18 January 2019
It remains highly questionable whether Hong Kong will be on the to-do list of the incoming administration of Donald Trump (left, with US House Speaker Paul Ryan). Photo: Reuters
It remains highly questionable whether Hong Kong will be on the to-do list of the incoming administration of Donald Trump (left, with US House Speaker Paul Ryan). Photo: Reuters

Hong Kong likely to witness rise of own Trump phenomenon

As the US presidential election result has begun to sink in, perhaps it is time for us to reflect on Donald Trump’s victory and think about what insights we can draw from his stunning triumph.

First, like I mentioned earlier, Trump’s victory amounts to a big slap in the face for mainstream political elites in the United States who have been obsessed with political correctness.

The fact that views contradicting political correctness is sweeping through the US and Europe will certainly have profound and lasting implications for the rest of the world, and it is only a matter of time before what has happened in the West also takes place in other parts of the world, including Hong Kong.

The outbreak of anti-globalism sentiment didn’t happen overnight.

Over the past decade or so, the discontent and grievances of tens of millions of average working class people in the West who have borne the brunt of globalization have indeed been mounting.

However, many of them had been afraid of speaking their mind, mainly due to the hegemony of the politically correct.

It wasn’t until Trump made anti-globalization a main theme of his campaign that these people finally felt empowered to voice their anger over globalization and the political establishment.

Perhaps we can expect the emergence of the Hong Kong version of Donald Trump soon.

Secondly, Trump’s victory may also signify the beginning of the era of “post-truth politics”, under which political debates are mainly framed by appeals to public emotion rather than rationality and by the repeated assertion of sensational talking points, slogans or promises to which rebuttals based on actual facts are often ignored.

In other words, in the age of “post-truth politics”, voters are more interested in the political vows and gestures of candidates, while policy details, blueprints or even facts are no longer their prime concern when it comes to deciding who to vote for.

It is by no means that Hong Kong could be immune to the rise of “post-truth politics”.

Thirdly, Trump’s victory was also to a certain extent ground-breaking, as it marked the end of an era in which social and political agendas were dictated by traditional mainstream media like TV networks or newspapers, especially during elections.

The fact that Trump was able to rally substantial public support through social media and translate all those “likes” into actual votes – even though he was boycotted by the mainstream media – indicates that in the age of the internet, politicians no longer have to solely rely on the mainstream media to get their message across and build public support.

Instead, social media has turned out to be a much more efficient and cost-effective platform for them to reach out to voters.

As a society like the US where the internet is also ubiquitous, Hong Kong is very likely to witness the rise of the same trend in the days ahead.

Fourthly, the factors and elements that have given rise to nativism and anti-globalization sentiment in the US in fact also apply to Hong Kong as well.

The only difference is, perhaps, that while many average American voters are blaming their regressing economic status and deteriorating quality of life on globalization, immigrants and free trade, nativism in Hong Kong has been overwhelming directed at the influx of mainland immigrants, tourists and, in particular, political interference from Beijing.

On the other hand, it remains highly questionable whether Hong Kong will be on the to-do list of the incoming Trump administration at all, given Trump’s isolationist rhetoric and his disapproval of the “Return to Asia Pacific” strategy pitched by President Barack Obama.

It is also open to question whether our city’s affairs can continue to engage the interest of the incoming US Congress because, after all, many American lawmakers are showing concern for Hong Kong and slamming Beijing for its human rights record just to gain the spotlight and more popularity.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov.18.

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Associate professor and director of Global Studies Programme, Faculty of Social Science, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Lead Writer (Global) at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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