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Hong Kong Ain't No World Class City

Posted by: Frederik Balfour on March 13, 2008

It’s a rare day indeed when a diplomat will be truly frank when dealing with reporters. It’s even rarer still when one makes his or her comments on the record, as British Consul-General Stephen Bradley did so eloquently today at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club here in Hong Kong. In a talk that spanned everything from democracy in Hong Kong to the deteriorating standards of English in the former British Colony, Bradley didn’t mince his words when he turned to the theme of Hong Kong’s aspirations of becoming a world class city.

“It would be very difficult to say Hong Kong was a great city like New York or London and keep a straight face,” said Bradley, whose four year stint at the top envoy of Her Majesty the Queen is about to end. Describing Hong Kong as a culturally challenged place, the dip said it risks being eclipsed by Shanghai, not as a financial center, but as a cultural hub, which is drawing ex pats by the plane load because “life there is more interesting.” Even Macao boasts “the glory of having a UNESCO world Heritage Site while Hong Kong cowers in its cultural shade,” he said.

Quality of life issues really do matter more and more. Any HR manager or head hunter will tell you that, and cities that offer the most in terms of museums, sports venues, concerts, and theaters has a far better chance of attracting the best and the brightest.

Earlier this week, Sir David Tang, arguably one of the city’s most cultured denizens, sounded a similar theme. “Hong Kong’s reputation as a cultural desert is both fair and unfair” he told a group of journalists in one of the exquisite art deco rooms in the China Club, which Tang founded. He spoke in his capacity as a special advisor to Art HK 08, which its organizers hope will be Hong Kong’s answer to world class international art fairs such as Maastricht, or Basle or Miami-Basle. The fair should boast more than 100 art dealers from around the globe, featuring works by Picasso, Warhol and Francis Bacon alongside some of Asia’s strongest contemporary artists. By the way, Lehman Brothers is the lead sponsor of the fair,

As a regular attendee of both the Christie’s and Sotheby’s auctions held in Hong Kong, I can tell you that there’s no shortage of cash. Hong Kong is now the world’s third largest art auction market after New York and London. But whether the city can generate the kind of buzz that other fairs do remains to be seen. And this fair will only last five days. The city has its work cut out for improve its cultural offerings for the other 360 days of the year.


Reader Comments


March 13, 2008 1:55 PM

Shanghai is not a Chinese cultural bub either.

Make things straight: Hong Kong and Shanghai both could be financial hubs. Shanghai is lagging behind some sort though.

But Shanghai is China's industrial hub without any doubt.

Speaking of cultral hubs in China, Beijing is the top one, followed by Xi'an. Shanghai and Hong Kong are simply not at the same league.


March 14, 2008 5:59 PM

I love how the British lie to the world as if they gave Hong Kong democracy. The fact is Hong Kong hasn't had any sort of democracy until the last six years of 156 years of British occupation. And it was never a real democracy since to the end the governor of Hong Kong was always chosen by those in England and not elected by the people of Hong Kong. The irony is Hong Kong has lived under the British installed system of democracy longer with China than with democracy-loving England.


March 17, 2008 11:58 PM

Singapore is Asia'a world City..multi-ethnic, English widely spoken (if not perfect) Clean & safe....
Got its foothold in China, India & the Asean... thats a hard act for Hong Kong to follow, let alone beat!!!!


March 21, 2008 2:49 AM

Hongkong is a great city,even though it risks being eclipsed by Shanghai as a financial center, but it will still take Shanghai a couple of years to keep up with HK in many respects


April 3, 2008 4:22 PM

Hong Kong is the not world best, but it's the "Most Beautiful" city in the world.


April 3, 2008 4:22 PM

Hong Kong is the not world best, but it's the "Most Beautiful" city in the world.


April 5, 2008 1:42 AM

Who said Hong Kong has no cultural flavours? One should not take Shanghai but instead Singapore to compare with Hong Kong. In this case, Hong Kong knocks out Singapore. True, Singapore is squeaky clean and ethnically diverse but I don't feel attracted to Singapore at all. For Hong Kong, I could go back to visit it a number of times. Hong Kong is the definition of being a real city!


April 12, 2008 8:35 AM

Shanghai has different Art Fairs,

The Shanghai Art Fair,
SH Contemporary,
The Shanghai Fine Jewellery and Art Fair
The Salon

not counting the numerous Arts Festivals, museums, galleries and Art Shows!


September 2, 2009 5:49 AM

I think that the real debate is between Hong Kong and London, Bradley referred to Hong Kong as the London of Asia, and that means the new London, if nothing else. But was he correct? I think that there is a lot of room for London to still the the London of the world, and from another perspective is the view that the real debate is between NY and London - We are debating these very point here on Sleep New York Forum

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