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GPHY 227 City Profile Assignment 2017F Ying Chen 10170407


Fig. 1. A night time view of Hong Kong, obtained from The World Factbook: HONG KONG.

Population about four times GDP. Hong Kong is shopper’s

paradise because there are no tariffs on
estimated by the World Factbook, there are imported goods and no quotas or dumpling laws.
7,191,503 (slightly over 7 million) people by July The mainland China has long been Hong Kong’s
2017. In the past 30 years, Hong Kong has largest trading partner and the Hong Kong
witnessed an increasing population from 5,650 government has encouraged the Hong Kong
in 1841 to 6,149,000 at the end of 1994. The residents to open Chinese renminbi (RMB)
main ethnic group of Hong Kong is Chinese, saving accounts and RMB-denominated
accounting for 93% population and Indonesian corporates are allowed to issue in Hong Kong.
(1.9%), Filipino (1.9%), and others (3%). With less population but greater internal market
Economy resources, Hong Kong’s GDP per capita (PPP) is
ranked in 19th worldwide but China is in 106th.
With the right of presidential limited democracy, However, credit expansion and a limited housing
Hong Kong has a free market economy, unique supply have caused Hong Kong property prices to
from cities of mainland China. Hong Kong’s rise rapidly and lower and middle-income classes
economy is highly dependent on international are increasingly unable to afford adequate
trade and finance, specifically in the value of housing.
goods and services trade which constitutes

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GPHY 227 City Profile Assignment 2017F Ying Chen 10170407

A map of the city defense and foreign affairs are still under PRC’s
control (People’s Republic of China).

Historical context
Back in the 1840s, Hong Kong was a small fishing
community but acted as an important naval base
for the Opium Wars. After the Opium War,
Britain as the defeated party forced the
Manchurian government of China to sign three
treaties under which Britain legally occupied and
leased the territory of Hong Kong and
established colonial rule in the region. On 1 July
1997, Hong Kong ended over 150 years of British
Fig. 2. A GIS Map of Population Distribution colonial governance and became a special
of Hong Kong created by using ArcGIS. The administrative region of China. Hong Kong has
basemap is World Street Map. experienced a rapid demographic, social,
economic development over the past 20 years
Geographic location and now Hong Kong ranks 4th among the global
Statistics from the World Factbook shows Hong financial centers, 6th in global foreign exchange
Kong is in Eastern Asia, bordering the South reserve, and 8th among the world’s trade systems.
China Sea and China. Its geographic coordinates Population growth is the basis of the Hong Kong
are 22 15 N, 114 10 E. Total land area of Hong government’s economic strategy under a
Kong is only 1,073 square kilometers, generating modernized population management system.
about 6,300 people per square kilometer.

Hong Kong has a subtropical climate and three
distinct seasons are found through a year – cool
and humid in winter, hot and rainy from spring
through summer, and warm and sunny in fall.

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of
China since 1997 July 1st it enjoys the presidential
Fig. 3. A large Chinese flag on display on an
limited democracy under the principle of “one
electronic billboard in the Tsim Sha Tsui area
country, two systems”, meaning Hong Kong is
in Hong Kong. Image obtained by Lam Tik Fei
still a part of China but China’s socialist economic
for The New York Times.
system would not be imposed on Hong Kong and
instead, to maintain its economic and social
systems under the British influence, Hong Kong
Demographic Change Over 20 Years
is given a high degree of freedom of autonomy Provided by the Hong Kong Census and Statistics
from the mainland of China in all matters except Department, the overall population

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GPHY 227 City Profile Assignment 2017F Ying Chen 10170407

size of Hong Kong is increased slightly in the past

20 years from 6,489,300 people in 1997 to 7,071,
600 by the end of 2011. The graph of the fertility
rate at different age groups shows there is not a
dramatic change in fertility rate from 1997 to
2011, suggesting the population growth is due to
a prominent level of entrants to Hong Kong.
Indeed, the entrants are mainly from the
mainland of China, stated in the government
report. Unfortunately, the most recent updated Fig. 5. Age specific fertility rates of Hong
government data is to 2011 so it is not a 20-year Kong from 1980 to 2011. Data obtained by
comparison. Census and Statistics Department, Hong
Kong Special Administrative Region.

