I’ve been meaning to write a more serious reflection on my thoughts of China’s development. I am taking a class “Modernization and Social Change” which highlights patterns of development and focuses on that of Hong Kong. (Maybe this post will help me with my exam, though I doubt it will.) Hong Kong holds an interesting position; it is part of China as a special administrative region (SAR) yet has more democracy (used loosely) than the mainland. The Hong Kong people differentiate themselves from the mainlanders. Yet, they are both Chinese. Almost everyone in Hong Kong was once an immigrant from mainland China.
There are the Four Asian Dragons - Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, and Singapore - who were able to develop into advanced and high-income economies early on. So what differentiates the ability of China’s subparts and counterparts to develop in contrast to mainland China? It is both different history and different values. Hong Kong was once a British colony, which has both positive aspects and negative ones. The British rule, however, brought with it a Western school of thought, one that supports industrialization and capitalism. On one hand, a colony feeds its valuable resources to the core nation and experiences suppression of its people. For example, the high and mid-levels of the mountains were reserved for the British elite. However, the British maintained a mostly laissez-faire policy economically, that allowed the growth of small, local businesses. However, in mainland, the economy is highly controlled by the government. A local called the stocks “uninteresting” because of the inside trading. A business that grows big enough to question the authority of the government can be “repossessed” by the government itself with no compensation.
A large portion of the Hong Kong population immigrated from mainland at the time of the Communist Revolution. There may be a fundamental difference between those who choose to flee and those who choose to stay behind. Obviously, many didn’t have a choice, wanted to keep their home and farm, and did not have the money. The nationalists moved to Taiwan, and many others went to Hong Kong. The choice to leave their homeland shows their conflicting values with that of the overtaking government. They were perhaps more individualistic, cared more about preserving their family, versus being part of a collective effort. Maybe they were able to forecast the future and saw it as the best choice in the long-term. Now, China is “only communist in name” as they say here, but there is still a lot of corruption and no democratic voting.
One characteristic that will severely hurt China’s growth is its lack of creativity. Once, in line for the bus, I overhead some other (mainland) students discuss their upcoming exam. One mentioned how she memorized the entire chapter word-for-word. Yes, English is a barrier for them, but having no idea what they are doing is another. Regurgitating information is too common on exams here, they do not test your understanding, but whether you remember every minute detail. They are really hard-working, without doubt, but cannot bring innovation without the ability to think for themselves.
Furthermore, the power distance of the Chinese community is one of the highest (PDI=80). While in a American family, we argue back with our parents, that kind of thing would be unacceptable in China. A similar scenario would apply to those in power (i.e. government) and those who aren’t. The inability of the ordinary citizen to stand up for him/herself is almost equivalent to giving up your ability to free speech, a fundamental freedom of democracy. What does this mean for the future of China? I’m not sure. I think it will still become a global powerhouse soon enough. It will be interesting to see how China influences the rest of the world and what systems will prevail.
Note: These are my opinions that I have developed after living in Hong Kong for 2 months. They may be off or slightly mis-informed, but reflect my current viewpoint. Also, I didn’t proofread, so this is more like a rant.
Originally posted on halfwayaroundtheworld.studentsgoneglobal.com.