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

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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. Copyright © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-389
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number2
Early online date11 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020



Lee, S.-Y. (2020). Explaining Chinese identification in Hong Kong: The role of beliefs about group malleability. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 43(2), 371-389. doi: 10.1080/01419870.2019.1583352


  • Ethnicity
  • Identity
  • Chinese
  • Nation
  • Beliefs
  • Hong Kong