The Shang Dynasty, which ran from 1600 BC to 1046 BC, is the earliest Chinese rule that we know about. There were even older dynasties, but they left no record; the Shang wrote things down. A lot of what we know about the Shang people comes from "oracle bones", pieces of ox scapula or turtle shell used to predict the weather, fate in battle, or the health of the royal family. They are the earliest record of Chinese writing, and date as far back as 1200 BC.
But tomorrow, on October 1, China will turn 70. At least, Communist China will turn 70. In this modern version of Chinese history, everything that really matters has taken place since the formation of the People's Republic of China in 1949. That's when the Communists vanquished the right-wing Nationalists, who fled to Taiwan.
We'll be "celebrating" here in Hong Kong with a big pro-democracy demonstration. You may have grown a little weary or confused hearing about the months of protest that we've had in my home city. The battle boils down to this: authoritarian and increasingly fascist China is attempting to absorb and conquer free Hong Kong.
This "battle" pits free speech, free commerce and free assembly in Hong Kong against censored propaganda, bribery-laced state bureaucracy, and a total lack of personal rights in mainland China. It's a culture clash of epic proportions.
U.S. investors will soon be faced with a version of this battle. Nasdaq is cracking down on the ability of small Chinese companies to list on its market, according to an exclusive from Reuters on Sunday. The same news agency on Friday reported that U.S. President Donald Trump is considering delisting Chinese companies from U.S. stock markets. The New York Stock Exchange is looking closely at Chinese listings but hasn't yet decided what to do.
Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange had, at last count, 156 listings of Chinese companies. Chinese companies have raised US$70 billion in U.S. markets since 2000, according to Refinitiv.
So Wall Street, that bastion of capitalism, has a century-and-a-half of listings from a country that will on Tuesday celebrate seven decades of Communism with a march of missiles and goose-stepping soldiers through Tiananmen Square, applauded by stage-managed crowds.
Does that strike you as odd? Maybe it should. It is hard to reconcile the business that China does with the politics it pursues.
I cannot believe that there has been no effort whatsoever to hold China accountable for imprisoning north of 1 million Uighur citizens in concentration camps.
In a concerted effort to wipe out the culture of these Turkic people, China has destroyed mosques, imprisoned people for praying in public, forbidden Islamic finance, and commenced intensive security surveillance, aided by biometric scans it mandates. It has separated some children of those detained from their parents to retain them in "kindergarten" walled, barb-wired camps. There are reports of forced sterilizations.
It's cultural genocide - I agree with the Washington Post editorial board. Yet the world's response is silence. There was a fascinating story in The New York Times last week about just how China is keeping this discussion under wraps. So far, the only international reprimand has been a letter of "concern" written by 22 states to United Nations human rights officials. Not one of the nations would lead the letter, a highly unusual step.
Investors have a tough call to make. Should they continue to support, with their financial backing and support, an authoritarian regime carrying out such abuses? Should funds focused on their "ESG" profile of environmental, social and corporate governance screen for such behavior?
China is hardly the only authoritarian regime in the world. But thanks to its Communist system, blended with a healthy dose of outright capitalism, businesses only operate within the scope that the Communist Party will allow. Anyone can be put out of business if they don't keep the party happy, while China gives generous government subsidies to its massive empire of state-owned enterprises. And China's size makes it very attractive to investors.
Nasdaq's reason for tackling small Chinese listings is quite prosaic. Many of these companies continue to be held by a close-knit circle of friends and family of the founder. They are public only in their listing.
Outside investors should be extremely wary of taking stakes in the online pharmacy 111 Inc. (YI) , the digital-influencer incubator Ruhnn Holding (RUHN) , the after-school cram-class operator Puxin (NEW) and the pet-collar maker Dogness International (DOGZ) . Reuters identifies them all as companies with more investors from China than the United States.
The broader problem is not how much influence the bigwigs in Beijing are exerting over a company that makes dog shampoo. But the leaders in Beijing are attempting to use state-owned companies to infiltrate Hong Kong's corporate world, and exert pressure at a board level there to follow state directives, as I explained two weeks ago. The One Belt One Road initiative is tying foreign governments to infrastructure projects backed by Chinese money, and often being built by Chinese companies.
So Communist China is certainly attempting to wield greater influence abroad. Will the fight now occurring in Hong Kong expand to take in the world's capital markets, which have so far welcomed Chinese investment with open arms?