Published: 00:19, October 6, 2022 | Updated: 18:06, October 6, 2022
HK’s drive to create arts and cultural hub dovetails with national strategy
By Kenneth Li

Hong Kong, a long-time window and bridge between China and the outside world, has been given an important mission in the country’s 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) — developing into an international hub for arts and cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world.

This is an excellent opportunity for the special administrative region to further reinforce its de facto status as a popular center for international arts and cultural exchanges, creating a win-win situation for the country and the city in the years to come.

Over the years, Hong Kong’s unique strategic position as a confluence of Eastern and Western cultures, its international connections, simple tax system, ever-improving arts and cultural facilities, availability of world-class art exhibitions and cultural performances, as well as the privileges it has been enjoying under “one country, two systems” — all these favorable factors combined together have helped the city establish a reputation in international arts and cultural exchanges.

In fact, Hong Kong has become one of the three prime artwork trading centers in the world, alongside New York and London.

However, the mission given to Hong Kong in the 14th Five-Year Plan to fortify its position as an international hub for arts and cultural exchanges has a deeper national strategic development consideration behind it.

With its comprehensive national strength rising rapidly, China’s position on the world stage is becoming more and more significant. It needs a proper channel to promote Chinese cultural soft power so that stories of China, including Hong Kong, can be told well and not be misinterpreted, as is happening now in the Western world.

Among all the Chinese cities, Hong Kong is indeed the best platform to take up the challenge because of its long history of mixed cultures. It is a place where a rich Chinese cultural heritage has miraculously integrated so well not only with that of the West, but also other foreign cultures as well, releasing a unique metropolitan glamour attractive to both local residents and visitors alike.

The city is an embodiment of cultural inclusiveness and diversification that are the two important elements of Chinese culture. The 5,000-year Chinese civilization has maintained its vitality up to the present time because our ancestors absorbed and assimilated cultures of other races and minorities living in ancient China, transforming subsequently our civilization into a more-diversified and vigorous one.

Being an international city with a majority-Chinese population, Hong Kong has attracted talents of different countries coming to work and live here harmoniously. Many of them have settled in the city for generations and treated it as their home. The mutual respect and appreciation between the Chinese and expatriates, the carefree lifestyle and high living standard have earned the city a reputation for peace, order and prosperity — a prerequisite for an international center for arts and cultural exchanges.

Fairly speaking, the HKSAR government, with the help from the central government, has been putting in much effort and resources to upgrade existing art facilities and build world-class cultural amenities to consolidate Hong Kong’s leading position in international arts and cultural exchanges. The latest examples include the Hong Kong Palace Museum, M+ Museum, and Xiqu Centre in West Kowloon Cultural District as well as the newly renovated and expanded Hong Kong Museum of Art in Tsim Sha Tsui.

In fact, Hong Kong has become one of the three prime artwork trading centers in the world, alongside New York and London

However, insiders of local cultural and creative industries often say that although Hong Kong has adequate art and cultural facilities and many internationally renowned art galleries hold annual exhibitions and cultural events here, the HKSAR government has not given enough support to them. They say it should work closer with related parties to make their industries more connected with the market, so that more business and job opportunities can be created for the private sector and the younger generation.

Statistics show that about 240,000 people are employed in local cultural and creative industries, contributing approximately 6.3 percent to the overall employment of Hong Kong. So it is generally agreed that by strengthening the local cultural and creative industries, Hong Kong’s economy will be much improved.

With the establishment of the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau two months ago, Hong Kong is in a better position to enhance its cultural and creative industries. The three industries — culture, sports and tourism — are highly related and can complement and reinforce each other’s developments.

One of the duties of the new bureau is to synergize the work of all related parties, offering coordinated and concerted efforts to enhance the development of the three sectors and related creative industries. The complementary effects could be enormous, bringing new businesses to various sectors, such as hospitality, travel, exhibitions, logistics, and so on.

In retrospect, Hong Kong, although a tiny city, never lacked cultural soft power to influence the world. We had a world-renowned Sinologist like Jao Tsung-I, who contributed to many fields of humanities, including history, archaeology, epigraphy, folklore, religion, art history, musicology, literature, and Near Eastern studies. Another famous writer is Louis Cha Leung-yung (better known by his pen name, Jin Yong), whose Chinese wuxia (martial arts and chivalry) novels have been so popular in Chinese communities worldwide, and whose works have been translated into more than 12 languages.

Being dubbed the “Hollywood of the East” in the ’80s and ’90s, Hong Kong had the third-largest film industry in the world after Bollywood and Hollywood. Together with television and music, the city’s entertainment industry has produced numerous household names, many of whom have earned international reputations, such as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Wong Kar-wai, Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Maggie Cheung Man-yuk, and Andy Lau Tak-wah.

In his recent speech about the national mission for Hong Kong, the HKSAR chief executive, John Lee Ka-chiu, said the government would accomplish the task from four directions — building more world-class cultural facilities and diversified art space; strengthening the arts and cultural exchanges between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland as well as overseas institutions; allocating more resources to cultural and creative industries to promote wider use of digital technologies; and expanding Hong Kong’s arts and cultural-talent pool.

The CE will unveil his first Policy Address soon, and Hong Kong residents are looking forward to learning more about how he will lead Hong Kong to consolidate its role as an international hub for arts and cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world.

With Hong Kong’s excellent track record of connecting the East and West, plus the government’s strong determination to accomplish the national mission and a general consensus in the community to enhance the city’s overall competitiveness in this area, let’s work together to consolidate Hong Kong’s position as an international hub for arts and cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world, so that Chinese cultural soft power can be promoted properly and precisely through Hong Kong.

The author is a member of the Hong Kong Association of Media Veterans and a freelance writer.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.