The discourses of order and modernisation
in Hong Kong and British culture, 1945–97
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Coexisting with the laissez-faire discourse described in chapter two, British accounts of Hong Kong—including official ones—also emphasized modernization. Above all, this meant containing the disorder of the overcrowded areas, and filling in the “empty” rural areas of the New Territories. Such discourse often juxtaposed modernity with Chineseness, implying not only that the British were the effective agents of modernity, but that it was an inherently non-indigenous import. To an extent, the tropes of order and modernization contradicted the idea of a free-wheeling capitalist economy, because it cited deliberate planning. Yet because such top-down planning focused on infrastructure projects and public housing that would facilitate cheap labour, it can be seen as a complementary pro-business discourse. The British discursive imposition of order and modernization was displayed, above all, in zoning regulations, in the development of public housing (accelerating after a massive 1953 fire at Shek Kip Mei), in the creation of planned New Towns such as Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun, and Sha Tin, and in major infrastructure projects including the Plover Cove reservoir and the Chek Lap Kok airport.

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