References aside, as a US citizen in Hong Kong there are some things that I respect immensely and some things that really get on my nerves about HK.
I greatly respect the people and the cause. It reminds me of that one poem -
> Do not go gentle into that good night.
> Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
The people here have a heart to fight for their own identity and for their well-being. It's actually really amazing especially with the immense challenges facing them and the great risks they have as a people.
At the same time, when two parties disagree in Asian culture, it rarely turns towards resolution. Most of the time it turns towards silence (separating, parting ways, or just pretending it never happened), violence (intense arguments, passive aggressive pay back, hatred and villainfication of both sides leading to all out war), or just a lot of stiffness / unwillingness to compromise, understand the other side or reach a deal.
This reflection is not just about the protests, although the escalation is due to the culture being this way. It happens everywhere, the biggest pet peeve of mine is that it's a normal, accepted practice. For instance, if you don't like your boss, you don't say anything, you just hold it in and then you send in your resignation. I wish the culture would be more willing to engage in conflict resolution type conversation and learn how to do it. It takes a lot of practice on both sides to do it.
When you're on the streets with the protests, it feels extremely primeval. The micro-scale interactions of the protest movement is like looking into a microscope at microorganisms, blobs of life that just kind of move around and sometimes eat others but most of the time just float there.
It's a decentralized, rather polite mob. Angry, yes. Scary, sometimes. But otherwise, just a lot of yelling, a lot of "tactics" - like retreat, advance, wall off here, go here, go there, run. It feels like there's no real goal or direction of the protest except to exist, and I think the author captures that feeling very, very well.
The police also have that same feeling on a micro-level, not much thought or control, just an instinctual reaction or set of rules to follow.
One party existing to express concerns and vent anger. The other party existing to restrain and disperse.
Of course, on the real level, the two parties have deeply rooted goals and feelings. The police want the protestors to stop protesting. The political party wants the people to be absorbed into China. And the protestors want to preserve the unique individuality of HK and to allow it to grow and thrive.
Reading this makes me think a very little bit of the Paris Commune , well in its early days perhaps.
In recent times it seems there is a pushback towards less.
Fly abroad without getting our crotches checked?
Walk around the city without companies/governments tracking our location?
Less surveillance in everything?
Don't have corporations police what we can and cannot say on this era's popular platforms (doesn't matter if we can still open a personal blog in 2019, since those are not where the discussion is today - whereas they were in the early 00s, and they did matter back then).
Have a mainstream without moral panics? We used to have the easily triggered persons of the right back in the day, now we have the same of the left, but there was a point (late 60s/early 70s) where people could be more radical than today.
Buy a program without a subscription and use it for the next 10 years or so the same price you know pay for 1 to 3 years of use! (Like people are still using ancient Photoshop in Windows today, or how people like RR Martin still use something like Wordstar 20+ years after its last release -- with subscriptions it would be impossible).
Widespread free sharing of commercial music, films etc like in late 90s/early 00s without all major outlets being crushed like they are being now?
Tons of government regulations (from building codes, to "food safety" BS meant to crush smaller producers) that affect every aspect of business and everyday life, for things that people could freely do 20-30-50 years ago...
Tracking of your data and recording of what you have done. It seems many governments have access to this data.
Recording of biometric data by governments
Common methods of communication are less private now than previously and a a record is kept. Obviously communication is now way easier, but that has had a price.
Media is more concentrated in the hands of fewer companies and their independence is questionable. There are dark patterns here with state actors involved.
The perverse way adverts are tracking and recording. This isn’t fitting with a traditional definition of ‘authoritarian’, but it’s somewhere bad on that continuum.
A larger portion of money is held by a very small controlling group.
National firewalls and restriction of access to certain data is becoming increasingly acceptable.
Not commenting on its validity but thought it was an interesting perspective to share.
Over time I’ve come to realize that many of these social concepts exists in some form or another across all cultures, likely implicit in some part to the human condition, but it still surprises me to this day just how entrenched it still is in certain areas.
I’ve always been personally curious as to what the causes of these divergences in culture between different societies are. There must be some inciting reason that such a stark difference in communication exists.
So, as you point out, these conventions exist everywhere, and (like the proverbial young fish asking "what's water?"), they're hard to see when you're in the middle of them, and consequently much easier to see when you observe them in a different culture.
For China, they would 'lose face' if Hong Kong became independent (or Xinjiang or Tibet for that matter).
