Some holiday reading

‘Hong Kong is angry because its people feel less superior now the Mainland is no longer so backward and impoverished’. If you can remember when Hongkongers used to curse taking consumer goods and cash over the border to their relatives every New Year, you will know that they are perfectly happy for Mainlanders to be more prosperous. But such nonsensical reasons for local resentment persist.

I declare the long weekend open with some recommended scholarly reading – a paper on how China’s think-tank analyst types ‘explain’ Hong Kong badly/wrongly/absurdly to themselves and their Mainland audience (if any). Behold Seeing (exactly) like a state – knowledge/power in the Beijing-Hong Kong relationship by Kevin Carrico, who has first-hand knowledge of the subject, having starred on the front pages of local CCP newspapers as an evil foreign force masterminding Hong Kong’s youthful ‘color revolution’.

It is an academic paper (even the title has a footnote), but is spiced up with a healthy dose of sarcasm – probably unavoidable given the weirdness of the subject matter.

Looking at three Mainland published works, he finds that Beijing’s ‘Hong Kong-ology’ is a ‘closed, self-referential system’. Examples include a “self-glorifying rewriting of the history of One Country, Two Systems” and an insistence that the colonial administration’s introduction of public housing and social services, the founding of Chinese University and Chris Patten’s reforms were elaborate tricks to brainwash the population into supporting the British.

The fun starts at the end of page 6. The first part is drier but outlines the point of the paper: seeing the CCP’s view of Hong Kong as if it were a variant of ‘Orientalism’. This phrase originally refers to a stereotypical Western exoticized, mythologized and condescending view of the Middle East and Asia. It essentially means a self-fulfilling mis-reading of another place or culture as inferior.

The author doesn’t touch on it, but I don’t think it is reading too much between the lines to point out that this is massively insulting to the CCP. It turns the victims-of-evil-Westerners narrative back onto them. It portrays them as the insensitive or ignorant ethnic supremacists. And, taking ‘Orientalism’ to its logical conclusion, it casts them in the role of Big Bad Imperialistic Racists – de facto Westerners, indeed, forcing an alien German-Russian ideology and ancient feudal mindset onto culturally sophisticated, authentically Asian Hong Kong.

I’ve no idea whether this paper is good academically, but it is hilariously entertaining as extreme panda-baiting. CCP theoreticians, who don’t have much sense of humour at the best of times, would explode at this analysis.

Happy Reunification with the Glorious Motherland Day!

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15 Responses to Some holiday reading

  1. Casira says:

    “Hongkongers feel less superior”..
    yeah… not gonna happen

  2. Cobblers to the CPC says:

    Ahh CPC think tanks: all tank; no think.

    In ‘shoeshining the CPC inevitably ends up with a boot in your face’ news: Li Ka Shing has been ousted from the university he helped found in his hometown of Shantou, with the CPC secretary eulogising Li as “trying his best to love his country”. Aw bless! Damned with the faintest of praise.

  3. old git says:

    When Carrie Lam’s name was put forward in 2016 by the CCP as the next CE of HK, she stated that she wasn’t going accept anything from the Central Policy Unit because she could get all the advice necessary from persons listed on the Central Personality Index maintained by the Home Affairs Bureau. She is now facing the consequences of listening only to approximately 0.2% or 18,500 persons who were invited to be listed, out of 7.5 million Hong Kong people.

  4. reductio says:

    Very good analysis (bit heavy at times though) from Kevin C. but his comment above that “[X]…constitutes a closed, self-referential, and self-reproducing system divorced from realities on the ground” could, I propose, be also be applied to a lot of “academic” disciples found in the West: literary theory, anthropology, postcolonial studies, gender studies, queer studies… ad nauseaum. (“And economics”. Security, please remove that man from the room.)

  5. 2047forme says:

    Basic Law / ‘Spaceballs’ mash on the menu today:

    The socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years. But with the way the CCP runs things, it won’t last 30

  6. @reductio – without necessarily accepting your application of it to every discipline you mention (I assume “disciples” was a typo), I would suggest that the quote could also be applied to theology, and here in HK, to most academic study of TCM. Outside the academic arena, it is clearly applicable to Brexit, advocacy of which has long passed from policy debate to religious dogma – hence the spectacle of politicians proposing to suspend Parliament lest it interfere with their cherished goal of “restoring Parliamentary sovereignty”, supposedly usurped by Brussels.

