Cultural diversity among Chinese - PART 1 Mainland Chinese and Hong Konger

The University of British Columbia is a well-known education institution in the world. As such, there is a vast number of students from all over the globe who come to UBC in order to pursue a degree. Among the international students on campus, more than 30%  are from China. Given the number of students at UBC, it is sometimes called the University of Billion Chinese (for better or for worse). 

Who are these Chinese students? They are from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau. As a student from Hong Kong, I have lots of chances to make friends and interact with these students in the campus. As such, I am interested in exploring the cultural diversity among this group of students. Especially, I hope to find out how they look at the same issue with different perspectives.  

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It used to be a colony of Britain before 1997. Under the rule of the British, Hong Kong has developed its unique economic, political and legal systems. 

It is interesting to note that Hong Kong’s currency, written and spoken language, and legal system is varied from Mainland China.

It is interesting to note that Hong Kong’s currency, written and spoken language, and legal system is varied from Mainland China.

Hong Kong is always closely attached to Mainland China. Before the return of Hong Kong, these two places had a close and secure relationship. As China is one of the fast growing countries in the world, restitution of sovereign to Mainland China has significantly benefited Hong Kong. It is believed that Hong Kong will be more prosperous by having a more stable environment under the look after of China. For example, China will take the initiative to carry out some policies from time to time that is conducive to Hong Kong’s economy growth and foster the communication between the two places. 

Some people in Hong Kong tend to frown upon the assimilation and interference of the Chinese government, though the Basic Law mentions that Hong Kong will coexist with China as "one country, two systems." However, China has reinterpreted the document repeatedly and announced that China has the absolute jurisdiction over Hong Kong. Other conflicts, such as immigrants from mainland China, surging housing prices and the changing economic environment in Hong Kong has also worsened the relationship between Hong Kong and China.

I had a great chance to talk with two Chinese students, one from Mainland China and one from Hong Kong to explore the cultural diversity between these two places. It is important to note that their voices are based on their personal experience and point of view. They do not represent all the people from Hong Kong and China.

Cindy, an international student from Mainland China.

Cindy was born in Jiang Su, a city in Southern China. Growing up in Mainland China, she loves China a lot. She has always been interested to learn different cultural perspectives. Noticing the growing global influence of China, she decided to come to Canada in order to broaden her horizons and make positive changes in an ever-changing world.

Tell us a little about yourself, Cindy!

My favorite festival is the Spring Festival - Chinese Lunar New Year.  It is considered as the primary and the most important traditional festival in China. It is the time for family reunion, and I enjoy spending time with my family and friends.

I enjoy watching TV dramas at home, especially when the weather is cold. As a lazy person, I sometimes force myself to spend time at the gym in order to get myself to move a bit.

How will you clarify your identity?

I always identify myself as a Chinese because I was born and raised in Mainland China. Besides, I love China so much so I couldn’t think of any moment that I won’t consider myself as a Chinese.

Do you like China? How do you see the Mainland Chinese?

Hmm.... Mainland Chinese is refined. We tend to have good manners, and the young ones are well-educated. Sometimes it bothers me when the mass media portrays Chinese with the misleading images, such as showing tons of photos regarding child defecates on the street or in the store. In my opinion, some Mainland Chinese may have bad manners when they go travel; however, this is not all the case! Not all the Mainland Chinese are like that. I am pretty sure we are improving, and we are trying to show our positive side to the public at the same time.

Do you like Hong Kong? How do you see Hong Kong people?

Hong Kong people are quite nice to me. However, I feel like there is a significant disparity between people who live in Hong Kong and the mainland China. Regarding language, I feel like Hong Kong residents tend to have a higher English proficiency. Other than that, Hong Kong is a shopping paradise with lots of shopping malls.

Do you agree it is necessary to improve the sense of national identity among Hong Kong people?  

I feel like it sounds good if the sense of national identity among Hong Kong citizens grows. Although a lot of my friends from Hong Kong are pretty nice and polite when it comes to issues that involve national identity, they do not have a strong sense to indicate themselves as distinct from Mainland China or Chinese. Although some of them insist themselves as Hong Kong people as they enjoy the pride of living in Hong Kong rather than being involved in living as a part of Mainland China. At times, I wonder if the Hong Kong people are opposed to the Chinese Communist Party but not Mainland China.

Based on the fact that this is a problem left over from history between China and Britain, I do not feel offended as I understand we cannot change their sense of national identity immediately and vigorously.

How do you see the relationship between Hong Kong and China?   

I see Hong Kong as part of China. These two places have always maintained a close and secure bonding, like mother and infant. The government always release policies that aim to encourage the communication and integration between the two places.

At the same time, Mainland Chinese always go to Hong Kong for shopping which boosts the economic development and brings a lot of cash to Hong Kong. It was not until recent years, some of the Mainland Chinese switch their destination from Hong Kong to Japan and Korean because they sometimes are worried about personal safety and the unwelcome sense of feel from the local people.

