog:

"American magazine Time admits its mistake in a 25-page feature: Hong Kong's return did not lead to its death" - this was the trendy headline printed in bold type in the major domestic news media this week. And not just as the lead story for newspapers - it even made a rare appearance on CCTV's Network News. I saw Ms. Xing Zhibin proudly report Time's acknowledgment of its mistake, and I got the sense that this was virtually a national celebration. It seemed even more celebratory than putting a rocket on the moon.

The main source for the report was the latest issue of the weekly Time (Asia edition) whose cover story contained the line, "Time's sister magazine Fortune once infamously, and incorrectly, predicted that its return to China would bring about its death. Yet Hong Kong is more alive than ever."

Actually, this single statement taken from a 25-page feature was extracted by the Chinese media and, with the key words "admits its mistake" added, was made into headlines and summaries. Chinese reporters obviously don't lack a nose for news.

However, only International Herald Leader did things a bit more professionally. That paper interviewed the team behind the Time cover, and the answer it received was the complete opposite: we absolutely do not admit any mistake.

"That is absolutely not the case," Ms. Shao, PR manager for Time's Hong Kong office, told IHL. In standard Mandarin, she gave a clear denial of the idea that Time admitted its mistakes: "Impossible."

"We have not clarified or corrected anything. We're only recognizing the facts, but we have not admitted to any errors," said [Zoher] Abdoolcarim, the author of the piece, in an email to IHL.

In my opinion, it's not really important who's right and who's wrong, or whether mistakes are acknowledged. The key point is that more and more, China cares about international commentary, particularly from western countries. And even more importantly, we are more and more confident that we can receive favorable commentary. I don't know when this self-confidence first started to stir, nor do I know what form its gradual development has taken, to the point that I'm not very confident about this self-confidence of ours.

On the other hand, Phoenix TV president and CEO Liu Changle thinks that the Time article did not go far enough in its about-face. From an interview in The Beijing News today:

The Beijing News: After ten years, looking back at the development of Hong Kong, many in the western media changed their former opinions. For example, Time recently made a public statement about this.
Liu Changle: Yes, Time recently said, "We want to apologize to Hong Kong. The weather in Hong Kong today is sunshine, with clouds." However, I think that this ought to be "sunny skies," not "sunshine, with clouds." But for them to be able to say "sunshine, with clouds," is quite a step anyway. We think that they're really something - they acknowledge the changes and can be apologetic about it.

Abdoolcarim's article is here, and includes links to other articles in the feature.

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There are currently 6 Comments for Were Time and Fortune wrong about Hong Kong?.

Comments on Were Time and Fortune wrong about Hong Kong?

I think that the FEER blog nails this on the head by saying that the FORTUNE article was not actually wrong, the headline was...

HK is doing well but being undermined by Beijing's desire to transfer HK's financial greatness and shipping facilities to Shanghai, Shenzhen and the PRD. HK simply gets "handouts" of big Chinese IPOs.

But socially, HK is going down the toilet. Lots of spitting and snot blowing these days, its horrible. The sidewalks are starting to get sticky and turn black. The air is being ruined as well.

a very thin line.

time would have been right had the CCP not removed Tung.
therefore, time had been right for almost 10 years.

the problem with the Time article was, there were so many assertions which were obviously wrong even back to 1997. but there were also a few which are still right today.

lamb kebab - out of interest, when was the last time you were in HK?

nanheyangrouchuan - The shipping services are pushed to Shezhen by the Hong Kong Tykoons themselves, through keeping prices high in their cartels. The Shenzhen facilities are largely owned by Hutchinson Whampoa, so it stays in the family. Plus the extras from HK government subsidies they can enjoy in Hong Kong. It is weird but well, thats Hong Kong with Tykoons ruling the city.

i'm sorry
i can't read English
i don't know there is a magazine called "Time"
you guys decide, i love CCTV

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