  7. steve says:

    Reductio: Your reactionary, broad brush condemnation of the humanities as a collective exercise in self-pleasuring strikes a nerve, not least because it is so very wrong. In fact, it is precisely the disciplines and fields you identify (and you somehow left out media studies and cultural studies, which usually figure prominently on such lists) that have offered the most illuminating analyses of systemic local, national, and global inequities and injustices, as well as describing viable strategies to address these problems. These perspectives also have provided us with the most vivid and insightful descriptions of cultures, subcultures, and societies that have been ignored or subjected to patronizing, racist, and/or ignorant non-scholarship in earlier historical eras. This very much includes analyses of Hong Kong’s cultural dynamics, considerations of which by local and overseas academics since the 1970s have informed the rhetoric of Hongkongers’ articulations today of their identity, whether in the streets, in classrooms, around the dinner table, in the office, online, and everywhere else.

    If you want to find something useful in the scholarly sector to complain about, you might start with think tanks themselves, which have been weaponized by reactionary forces all over the world to build an (allegedly) intellectual foundation and strategic template for the most appalling political movements in the world today. That is, the Chinese think tanks described by Carrico and the Heritage Foundation are two peas in a pot, as Stan Laurel put it, and they could all stand to be nuked.

  8. Gar(ry) Yau says:

    Happy Independence Day!

  9. caractacus says:

    Kevin C’s description of the CCP’s pseudo academic philosophy bears a disturbing resemblance to the fascist creeds which emerged in Italy and Germany.

  10. dimuendo says:


    i think your post, and certainly its style, proves reductio’s point about the uselessness of the types of “academic studies” he mentions, and indeed far more. In my (limited) experience, quite a few of the so called scientific “academic studies” are useless, either seeking to continually rediscover the wheel – usually at a lower level rt worse version – or examining a pin head from an infinite number of angles. It is still just a pin head.

    The explosion of academia in the last 30 or so years has done no good to anybody, save the academics with their sinecures, and the vast profits raked in by the institutions. Now jewellery sales(wo)men on Nathan Road have degrees, not in metallurgy either.

  11. Cobblers to the CPC says:

    Brian Cox (I think on the Infinite Monkey Cage) once far more savagely skewered the humanities as “just colouring-in, really”.

    Sounds to me like the anguished roar of a chap who’s devoted his entire life to colouring-in and still hasn’t got tenure yet. 加油, old stick!

  12. Gromit says:

    @caractacus: not really surprising as fascist and ‘communist’ states share many traits. In practical terms, fascism/communism same/same.

  13. reductio says:

    @ steve

    Even this reactionary doesn’t think certain classes of people “could all stand to be nuked” because of the views they hold.

  14. Red Dragon says:


    I couldn’t agree more. I spent some twenty-five years cheek by jowl with “academic” activity in the field of language teaching and learning, and quite frankly you wouldn’t believe the amount of money spent/wasted on utterly futile, masturbatory “research”, not to mention the costs of flying pseudo-academics (PhD’s are two a penny these days, and often held by children) round the world to agreeable locations so that they can present their dreary findings to other people travelling on the same gravy train, their noses firmly wedged into the same trough.

    I can quite see the need for and desirability of academic and research activity in fields such as medicine for eventually this activity leads to a practical and beneficial dividend to society at large. But language learning and teaching – come off it!

  15. Slattern Beaver like says:

    Orientialism. For what other reason do you need to have a pro-police rally, which furthers the narrative that “this whole thing is about a few upstanding men and women in blue putting down crazy anarchist children who have Western ideas put in their head by blogging and social media.”
    It’s not a joke. There are academics in Hong Kong who are tasked by pro-Beijing think tanks to study how “detrimental” social media is to students. Some go so far as to point out it’s because they get anarchist and political ideologies from them. Some are more subtle, like Ming Wai Lau talking about how social media is bad for girls because it portrays a perfect beauty that is unobtainable. Oh yes, the money comes from the same sources. They are megaphones for anti-Western, anti-democratic talking points.

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