In mainland, people sees the government as the ruler. They are not there to serve you, they are there to manage you. They never make mistake, and you must follow their lead.
The government needs Hongkong, and hey need Hongkong under control, just like the rest of China. If they failed, their public image of power will be damaged.
However, if they can turn Hongkong into "the rest of China" alike, then that's a success showcase of power for them.
There are interesting historical issues, economical issues, geopolitics (especially Taiwan) and international politics at play.
But yes, in a certain sense the PRC want to turn HK into "the rest of China" alike, in the sense that you can have economic freedom and many other things, however politically one must submit to the supreme rule of the party.
The belief was that HK’s economic value to China would protect the one country 2 systems status.
However, the Chinese govt appears to have convinced itself with the rise of its major cities (such as Shenzhen) and general economy that HK isn’t unique, and any economic benefits the political autonomy provides is far outweighed by the political risk and control. The protests, ironically, strengthen this thinking. And they feel they can compensate for the economic losses by simply creating SEZs.
I think the Chinese govt now believes that HK is not really special anymore, and if anything, is probably falling behind other Chinese cities.
Mostly right, but there is no sentiment on the mainland that the government never makes mistakes. Quite the opposite.
I personally believe it's the root of China's domestic problem.
Our government never fully apologize for their own mistakes (Sometime they did a little, but they always trying to shift their responsibility away. The word here is "Damage control"), possibly because they don't want to show their weakness and handle the consequence. And that gives them a hypocrite vibe.
If somebody never going to take responsibility, then that somebody will not be trusted. Because people is clever, they will eventually figure out who is honest, and who is not.
- The government can't act quickly, and the things it does are often stupid.
- It also can't be trusted.
My favorite remark on this general topic actually came when I asked someone how Chinese generally thought of the US. Her response was along the lines of "Some people view it as the promised land, where everything is better. Some people are more cynical. There's one guy at my company who always has something negative to say about America. But even he says they did one thing we should thank them for: they published the air pollution numbers."
She was shocked when I told her, in another conversation, that there is a contingency in the US that is very vocally envious of how quickly the Chinese government can get things done.
Have you ever laughed at a joke even though you don't find it funny, because the teller made a great effort telling it and you shudders to think how you would feel if your interlocutor exhibited completely no reaction? If the answer is yes, the concept is as much operative for you as it is in Chinese culture.
For what its worth, I don't think this is a good or a bad thing. While it can certainly have its problems, I also think its a key ingredient in why many macro-scale societal issues in Japan (mega cities, public transportation, crime, etc.) simply seem to work better, more efficiently, and with less friction than Western counterparts (particularly the US).
Being conservative about your culture, or not wanting to buck the trend probably has a lot more to do with appetite for risk (which in turn likely has more to do with poverty, and the lack of immigrants) than it has to do with a notion of “face saving”.
Let me clarify. I’m not saying additional “face saving” isn’t a thing in Asian cultures. My point is that it’s a lazy and easy fallback in Western discourse to explain a variety of differences.
I assume Boeing is arguing because they either believe they did nothing wrong (sense of justice) or they will get in trouble for admitting they were wrong (sense of security). There are probably other possibilities.
Those are very different than saving face. That has more to do with maintaining your own personal standing with your community (sense of pride and self-worth).
I don't think Boeing is refusing to take blame because they are worried that their standing within their community is at risk.
In that case I think it’s a meaningless distinction. Because it doesn’t say anything about the individual behavior, but rather, how the 2 societies handle wrongdoing. Japanese society handles wrongdoing by “shunning” the wrongdoer from police company. American society handles it by suing the person.
But either way, face saving has been redefined not by the action, but rather by the consequence of the action, which makes it a fairly meaningless difference in my opinion.
Most commentators will present the reason why China cannot back down as the government not wanting to lose face, while presenting the reasons Trump does not want to back down in very different language (not wanting a loss, for example), although they’re the same thing. The former is presented as a cultural trait, while the latter as an objective outcome.
The reality is that Xi can not afford to “lose face” not because of cultural reasons, but because it would greatly undermine his strength and power.
It is much more than losing face. Losing sovereignity in East Asian countries, where nationalism is hyper active, is an attack directly on national identity.
The Chinese government now will cease to exist if it yields to independence demands from any of the separationist region. The nationalistic education has been ingrained into society at large, something nobody dares to question.
"Patriotism cannot be our final spiritual shelter; my refuge is humanity. I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live."
By a Noble Laureate.