Fig. 4. Population pyramid comparison of

Hong Kong’s demographic change in 1996
and 2011. Data obtained by Census and
Statistics Department, Hong Kong Special
Administrative Region.
Fig. 7. Rush hour on the MTR, Hong Kong’s
News stories of Hong Kong efficient subway system. Image obtained by
Lam Yik Fei for the New York Times.
Arts and Culture of Hong Kong

Fig. 6. The New York Times news

article written by Keith Bradsher and
photography by Lam Yik Fei.

The author describes the political conflict

between Hong Kong’s government and Chinese Fig. 8. Protesters outside government
government and different options on Hong headquarters in Hong Kong. Image obtained
Kong’s future city planning and development. by Kin Cheung from the New York Times.

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GPHY 227 City Profile Assignment 2017F Ying Chen 10170407

The recent protest in 2014 is known as the

Umbrella Movement, which started in
September 2014 as a student movement
protesting against China’s influence over Hong
Kong’s politics and sovereignty. See the link to
YouTube video of VICE News of a detailed report
of the protest:


Interesting studies on Hong Kong:

Choi, K has published a study in 2012 over Hong
Kong Disneyland (HKDL) and its localization to
examine the various positions of various actors
(HKDL workers, consumers, and media
practitioners) in their relationship with HKDL.
Using the form of interviews and ethnographic
research, the study demonstrates that Disney
brought Hong Kong a physical park, non-
transparent values, and related management
practices. In addition, it reveals the HKDL
workers and visitors work and consume the park
in a local way that Disneyland management finds
difficult to control; local people try to change
meanings of ‘Disney’ and certain Disney
management policies.

Further reading (9 academic sources):

Chiu, S. W. K., & Lui, T. (2004). Testing the global city-social polarisation thesis: Hong Kong since the
1990s. Urban Studies, 41(10), 1863-1888. doi:10.1080/0042098042000256297
Abstract: using data from the Population Censuses, this paper examines the process of social
polarization as Hong Kong becomes globalization in 1990s. As predicted by the global city
literature, Hong Kong has experienced occupational polarization during 1990s and widening
income inequality as a result of its transformation to a global city.

Chu, Y. (2008). Deconstructing the global city: Unravelling the linkages that underlie Hong Kong's world
city status. Urban Studies, 45(8), 1625-1646. doi:10.1177/0042098008091494
Abstract: this paper examines Hong Kong’s changing configuration as a global city from the mid-
1980s to the early 200s. it starts with an overview of three sets of trend data and goes on to

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GPHY 227 City Profile Assignment 2017F Ying Chen 10170407

examine the capital, knowledge and labor mediated by two types of producer service and the
circuits they support.
Cullinane, S., & Cullinane, K. (2003). Hong Kong city profile. Cities, 20(4), 279-288. doi:10.1016/S0264-
Abstract: this profile focuses on the issue of Hong Kong’s independency with its own unique
identity apart from mainland China. It provides me insights of a proper city profile’s structure,
layout and Hong Kong’s historical issues.

Forrest, R., La Grange, A., & Yip, N. (2004). Hong Kong as a global city? social distance and spatial
differentiation. Urban Studies, 41(1), 207-227. doi:10.1080/0042098032000155759
Abstract: This paper draws on on-going work on Hong Kong's socio-spatial structure to explore
the extent to which it fits the dominant image of the global city.

Haila, A. (2000). Real estate in global cities: Singapore and Hong Kong as property states. Urban Studies,
37(12), 2241-2256. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-
Abstract: this paper examines an important role of real estate has played in the functioning of
the whole economy of Hong Kong as one of the global cities.

