Hong Kong, Asia’s world city. Really??
This is the question that comes up so often now. It seems that we as a city are failing to measure up, certainly to the title of Asia’s World City. So, what has happened? I’m certainly not going to get into a political discourse here, even though I’m totally frustrated with HK politics at the moment. But, unless you want to get down in the trenches and physically make a difference, one should be quiet. So, let’s leave it there.
However, what has been on my mind and what I would like to discuss is the apathy that Hong Kong seems to have to saving the oceans, to change to a city that really appreciates the dire nature of our oceans and wants to be a ‘mover for change’. Wouldn’t that be marvelous.
So why is Hong Kong like it is? I would like to put forward a hypothesis. This came to me while listening to a debate on youtube involving George Monbiot on ‘UK climate change and the need for rebellion’. Throughout the debate he mentioned Neo-liberal views on the environment, so I had to dig deeper.
To be a bore for a moment, NEO-LIBERALISM is a political/economic theory that developed as being best for human advancement in that people, individual entrepreneurs/businesses would do well within a government setting/ control that would allow and protect property rights (eg. right to buy your own house/office) and free markets (eg. not much government rules for buying/selling goods). Taking this into the landscape/ arena of the environment, these rules still apply. The meaning, is that there has to be government controls, systems, but there should be free transfer of ideas and issues etc etc. So, when it comes to nature, all is inter-related and people should work under that ethos, under Government controls/ guidelines. It is not about me, ‘self.’ The ethos is more generous.
When I came to Hong Kong in the 80s, the city was an example to the world of ‘laissez faire’. The term laissez faire is French for "leave to do," or more accurately, "leave to be." Coined by French economic theorists it was brought to the fore by Scottish economist Adam Smith. The economic theory was that the forces of supply and demand allow a market economy to self-regulate and that price levels, wages and employment are automatically adjusted by an "invisible hand." Consequently, governments have no reason to and should not interfere by imposing tariffs and minimum-wage restrictions. This philosophy heavily impacted economic policy during the industrial revolution of the 1800s. So you can see as Hong Kong was rebounding from world war 2 and the cultural revolution in China, the building landscape was the same. Bottom line, the Hong Kong government remained at arm’s length, people thought about themselves first and foremost and the majority benefited, as did the City as a whole. The ethos was one of ‘me’. ‘Me’ first not community.
So where are we now? I would suggest Hong Kong is changing, certainly the youth are. But, for Hong Kong to really be a world city, to be a leader, a change leader, then this ingrained attitude of ‘me first’ must change. Hong Kong must become more ‘community’ and holistic. This is going to be a huge task. We are no longer the ‘barren rock’, we are part of the motherland. The new ‘industrial revolution’ is occurring on the ‘Motherland’. And rather than being a barren rock of 7.5 million people, it is a country of 1.4 billion. A difficult task, challenge for the Government to lead from the front, but wouldn’t if be a great achievement for Hong Kong if we would could be ‘first mover’ in this arena.
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