Charles, who has become a good friend and ally over the past year, invited me to write a preface for the book. Since my written Chinese isn't up to the task I wrote it in English and he had it translated. Below is my original English draft.
Many foreigners show up in Hong Kong and start drawing public conclusions about the place and its people within days of arrival. I can imagine that many Hong Kong people must be quite tired of such instant experts. Thus, as a recently arrived Westerner who speaks no Cantonese, I was surprised that Charles Mok invited me to write this preface. Yet he insisted, so I will try hard not to waste his readers' precious time.
Having spent altogether 12 years living in Beijing, when I moved to Hong Kong in January 2007 I brought with me many prejudices that Beijing people tend to hold about Hong Kong. According to these prejudices, Hong Kong people are allegedly not very creative, are culturally superficial, materialistic, are easily intimidated, and can be counted on to choose profit over principle.
Charles Mok is one of the many people I've met since moving to Hong Kong who have proven to me that such stereotypes are grossly unfair.
In my limited experience, the most inspiring and exciting people in Hong Kong are not the tycoons, the movie stars, or the celebrity politicians. Hong Kong has many talented individuals who do not dominate the newspaper headlines: entrepreneurs, independent writers and artists, local community leaders, and many others who are doing their own thing in their own way, staying true to their ideals and beliefs, trying to make difference for the people around them.
In Hong Kong version 1.0, it was the tycoons, pop stars, celebrity politicians and the media's favorite "pundits" who had most of the power and influence. In the 1.0 version of any country or territory, getting attention and having an impact was much more difficult without access to substantial investment capital, without contracts from recording or film studios, without access to a printing press or broadcasting channel, without somebody to publish and distribute your books, without journalists who agree to interview you and put your quotes in the newspaper or soundbites on television, and so forth.
Now Hong Kong and all of the world's modern cities are facing the 2.0 era. Successful transition from 1.0 to 2.0 will be key for maintaining Hong Kong's competitive edge in the global knowledge economy. In a global knowledge economy, competitiveness increasingly depends on a country or territory's ability to innovate: innovation not only in terms of business, products and services; but also innovation that creates the kind of working and living environment in which the world's top knowledge workers – and their families – can live happy and healthy lives.
As a cosmopolitan, multicultural city with one of the world's most highly educated populations, Hong Kong 2.0 has the potential to be one of the world's most vibrant and creative places. In Hong Kong 2.0, ideas and innovations in all fields would be able to emerge from the "bottom up" rather than from the "top down;" from the "edges" rather than from the "center" – after all, experience shows that the best business ideas and most exciting cultural innovations in the past few years have tended to come from the most unexpected places, and almost never from a government planner's desk.
This is great news if you do not belong to one of the categories of famous people listed above. Internet entrepreneurs are launching startups with small amounts of pooled savings. Independent artists, filmmakers and musicians are increasingly using mobile and internet technologies to get their works known. Bloggers and podcasters who put their creations directly on the Internet are gaining popularity among young people without having to first get a TV or radio show. Citizen media groups like InMedia have used the internet to organize social movements to preserve Hong Kong's historical heritage. Journalists can publish pointed political analysis directly on their blogs, whether or not their newspaper editors dare to publish it.
But as Charles Mok has pointed out in many of his essays over the past few years, it is not yet clear whether Hong Kong's legislative and regulatory structures will enable Hong Kong to evolve successfully from 1.0 to 2.0 and achieve its full potential. Is Hong Kong capable of truly taking advantage of all that its highly-educated, culturally diverse people have to offer? Or will the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region potentially squander its potential by sticking to a set of outdated 1.0 style regulatory structures and laws – a system which might favor the entrenched 1.0 interests, but which might also hold Hong Kong back while the world's most competitive cities boldly stride forward to 2.0 and beyond?
The good news is that there are more ways than ever for all of us as Hong Kong residents and citizens to make our views known – both to each other as well as to the people who currently hold power in Hong Kong. In his essays, Charles describes many of those ways, and discusses many of the policy reforms he believes are necessary in order for Hong Kong to transition successfully from 1.0 to 2.0. No doubt you will have other views – you may or may not agree with everything he says. But the point is that if you want the dream of Hong Kong 2.0 to be fulfilled, it's up to you to help make it happen. Don't sit and wait for 1.0 leaders to solve Hong Kong's problems in a top-down 1.0 fashion. We have only ourselves to blame if we sit around waiting for other people to build Hong Kong 2.0, and do nothing about it ourselves.
Read on for the Chinese translation (use of the terms 老外 and 洋婦 were deliberate)..