There are times, dear readers, where you simply can’t win. We’ve all been there. Why, it was only this Tuesday when we were faced with the unpleasant reality of only being able to dodge 98.5% of the taxes on our hedge fund earnings for the quarter instead of the standard 99.7%. Simply horrendous, we know. But we were hardly the worst off last week.
Imagine you’re China’s premier: Li Keqiang this week had to tell a gathering of business elites in Seoul that his country would continue obsessing over economic growth despite having insisted quite recently the target was really just more of a guideline. Bad enough, one should think. And yet shortly thereafter Xi Jinping upstaged Li – as is now the president’s well-established prerogative – by re-stating the same figure of 6.5% growth, while also hinting China could probably swing 7% if it really buckled down.
Or just try putting yourself in the weathered shoes of the hard-working folks at China’s abhorrent family planning office. Faced with the prospect of being able to intrude into Chinese families’ private lives only once they’d had two children instead of one, the office sought to delay the inevitable just a little longer by insisting the old one-child policy wasn’t over until China’s rubber-stamp legislature approves the new two-child rule next year.
Or imagine you were one of the cadres at the National Bureau of Statistics who, with a climate summit in Paris just around the corner, discovered a bookkeeping quirk had underestimated China’s coal consumption over the last 15 years by a full 17%? Do you call a press conference? Publish a statement to the bureau website’s front page? Or quietly slip the figure into the annual energy yearbook and wish very badly that no one will notice?
Go on. Take a guess.
But it’s not always for the worst, dear readers. Why, this week the People’s Bank of China published a statement in which head honcho Zhou Xiaochuan appeared to confirm a Hong Kong-Shenzhen stock linkup would launch before the year’s end. Never mind that the central quote came from a speech Zhou gave in May, before mainland markets tanked. Indeed, never mind said tanking, as mainland stock indices kept on climbing right into bull territory even after the date of Zhou’s comments was revealed.
Perhaps, dear readers, when faced only with losing options it’s best to just pick one and plow ahead—albeit with an apology at the ready. Better to act first, then, than seek permission—after all, we imagine Baidu, Sina and other tech giants wouldn’t have had half as many chances to use their apps to siphon smart phone user data or intrusively promote their other products if they’d asked regulators whether it was allowed first.