In 2018, Sally interned with Text100 in Hong Kong through the Graduate Internship provided by Annenberg International Programs. She talks about her experience working in the digital space and it’s impact and future trajectory based on the cultural and political climate of China.
Suits and ties are the casual-wear of Hong Kong as the admiration for the Wall Street lifestyle envelopes the city. However, under the facade of a gilded, international, financial hub lurks an absence of research and development. Hong Kong established its coveted position as a proliferating financial hotspot but has not evolved into a metropolis cultivating innovation. According to Alan Tong, Senior consultant at Text100, “Hong Kong is very behind on digital innovations...webpage SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is only now becoming a popular marketing service in Hong Kong while other APAC hubs like Singapore and Tokyo are already implementing SEO services on videos, images, and voice.” Even though Hong Kong may seem cosmopolitan and digitally advanced, its technology is all bought and imported; Hong Kong does not innovate. In addition, the most coveted real-estate in Hong Kong is in Central, the financial district that encompasses all the international investment banking giants such as J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of China, and Goldman Sachs.
For marketing agencies, such as Text100 in Hong Kong, most of their present clients are foreign companies, but it will likely change in the future with the CCP (Central Communist Party) tightening its grip over Hong Kong (Chan, 2018). The heated trade-wars between China and the U.S. does not ameliorate the situation either since the CCP will make it increasingly difficult for U.S. and Western companies to engage in businesses with China.
It has already been twenty-one years since Hong Kong’s return to China, and although Hong Kong is a SAR (Self-Autonomous Region), the CCP has been strategic in its quest to subdue Hong Kong’s democratic spirit. Even though the post-1997 agreements promised “one country, two systems” (Chan, para. 1, 2018), Beijing wields the ultimate power. After the British decolonization, the Hong Kongers believed that as China becomes richer and stronger, it will become more like Hong Kong (French, 2017). However, now that China is richer and stronger, it is unwilling to compromise and sacrifice its control over Hong Kong (French, 2017).
China’s looming presence over Hong Kong will greatly impact foreign businesses since the CCP is known to incubate and protect Chinese companies (Harborn, 2018). Marketing agencies in Hong Kong, therefore, will see a demographic shift in their client base. With Hong Kong’s return, mainland businesses and citizens are inundating Hong Kong, making it more difficult for foreign businesses since they do not have the CCP’s support. In addition, the housing prices in Hong Kong are already notoriously expensive. The mainlanders with their new money are hiking the housing prices even further, and thus, exacerbating Hong Kongers’ financial pressure.
Cathy Cheung, a marketing associate at Text100, who is a millennial, disclosed her generation’s indifference towards mainland China. Cathy stated that her generation dislikes mainlanders because they are rowdy and are not polished in terms of etiquette. Few of the instances she described were babies defecating on the subway, people preaching Communism, and bathing their feet in historical fountains. The strained relationship between China and Hong Kong is not only political but also cultural despite historically being the same country. The cultural scar is the consequence of colonialism that is still affecting the region today.
After China semi-opened its doors in the 90s, Hong Kong was widely and still is, considered as the gateway to the Chinese market (Pang, 2013). SAP, a German environmental technology enterprise, is one of Text100’s client. The company is looking to penetrate the Chinese market and commissioned Text100 to write a white paper. When writing a white paper, or any other foreign companies’ editorial pieces to be published in China, commending the Chinese government is a must. For SAP, the paper mentions efforts and achievements the CCP has made to combat climate change. At Text100, more and more clients are now Chinese companies. Xunlei is a new addition to the client base and when drafting their press releases, Chinese governmental policies and language to appease the CCP must always be weaved into the narrative.
Working in Hong Kong is extremely international yet politicized. While the environment is global due to the varying ethnicities and languages enveloping the city, the content in Hong Kong can be propagandistic. Press releases to be published in greater China require meticulous attention to ensure no content will offend the CCP. At Text100, marketers are extremely culturally and politically aware. Business in Hong Kong is becoming increasingly intertwined with Beijing as foreign companies now have to draft strategic narrative to gain CCP’s approval. Therefore, for agencies and any other foreign organizations alike, commerce in Hong Kong will greatly depend on China’s international relation strategies and will be used as a leverage in the international political arena.
Sally graduated in May 2019 from USC with a degree in Communication Management from Annenberg School of Communications. She embarked on a summer internship program in 2018 in Hong Kong with Text100.