TIME Business

Jeff Goldblum Is Simultaneously Hilarious and Creepy in New GE Ad

All that is missing is his maniacal laugh from Jurassic Park

Actor Jeff Goldblum strips down for an eccentric General Electric ad promoting an LED lightbulb that can be switched on and off with a smartphone app. Watch him paint a self-portrait and play piano shirtless in a hot tub in this spoof of cheesy infomercials that’s directed by comedy duo Tim & Eric (Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim). All that is missing is his maniacal laugh from Jurassic Park.

MORE: Long Live the Lightbulb

MORE: A Brief History of the Lightbulb

MORE: The Matrix‘s Agent Smith Returns…To Pitch G.E. Products

TIME Companies

L’Oreal Halts Business Travel to Hong Kong Amid Protests

Hong Kong has been embroiled in protests this week

The cosmetics company L’Oreal said Tuesday that it’s suspending all business travel to Hong Kong amid pro-democracy demonstrations that have brought the city to a standstill, in a troubling sign for the global hub of business and finance.

The company has “a ban on business travel to Hong Kong until October 6,” a spokesperson told AFP.

Hong Kong has been embroiled in protests this week as pro-democracy activists seek concessions from Beijing.

[AFP]

TIME Business

The Soda Industry’s Promises Mean Nothing

Production Inside A Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd. Plant
Empty Coca-Cola Classic cans move along a conveyor to be filled and sealed at a Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd. production facility in Melbourne, Australia, on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. Bloomberg—Getty Images

Marion Nestle is professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University.

Agreeing to decrease soda consumption by 20 percent is easy to do when demand is already falling rapidly

The recent pledge by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group to reduce calories that Americans consumd from their products by 20 percent by 2025 elicited torrents of praise from the Global Clinton Initiative, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the national press.

The real news: soda companies are at last admitting their role in obesity.

Nevertheless, the announcement caused many of us in the public health advocacy community to roll our eyes. Once again, soda companies are making promises that are likely to be fulfilled anyway, whether the companies take any action or not.

Americans have gotten the word. Sodas in anything but small amounts are not good for health.

Although Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association have funded studies that invariably find sodas innocent of health effects, the vast preponderance of research sponsored by the government or foundations clearly demonstrates otherwise.

Think of sodas as candy in liquid form. They contain astonishing amounts of sugars. A 12-ounce soda contains 10 (!) teaspoons of sugar and provides about 150 calories.

It should surprise no one that adults and children who habitually consume sugary drinks are far more likely to take in fewer nutrients, to weigh more, and to exhibit metabolic abnormalities compared to those who abstain or drink only small amounts.

And, contrary to expectation, diet sodas don’t seem to help. A widely publicized recent study suggests that artificially sweetened drinks affect intestinal bacteria in ways, as yet undetermined, that lead to metabolic abnormalities–glucose intolerance and insulin resistance. This research is largely animal-based, preliminary, and requires confirmation. But one thing about diet drinks is clear: they do not do much good in preventing obesity.

People who drink diet sodas tend to be more obese than those who do not. The use of artificial sweeteners in the United States has gone up precisely in parallel with the rise in prevalence of obesity. Is this a cause or an effect? We don’t know yet.

While scientists are trying to sort all this out, large segments of the public have gotten the message: stay away from sodas of any kind.

Since the late 1990s, U.S. per capita consumption of soft drinks has dropped by about 20 percent. If current trends continue, the soda industry should have no trouble meeting its promise of another 20 percent reduction by 2025.

Americans want healthier drinks and are switching to bottled water, sports drinks, and vitamin-fortified drinks—although not nearly at replacement levels. The soda industry has to find ways to sell more products. It also has to find ways to head off regulation. Hence: the promises.

To deal with sales shortfalls, the leading soft-drink brands, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, have expanded their marketing overseas. They have committed to invest billions to make and promote their products in Latin America as well as in the hugely populated countries of Asia and Africa where soda consumption is still very low.

From a public health standpoint, people everywhere would be healthier—perhaps a lot healthier—drinking less soda.

