Desiring Hong Kong, Consuming South China

Desiring Hong Kong, Consuming South China: Transborder Cultural Politics, 1970-2010

Eric Kit-wai Ma
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 220
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  • Book Info
    Desiring Hong Kong, Consuming South China
    Book Description:

    This is a study of the complex and changing cultural patterns in Hong Kong’s relationship with the neighbouring mainland. From interviews, TV dramas, media representations and other sources, it traces the fading of Hong Kong’s once-influential position as a role model for less developed mainland cities and explores changing perceptions as China grows in confidence and Hong Kong encounters a powerful nation culture in the mainland. Part One (‘Desiring Hong Kong’) examines the history of cross-border relations and movements from the 1970s, focusing on Hong Kong as an object of desire for people in South China. Part Two (‘Consuming South China’), moves to the turn of the century, when, despite increased communications and a ‘disappearing border’, Hong Kong is no longer a powerful role model; it nevertheless continues to be a resourceful node in the chain of global capitalism. This is a timely and provocative discussion of a topical issue, and one written in an approachable style using lively case studies. In contrast with the popular theorization that Hong Kong shows her true colour in “the politics of disappearance”, this book argues that Hong Kong returns with a politics of reappearance in a dense network of ‘fear and excitement’, differentiating and assimilating with the mainland at the same time. It will be of interest to scholars and students in cultural studies, political science, sociology and cultural geography. It will also have some general appeal to policy-makers, journalists, and the concerned public.

    eISBN: 978-988-8053-93-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Gerard A. Postiglione and Tai-lok Lui

    Most past research on Hong Kong has been generally aimed to inform a diverse audience about the place and its people. Beginning in the 1950s, the aim of scholars and journalists who came to Hong Kong was to study China, which had not yet opened its doors to fieldwork by outsiders. Accordingly, the relevance of Hong Kong was limited to its status as a society adjacent to mainland China. After the opening of China, research on Hong Kong shifted focus towards colonial legitimacy and the return of sovereignty. Thus, the disciplined study of Hong Kong was hindered for almost half...

  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Culturally and geographically, Hong Kong was an integral part of South China before being taken over by the British in 1842. In the early colonial years, Chinese travelled back and forth across the Shenzhen–Lo Wu border without a discernible sense of cultural difference. Here, I use the terms ‘border’ and ‘boundary’ to refer respectively to the geographical division between communities and the imaginary line between cultures. It was in the post-war decades that a stiff cultural boundary was formed, differentiating mainland China and colonial Hong Kong. The boundary dramatized the differences of Hong Kong marked by advanced colonial modernity...

  6. I Desiring Hong Kong
    • 1 Consuming satellite modernities: Hong Kong as an object of desire
      (pp. 11-32)

      Modernity, as an aggressive and expansive project, has its historical origin in Western developed countries. The formation of Western modernity, as we know it, is inseparable from the histories of colonial expansion and exploitation (Darwin, 2007). While some developed cities (or more fashionably known as global cities) prosper at the cutting edge of high modernity,² the developing world is still immersed in the dream of modernization. Some developing countries engage in political and economic mobilization to catch up with the discursively constructed West, while others continue to struggle with the spell of postcoloniality in realizing the seemingly unrealizable dream of...

    • 2 Imagining Hong Kong: Featuring transborder imageries
      (pp. 33-48)

      In Chapter 1, I examine how mainland migrants acquired a modern way of life in Hong Kong. It is about, in Giddens’ term, de-skilling and re-skilling and making do in everyday life. In this chapter, I will focus more on the logic of transborder imaginations and the imageries produced by desires for and fantasies of the ‘other side’ of the border. Information technology shrinks the world. Money, images, ideas and theories travel in just a split second. Refugees, tourists, migrants, traders and entrepreneurs are crossing national boundaries at astonishing rate (e.g. Canclini, 1995; Castells, 1996; Friedman, 1994; Urry, 2000; Smith...

