Generation 40s – 四十世代

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Insecure and uncertain, Hong Kong youth are struggling to cope with the transition to adulthood

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion

Trevor Lee

Trevor Lee says a lack of job security leading to a worthwhile career is a major cause of young people’s angst, leaving them feeling unprepared to assume their adult responsibilities

The youth of today in Hong Kong are being subjected to more harsh criticism than ever before. Authoritative figures seem fed up with the narcissistic and unruly behaviour of millennials. The former Chinese University vice-chancellor’s criticism of the young protesters who stormed a University of Hong Kong council meeting, calling them “spoiled brats”, is just one instance that has intensified the tension between generations.

Indeed, mutterings of disgust about our young, not just in the political realm, resonate in everyday life: Why are so many people in their 20s taking so long to grow up? Why do so many still rely heavily on their parents for cash and “daily care”? They are procrastinating over getting a job or drifting through employment. Is it simply a lost generation, personal failure or a lifestyle choice?

Apparently, many tend to place all the blame on the shoulders of individual youths or their “reckless” parents. But we need to acknowledge that many young people are struggling in life. A new developmental stage is emerging, between adolescence and adulthood. From late teens through much of the 20s, these “emerging adults” seek to explore their own identity and self and do not feel ready to assume traditional adult responsibilities, such as a career and family.

I am not sure this has turned young people into “spoiled brats”. But it is a stage that most youth across the globe have to adjust to.

What are the driving forces that contribute to a growing sense of insecurity and uncertainty among our young? One explanation may be their grim job prospects. Today’s economy is very different from that of their parents; simply working hard and getting a good education is no longer enough to succeed.

Also, over the past few decades, there has been an expansion of “precarious jobs”, which provide relatively low wages and offer no hope of security or advancement. Driven by the competitive global economy and technological development, such non-standard work is uncertain and unprotected; examples include those in the informal sector, and temporary, part-time jobs and casual labour. In these jobs, the worker bears all the risk in terms of stability of employment, not the state or employer.

Some “regular” jobs have also become more insecure because of the pressure on employers to be more flexible. Such work is not new to this generation, but it is a growing phenomenon, and is causing increasing concern worldwide.

These are dead-end jobs that lead to long-term underemployment, unstable work identities, and unreliable livelihoods. Young people are particularly vulnerable to – and may be overrepresented in – the trap of precarious work.

Sociologist Richard Sennett extends the idea to wider society, in which the lack of a long-term nature in precarious work is “a principle which corrodes trust, loyalty and mutual commitment”. The employment relationship is no longer defined by mutual loyalty and the promise of stability but rather, by employability; that is, the worker’s ability to secure their next job. Thus, the real onus of labour relations falls solely on the workers.

With this overwhelming insecurity and stress, it is not surprising that many in their 20s postpone adult commitments and responsibilities by extending schooling, delaying marriage and so on.

In fact, the ebb and flow of generational precarity starts well before students enter the labour market. A student on an internship or a part-time job may think it brings them a positive, value-added personal experience. However, they may not have considered that they and other students are implicitly forced by the labour market into playing this “game” and doing this precarious work in the hope of securing a good job later on. Imagine, then, the irony of being able to find only other precarious work upon graduation.

This is just one way of seeing the issues facing Hong Kong’s youth. But we should not dismiss their seeds of disquiet by putting them down. Instead, perhaps the detractors should put themselves in their shoes before judging or criticising.

Trevor Lee is a social researcher at Chinese University


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筆者未有正式修讀過翻譯,然而雖無理論撐腰, 卻有親嘗實踐之步印。

多年前曾為謝家駒博士翻過他一本專述馬莎百貨集團(Marks & Spencer)管理成功史的中文版,香港商務印書館出版。

話雖如此,也不能說完全未學過。當年曾在中文大學校外進修部上過劉紹銘教授的《英譯中》課程,此為三個月的課程,只能作淺顯之涉獵,卻無意中偷得劉教授一句說話:翻譯就是「Finding the equivalent」了。以後翻譯什麼,總把此準則記在心上。