In California, the cities of San Francisco and Berkeley have placed soda tax initiatives on the November ballot. The American Beverage Association, the trade association for Coke, Pepsi, and the like, is funding anti-tax campaigns that involve not only television advertising and home mailings, but also creation of ostensibly grassroots (“astroturf”) community organizations, petition campaigns, and, when all else fails, lawsuits to make sure the initiative fails. These efforts are carbon copies of the tactics used to defeat New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s portion size cap proposal.

If the soda industry really wants to help prevent obesity, it needs to change its current practices. It should stop fighting tax and size initiatives, stop opposing warning labels on sugary drinks, stop lobbying against restrictions on sodas in schools, stop using sports and music celebrities to sell products to children, stop targeting marketing to African-American and Hispanic young people, and stop funding research studies designed to give sodas a clean bill of health.

And it should stop complaining, as PepsiCo’s CEO Indra Nooyi did last week, that nobody is giving the industry credit for all the good it is doing.

If the government really were serious about obesity prevention, it could ban vending machines from schools, set limits on the size of soft drinks sold at school events, define the amount of sugars allowable in foods and beverages, and, most of all, stop soda marketing aimed at children of any age.

Because neither the soda industry nor the government is likely to do any of this, public health advocates still have plenty of work to do.

Marion Nestle is professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University. She is currently working on a book titled Soda! From Food Advocacy to Public Health.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

Quit Gushing: Richard Branson’s Unlimited Vacation Is a Trick

Virgin founder Richard Branson
Virgin founder Richard Branson Michael Buckner—Getty Images

Coleman and Ferguson are the authors of Making Conflict Work: Harnessing the Power of Disagreement, out this week.

"Endless summers" do little but incentivize workaholics to work more, while everyone else suffers negative consequences for time off.

He is more than a business pioneer—he’s an entrepreneurial guru and a leadership rock star. Searching the web for articles by or about Sir Richard Branson, we quickly noticed something: writers gush about him. Branson, in turn, gushes about innovation and the people who work for him. Lots and lots of gushing.

It’s easy to see why. People matter to Branson. He openly uses the word “love” when referring to his employees. He talks about respect for them and how he wants them to feel wanted and cared for. And he credits them for much of his astounding business success. He once won a lawsuit against a competitor and split the $500,000 award with his workforce.

So his latest announcement, giving his employees unlimited vacation time, fits with his benevolent philosophy of leadership and business success. And it has stirred up a lot of gushing for its boldness and the trust it expresses for employees.

We remain skeptical.

At first glance, Sir Richard seems to fit the mold of what we refer to as pragmatic benevolence. Benevolent leaders care about and listen to their employees. They recognize that talent and passion drive results, and that happy workers are more creative and engaged. And such leaders know that fostering debate and candor is a much better way to reveal creative ideas and innovative solutions than to lead from the top down. That is why benevolent leaders listen carefully to subordinates. Or as Branson puts it, “It’s so important to be a good listener. And so many people, they think they know it all and they like hearing their own voice, but being a good listener, you can get so many other ideas from other people to work out whether your idea is a good one or not.”

But look closer and it is not so clear that the no-limits vacation policy benefits the people he claims to love so dearly. What is clear is that so-called “endless summer” vacation policies benefit the companies that implement them.

First of all, they are good for the bottom line. By giving employees unlimited vacation time, instead of giving a set number, say 14 or 21, companies do not have to pay departing workers for unused days. That is a lot of money a company does not have to keep in the bank or on the books.

Second, companies can highlight the policy in their recruiting efforts. Imagine a young (and relatively inexpensive) college graduate offered a job with Netflix or Virgin Mobile and told he can take as much vacation time as he wants, as long as he gets his work done. Sounds like college itself. Show me where to sign, dude!

And third, if your main job is to draw attention to the Virgin Group (of which Branson is not its CEO or chairman, but rather listed only as founder), then announcing a no-limits vacation policy is destined to get the pundits gushing as usual. Free press. Practically free advertising.

And if we look at it from the perspective of the beloved employees, unlimited vacation time is anything but unlimited. With one of the least generous vacation policy cultures in the industrialized world (only South Korean workers earn fewer vacation days), U.S. workers work more hours and later into life than in decades prior, and more so than workers in similar societies. More than a quarter of “guaranteed” vacation days go unused in the U.S. The two most vacation-deprived countries in the world are the U.S. and Japan.