Shame is a major emotion (or idea) and one which is often internalised. Shame is the negative feeling about yourself. "The definition of shame is a discrete, basic emotion, described as a moral or social emotion that drives people to hide or deny their wrongdoings" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shame
Much of western street violence is about shame at it's core. One basic over simplified version is that if I ask for respect I'm asking you not to reveal my own shame. The idea that violent criminals are shameless is wrong - they have deep shame about themselves - and violence is often one reaction to this internal feeling.
Of course there are different types of shame. Sometimes what we think as wrong isn't wrong and sometimes it's not our fault. Society and shame is entwined - and because of this being able to talk about and manage shame is almost impossible.
I'm not sure how this relates to Asian society but I thought it could be a useful avenue into investigating face.
And yes, both emotions are often at the root of street violence.
I do agree with the notion that this may be somewhere close to one of the major differences between Western and some Asian societies (I'm thinking of Japan primarily, as that is what I have experience with, so this may not extrapolate to other Asian cultures). In Japan, I was shocked at the low crime rates. I could leave my bike unlocked pretty much anywhere and not worry about it being stolen. They leave vending machines on random alleyways everywhere with no fear that someone will break into them. Crime in general is just so much lower, despite opportunity potentially being much higher. Additionally, streets are so much cleaner than American cities. People don't defecate on the sidewalk. They clean up after their animals. Public transportation is clean and reliable and you aren't going to be screamed at by a homeless person. I think a lot of this comes from the fact that Japanese culture has a strong element of shame attached to people who transgress societal rules. In Western countries, the emphasis is more on guilt, which leads more to a culture of "getting away with what I can", and "its only a problem when I get caught". We litter more. We steal more. We are more violent. We tend to put less effort into our jobs.
Of course there are flip sides. I think the strong sense of shame and societal responsibility in cultures like Japan's also leads to more mental health issues, higher suicide rates and societal isolation. Tougher work environments and cultures. Sometimes a stronger apprehension towards challenging the status quo. I'm not sure if one is more ideal than the other. I'm personally a big fan of the societal cohesion that seems to exist in Japanese culture, but I have friends who found it stifling and sterile.
Your very reaction shows where your sympathies lie, which is very laudable, but are you willing to engage in 'conflict resolution' over your own core values, e.g. to give up some amount of democracy or independence? If not, then talk is simply window dressing, or an opportunity to spread your message.
Both sides here realize there is no true basis for negotiating, hence why they don't.
In fact, negotiation at all by Beijing would be a concession: it would legitimize the protests and give protestors a formal seat at the table. You may disagree with that starting point, but let's admit that negotiations themselves are not a neutral act devoid of consequence, hence why actual diplomats spend enormous amounts of time discussing the agenda to be discussed in formal settings: what gets talked about and by whom matters.
The problem here is that the CCP has created its own interpretation of vocabulary that is otherwise universally accepted and Britain (and the US) failed to account for that and put in place the protections that would have forestalled such aggressive dismantling of Hong Kong's civic framework pre-handover.
" The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People's Government.
The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures."
Regarding "independence", when some protesters attack symbols of the Chinese state (inc. flag) and fly foreign flags they are sending a muddled message...
You can get a lot of attention bringing a foreign flag to a protest, but as Hong Kongers know it is a very small contingent of people who do it. One of them is a well-known, tiny, sweet old lady who got attacked by police last weekend.
Violence, disruption, and foreign flags might be from a minority but they have destroyed any sympathy the mainland opinion may have had towards the movement (and there was sympathy) and I think that they actually help the hardliners in Beijing.
Well, Carrie Lam the current chief executive of HKG, has a notorious nickname - Habitual liar.
She's been caught breaking promises again and again and cheating her way out of difficult situations in the past. That's why many people do not trust her.
Well, politicians and people cheat all the time, but when you keep cheating publicly without remorse, it's gonna bite you back, hard. And that's what's happening now.
FWIW, she's said during in one of the election forums, that she would resign if the majority of HK people think she's not fit for the office. Her rating stands at 27.9 points in the last survey.
Of course, there are other things at play here, specifically, CCP/Xi is not willing to let her go for now.
Hope this can give people some perspective on this issue.
Same difference, really...
Even if they withdraw it completely nothing prevent them from introducing another similar bill at a later time anyway, so protesters would not gain anything apart from having humiliated the executive even more.
The protesters have also now made sure that the government will not bulge. Because that would send the message that they cave in to violence.