Jessop, B., & Ngai-Ling Sum. (2000). An entrepreneurial city in action: Hong Kong's emerging strategies
in and for (inter)urban competition. Urban Studies, 37(12), 2287-2313. Retrieved from
Abstract: the paper applies a Schumpeterian analysis of entrepreneurial cities to Hong Kong. It
argues that the concept of entrepreneurship can be applied to cities as strategic actors,
identifies various objects of urban entrepreneurship.

TAI, P. (2010). Beyond ‘Social polarization’? A test for Asian world cities in developmental states.
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 34(4), 743-761. doi:10.1111/j.1468-
Abstract: this paper examines city’s social polarization in terms of its definition and
quantification. Using Friedmann’s world city hypothesis and data on changes in occupation,
status and migration rate, the article tests the validity of the hypothesis in Asian world cities
including Hong Kong.

Yang, Z. (1996). The historical role of demographic change in Hong Kong. Chinese Journal of Population
Science, 8(3), 303.
Abstract: This paper gives a historical reference of Hong Kong’s history back to 1840s. I used the
article as a reference to complete the historical content section of the city profile.

Yung, E. H. K., & Chan, E. H. W. (2016). Re-examining the growth machine ideology of cities. Urban
Affairs Review, 52(2), 182-210. doi:10.1177/1078087415589040
Abstract: this article examines the impact of growth machine ideology on historic conservation
in Hong Kong as well as the public concern on manipulating the growth machine ideology. Using
two valued property cases in Hong Kong, the paper reveals the complexity between built
heritage and growth machine politics.

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GPHY 227 City Profile Assignment 2017F Ying Chen 10170407

A critical read on a contemporary urban issue in Hong Kong

Fig. 9. Hong Kong’s glittering skyline. Image obtained by Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times.

Global cities, as we learned in lecture is command and control centers in the world economy. Different
human geographers have different definitions and classifications of a global city. For instance, John
Friedmann (1986), has suggested a four-tier hierarchy, with London, Paris, Rotterdam, Frankfurt, Zurich,
New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Sao Paulo and Singapore as the primary hierarchy or world cities;
whereas, Saskia Sassen (1991) was more restrictive in the classification with only New York, London, and
Tokyo as the global city. Is Hong Kong a global city? I believe it is, but it is controversial. Hong Kong ranks
only after New York and London as a center of global finance, but it has no world-class museums. If you
look at the economic statistics of Hong Kong, then there is no doubt that it is a global city; however, with
its low livability rankings and high property values, Hong Kong is ranked as one of the world’s most
expensive city to live in. A global city cannot abandon offering residents a standard way of living. If the
majority of residents are unable to afford an adequate housing, then the global city is for whom?

Fig. 10. Vendors selling second-hand clothing Fig. 11. An open-air bar at an upscale mall
and goods in Sham Shui po, one of the city’s that faces the waterfront of Victoria Harbor.
poorest areas. Image obtained by Lam Yik Fei Image obtained by Lam Yik Fei for The New
for The New York Times. York Times.

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GPHY 227 City Profile Assignment 2017F Ying Chen 10170407