So is it really true that if you treat employees like adults, show them trust, and let them use their own judgment they will get more rest and be more productive?

Nope.

Hiring highly motivated and responsible people of course makes sense. But the same attributes that Branson looks for in his employees makes them less likely to take vacation time. All organizations have a combination of internal cooperation and competition. On the cooperation side, nearly all work in this modern age is accomplished by teams. People tend to feel loyal to their team members. When you take vacation time, who does your work while you are away? Your team! That is one reason people do not use their “guaranteed” paid time off. On the competition side, not everyone can get promoted at the same time, so management watches and evaluates each individual against others to determine who gets the raise, the promotion, or the place on the cool new project team. Are you sure you want to take that last week of the quarter off to travel with your family?

And then there are the jobs that depend on day-to-day routine processing, rather than project work that comes to completion just in time for vacation (or not). If you have a job processing receivables, or maintaining equipment on a daily basis, or monitoring and responding to customer complaints, or working the helpdesk, or keeping up with social media, your absence, however limited, puts your work on your colleague’s desk. On a team of three, you just upped your buddy’s workload by half. How many days will you be gone?

Finally, this new policy (or “policy-that-isn’t,” as Branson puts it) is highly ambiguous, and most people are reassured by a reasonable degree of structure. Tell someone she has exactly 21 days to use for vacation per year, and she has to use them without checking her email and that she does not have to worry about any problems while she is gone, and her mind will be more at rest than if you tell her to take all the time off she wants as long as she maintains the same level of performance and responsibility she would if she were in the office.

In many of the situations above, even if you take a vacation, you will probably dial in remotely to stay up on some work, or respond to at least a few of the hundreds of emails otherwise waiting for you on that first Monday back.

So we ask Sir Richard: Is this anything more than another stunt? One answer can be inferred from the original announcement he made in his blog:

. . . simply stated, the policy-that-isn’t permits all salaried staff to take off whenever they want for as long as they want. There is no need to ask for prior approval and neither the employees themselves nor their managers are asked or expected to keep track of their days away from the office. It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off, the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred per cent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!

Okay, now review those last two words about what he is warning people to be sure not to damage. Now ask yourself if you have ever been 100% comfortable about your career while working for a large corporation. Obviously someone is keeping track of something or this would not qualify as an organization. He is giving every salaried worker the opportunity to outperform colleagues. He is potentially undercutting cooperation, and probably adding to the stress of his employees. And he is even making it acceptable to take no time off.

“Oh, please!” you might say. “That is such a cynical interpretation of such a wonderful and visionary policy.”

So ask yourself this: Did he listen to his employees? We know he listened to his daughter, because the Daily Mail reported it, but nowhere is it reported that he involved his employees in the decision.

Truly benevolent leaders, partly out of real caring and partly out of pragmatism, want their subordinates to honestly weigh in on many big questions, especially those that will affect motivation and well-being. Did he say to his employees, “What vacation policy is best for you and the company?” The new policy only affects his staff of less than 200 people. But he says if it is successful he will encourage other companies in the Virgin Group to offer the policy to more of its 50,000 employees worldwide. How much will he involve those employees in this next big decision?

Will he ask for ideas and opinions from several hundred employees? Or several thousand? Will he encourage an internal research team to review the most effective vacation policies across industries? Will he hold focus groups? Will he make it clear that asking him tough questions or disagreeing with him or offering other ideas that he might not have considered or may not even feel comfortable with is not only okay but rewarded? Will he openly acknowledge that different people are motivated by different policies, and ask how can we offer unlimited vacation to some employees while others get a set amount of days that they have to take off without any negative consequences because the management structure will make sure the workaholics do not get rewarded more than involved fathers and mothers?

Such a process of employee discussion inevitably involves constructive, passionate debate and tense but healthy conflict. And yet there could be huge payoffs before his next big announcement. Such a pragmatic and benevolent process will most likely result in a policy or combination of policies that make for a more motivated and satisfied workforce, and a lot of people going home to tell their families, “the boss really cares about my opinion, and about us.”

But that would not produce much gushing in the press.