> so protesters would not gain anything apart from having humiliated the executive even more.
But that's wrong, if the bill is totally withdrawn the protesters would gain time if something similar was ever re-introduced. Time they can use to organize protests to fight it again, if need be. It sounds like the current "suspended" bill is fairly far along in the legislative process, and could be passed quickly.
Withdrawal of the bill and gaining enough time to mount a response in the future, if necessary, is an absolutely important achievement. It means the protests can stop without the risk of fly-by-night passage. It means the potential of future protests can be a deterrent to future introduction of the bill.
Alternatively, they are being influenced by people who have ulterior motives.
History says, if you get in a trade war with the US and we don't end up funding your opposition, an error has probably occurred or you are not very important.
Some of the core protesters (I don't have any objective figure) consider them a take it or leave it deal though.
I'm typically highly critical of America but I think Asian cultures have a lot to learn from the US resolution of the civil war and general conflict resolution between parties of unequal power. One can easily reference the uneasy outcomes of Asian civil wars that didn't end in re-homogenization (such as Japan).
My running theory is still that the millennia-steeped culture is rooted in geographic dispositions and historical modes of production. In derivatives of mediterranean trading cultures like minoans, pheonicians, greeks etc, local production is not self-sufficient and equality, contracts, conflict resolution is your 'means of production' and, to put in a controversial idea, what social darwinism selects for. In continental/big plains/big rivers agrarian societies like sinocentric societies or even Egypt, unity, mass labor, hierarchy is their means of production for flood control, irrigation and other agrarian projects. Questioning traditional wisdom/methodology, parents and trying to get creative with how you plant your crops is an easy way to get yourself starved and what social darwinism selects against.
Unfortunately, I don't have the time or skill in weeding through historical facts and theory/storytelling to know if the "agricultural economy informs cultural values" hypothesis is true.
My theory right now is more on income being a much stronger determining factor of culture than realized. A lot of specifically "Asian", "Indian" or "Western" values are actually just a reflection of income levels more than anything else, and many cultural norms will disappear when income levels equalized (like, the Asian attitude towards luxury goods or smoking).
This is not a fair or accurate representation of any group of Asians, especially not democratically governed areas. There have been plenty of win-win resolutions. China today is much more connected with the world than it was 50 years ago, and it's better off for it.
edit please explain your downvotes, thanks.
This sounds a lot like politics in the UK and USA to me ...
This kind of mentality goes beyond countries or cultures, but also affects differences between generations, genders, sexuality, etc. It is far more convenient to explain away different behaviors as "It should be expected, she's X" (or the flipped "I can't help it, I'm X") than trying to work out and overcome differences on an individual level. We're all guilty of it to some extent as it helps build a sense of identity (notably among minority groups) but the normative aspect of it is very harmful.
Similarly, immigrant groups tend not to integrate, critics from foreign countries really are usually misunderstanding a large number of important points, and so on.
Between any two cultures, there is a huge amount of overlap. But nothing quite coincides, and the differences end up mattering a lot.
Your 12th century stories are interesting and all but do not reflect the reality of the world we currently live in. If you live in a large city and have a medium-to-high salary, which is a reasonable assumption to make given HN's demographics, it is in fact easy to get acquainted to other cultures by traveling often (possibly living abroad), learning other languages and/or befriending (or dating) foreigners. Much easier than used to be a couple centuries ago, in any case. If you do, you will find that deep down beneath the veneer of culture humans are very much the same. I don't have data to back this up, this is only from my mere experience.
Pretending that cultural differences don't exist is harmful and condescending; acting as though they were insurmountable and irreconcilable is downright dangerous and leads to disaster.
Damn straight! Beijing just wants to rile up Hong Kong into defeating themselves, presumably so someplace closer to Beijing becomes a more powerful trading post. No other party has a motive to turn HK against itself like this.
Sarcastically speaking, such stereotyping is typical of arrogant Westerners.
It's rather difficult to engage in conflict resolution when the other side refused to listen for at least the past 22 years...
I do agree with you, but it takes two to tango.
I'm actually glad this glorified money laundering/financial crime haven is being shut down. The sooner China gets extradition powers, the sooner we can close the criminal enterprises operating in/through HK for the past 1-2 centuries.
Running drugs/drug money through HK is something that has been going on for a very long time (thanks to the UK/US/etc), time to put an end to it.
Lot of big money manipulating kids that can't see through the haze neo-colonialism.