    • 3 Transborder desire: Fantasizing, learning and apprehending modernity
      (pp. 49-64)

      In Chapters 1 and 2, I spell out a number of transborder imaginations and their implications, including those on migrants who crossed the border during the 1970s and the 1980s. In this chapter, I would like to describe two television dramas and show how transborder desires were expressed televisually in the 1990s. During this period, China was catching up with global capitalism while Hong Kong was still serving as a satellite site of modernity. The case studies of these dramas will help us understand transborder imaginations as the two modes of capitalistic modernity collide with each other.

      Recent television studies...

    • 4 Transborder visuality: Visual exchanges between Hong Kong and South China
      (pp. 65-90)

      Hong Kong, as a satellite metropolis of global capitalism, has for many years been serving as the cultural mediator of ‘Western’ consumer and capitalistic ideologies in mainland China. This is the focus of the previous three chapters. With the official Chinese endorsement of consumption, images of Hong Kong’s ‘Western’ and ‘modern’ lifestyles are being powerfully reworked on both sides of the disappearing border. The direct impact of the Hong Kong media in China is diminishing, while exchanges between Hong Kong and mainland cities have been intensifying. At this historical juncture, the media have become cultural intermediaries, introducing new ways of...

  7. II Consuming South China
    • 5 Cultural brokers and transnational connections
      (pp. 93-112)

      My analyses in Part I focus on Hong Kong and its being the object of desire for many mainland migrants. In Part II, I would like to adopt a more regional perspective to capture the new developments in transborder cultural politics since the early 2000s. This chapter examines the role of cultural brokers in the transnational consumer culture of young urban professionals in South China. From 2001 to 2006, our research team regularly visited coffee shops, disco bars, advertising firms and publishing houses in South China. We stayed in a home-based studio and befriended photographers, reporters and popular writers who...

    • 6 Realizing wedding imaginations: Marriages with a Hong Kong connection
      (pp. 113-130)

      This chapter¹ is a comparative case study that examines visuality in modern weddings in South China and their role in exhibiting and stabilizing social identity. Three out of the four cases I have chosen for this study have Hong Kong connections. They may have Hong Kong relatives involved in the wedding arrangements, or either the husband or wife is residing in Hong Kong. The only case without a Hong Kong connection is chosen as a contrasting case. What I want to do is to place Hong Kong connections as identity resources against other theoretically formulated vectors that construct wedding imaginations....

    • 7 Modern bodies in the making: Tales from a factory and a bar in South China
      (pp. 131-162)

      South China has been a world factory manufacturing consumer goods for the rest of the world. Major international brands have established their production lines there. Since the 1980s, Hong Kong manufacturers have also been exploiting the advantages in the region, such as lower rent and cheaper labour, and set up factories there to produce toys, garments and furniture for national and international markets. In Part I, I have explored transborder cultural politics from the Hong Kong side of the border and examined Hong Kong as the embodiment of the imaginations of modernity for mainland migrants. In this chapter, my analysis...

    • 8 Re-discovering national spatiality and diversity in South China
      (pp. 163-186)

      Hong Kong is analysed in the first chapter as an object of desire. For mainland migrants, Hong Kong was the embodiment of the imaginations of modernity throughout the 1970s to the 1990s. In this chapter,¹ South China is seen as a site for Hong Kong people to rediscover their nation. While Chapter 1 is an account of transborder cultural politics built on differences, this chapter is focused on the cultural politics of re-nationalization and thus a politics built on assimilation. In Chapter 1, I examine the implications of Hong Kong’s colonial modernity on the everyday life of new mainland migrants....

  8. Epilogue
    (pp. 187-192)

    This book describes the Hong Kong/mainland connections and examines the cultural politics that these connections bring to the people. My major argument is that transborder cultural imaginations are much inflated when the socio-cultural differentials between the two regions are high, drawing mainland migrants to the dream life of Hong Kong’s satellite modernity. As the differentials have become less obvious in recent years, the once-colourful modern imaginations are tarnished. The general categorizations of these imaginations and those of Hong Kong people are replaced by more complicated transborder collaborations that are infused with excitements and apprehensions.

    The majority of Hong Kong people...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 193-198)
  10. References
    (pp. 199-208)
  11. Index
    (pp. 209-210)