A necessary delusion? The Hong Kong model, (post)colonial practice, and the neoliberal imagination

Authors: Rachel Bok*, University of British Columbia, Jamie Peck*, University of British Columbia, Jun Zhang, University of Toronto
Topics: Economic Geography, Political Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: capitalism, neoliberalism, policy model, postcolonialism, Hong Kong
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Washington 1, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Hong Kong has long occupied a privileged and in many ways unique place in the neoliberal imagination, where it is lauded as the “freest” economy in the world, as a policymaking truth spot, and as a prototypical model of small-state governance. Debunking these ideologically loaded and empirically dubious claims is hardly difficult. Indeed, this has been a staple of the more critical literature on Hong Kong’s actually existing development path-cum-paradigm for decades now. What is at issue, then, is not so much the real-world veracity of the Hong Kong model, but its quite remarkable durability as a development symbol. Addressing this question, the paper presents a long-range analysis of the Hong Kong model qua model, probing: first, its distinctive role and rationale as a necessary delusion for neoliberal reformers; second, its enduring function as a mythologized “faith spot” in the (re)production of free-market governance; and third, its mutable historical character, as an object of pragmatic colonial administration, as an inspiration for proactive regulatory restructuring, and more recently, as a redoubt for preservationist claims. In the process, the paper dwells less on the work that the Hong Kong model has (supposedly) done on the inside and more on its performative functions on the outside, where it has been instrumental in shaping and shoring up the Manichean worldviews and oil-and-water formulations that are (apparently) necessary to the maintenance of neoliberal delusions.

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