How do you see the Chinese Communist Party?  

In these two years, the government is fighting against corruption between business sectors and the political figures. They did a good job, and I honestly appreciate this initiative act. Maybe, it is a good start for the Chinese Communist Party to get rid of their negative image.

I understand sometimes the government is too harsh and too strict. However, if the government is not strong enough, it is hard to rule the massive population in China.

Do you believe Hong Kong is possible to run a universal suffrage for the election of chief executive in the future?  

I am not sure. I do not have a deep understand on how a chief executive is elected in Hong Kong. However, I do not think the Chinese Communist Party will allow Hong Kong citizens to choose a chief executive according to who they prefer. It is depended on the party.

What do you think about the future of Hong Kong?  

If Hong Kong can not strike a balance between the political tension and the pursuit of democracy, the future of Hong Kong will be affected to a great extent. Problems such as shrinking economy and social instability may appear with the detachment of Mainland China. At the same time, three cities: Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Beijing are very competitive. Hong Kong should cooperate with Mainland China for a brightening future. 

What do you think about the future of China? 

I have high hope on China that it will continue to grow rapidly. One of the advantages of China is its huge population. If everyone contributes to the development and improvement of the country, we are going to innovate more skills and technique. As such, China will be a country as influential as the United States, especially Trump is the current president of US. We will see.  

June, 2016 

June, 2016 


Christy, a domestic student from Hong Kong

Christy was born in Canada but grown up in Hong Kong. Her family moved back to Hong Kong soon after she was born. Though being a Canadian, she has lived the majority of her life in Hong Kong. She returned to Canada 3 years ago simply because she has received an offer from UBC after graduating from high school.

Tell us a little about yourself, Christy!

When it comes to my favorite festival, it would definitely be Chinese New Year. I believe 9 out of 10 Chinese will also vote for the Spring Festival. It is the time when I will get many red packets from the elders in the family. Other than that, I will have lots of good food as well.

I love figure skating so much that I never have enough of it!! 

How will you identify your identity?

I always identify myself as a Hong Konger, and sometimes as a Chinese living in Hong Kong.

When will you consider yourself as a Hong Konger? Do you like Hong Kong? How do you think about Hong Kong people? 

Usually when discussing local issues, such as (but not limited to), universal suffrage, and the preservation of local heritage and culture. As a Hong Konger, I definitely love this place where I call home. I do acknowledge that people nowadays have negative impressions on Hong Kongers, such as putting on a poker face anywhere anytime. But this should never be the representation of Hong Kongers. We are all hard-working and efficient, trying our best to stay competitive at all time!

When will you consider yourself as a Chinese? Do you like China? How do you think about Chinese?

It's usually when our fellow Chinese gained glory and when they need our help. I personally love China a lot. Having spent a summer in China, I have gained first-hand experience on how it's like to live in China. Excellent service and efficiency are always of top priorities. Mobile apps can good for everything, from buying delivery meals to paying your bill at the mall. Though there are still much to work on its people, I think it's important to recognize the rapid development of China as well.

Do you agree it is necessary to improve the sense of national identity among Hong Kong people?

I don't think there's a need to impose policies to enhance their sense of belonging to China. Any intended action would only result in refusals from the people. I think if the Chinese government does want to improve the sense of national identity among Hong Kong residents, they should progress gradually.

How do you see the relationship between Hong Kong and China? 

I think Hong Kong and China are helping each other. Hong Kong has a well-developed financial system which Shanghai, the economic capital of China, is still working on the way to becoming one of the international financial centers. At the same time, China, as the prime exporter to Hong Kong, helps to sustain sufficient supply of daily necessities. The opportunities brought by the Chinese development are also valuable for Hong Kong to enhance its status and its function as a financial centre.

How do you see the Chinese Communist Party (optional question)?

Hmmm.. this is a tough question; I would rather skip it.

Do you believe Hong Kong is possible to run a universal suffrage for the election of chief executive in the future?

I would not go straight to the conclusion, but I would say its path to universal suffrage is extremely difficult. Given the complicated political situation in Hong Kong, I honestly think that no one knows how Hong Kong will become in the future. However, I believe Hong Kong people want to fight for the democracy and fight for the things we want rather than rejecting the things that we don’t want. It is a long fight.

What do you think about the future of Hong Kong?

Hong Kong needs to grab tight every opportunity to demonstrate its excellent function as an international financial center. Shanghai is catching up, and there's an immediate need for us to consolidate and improve right now!!

What do you think about the future of China?

China will continue to exert its power globally to enhance its international status. Eventually, China will be well developed and one of the most influence country with lots of talent and capital.

As we can notice from the interview, both students have the same option when it comes to their favorite festival -Chinese Lunar New Year. So do I! While this is a small similarity, it indicates an overlap in our traditional values and customs, despite our political and environmental differences. To me, these similarities signify how we, Chinese from all over the places, may find ways to connect despite differing points of view.

In the next series, we are going to explore the cultural diversity between Macau and Mainland China.