Monday, September 12, 2005


Today is the official opening of what the international press are describing as "Disney's first outpost in Communist China". This seems a somewhat hyperbolic, albeit not inaccurate, way of describing it, because Disney in many ways is a perfect fit in Hong Kong and I'm sure they'll have no trouble at all selling their gewgaws to legions of tourists. Of more concern is whether they can actually get them there in the first place. But since people have been coming ticketless from Guangzhou just to stand and look at the front gates, perhaps it won't be a problem.

Poeple in Hong Kong generally look down on mainlanders, and the word has become a cipher for "evil-doer" - as in "Two mainlanders were seen running away from the scene" - with no further description needed. The paradox is that increasingly the success of the Hong Kong retail economy depends on them.

Comically enough, Lui Tailok, sociology professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that "People under 35 are more familiar with Japanese animations and manga than Disney. For us Winnie the Pooh is an alien."

Quite apart from the environmental, economic and sociological implications, and purely from an aesthetic (AKA snobbish?) point of view, no matter how long I live in Hong Kong, and no matter how jaded I become, nothing could persuade me to visit that place.

  • The project has cost almost HK$14bn (US$1.8bn) (how much of this is government subsidy?)
  • The development takes up 125 hectares, and they have left room for the site to double in size (saints preserve us!)
  • The HK government claim it will create 18,000 jobs in the short term (will they be looking for people with Mickey Mouse degrees? - sorry, cheap shot), and about HK$148bn (US$18bn) in economic benefits over 40 years. (How on earth are they quantifying that? Does that not just consist of benefits to Disney?)
  • Disneyland HK is expecting 5.6 million visitors in its first year, two-thirds from China and south-east Asia
  • But the ticket price, HK$350 (US$45), is nearly two weeks' wages for the average mainland Chinese family - and in mainland China the GDP per capita is still only US$1K per year compared to US$30K in the US

No comments: