Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Ambition & Culture

Written by: on June 12, 2015


I purchased my plane tickets for Hong Kong last week. I’ll be heading out a few days early and visiting my Uncle in Nanning. When I sent him my itinerary he sent a quick email back saying, “I keep thinking about things I think you would find interesting…I would like you to see old and new China.  Do you have an aversion to any foods?  Spicy etc.?” I’ve traveled all over the world but I’ve never been to China and the truth is I know so little about China. Old and New? I should probably know but the truth is I’m not sure I know what he means. And I love foods of all kinds but I sent a stereotypical American response saying, “I love spicy foods, I just don’t want to eat cat.” (-:

I know I have a lot to learn. Old and New China. I’m curious to learn and even more curious to experience it myself. Hong Kong Culture, Word and Image, edited by Kam Louie gave me a glimpse as to what we will get to experience in just a few months. Hong Kong seems to be a colliding of cultures. Not just two cultures colliding but two cultures colliding and making something new. In his intro Louie says, “What is Hong Kong culture? Anyone who has been to Hong Kong before and after 1997 would know that when it belonged to Britain, Hong Kong culture was not really British, and now that the former colony is part of China, its culture is not exactly Chinese either. It is a cliché to say that Hong Kong today benefits from the economic growth in China, without the political restrictions the rest of China has to operate under.[1]” Old and new have collided and made something all together new. I can’t wait to experience it for myself.

I found Louie’s comments about Hong Kong re-defining itself to be very interesting. Louie says, “Hong Kong culture, while unique, has many facets that can be traced to Chinese roots and global influences…the city is haunted not just by the spectacular and more subtle changes that have occurred in recent times, it is also haunted by the urgency with which it feels it needs to re-define itself with reference to other cities such as Sydney.[2]” David Clarke (Chapter 3) goes on to explain this “haunting” with more depth. Explaining that Hong Kong has ambition to be a World City, and because of that ambition they are “haunted” to have an unique, impacting, and powerful footprint in our world[3]. After reading Clarke’s thoughts in chapter 3 I’m left wondering if ambition pushes culture? As our urban centers around the world build bigger and bigger skyscrapers, as they develop the arts, and craft their unique identity, are our cities really doing this to “one up” others or maybe just to fit in? I’m intrigued and I have a lot to learn. I’m now even more excited to visit this country and this city.

[1] Kam, Louie, Hong Kong Culture Word and Image. (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010), 1.

[2] Ibid., 3

[3] Ibid., 43

About the Author

Nick Martineau

Nick is a pastor at Hope Community Church in Andover, KS, founder of ILoveOrphans.com, and part of the LGP5 cohort.

9 responses to “Ambition & Culture”

  1. Jon Spellman says:

    Nick, that section on Hong Kong feeling an urgency to reinvent itself with reference to other cities… Something in that is poking at my memories of last week, someone wrote about how a civilization, when it is nearing its close, will begin to act in more frantic or “urgent” ways. Can anyone remind me of who said that? Does that have some bearing here? Hong Kong, as it is currently constituted, is not an old city nor does it seem to be nearing its end but yet there is an urgency with which it is living that is reminiscent of a civilization nearing collapse.

    Maybe nothing there… I’m probably just hallucinating


    • Nick Martineau says:

      Interesting thought Jon…The quote is in regards to the Mayans…In Len’s Broken Futures he said, “Mayan civilization has demonstrated that civilizations near the end of their life-cycle increase their pace as they sense that the party is nearly over.”

      HK does seem to be in some sort of liminal space. I don’t know enough about HK to say their pace has increased but according to this week’s reading there is some sense of urgency to “make their mark.”

  2. Dave Young says:

    Weird thing is that Hong Kong has no real reason to “be haunted”, it seems to me that Sydney, London, etc could be haunted by it. That’s the way it is in families too. Sometimes the younger brother walks around aimlessly wondering how he’ll ever measure up to his older brother – all along the older brother is jealous of his younger sibling.

    I’m also excited about our upcoming advance in Hong Kong. It’s going to be a blast.

    • Nick Martineau says:

      I agree with you Dave…and I think they are using “haunted” when maybe they should be saying “insecure.” Haunted seems like too strong a word to me.

    • Jon Spellman says:

      Dave, which speaks to the over-arching identity crisis… If Hong Kong doesn’t see itself the same as those on the outside do. We’re all had that experience where we watch in a amazement at the impeccable work of an individual who may sing, or speak, or paint or write or draw yet sees their own work as less than stellar.

      It is frustrating for those on the outside

  3. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Nick, I am with you. You said, “I’ve traveled all over the world but I’ve never been to China and the truth is I know so little about China.” I can’t say I’ve traveled the world but I use to think I was educated relatively well and know basic global geography. But similar to Cape Town, before I can dive into understanding Hong Kong’s culture . . . I had to work at finding it on the globe and honestly and embarrassingly had to think if it was a city or country and if a city, in what country was it found. So know that I can find it on the globe, I am excited to go see the culture I have begun to read so much about. 🙂

  4. Dawnel Volzke says:

    The reference to Sydney made me think more about competition on the global stage. It seems many cities (especially those that have grown in recent history) feel the need to compete. It’s about being more prosperous and powerful. I think about the ways that cities promote themselves to attract the Olympics or the World Cup, or even bigger corporations, etc. It is a race to see who wins, although often the race itself is what destroys.

    • Nick Martineau says:

      Very true Dawnel…While reading this book I kept thinking this competition against each has more to do with fitting in or winning then it has to do with true God giving identity. I resonated with your last sentence. “It is a race to see who wins, although often the race itself is what destroys.” Thanks.

  5. Mary Pandiani says:

    Your phrase asking if “ambition pushes culture?” strikes me deeply. I want to believe that culture comes as a result of who we are – reflecting the values we have. Yet, especially for an economically vibrant and striving Hong Kong, it would seem ambition is one of those values…thus impacting culture. I imagine it would be hard to separate the two – the chicken or the egg argument. But it does cause me to think about Zambia (or perhaps for you, Uganda) and how ambition doesn’t necessarily push culture. Power may, but not necessarily ambition. Thanks for getting me thinking….

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