Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Dry Rot in Macau

By Chip Tsao | published Jul 02, 2009

As America’s global empire declines, China is wasting no time in pulling one over on them in the tiny battleground of Macau. Squaring off against a string of luxurious Las Vegas casino operators, Beijing has proven itself to have the upper hand in this, the first battle between the two superpowers in the 21st century.

The big Vegas casinos are now all reminiscent of beached whale carcasses washed ashore, as Beijing turns off the tap on gambling revenues by restricting the flow of tourist visas from the mainland. Rumor has it that a few of the Las Vegas tycoons have violated a number of taboos and unspoken rules, too. At first they landed in Macau with a burst of energy, slipping a mickey to the greedy, stupid Chinamen—especially the bribe-prone government officials whose gambling craze runs deep in their blood as everyone in the world knows. Arrogant businessmen boasted about how quickly they were going to make lucrative profits thanks to China’s widespread corruption, which saw their share prices shoot up on the New York exchange. This cut far too near to the bone. Even Ali Baba would have tread carefully and whispered “open sesame” discreetly—if you have the good luck of getting into the treasure cave, do it with a low profile so you don’t alarm the 40 thieves.

Then came the Sichuan earthquake in May last year. It doesn’t take an imperial decree from the Forbidden City to know that you need to show a bit of sympathy for the 10,000+ deaths in the disaster with a well-proportioned tax contribution to the host country. Just pretend to shed a few crocodile tears to keep the Chinese happy. But many of the casinos donated only a small and insulting token sum. The Las Vegas tycoons were apparently too cynical to presume that a major goodwill show would look as convincing as having Frank Sinatra sing at a charity ball for the People’s Liberation Army soldiers killed in the Korean War.

So what’s going to happen? Perhaps the Chinese are just patiently waiting to buy out all the casinos on the cheap when the Las Vegas gang can’t staunch the bleeding anymore and decide to pull out of Macau. When that happens, who knows, maybe the MGM lobby might be lit up like a San Francisco Chinese restaurant in red lanterns and golden dragons—perhaps a Bruce Lee statue in the center? Maybe the gondolas will be replaced with fishing junks and the canals filled with cigarette butts? Or maybe we should write to President Obama, urging him to apologize to China for this evil legacy left behind from George Bush’s era—he owes just as much an apology for corrupting Chinese minds as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thinks he owes Iran.

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