"Convergence and divergence between Hong Kong and mainland China 1970s-2022"

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Starting the 1970s, as Hong Kong became more affluent, people were able to buy more things, to entertain and distract themselves by consuming, by shopping, and if the budget was tight you could still walk around in the shopping malls that dwarfed local family run stores. You could window shop and dream. Hong Kong had joined a globalized world where in the immortal words of the late B B King, “Maybe I’ll just give up on living and go shopping instead.”
But not long after, in the late 1970s, mainland China's leadership would adopt similar economic strategies, in a gingerly fashion at first. But more flagrantly in post-1989 when there was the political imperative to stifle the people's desire for political freedoms. From the mid-the 1990s onwards, what was promised and in large part realized for the urban middle class was a paradise of consumption.
China had joined a globalized world where "the everyday" was dominant. As in Hong Kong, consumerist everyday life was
facilitated by mass availability of household appliances, and technological miniaturization. This belated privatization of daily life brought about a new advanced form of human alienation; privatization being used here to mean a turning on the self and on the private home facilitated by consumer durables (refrigerator, washing machine, television) and the abandonment of collective daily life.
But there was one major difference between the two consumer societies: Hong Kong's benefited, at least in principle, from rule of law and the veneer of democracy that Britain had left behind. Hong Kong people continued to seek the democratic future the British and the Chinese authorities had denied them. They remained gripped by an unquenched thirst for political freedoms and personal autonomy.
Period24 Feb 2021
Event title Jonered Seminar: Hong Kong: Always in-between Freedom of Expression, Memory, Truth
Event typeSeminar
LocationGöteborg, SwedenShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • convergence
  • divergence
  • consumption