Hong Kong—Looking out over Hong Kong harbor, it’s easy to grasp the logic of the town’s marketing slogan, “Asia’s World City.” Flocks of ships come and go from expanded ports. Businessmen from all over briskly navigate the financial district’s tangle of overhead walkways. Skyscrapers rise on the crowded horizon of the metropolitan archipelago.
Well, wait a minute. It doesn’t take long to perceive that Hong Kong, one of Earth’s original globalized hubs, suffers from anxieties similar to concerns in burgeoning anti-globalization centers like the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy.
A cursory look at newspaper headlines provides the menu of worry.
First, about trade wars. While the US press focusses on the impact on President Trump’s supporters, Hong Kong newspapers fret over the effects on China and on itself. The conclusion: job losses and even potential unrest. No one in the US seemed to notice that, after Beijing suggested that it could make life hard on American companies manufacturing in China, authorities dropped the idea, realizing those firms could just move to some other place in Asia. Instead, China is trumpeting how friendly it is to foreign firms.
Meanwhile, workaday Hong Kongers, stuck in underpaid jobs and living in tiny apartments they refer to as coffins, haven’t fully benefited from the liberal world economic system. Chronic and growing inequality haunt the shimmering downtown skyline.
The blame goes to an oligarchy of developers in league with the government that make housing ultra-expensive and which uses scarce land for golf courses and the potential expansion of Hong Kong Disney World.
Immigration is a controversial issue, too. Too many impoverished Filipinos pouring in. Too many educated youth looking for jobs abroad.
And, hard as it may seem to believe, 21 years after this once British-colonial outpost returned to China’s control, some of the city’s residents chafe under the heavy hand of Beijing’s control. China’s President-for-Life Xi Jinping has ordered up some sort of indoctrination program for Hong Kong youth who are to be held across the border to learn the glories of the new China and the thoughts of—who else?– Chairman Xi. Also, the local government is cracking down on a small pro-independence party.
So Hong Kong may yet be the self-proclaimed World City of Asia, but it shares the uncertainties of such globalized cities across the globe.
How inequality effects Hong Kong politics.
Maybe not Asia’s world city after all.