MakingConflictWork

Peter T. Coleman is a professor of psychology and education at Teachers College and the Earth Institute at Columbia University and director of Columbia’s International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution. He’s also a consultant and New York State certified mediator whose clients include IBM, Citibank, and the UN.

Robert Ferguson is a psychologist, executive coach, and management consultant who has provided consulting and training to organizations including Credit Suisse (USA), Merrill Lynch, and Aegon.

Their book, Making Conflict Work: Harnessing the Power of Disagreement, is out this week.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME bendgate

Apple Responds to ‘Bendgate,’ Says Bent iPhones Are Rare

Apple Responds to ‘Bendgate’

Apple responded Thursday to claims that its new iPhone 6 Plus is bendable. The hashtag #Bendgate as well as an Unbox Therapy video of a user bending his phone went viral within a few days of the iPhone 6 Plus’s release last week, and customers were not happy about it.

Apple said that with normal use a bend in the phone is rare, and that the numbers of users that have reported bent phones is extremely low; only 9 so far. Apple has publicly displayed the rigorous tests that phones undergo before being released to consumers, and has announced that some bent phones will be eligible for replacement.

An Apple rep added that the company is “looking into this with an insane amount of detail.”

TIME Business

There Are Plans to Build an Underground Beer Pipeline in Bruges

Bar Beer
Bar Beer Jack Andersen—Getty Images

An attempt to reduce traffic in an environmentally friendly way

The Bruges city council just approved plans to install a beer pipeline under the northern Belgian city. Yes, you read that right – a beer pipeline.

The 1.86 mile (3 km) long tunnel will run beneath the city streets and funnel 6,000 liters of beer per hour from the brewery Brouwerij De Halve Maan to an offsite bottling facility, CityLab reports. The purpose? To reduce traffic and help the environment by taking about 500 delivery trucks off the streets, according to The Drinks Business.

But Bruges isn’t the first city to adopt this method of transport; Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, Ohio, uses underground tubes to bring beer from its brewery to the pub across the street.

Cheers.

TIME China

Meet Alibaba’s Jack Ma

The man leading China’s online shopping giant to America

Ma’s Alibaba, China’s online-shopping giant, completed the largest initial public offering in history–$25 billion–on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares started trading on Sept. 19, and the value of the company exceeded that of Facebook, Coca-Cola or IBM.

• CLAIMS TO FAME

Fifteen years ago, Ma, a former English teacher, started Alibaba in an apartment in the Chinese city of Hangzhou. Today Alibaba is the undisputed champion of online retailing, handling twice as much merchandise as Amazon. An indifferent student, Ma built his empire without the top diploma or political connections usually needed to succeed in China.

• BIGGEST CHALLENGES

Ma will be under pressure from his new investors to deliver ever larger profits. He must expand outside his home market while also fighting off opponents at home. Chinese Internet giants Baidu and Tencent and property group Wanda recently joined forces to start a rival e-commerce firm.

• BIGGEST THREAT

China’s authoritarian rulers still wield tremendous control over business. A big wild card in Alibaba’s future will be Ma’s ability to stay in the good graces of the Communist Party while building trust with consumers in the West.

• BIGGEST CRITIC

The investor Peter Thiel passed on Alibaba’s IPO, arguing that a bet on the company was ultimately a bet on Beijing–with the political uncertainty that implied.

• CAN HE DO IT?

Ma has a proven track record of competing with global e-commerce titans–and winning. He’s shoved aside eBay and Amazon in China. And with his post-IPO war chest, Ma has the financial muscle to invest heavily and acquire other firms. The question is, Will he shop wisely?

–MICHAEL SCHUMAN

TIME Economy

The 3% Economy

Yes, 3% growth is better than 2%. But, for most Americans, it’s actually more worrisome

A little over three years ago, I wrote a column titled “The 2% Economy,” explaining how a recovery with only 2% GDP growth, no new middle-class jobs and stagnant wages wasn’t really a recovery after all. Like everyone, I hoped that once growth kicked up to about 3%, middle-class jobs and wages would finally revive.

