You can read this blog post at SCMP.COM
I’m not sure David Y Zhu entirely deserved some of the more extreme epithets I have seen directed his way on social media over the last week or so.
If you have not read his widely-circulated blog post, Zhu is a 20-something Canadian-raised ethnic Chinese who works in finance and after two years living in Hong Kong recently decided to up and leave for Beijing. By his own admission, living it up under the bright lights of Lan Kwai Fong – night after night of standing on tables “feeling like I’m with the most important people in the entire world” – had left him tired and spent.
Zhu’s reflections seem to have jarred with a lot of people – in my own immediate social circles, at any rate. Good riddance – I’m summarising – to yet another parasitical banker type who embodies the crude excess and presumption of this city’s casino capitalists at play but knows no other side of it. In his defence, he has grasped the un-reality of life in Central much earlier than many of his peers and even hints at the end of his post at doing something more worthwhile with his life (although not yet – he’s leaving banking for private equity first).
Okay, so that’s the case for the defence out the way. Zhu is patently a very smart young man – and yet, and yet, he exhibits a galling absence of self-awareness. Denouncing Hong Kong’s lack of social mobility, he will not, he remarks, miss “gazing upwards to tycoons who will always be tycoons, and dancing alongside white-collars who will always be white-collars.” What the f*** is he talking about? Well, setting aside the question of the precise angle at which he expects to be gazing on tycoons in Beijing, let’s be clear that yes, in Zhu’s world it is he whom the Gods of social immobility have grounded, beached, thwarted.
As someone with “conversational Cantonese”, having grown up in Vancouver, it is quite conceivable that Zhu’s forebears knew what it was to be poor and immigrants. If so, it seems to me that their scion (St George’s School for Boys; Columbia University) has not been urged to reflect on it. It also seems to me that if there is a class of people who do not need help in becoming tycoons, Zhu very much belongs to it. Upper Ten Thousand? I wouldn’t doubt it.
In a world that is growing progressively less equal, social mobility – in that pure sense of people from ordinary backgrounds accessing the more lucrative professions – has crashed. If your entire life has been an exercise in chasing prestige, gaming the education system, networking events and nepotism, you may view the whole equation rather differently. You may well simply consider your own position in life to be fully merited – just never let it be said that your fruitful career, money and privilege are due to anything other than your own individual brilliance.
I did intend to look out a quote from Mao Zedong to carry this theme – you know, just for the mischief. But here instead is what Rod Liddle, a writer from England – where almost everyone who is anyone in public life nowadays was privately educated – had to say in his book Selfish, Whining Monkeys, last year: “My own maxim is never to trust someone who has been to a [private] school, even if they are terribly nice – perhaps especially if they are terribly nice. Always keep your eyes open and your hand on your wallet. There is a class war, and they are the enemy.”
Words to remember next time you see bankers standing on nightclub tables.