As the title states, I’m off to Mainland China in a matter of hours. Specifically, Beijing and Shanghai. This is literally a dream come true, I never envisaged actually being able to go the Great Wall or to see the glorious Shanghai skyline. Since China is enormous, although there are trains throughout the country, the fact of the matter is these train journeys take far too long; ranging from 10 hours to 24 in some cases. Therefore, it is easier, quicker and pretty cheap to fly within China.
For those that assume I am taking a random holiday, it is reading week at the University of Hong Kong which means we all have a week off. This provides students with an opportunity to travel to nearby countries cheaply and this is particularly attractive to exchange students who wish to make the most of their short time in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire in the mid 1800’s and remained a colony until 1997. On the 1st of July of that year, Hong Kong’s sovereignty was transferred from the UK to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). As part of the rules of the transfer, Hong Kong was allowed to retain a large amount of autonomy, or self-governance, for fifty years (until July of 2047), operating under the policy of ‘One country, Two systems’.
Hong Kong is unique in that it is now considered a Special Autonomous Region (SAR), which has a separate legal system, taxation policy, parliamentary system and business guidelines than that of mainland China. Hong Kong even has its own currency, the Hong Kong Dollar, which can’t be used as legal tender in mainland China. Perhaps the biggest distinction of all? It is a free-market economy and is now considered one of the freest economies in the world; In 2008 Hong Kong generated a GDP of USD 223 Billion and utilized USD 63 Billion in Foreign Direct Investment.
This paired with the sophistication of Hong Kong’s logistics and transportation industry, has made it a particularly enticing place to companies looking to invest in China. Extensive investment promotions are available to foreign companies looking to invest.
Hong Kong definitely operates as its own “mini-country”, but continues to remain part of China through its sovereign ties. What will happen in 2047?…I guess we will have to wait and see.
It is interesting to hear locals’ observations that Hong Kong is becoming ‘increasingly Chinese.’ However, this unsurprising given the imminent merger of the two states.
For anyone interested, here is a link to an interesting report about how the handover has effected Hong Kong in the 10 years that directly followed: https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL34071.pdf
Given the differences that I have observed between (ordinary and/or uneducated) Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong locals, I am looking forward to my trip to the Mainland where I expect to really experience the language barrier.
Taking a train from the Chinese-Hong Kong border at Shenzhen, I will have to collect my tickets at the Shenzhen station and already I have been advised to bring a copy of the ticket confirmation in Mandarin Chinese! So I have done exactly this. The only thing that can be understood to the native are the numbers on the sheet!
If this is what it is like before I have even stepped foot in the country, then I can only imagine what it will be like once I am trying to find specific places. Luckily, I will be travelling with others so this will hopefully increase our chances of success, or at the very least we will be able to provide moral support to each other when the language barrier becomes too much for us to bear!
Wish me luck…