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CURE2037 Cultural Policy Term Paper Proposal

Name: Chan Tim Chun


Student Id: s1155033294
Topic: Sponsoring the Wealthy A Mixture of Market Populism and
State Patronage as Hong Kongs Cultural Policy

Introduction:
In Western theory, welfarism on culture, usually practiced by centerleft government is opposed to privatization on culture, usually
attributed to center-right government. It is bemoaned by some of
the western leftists that there is no more subsidy on arts due to neoliberalisms market-led logic. Although it is true that theres still a
minimal degree of the combination of both, in the current Western
context marketization is usually regarded as being predominant.

However, I would argue in this policy analysis paper that it is not the
case

in

Hong

Kongs

cultural

policy.

Without

parliamentary

democracy, or what is criticized by socialists as formal bourgeois


democracy, Hong Kong has its own characteristic cultural policy due
to historical, economic and political reasons. I would trace the
reasons that contribute to the formulation of Hong Kongs cultural
policy and figure out its implication, mainly local but also global, to
the cultural, political and economic rights of the public. In the end, I
would like to suggest radical alternatives that can surmount the
flawed binary logic of state-subsidy and market or the equally

flawed binary logic of elitism and populism seen in many policy


studies that are sympathetic of the Left with the insights gained
from the case of Hong Kong which successfully fuses the two
seemingly opposite poles.

Study Approach:
In the first part of the study, the character of Hong Kongs cultural
policy would be analyzed from two main perspectives: the
institutional and the market ones. For the institutional perspective,
Hong Kong was a colony of Britain and thus it allowed historically
limited democratic participation. Culture was always treated by the
colonial government as leisure which helps stabilize society
especially after 67 Riots. Also, the colonial government took greater
initiatives in cultural development since the 80s to counter
communist influence to maintain Western worlds interests after the
handover. After 1997, the Beijing government continued this
bureaucratic tradition, partly due to historical factors and partly due
to new political-economic factors, which include the need of forging
a Chinese identity and the influence of state capitalism of the
Beijing

government.

To

further

exemplify

this,

the

specific

management structure would be looked into. There is not a Culture


Bureau

in

Hong

Kong

and

therefore

different

bureaus

and

departments are responsible for different culture-related activities.


But none of these have elected officials and it is often the case that
the generalist bureaucrats are not experts in cultural matters. The

directly-funded Hong Kong Arts Development Council is one of the


few institutions that focus on the matter of culture. But it mainly
sponsors the large artistic corporations. Here we see how the
wealthy is sponsored: they are sponsored for further market
success. Other examples would be provided from the cases of Film
Development Fund, such as the film of McDull Kungfu Ding Ding
Dong, which is another case of sponsoring the wealthy due to a
mixture of the need of ideological control (i.e. the films pro-China
message and forfeiting of the original Hong Kongness of MuDull
series) and market consideration (i.e. the commercial success of
McDull series)

Hence, as shown from the above, the market perspective is fused


with the state-led perspective in the case of Hong Kong. But for the
sake of analysis, the peculiar market features of Hong Kong would
also be investigated. Hong Kong has long been dubbed as one of the
Four Asia Tigers because of its success in capitalism which is
guided by free market ideology. In 21st century, with the turn to
symbolic economy in many global cities in which Hong Kong is one
of them, Hong Kong also started to develop its creative industries
including the aforementioned film development. In developing into
what Florida called creative city, fashion, entertainment, sports
and

cultural

consumption

are

largely

advocated

to

attract

transnational capital and transnational capitalist class. This can be


embodied by the grand project of West Kowloon Cultural District or

other mega events. But at the same time these cultural activities
are also heavily sponsored by the government although they target
the middle class or above. This can be explained by business
sponsorship which bears some of the burden of government
expenditure, but there are also context-specific reasons such as the
heavy presence of tourism and trans-national capitalist class in
Hong Kong which is part of the social antagonism innate in Hong
Kong between local people and foreigners or between upper class
and lower class. Besides, the state capitalism, or what commonly
called collusion between businessmen and government officials,
which is partly resulted from the state-led capitalism of China and
partly resulted from the inner logic of capitalism itself, makes state
subsidy and free market (which after all is an ideology which
disguises the fact that monopoly is impossible in capitalism)
indistinguishable. Moreover, the arts education and development
started rather late here comparing to western countries and thus
the arts market is not as well-developed. Similar to the previous
stage of industrial development, the state plays an important role in
it. Here we have another case of sponsoring the wealthy.

The cultural, political and economic implications to the public would


be explored too. Needless to say, such a policy of the apparent
paradox of sponsoring the wealthy diminishes the cultural,
political and economic rights of the public. In Ackbar Abbas Hong
Kong: Culture and Politics of Disappearance, he talked about

clichs like East meets West and Pearl of the Orient tries to
represent Hong Kong culture but ultimately fails to do so and
actually make it disappear in the end. Hong Kong folk cultures such
as busking are submerged in the end. For example, the clichs of
East meets West (the image of Chinese junk in Victoria Harbor
against a backdrop of tall modernistic buildings) implies the smooth
combination

of

modern

state

administration

and

Chinese

entrepreneurship and the dogma that Hong Kong people are by


nature hard-working, that they will do anything for money. And the
culture of Hong Kong is precisely depicted by these clichs, which
aim at ideological control and economic profit. Thus, many
independent creative authors or the grass root suffer from economic
hardship and a deprivation of participatory rights in political decision
making.

But this is not even the most important implication. It cannot be


denied that Hong Kong has its specific context for such a culture
policy, but my purpose is not just to historicize it, but to point out
that this has its universal dimension. In many discussions of cultural
policy, the focus is often unsatisfyingly led to the flawed binary logic
of state-subsidy and market or the equally flawed binary logic of
elitism and populism. But actually these seemingly opposite poles
are interconnected as in the case of Hong Kong. There is no pure
economic reason (the so-called invisible hand of free market). If it is
so, political reasoning cannot intervene it. At the same time, there is

no pure political reasoning as capitalist exploitation is the primary


struggle. And of course there is no pure culture as it is always
interconnected with politics and economics too. And a political
populism (and even cultural populism) would become dangerous if it
is not an economic populism(or more appropriately the abolishment
of market economy). Wan Chin, the former Arts Development
Council and Home Affairs Bureau official, proposed to use Hong
Kong culture to build Hong Kong nation and portrayed it as an antiestablishment force. He greatly advocated that Hong Kong inherited
traditional Chinese culture and Western high culture and that local
folk culture is superior to the mainland folk culture. His exclusive
populist agenda is often criticized as fascist and displacing the
political and economic concern to pure culture. Also there is already
lesson that in the West how cultural populism advocated by John
Fiske is utilized as consumerist ideology. It seems that a more
radical culture policy that can at the same time address politicaleconomic concern is needed as a true alternative. This would be
further developed in the final paper.

Academic Reference:
Abbas, M. A. (1997). Hong Kong: Culture and the politics of disappearance.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Lee, H. -K., & Lim, L. (2014). Cultural policies in East Asia: Dynamics between the
state, arts and creative industries.

McGuigan, J. (2004). Rethinking cultural policy. Maidenhead: Open University.


Miller, T., & Yudice, G. (2002). Cultural policy. London: Sage Publications.
(2000). -
2003

2005