But we’re now in a 3% economy, and I’m writing the same column. Only this time, the message is more disturbing. Growth is back. Unemployment is down. But only a fraction of the jobs lost during the Great Recession that pay more than $15 per hour have been found. And wage growth is still hovering near zero, where it’s been for the past decade. Something is very, very broken in our economy.

It’s a change that’s been coming for 20 years. From World War II to the 1980s, according to data from the McKinsey Global Institute, it took roughly six months after GDP rebounded from a recession for employment to recovery fully. But in the 1990–91 recession and recovery, it took 15 months, and in 2001 it took 39 months. This time around, it’s taken 41 months–more than three years–to replace the jobs lost in the Great Recession. And while the quantity has come back, the quality hasn’t. The job market, as everyone knows, is extremely bifurcated: there are jobs for Ph.D.s and burger flippers but not enough in between. That’s a problem in an economy that’s made up chiefly of consumer spending. When the majority of people don’t have more money, they can’t spend more, and companies can’t create more jobs higher up the food chain. This backstory is laid out in an interim Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report cautioning that poor job creation and flat wages are “holding back a stronger recovery in consumer spending.” If this trend is left unchecked, we are looking at a generation that will be permanently less well off than their parents.

There are so many signs of this around us already. The decline in August home sales–a result of wealthy cash buyers and investors stepping back from the market–shows how what little recovery in housing we’ve seen so far has been driven by the rich; anyone who actually needs a mortgage has been slower to jump in. The real estate recovery too is very bifurcated, with much of the gains concentrated in a few more affluent, fast-growing cities. (Plenty of places in the Rust and Sun Belts are still underwater.) While overall consumer debt is down, it is still high by international standards, and student debt is off the charts. When I asked one smart investor where he expected the next financial crisis to come from, he said, “Student debt.” Interest rates on tuition loans are high and fixed, and the loans can’t be refinanced, meaning they’re a trap that’s hard to escape. And student debt continues to grow fast. History shows that the speed of increase in debt, more than the sheer amount, is a predictor of bubbles. By that measure, student debt is blinking red: it has tripled over the past decade and now outstrips credit-card debt and auto loans.

It’s easy to understand why. Much of the population is desperately trying to educate its way out of a terrifying cycle of downward mobility. But students are fighting strong structural shifts in the economy. While technology-driven productivity used to be what economists said would save us from jobless recoveries, technology these days removes jobs from the economy. Just think of companies like Facebook and Twitter, which create a fraction of the jobs the last generation of big tech firms like Apple or Microsoft did, not to mention the multitude of middle-class positions created by the industrial giants of old.

And we’re just getting started: consider the outcry in certain cities over companies like Zillow, Uber and Airbnb, which are fostering “creative destruction” in new sectors like real estate, transportation and hotels. McKinsey estimates that new technologies will put up to 140 million service jobs at risk in the next decade. Critics of this estimate say we’re underestimating the opportunities that will come with everyone having a smartphone. All I can say is, I hope so. What’s clear is that development isn’t yet reflected in stronger consumption or official economic statistics.

What I do see is growing discontent with the economic status quo. In my 2011 column I wrote, “It’s clear that the 2% economy heralds an era of even more divisive, populist politics–at home and abroad.” Ditto the 3% economy. Witness outrage over displaced lower-income workers in the Bay Area, or the fact that the Fed is keeping interest rates low in part because gridlock has prevented Washington from doing more to stimulate the real economy, or the Treasury Department’s new rules limiting American companies’ ability to move outside U.S. tax jurisdiction. Whatever number you put on growth, a recovery that doesn’t feel like a recovery is, yet again, no recovery at all.

TIME Hong Kong

Trouble in Hong Kong? Beijing Summons Tycoons

Xi Jinping, Tung Chee-hwa
Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, meets with a delegation of Hong Kong's industrial and business circles headed by Tung Chee-hwa, left, in Beijing on Sept. 22, 2014 Rao Aimin—AP

Beijing has long courted the tycoons, who employ hundreds of thousands of people, for the influence they have in the capitalist enclave of Hong Kong

(HONG KONG )— As trouble brews in Hong Kong, who’s Beijing going to call? The billionaires.

With political tension in the southern Chinese financial hub at its highest in years, China’s leaders summoned dozens of the city’s tycoons earlier this week for talks.

