LECTURE (3): Culture & Identity
History of Political
Culture & Identity
(Lecture by Agnes Ku)
Today’s Focuses
 Political Culture before the 1980s
 Political apathy (冷感)?
 Nationalism before the 1980s
 Weak nationalism?
 Changing Political Culture in the
transitional Period (1984-1997)
 Political Culture & Identity after 1997
I. Political Culture before the 1980s
Different Interpretations
1. Political Apathy (Lau Siu-kai 劉兆佳, 1982)
2. Political Activism (抗爭) + depoliticization
非政治化 (Lam Wai-man, 2004)
1. Political Apathy (Lau Siu-kai, 1982)
Question: why political stability despite
rapid economic development by the 70s?
Cultural orientations of the people:
 Short-term horizon
 Social stability
 Materialism
Context: escaping from China in the 1950s
– looking for stability & work in HK
Lau …
Culture: “Utilitarian Familism” (功利家庭
-an adaptation of traditional familism to the
Hong Kong setting
(traditional familism took the family as an
integral part of society & placed high value
on symbolic i.e. non-material rewards from
Lau …
UF: “a normative & behavioural tendency
of an individual to place his familial
interests above the interests of society or
any of its component individuals and
groups, and to structure his relationships
with other individuals and groups in such a
fashion that the furtherance of his familial
interests is the primary consideration.
Moreover, among the familial interests
materialistic interests take priority over all
other interests.” (p.201)
Lau …
Political Apathy
(a) Aloofness towards society
-not committed to HK but treating it in an
instrumental way – as a place wherein one
can exploit the opportunities to maximize
interests for oneself & one’s family;
(b) Avoidance of involvement with
outsiders (people outside the familial groups)
(c) Low social participation
Lau …
Indicators of political apathy (examples):
low voting rate in the Urban Council
low participation rate in political & social
(i.e. few & infrequent protests)
Social Context
Chinese Culture
2. Activism + Depoliticization in 1950s70s (Lam Wai-man, 2004)
Tramway workers’ labor dispute (1952)
campaign to change the marriage laws;
campaign against telephone rate increases;
campaign for Chinese as an Official Language;
Diaoyutai Islands movement
the Godber issue (葛柏事件);
campaign to reopen the Precious Blood Golden
Jubilee Secondary School (金禧事件)
-a strategy of depoliticization by the
government (& some political groups) that
discouraged political activism in society
-How? e.g. by labeling activists as troublemakers; by stressing the values of stability
& prosperity etc.
As a result of depoliticization …
a political activism that was limited in
scale, intensity & articulation in society
(but still activism)
Depoliticized Culture
Ideological Elements in Activism
Social equality
Rights & fairness
Liberalism (e.g. the right to demonstrate)
Nationalism (factional nationalism e.g.
left-wing/ pro-PRC vs. right-wing/ proKMT); (cultural nationalism)
II. Nationalism before the 80s
Colonial Government:
-Nationalist Struggle  Local Concern
-Cultural nationalism
1. What is a nation?
Nation (nationhood)
- a cultural association: a community of
people sharing the same culture, ethnicity,
language, territory or religion.
Nation …
 Chinese people do not consist of a single race,
but different ethnic (族裔) groups e.g. Han, Miao,
Yao, Bai, Dan etc.
 “Chineseness” is a larger ethnic/ cultural –
national -- identity which subsumes different
ethnicities under it.
 “Chineseness” is a cultural construction of unity.
(*“Ethnic” – of a group of people recognized based on certain distinctive
characteristics e.g. religion, language, ancestry, culture, or national origin)
Nation …
Symbols of “Chineseness” in Popular Songs
Skin color
Hair color
The Great Wall
The Yellow River etc. etc.
Are these meanings abstract or concrete, historical
or ahistorical (devoid of history), homogeneous or
Different/ Competing Discourses on Nationalism
by different actors
Political group
Political group
Political group
2. Colonial Government’s Policy :
 Politically, HK people were British
subjects under the British crown.
 Culturally, HK people were allowed to
learn Chinese & Chinese history.
 Ideologically, the government
stressed law & order, stability &
prosperity rather than nationalism.
