Explaining Chinese identification in Hong Kong: the role of beliefs about group malleability

Siu Yau Lee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Hong Kong is an epicentre of identity conflicts in China. While numerous accounts have been proposed to explain the rise of “localism”, few have explained why many Hong Kong Chinese have maintained their ethnic identification with China. Based on an original survey of a representative sample of the population and an experiment conducted among college students, this article advances a novel explanation, arguing that people who perceive the core character of groups as shaped by context (i.e. it is malleable) are more likely to have a higher level of Chinese identification. The explanation is that in the face of deep cultural and political differences between mainland and Hong Kong Chinese, the belief induces the latter to understand those differences as stemming from people’s current situations rather than from some unchangeable national traits, thus reducing their need to adopt an alternative identity. The findings have important implications on (ethno) nation-building policies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-389
Number of pages19
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number2
Early online date11 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • beliefs
  • Chinese
  • Ethnicity
  • Hong Kong
  • identity
  • nation


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