I hated every minutes of training, but I said “Don’t quit”. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion. Muhammad Ali



Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. Booker T. Washington


不少領導人物都不必是天生神器。他們掌握着風雲際會,坐着直升機,冷手執個熱煎堆攀上高位, 本身並無堅實之基礎。就如當年戴卓爾夫人因推行稅項不得民心,黯然下台時推出個馬卓安者出來頂檔,便屬此例。





Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts. W. Churchill



擅文采的邱吉爾用了「final」及「fatal」兩詞當有其意義。據字典所載,final是終局的,遇此即表示玩完了。但「非終極」卻又反映了此次成功並不保證以後都成功,無人向之challenge。反之,「失敗未地塗」並不表示一敗便必然塗地,翻身無望了。Fatal是致命之傷,Not Fatal等於是縱有受傷卻非太重。由此觀之,邱說的Failure未去到置人於死地之地步也。就算是又如何!不是說置諸死地而後生嗎?

今日有些年輕人學英語時掌握不到英文串字之道,強記不無困難。當年老師教落,只要把邱吉爾之英文名拆開來,變成Church ill,必能記得住了。



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Japan and China both need to face the realities of history

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion

Gary Cheung

Gary Cheung says while Abe’s war speech lacked any sincere reflection, Beijing, too, seems to have trouble separating the truth from fiction

French historian and thinker Alexis de Tocqueville once observed that “history is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies”. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was obviously trying his best to present “copies” and other versions of the wartime history he and his supporters promote when he prepared his statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war.

His speech, on August 14, was full of rhetoric aimed at watering down Japan’s responsibility for invading other Asian countries. He said the waves of colonial rule that surged towards Asia in the 19th century, and the Russo-Japanese war, from 1904-05, “gave encouragement to many people under colonial rule from Asia to Africa”. But the war was actually fought between the two over rival imperial ambitions in Manchuria and Korea.

Abe went on to say that “with the Great Depression setting in and the Western countries launching economic blocs by involving colonial economies, Japan’s economy suffered a major blow. In such circumstances, Japan’s sense of isolation deepened and it attempted to overcome its diplomatic and economic deadlock through the use of force.” His reasoning, which suggests Japan was left with no choice but to wage war, given the isolation imposed by Western powers, is reminiscent of Japan’s wartime leaders’ argument that their country was being “encircled by an ‘ABCD’ coalition” consisting of America, Britain, China and the Dutch East Indies. Abe’s lack of sincere reflection makes his argument feeble that Japan’s future generations should not have to keep apologising for the mistakes of the past.

Posters and a trailer for The Cairo Declaration – scheduled to hit mainland cinemas on September 3 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender – imply Mao played a key role at a wartime summit near the pyramids in 1943. Yet he never attended

Yet China is not much better at facing history. A movie, The Cairo Declaration, produced by the August First Film Studio – which has close ties to the People’s Liberation Army – has raised many eyebrows for its disproportionate emphasis on Mao Zedong’s role in the second world war. Posters and a trailer for the film – scheduled to hit mainland cinemas on September 3 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender – imply Mao played a key role at a wartime summit near the pyramids in 1943. Yet he never attended. Instead, then Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek, US president Franklin D. Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston Churchill met to outline their position against Japan during the war and map out the future of post-war Asia.

Mao, meanwhile, was in his cave in Yanan , Shaanxi province at the time, sparing no effort to spearhead the Yanan rectification movement to ensure that artists contributed their work to serve the cause of communism.

Chinese history is actually the history of fighting for the power to write history. The movie’s far-fetched version of events highlighting Mao is testament to the Communist Party’s long-standing position that it was the “pillar of strength” in the resistance against Japan’s invasion during the second world war. But a study of the Chronicle of Zhou Enlai shows that in the early stage of the Sino-Japanese war, Mao advocated guerilla warfare while avoiding direct conflict with the Japanese army.

