Managed in Hong Kong: Adaptive Systems, Entrepreneurship and Human Resources

By Selmer, Jan | Journal of Southeast Asian Economies, August 2001 | Go to article overview

Managed in Hong Kong: Adaptive Systems, Entrepreneurship and Human Resources


Selmer, Jan, Journal of Southeast Asian Economies


Managed in Hong Kong: Adaptive Systems, Entrepreneurship and Human Resources. Edited by Chris Rowley and Robert Fitzgerald. London: Frank Cass Publishers, 2000. Pp. 135.

This is a timely and insightful edited volume preoccupied with the future of Hong Kong as rooted in current and past performance. The introductory chapter, written by the two editors, Chris Rowley and Robert Fitzgerald, sets the tone by discussing the three main themes "national competitiveness", "deindustrialization", and "human resources". The conclusion of the introductory chapter is well taken, that old solutions representing a continued frantic search for low cost production in response to new systemic shifts in the economic environment may create a vicious circle hard to break. As part of China in the new millennium, I could not agree more with the statement that Hong Kong needs new ideas for the rocky path ahead.

The second chapter by Mick Carney and Howard Davies, takes a historic perspective of the Hong Kong economy up to the present day in an attempt to understand whether past adaptive abilities may play a role in the future. The conclusion is as clear as it is alarming: the "merchant manufacturers" of Hong Kong are not likely to be able to change their traditional strategies towards the required technological upgrading and product differentiation. It is also deftly pointed out that this may not only have negative repercussions for Hong Kong, but also for the Chinese mainland, making the capabilities of Hong Kong firms operating there obsolete as the mainland develops further.

Chapter 3, written by Paul Ellis, again bases its analysis on past times but adds a theoretical flair in introducing complexity theory analysing Hong Kong as a complex adaptive system. Somewhat surprisingly, the result is more positive for the future of Hong Kong even if the arguments in favour are a bit weak. It is argued that Shanghai will not have a chance against Hong Kong in the future because established patterns of entry into (mainland) China will not be broken easily.

Currently, when one of the main problems in business is that "established patterns" are broken so easily and quickly that there is less and less time for firms to detect the changes in time (let alone respond to them), the authors' argument for the continued success of Hong Kong seems a bit feeble.

The fourth chapter by Victor Lee deals with the future demand for higher education, especially in business and management. The implication based on an analysis of Hong Kong government statistics and data reveals what every Hong Kong academic in this discipline already knows, that the market for business and management education has a lot more room for expansion. Touching on the virtues of distance learning and the prospects of foreign institutions linking up with local universities, the main point is lost. The government must invest more in management and business education. The only natural resource Hong Kong ever possessed is its people, and if this is not worth investing in at this historical period of rapid environmental change for businesses worldwide, what will be the future of Hong Kong?

Chapter 5, written by Aimee Wheaton, analyses the notion of organizational commitment in a Chinese sense, as contrasted against the corresponding Western connotations. Based on original empirical research, the author compares the extent of organizational commitment, both in behavioural and attitudinal terms. As expected, she finds that the Chinese exhibited a lower level on both counts than their Western counterparts, but this difference was not statistically significant. …

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