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Hong Kong is losing to Mainland China. Its poverty rates are high, it suffers from corruption and savage capitalism. It is now the most expensive city on earth. People are frustrated, but paradoxically, they are blaming socialist Beijing for their problems, instead of the legacy of British colonialism. 'Across the line', Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing, Xian and other cities are leaving Hong Kong behind in almost all fields.
When my dear friend and a great concert pianist from Beijing, Yuan Sheng, used to live in New York, recording, giving concerts and teaching at prestigious Manhattan School of Music, he told me that he used to cry at night: "In the United States, they smear China. I felt hurt, defenseless."
He returned to Beijing, gave back his Green Card and began teaching at Beijing Conservatory. He never regretted his decision. "Beijing is much more exciting than New York, these days," he told me.
It is obvious that Beijing is booming: intellectually, artistically; in fact, in all fields of life.
Yuan's friend, who returned from London and became a curator at the iconic "Big Egg" (the biggest opera house on earth), shared her thoughts with me:
"I used to sit in London, frustrated, dreaming about all those great musicians, all over the world. Now, they come to me. All of them want to perform in Beijing. This city can make you or break you. Without being hyperbolic, this is now one of the most important places on earth. Just under one roof, in one single night, we can have a Russian opera company performing in our big halls, in another one there is a Chinese opera, and a Bolivian folklore ensemble in a recital hall. And this is only one of Beijing's theatres."
When the Chinese artists and thinkers are fighting for the prime with their Western counterparts, it is usually Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, 'against' London, Paris and New York. Hong Kong is 'somewhere there', behind, suddenly a backwater.
While Hong Kong University and the City University of Hong Kong used to be the best in China, many Mainland institutions of higher learning, including Peking University and Tsinghua, are now producing many more cutting-edge creative thinkers. I spoke at all of these schools, and can confirm that the young people in Beijing and Shanghai are extremely hardworking, endlessly curious, while in Hong Kong, there is always that mildly arrogant air of exceptionalism, and lack of discipline.
It used to be that the so-called "Sea Turtles" (students who went abroad and to Hong Kong, and then returned to Mainland China), were treated like celebrities, but now, it is much easier to get a job with the Mainland China's diplomas.
Recently, while filming the riots in Hong Kong, I was told by a receptionist at one of the major shopping plazas:
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