Dr. Akbar Abbas

Department of Comparative Literature
Hong Kong University

"After 1997; or 'What do we do now, now that we're happy?'"

In the 80's and 90's when Hong Kong felt itself to be at its most politically vulnerable, the question of "Hong Kong identity" was uppermost in everyone's mind. It was essential that Hong Kong be perceived as a "special case", because so much of the argument about its post-97 autonomy depended on it. Many commentators adopted a rhetoric of "postcolonial resistance", which in practice meant trying to define Hong Kong in terms of a set of binary oppositions (to Britain, to China), or speculating that it might be a special kind of "third space".

However useful these arguments once were, they seem less relevant to the post-97 situation. Britain is now largely out of the picture, and China has basically conceded the point that Hong Kong is indeed a special case - with the forumula "one country, two systems". Furthermore, China itself is also moving away from an exclusively command-and-control type of economy towards something new and strange, a "socialist market economy." The relationship to China can no longer be oppositional in the old way: it is becoming less true that to be "pro-Hong Kong" nowadays is to be "anti-China". In short, we seem to be moving away from a politics of opposition and binary relations, to a "dispersed politics" without a clear scenario; indeed, an obscenario, hard to visualize, where almost everything can become a politics by other means. What needs urgent analysis today is this fluid space of the obscenario with its different configurations of power."

UCLA Asia Institute
UCLA International