Thursday, June 6, 2013


Mainland Chinese in Hong Kong

Nowadays, Hong Kong consists of locals, westerners and mainland Chinese. While Westerners usually don't have much trouble, the integration of people from mainland can be a peculiar issue. It makes me think, does that mean that HK culture is closer to Western than Chinese? No, the locals would say, it's a world of its own.

When I arrived, I noticed that baby milk powder was a big topic. I saw that mainland Chinese were coming to HK to buy cans of milk powder for their babies because some time ago, some of the milk produced in China contained toxins and a number of babies died. Most people are aware that Chinese products usually don't shine in quality and the Chinese know this as well, so they decided not to entrust their children's life to their own country's production and started to buy the milk powder in other places.

The problem is that China is so big. Whatever their citizens decide to do will impact the rest of the world like a thousand ton hammer. Baby milk was sold out in Hong Kong, Macau and shortage was reported even in Germany and the UK. Hong Kong government was forced to come up with a law prohibiting anyone from taking more than 2 cans of milk powder over the border. A similar problem occurs in maternity wards in HK where mothers from the mainland are desperately trying to get a place. And, of course, the space in HK maternity wards is limited.

When I came here, I felt that the milk powder shortage was the biggest problem of Hong Kong and I found it rather amusing. Now I know that, actually, the biggest problem are the astronomic property prices which, among others, give young people only very pessimistic outlooks on their future, prevent them from having children (because they can't afford it) and just drive the costs of everything higher and higher. And even this is partially caused by rich people from China who buy properties in HK and sometimes don't even live there because they just flank it as a status symbol - it's very cool to own an expensive flat in HK...

It seems that not too many mainlanders live here officially, but there are tens of millions of tourists every year. I got some statistics from HK government, year 2011. It shows the population over 15 by attained education level, divided by sex and education. Women are red, men blue and the brighter part in the middle denotes mainlanders. Of course, mainlanders living here unofficially are not included.

While it's understandable that Chinese mothers want to make sure to get the best for their children, HK locals are not very happy about the changes the crowds of mainlanders are bringing to their city. And that's not all. The dynamics of university students from HK versus mainland is also interesting. Locals are very serious about getting proper education and trying to reach for the stars in their careers, but if you let them compete against the top 100 students from a 1.4 billion people country, they are going to lose. That's a mathematical fact. It's unbelievable how hard can those top-performing mainland students work. You'll find them in the library even in the summer, they are more determined to get business contacts at any opportunity and can speak better English. The locals just can't keep up (read more in the source article).

The other side of the social spectrum is represented by tourists from mainland and their totally uncivilized behaviour. The things I heard about them include relieving their physiological needs on the streets (no matter how hard are the cities trying to put a public toilet everywhere), spitting everywhere, being loud (mandarin is a loud language...), drawing on Egyptian monuments and so on. Of course not all of them do this, but the problem is there and it's perceived by many.
And now, after seeing a popular movie about Thailand, chinese tourists are flooding Chiang Mai as well. And the Thai are taken aback by their behaviour, no less than people in HK.

Perhaps China will soo raise their own huge cities to the same level as HK in terms of quality of life, products and education so that their citizens wouldn't need to colonize HK. But the HK economy is already highly oriented towards the Chinese shoppers and most of its industry has moved away to Shenzhen (which is now also growing like crazy). Looks like a vicious circle to me...

    No comments:

    Post a Comment