Hong Kong: A city in-between the East and the West

Ross CHEUNG

International communication and cooperation under globalisation have always been classified as transnational or cross-border behaviours, but how does this transculturality develop? What are the transcultural practice, sphere, and competence that create the common grounds? Hong Kong has been a marginal man between the East and the West since 1842. On the one hand, the British legal system and the European-American business models had changed Hong Kong which is reflected in the international trade and the global flow of talent and capital. On the other hand, Hong Kong inherits the traditional Chinese culture and the Cantonese way of life. The city has been a window for Western cultural spread to Asia and Chinese gateway to the world where a unique place for cultural convergence, contagion, divergence and hybridisation.

I have started a project on Hong Kong out of a coincidence about 3 years ago in the formation the Transcultural Student Research Group (TSRG), which is a spin-off activity from the discussions at the 2016 Transcultural Leadership Summit in Zeppelin University, Germany. After the 2 days conference on the topic of China, I raised the question, “What if Hong Kong were a transcultural existence?”. This question has become the core of this new initiative led by me.  We have later founded a project group of 7 co-learners which began our work in mid-2017. After completing the field study in Hong Kong and our theses and projects, this year we have published a book entitled “Hybridity and Transculturality. Learnings about the Case of Hong Kong”.

Why Hong Kong?

This book publication is the result of research carried out since early 2017, though some of the basic ideas were gradually developed since 2014. The intention of the project is to identify transcultural cooperation and the relating determinants and processes in Hong Kong, assessing which, or whether, the local organizations, everyday practices and social spaces can be understood to deepen the understanding of transculturality and to contribute to record a comprehensive picture of Hong Kong at its 20th anniversary of sovereign handover to China.

This book consists of eleven chapters covering two main parts with teamwork from different ethnicities and disciplinary backgrounds, namely political science, art, media, management, geography, and sociology. The group formation is an intercultural and cross-disciplinary research team. What’s more, I owe a debt of gratitude to the co-editors Professor Joseph Wieland and Dr. Julika Baumann Montecinos, Zeppelin University, for the support of the project idea to make this team collaboration and this book possible. 

Session I of the book, which begins this introduction, first debriefs the formation of the TRSG Hong Kong team. This is a compact book, and readers may find it too brief to meet their curiosity about the case of Hong Kong and the theory of transculturality. PART I, which begins this introduction, first casts the idea of transcultural research and then debriefs the formation of the TRG Hong Kong team and reflects the unanswered questions gathered from the field study in Hong Kong and casts doubts towards the future of the city. Chapter 4 is about the collective case study method that the TRG Hong Kong team has used to develop and study the theory of transculturality. It provides an extended illustration of what purposes are best served by case study method; how knowledge about transcultural practice and competence accumulates within collective cases of Hong Kong from different disciplines; and how the theory development of transculturality can draw on the results from the case of Hong Kong.

Session II of the book, it addresses each of the individual cases of local elites, art fairs, journalism, international business cooperation, cross-cultural and transnational migration in Hong Kong. PART II addresses each of the individual cases of Hong Kong from political science, arts, media, management, sociology, and geography. The section begins with Chapter 5, on the history and transformation of Hong Kong’s elites which focuses on the composition of elites in Hong Kong in 2017 to reflect Hong Kong’s political and economic systems through analyzing a cross-sectional dataset. Chapter 6 showcases the transcultural migrants from and in Hong Kong by synthesizing census data, statistics, literature review, and qualitative interviews. Chapter 7 articulates Art Basel Hong Kong as a transcultural event to reach common objectives among locals and foreigners. Chapter 8 discusses the media environment in Hong Kong and it covers the topics of press freedom, contemporary journalism, and transcultural competence and leadership. Chapter 9 examines how business cooperation of multinational companies is achieved in this culturally diverse region by applying the concept of transcultural management. Chapter 10, through interviews with Chinese female bankers in Hong Kong, discusses corporate transnationalism, identity politics and career mobility; this chapter will also be insightful to academics and students who would like to further explore the ambivalence of being translocal and transcultural. Chapter 11 discusses the observations during the Hong Kong trip, identifies the differences and similarities between hybridity and transculturality, and it attempts to draw implications for transculturality from all the research activities completed by the TRG Hong Kong team. 

What’s more, the book includes “The Joint Declaration and Its Implementation” published by the Hong Kong Government in 2007, which briefly outlines the outcomes by the 10th Anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). It is be helpful to future research as it is an important reference of Hong Kong’s history.

Learnings about the Case of Hong Kong

Through the project, the team identifies transcultural cooperation and the relating determinants and processes in Hong Kong, and then to assess which, or whether, the local organizations, everyday practices and social spaces can be understood to deepen the understanding of transculturality. The core implications of this research project are: transcultural practice, sphere, and competency.

1. How can the concepts of transculturality and hybridity be applied to the case of Hong Kong?
2. How do international migrants and locals in Hong Kong experience transculturality? What are the skills and competencies that are required to act in a transcultural environment? 
3. Using the example of Hong Kong, what are the criteria for conducive transcultural sphere? What kind of policy or business practice enhance transcultural cooperation?

All in all, it is especially concerned in this compact book not only to attempt to contribute to the theory and scholarship of transculturality, but also to work out several implications to the future of Hong Kong and its public policy. Since 1997, the year of sovereignty handover from the Great Britain to the People’s Republic of China, would it be another cultural hybridization or transcultural transformation? What will Hong Kong be after 2046 when ‘one country, two systems’ might come to the end? It is especially important in this special year in the Hong Kong History.

Photo credit: Ross Cheung

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