Thursday, June 15, 2017

Tai Ping Shan

As the thunderstorm passes on across Victoria Harbour towards Kowloon, we climb up the leafy backstreets of Tai Ping Shan to check out the Monocle-endorsed Café Deadend and nearby Blake Garden.

On our way, we stop by an imposing red-brick building that used to house Hong Kong’s Bacteriological Institute which was founded in 1906 after the plague had taken countless lives here on the Island. It is easy to imagine how quickly the city’s density, which today is perhaps its greatest asset, could turn deadly in a world without modern sanitation.

Much less morbid, I should say that landing at Chep Lap Kok yesterday reminded of how good it felt to leave Lund with a fresh PhD to start my first real academic job here in Hong Kong six years ago. This time around, I am only here for a conference called “The Pacific Century?” organized by the ISA. The question mark, as well as the double-meaning of “pacific” (and yes, “Tai Ping Shan” means “Peace Hill”), are obviously all intentional. Indeed, right now, Anna is presenting her paper on Japan’s “proactive pacifism” which clearly is a concept that stretches all limits of irony. Still, it is worth recognizing that despite the tough talk, cooler heads have so far prevailed, even with regard to North Korea. The question of course remains how to move from the uncertainty and mistrust of today towards real regional integration.

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