Messages Coded in Communist Party Chinese – a Secret Language

Not much has changed in Macau, not in a year or even two years.  The only difference I see reading the region’s English language media is an increase in coded messages from mainland China and the Chinese Communist Party.  The messages hint at a different kind of future for casinos in Macau.  The casino news remains the same, revenues are on a downward trend due to the loss of VIP gamblers caught up in China’s web of political intrigue and innuendo. In February, gaming revenue fell only slightly.  But the month had one more day this year and that of course is the difference.  February’s results were the best year over year comparison in twenty-one months.  CNN apparently did not see that as good news, as the broadcaster said Macau had the worst performing economy in the world.

Macau’s casino gross gaming revenue (GGR) decreased 0.1 percent year on year, at $2.4 billion in February…. “the best monthly performance, in terms of y/y decline rate, in the last 21 months.” Asia Gaming Brief, 3-8-16

CNN has dubbed Macau’s economy “the worst performing in the world” in reference to the one-fifth contraction in gross domestic product (GDP) last year…“these are gloomy times in Macau,” as the city continues to take a beating from “China’s anti-corruption campaign and slowing growth. Macau Daily Times, 3-15-16

CNN cited the Chinese government’s anti-corruption campaign as the major cause of Macau’s problems.  That is not startling news to anyone who has been following the revenue declines.  It is certainly the proximate cause, but I suspect the root cause is to be found inside a hidden agenda.  It is a secret hidden in plain sight for those with the right dictionary.  That agenda is being released slowly in daily news items written in Communist Party Chinese.  And that is a language which very few people speak, so it must be translated into everyday Chinese or in our case into English.  For your consideration I offer the following examples from the pages of English language publications in Macau.

China´s State Council has proposed a “9+2” strategy that will create an enlarged Greater Pearl River Delta zone with coverage of Hong Kong, Macau and nine southern mainland provinces in a vision that will deepen economic, social, technological and infrastructure integration…the region covers a third of the population and one-third in economic output in China. Macau News, 3-16-16

China’s 13th five-year plan, which will be reviewed at the upcoming parliamentary session, will bring “good news” for Hong Kong and Macau.  Beijing places great emphasis on the role of Hong Kong and Macau in the comprehensive development of the People’s Republic of China.  Macau Daily Times, 3-3-16

Gaming operators urged to assume greater social responsibility; “We cannot have too many non-resident workers taking locals’ jobs,” José Coutinho told reporters. Annie Lao, Macau Business Daily, 3-10-16

What exactly is a “9+2 strategy”, the “good news” in the 13th five-year plan and “greater social responsibility?”  The phrases may translate easily, but the Communist Party Chinese meaning remains obscured.  However, those stories do have a common theme; China is taking more control of Macau.  The government of China and the Communist Party have an agenda for the city and its casinos.  China is pushing to make Macau an international tourist destination.  It is using the license renewal process and table game allotments to force investment in more tourism amenities by casino operators.  At the same time, China is pulling Macau in closer to the mainland and fully integrating the two economies; “One country, two systems” is a slogan rarely heard these days.  And finally, China is committed to workers’ rights.  Outsiders sometimes forget that China is first and foremost a workers’ state, it is the Chinese People’s Republic.  The experiments with a quasi-capitalistic economy do not change that.

In Macau, the old economic model is going to slip away and be replaced by a new one; A few VIP high rolling VIP gamblers will be replaced by a multitude of tourists.  For the casino operators that will not mean more profit.  I suspect that all of the foreign operators will struggle with the debt they assumed when building mega-resorts.  Those resorts were built based on the old economic model, which included the VIP gamblers from China.  Those VIPs are gone and will never return and the new tourists will not spend enough money to justify the billions of dollars of investment.  However, the Chinese government is not interested in the profits of foreign companies.  It is interested in the future of China and a Macau filled with casinos owned by outsiders might not fit into that future. But, it will take seven or eight years before the meaning of the messages coded in Communist Party Chinese are fully understood.  In the meantime, the casinos will strive to find a way out of the graveyard of VIP gambling.


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