Loving China from a Distance: The Reconsidered Significance of Hong Kong’s Colonial Exceptionalism

Miss Katy Chan1

1The University of Melbourne, Australia

In both academic and conventional knowledge, Hong Kong’s colonial experience has been told in a narrative of exceptionalism, which overstresses the city’s capitalist success and social stability. Scholars have come to criticise such narrative for its service to imperialism, as it speaks for a dismissal of colonial power and legacies while politics are undeniably present. Most critiques focus on bringing the antagonism between the coloniser and the colonised back in, and from there it is hoped to establish a ‘de-exceptionalised’ historiography for decolonising the knowledge. Alternatively, I argue that Hong Kong as a colonial case is exceptional; yet the narrative of exceptionalism is still problematic for its frequent attribution of Hong Kong’s colonial exceptionality to a culturally-essentialist explanation embedded in an Orientalist thinking of the self. To overcome Orientalism, I reconsider the issue of Hong Kong’s colonial exceptionality in a relational approach, whilst seeking to contextualise it in the complexity of cold-war politics at the global level. This paper, as part of my thesis, intends to approach the subject matter from a basic attempt to reflect on the narrative of exceptionalism to exploring the accounts of the colonised.


Miss Katy Chan is a PhD Candidate at the School of Social and Political Sciences. Research interests include identity, nationalism, and history of colonialism.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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