3. Struggles in Society
i. Early Colonial Days
 Workers’ strikes  political forces
in China:
 anti-capitalism;
 nationalism vs. imperialism
Strikes in 1920s, 30s, 50s (e.g. the
General Strike-Boycott 省港大罷工 – an
offshoot of the anti-imperialist movement of
May 1925 in China)
(ii) 1950s & 60s:
Under the Cold War, HK as an
ideological battleground:
Competing Discourses on Nationalism
Leftist Groups (e.g. 工聯會)
“New China = Anti-Imperialism = Communism”
“HK = British Imperialism = Capitalism”
Cultural Nationalists/ Liberals
“Nation = Chinese Culture /May 4th Movement
“Communism = Enemy to the Nation”
(e.g. 中國學生周報)
Unlike the leftists, the cultural-nationalist
discourse did not develop into a strong
ideology of anti-colonialism.
After the mid-60s riots …
-the government was able to repress
and marginalize the leftist forces, as a
result of their involvement in the riots,
in the name of stability.
The leftist groups:
 turned to low public profile;
 inclined to a pro-Beijing stance; “歌
 reduced anti-colonial criticism
(statist nationalism)
By the late 1960s, ideological struggles over
nationalism subsided, giving way to local
 a local identity nurtured by the government
 local social issues raised by student &
social movement actors (local-born)
iii. From Nationalism to Local Reformism
- Student & Social Movements in 1970s:
Social Reformism (社會改良主義)
• pushing for local reforms in the government
(critical of colonialism but not overthrowing it)
• e.g. social issues : housing & labor etc (critical of
capitalism but not overthrowing it)
• e.g. Campaign for Chinese as an Official
Language 中文運動 (cultural nationalism)
(iv) Others
e.g. Diaoyutai Islands movement in the
1970s 保護釣魚台運動
- nationalism vs. imperialism
III. Changing Political Culture
in the Transition (1984-97)
 Early 1980s: rise of the “1997” issue
 anxiety over political future & concern over
identity question: HK or Chinese?
 emigration flows
 1984: Sino-British Joint Declaration: “one
country two systems”
 1985 Political Reform: Representative
Government 代議政制 (indirect elections in Legco)
 Struggle for Rights & Democracy
Ideological Conflicts over Political Reform
Public Accountability
No public accountability
Pro-Democracy Camp VS. Conservative Alliance
{conservative alliance: business elites, pro-Beijing
groups, & Beijing}
1989: Tiananmen Square Incident
• More than 1 million people took to the
street to support the Chinese students
• Increasing political consciousness in
• Ideological conflicts intensified between
the pro-democracy groups & Beijing
IV. After 1997
 Ideological conflicts between democrats &
conservatives remain {democracy & social
 Ideological conflicts between HK (democrats)
& Beijing remain {democracy & rule of law}
 Increasing economic & social convergence
between HK & China {national integration}
 Increasing political convergence between HK
& China? (eg 人大釋法) {local autonomy}
Increasing tensions between the SAR
government & the people:
Government’s legitimacy challenged –
Political leadership under Tung Chee Hwa
& governing capacity shown to be weak
(e.g. bird flu crisis, SARS crisis)
The government being authoritarian in its
policy (e.g. controversy over Article 23 of
the Basic Law)
Controversy over the legislation of Article 23 of
the Basic Law – national security 國安法
Ideological discourses by the people:
 liberty vs. state control
 democratic process vs. state power
Current Issues:
(a) Democracy & Legitimacy
- Government’s legitimacy under
challenge (democracy, accountability, &
governing capacity etc.)
- The government (& the conservatives)
is still hampering democratic
development in the name of stability.
(b) Nationalism/ Patriotism
Conflicts over “patriotism”:
love the political party?
love the constitution?
love the culture?
love the people?
concern about China’s economy?
concern about China’s democratic future?
After all, who don’t love China?
(c) Social inequalities
 Under capitalism, the economic gap
between the rich & the poor increases. (HK:
one of the biggest in the world.)
 The rich people not only get greater wealth
but also more political power.
 recent protests against governmentbusiness alliance (legacy of the social
movements vs. social inequalities in the
(d) Identity Positioning: A new identity
negotiated on 3 levels under 3 forces:
 local – local dynamics
 national – nationalization
 global – globalization (global city,
Asia’s world city, world-class)
(Hong Kong)
Multiple Interaction
Any tensions among local, national, &
global interests?
English, Cantonese, or Mandarin?
Global interests or local needs?
Chinese values, local values, or
international standard?
The End