From the above images, you can see Hong Kong provides two distinct way of life: one is in a luxurious
setting where people in high classes are enjoying their modern life; whereas the other one is in a gloomy
environment where middle to low-class people are seeking hard for a make of life. With merely 1,073
square kilometers of the total land area of Hong Kong, the city illustrates a high degree of social
polarization due to the process of globalization. By reading the academic articles listed above and two
news articles from The New York Times, this city profile is focused on analyzing the process of social
polarization accompanied Hong Kong’s globalization, specifically understanding the occupational
polarization and widening income inequality as two main outcomes of Hong Kong’s transformation to a
producer service-driven global city. As Stephen W. K. Chiu and Tai-lok Lui (2004) stated, Hong Kong has
undergone the critical transformation: the rapid decline of secondary production and the expansion of
services and especially producer services. This is certainly a phenomenon of a global city’s transformation.
It also corresponds to our discussion of urbanization trends and projections for countries around the world.
One of the features of urbanization trend I learned in class is the rise of an advanced producer service
economy because centralized ‘command and control’ corporate functions have become so complex that
they need to be outsourced. This process of urbanization is witnessed in Hong Kong by the development
of personal services and other amenities catering for the elite and creative classes, including high-end
restaurants, real estate, international tourism, etc. around the CBD of Hong Kong. The trend of
urbanization and globalization leads to the occupational shift which ultimately results in social inequality
and uneven income distribution. This entire process is what is known as social polarization – rich people
get richer, poor people get pooler. However, socio-economic and spatial polarization is evitable for a
global city because it is a generalized trend and common characteristic of all global cities. As Friedmann
argued (1995, p. 324), class polarization in global cities has three principal facets: huge income gaps
between transnational elites and low-skilled workers, large-scale immigration from rural areas or from
abroad, and structural trends in the evolution of jobs. The history of Hong Kong first plugging into the
global economy was in the 19th century. As the first part of the profile describes, Hong Kong was used to
be a fishing community and performed the role of a regional trading port. Hong Kong developed rapidly
into an industrial city by the expansion of export-oriented, labor-intensive production by 1970s. However,
Hong Kong’s global economy network was not started to develop until the 20th century when it became
the special administrative region of China in 1997 and was given the overseas Chinese capitals to develop
local production and relocate manufacturing industries to the mainland of China. This guided Hong Kong
to transform from a production city to an operating center. The change of city’s function has no doubt,
affected and led to unemployment of manufacturing workers in a short time. Jobs have become polarized
in Hong Kong; for instance, between 1991 and 2001, the numbers of skilled works in the ‘craft and related’
and ‘plant and machine operators’ categories have plunged, but meanwhile, the numbers of managers
have grown by 40.3% and professionals and associate professionals also have increased by 81% and 78.2%
respectively (Table). This reveals the significance of professional workers in the provision of specialized
producer services in finance, real estate, and insurance. The occupational polarization brings income
differentials of various groups thereby causing social polarization as the two lifestyle images shown
previously. Besides agricultural and fishery works, the elementary occupations ranked as the lowest
median monthly income among all groups. The median income of the professionals was 4.29 times that
of the elementary occupations in 1991, increasing to 5.66 times in 2001. This huge income gap exemplifies
the underlying Hong Kong’s occupational polarization as one facet of global city development. In
conclusion, although the Hong Kong government has extensively intervened the collective consumption
on housing, education and medical services to the urban economy, under the goal of globalization, the

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GPHY 227 City Profile Assignment 2017F Ying Chen 10170407

process of occupational polarization and income polarization are inevitable to cause economic, social and
demographical inequalities among city’s residents. However, I think the government has the ability to
control the rate and quantity of globalization. If the process of globalization takes more slowly and gives
Hong Kong citizens more time to adapt to the new-build environment, then will the underlying social
inequality be held back? That is the question I will be finished with.

Fig. 12. Table of Hong Kong’s working population by occupation from 1991 and 2001 (Chiu, S. W. K., &
Lui, T., 2004).

Fig. 13. Table of Hong Kong’s median monthly income from main employment of working population
by occupation from 1991 and 2001 (Chiu, S. W. K., & Lui, T., 2004).

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GPHY 227 City Profile Assignment 2017F Ying Chen 10170407


Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. (2012). Demographic
Trends in Hong Kong 1981-2011. Retrieved from

Central Intelligence Agency. (2017, November 14). The World Factbook: HONG KONG.
Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/hk.html

Choi, K. (2012). Disneyfication and localisation: The cultural globalisation process of hong kong
disneyland. Urban Studies, 49(2), 383-397. doi:10.1177/0042098011402234

Keith, P. (2017, June 29). Once a Model City, Hong Kong Is in Trouble. The New York Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/29/world/asia/hong-kong-china-

Yi Zheng, L. (2016, August 16). The Umbrella Movement Fights Back. The New York Times.
Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/16/opinion/the-umbrella-movement-fights-

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