The rare trip by the large contingent of business leaders to meet President Xi Jinping in Beijing highlighted the unlikely role that Hong Kong’s capitalists have played as longstanding supporters of China’s communist rulers.

“I see most of my old friends,” Xi said with a light chuckle as he sat down for the meeting with 70 of Hong Kong’s richest and most powerful people.

Seated next to him in the Great Hall of the People was billionaire businessman Li Ka-shing, Asia’s wealthiest person, who Xi greeted with a hearty double-handed handshake. Between them was Tung Chee-hwa, son of a shipping magnate who China anointed as Hong Kong’s first leader after taking back control of the former British colony in 1997. Other Hong Kong billionaires with interests in property, media, banking and finance and casinos filled out the ranks.

Beijing has long courted the tycoons, who employ hundreds of thousands of people, for the influence they have in the capitalist enclave of Hong Kong.

The meeting coincided with the start of a protest involving thousands of Hong Kong college students against Beijing’s refusal to grant democratic reforms that would let Hong Kong’s people have a genuine say in electing their own leader. It also came ahead of a planned rally by pro-democracy activists to “occupy” the Asian financial hub’s central business district as early as next week, which has raised the hackles of business leaders.

The central business district is Hong Kong’s “lifeline” as a global financial center and occupying it would be “tantamount to destroying the Great Wall” — a potent national symbol — billionaire property developer Lee Shau-kee told Hong Kong reporters after the meeting with Xi.

“Hong Kong will lose its advantage and its prosperity will wane. It’s unwise,” he said, calling for the organizers to stop.

Henry Tang, the heir to a Shanghai textile fortune and former senior government official, said Xi supports the Hong Kong government’s work and said candidates for Hong Kong leader must be “patriots.”

Beijing used the meeting to reinforce its message that candidates for Hong Kong leader in promised elections must first be screened by a committee in tune with the priorities of China’s leadership. The stance has sent tensions soaring in the former British colony. Surveys show the approval rating of the city’s Beijing-backed leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, is plummeting while distrust of China’s central government is at the highest level since the handover.

Discontent, especially among the young, is fuelled by a widening wealth gap that many blame on the billionaires, a large number of whom made their fortunes in property development and also sit on a panel that selects Hong Kong’s leader. Once revered for their business acumen, they’re now reviled for cozy ties with the government, which tightly controls the supply of land for development, making home ownership unaffordable for many.

Monday’s meeting was the first time that such a big delegation has travelled to the Chinese capital since 2003. That year, a similar group made the journey after more than half a million took to the streets to protest a deeply unpopular plan to introduce anti-subversion legislation.

For the tycoons, supporting China’s communist leaders ensures their business interests survive, analysts said.

“Beijing thinks that Hong Kong people are economic animals, so they think that if they can get the tycoons lobbying for support” there is a better chance residents will accept its decision to curb democratic reforms, said Willy Lam, a political analyst at Chinese University of Hong Kong.

As a reward for falling in line, “Beijing has given them reassurance that they will not be marginalized by huge Chinese companies,” said Lam.

Most of Hong Kong’s tycoons are private entrepreneurs who founded their own companies, in contrast with China’s big state-owned firms that have a growing presence in Hong Kong.

Investments by Hong Kong tycoons in mainland China is another source of political leverage for Beijing.

“Beijing thinks that these tycoons can be held hostage because of their big exposure in China,” said Lam. “The tycoons dare not go against Beijing simply because they have so much at stake in the China market.”

Hong Kong’s tycoons are also worried about other reforms demanded by democracy activists, chiefly replacing seats in the legislature held by business groups with directly elected ones, said Sonny Lo, a governance expert at the Hong Kong Institute of Education.

Big business is concerned that if its say in the legislature is eroded, the freewheeling capitalist hub could be put on a path to a European social welfare state by requiring companies to provide more benefits to workers, he said.

Last month, a Chinese legal scholar on a committee overseeing Hong Kong’s mini-constitution made a rare acknowledgement that these concerns are also on Beijing’s mind.

“To some business elites, if the democrats can capture the entire Legislative Council, then social welfarism would likely be the result that would undermine the economic prosperity of Hong Kong,” Lo said.

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