President Xi Jinping is expected to deliver a speech during the military parade in Beijing on September 3. A speech by his predecessor, Hu Jintao , 10 years ago, may provide food for thought. Marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the anti-Japanese war, Hu gave a rare acknowledgment of the Kuomintang’s contribution to the victory over Japan.

“As the main force on frontal battlefields, the KMT army organised a series of major battles, which dealt heavy blows to the Japanese army,” he said.

Gary Cheung is the Post’s political editor

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Hong Kong needs to rely less on the mainland and more on world democracies

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion

Martin Murphy

Martin Murphy says over-reliance on the mainland is hurting the city in more ways than just economically. With foreign partners, it can be more autonomous and bounce back

China’s recent beggar-thy-neighbour devaluation of the yuan is a reminder that “Asia’s world city” has yet to live up to its name. Its over-reliance on the mainland is becoming a perilous venture. Having grown fat and lazy on mainland tourism and entrepot services, some of Hong Kong’s pillar economic sectors are now facing the double whammy of both a slowing Chinese economy and a cheaper yuan.

While Beijing likes to talk grandly of Hong Kong’s role in its five-year plans, the reality is that Hong Kong’s welfare is an afterthought in Chinese economic policymaking. Recent examples show the ripple effects of Hong Kong’s invisibility. With almost 40 per cent of the city’s retail sales coming from mainland visitors, the yuan’s devaluation not only cut sharply into the retail sector, one of the city’s biggest employers, but also the commercial property market. Shares of several big developers tumbled after Beijing’s currency announcement. Other sectors are sure to experience similar reverberations.

But the economy is just one arena in which Hong Kong would benefit from less “mainlandisation”. In a number of areas, Hong Kong could do a much better job raising its international stature and advancing the interests of its citizens and business sector. To reach its full potential as a more autonomous player, however, will need its democratic partners to step up to help the city get its groove back.
A formal dialogue between the Legislative Council and other democratic legislatures could provide early warning signals of potentially troublesome legislation

With Hong Kong’s prospects for genuine universal suffrage and democracy now on permanent hold, it’s understandable that foreign countries would lose what little passing interest they had in its future. But if democratic nations want to make a difference in Hong Kong’s future, they will need to adopt more concrete strategies to support the city’s aspirations. This means devising policies with the specific aim of helping Hong Kong promote its autonomy, rule of law and unique way of life. Deepening their own engagement with Hong Kong officials, institutions and civil society across a broad spectrum of mutual interests is the best way to do that.

A number of key areas come to mind. Law enforcement is a prime candidate for deeper engagement between Hong Kong and democratic nations. While there’s already good international and bilateral cooperation in traditional police work, the same cannot be said about such global threats as proliferation, lax export controls and terrorism, including terrorist and criminal organisations’ use of Hong Kong as a platform for cybercrime and money laundering. A formal dialogue on non-proliferation issues, for example, would go a long way in ensuring Hong Kong gets the tools to fully cooperate with international organisations on global threats.

Regular interaction between legislators is common among democratic nations. A formal dialogue between the Legislative Council and other democratic legislatures could provide early warning signals of potentially troublesome legislation. The dialogue should focus on not only economic issues, but also other areas such as visas and immigration.

Hong Kong’s private sector can be another important driver in reorienting the city’s democratic direction. Together with government officials, the Hong Kong business community could help establish a private-public-sector forum to engage senior officials in democratic nations.

Beyond these issues lies an ocean of other challenges, from the environment and education to youth dissatisfaction, that are ripe for Hong Kong and its democratic partners to forge new partnerships.

With 32 years left under “one-country, two-systems,” Hong Kong is in danger of being set adrift. It is in many ways like other democracies round the world. A higher, more strategic level of engagement with other like-minded societies is one of the best ways to preserve its core values and “two systems” in the absence of universal suffrage.

But with the city in a major funk, its democratic partners need to step out of the shadows and strengthen the ties that bind democratic societies.

Born in Hong Kong, Martin Murphy is a former US diplomat and was head of the Economic-Political Section at the US Consulate in Hong Kong from 2009 to 2012