Cultural exchanges between the mainland and Hong Kong were only renewed in the 1980s, after China opened its doors to the international community.
At that time, Hong Kong's pop culture, consisting of music, movies, TV series and even fashion, was a major attraction to mainlanders.
After the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997, the unique culture of Hong Kong seeped into the mainland and became less mysterious to the rest of China. Conversely, Chinese mainland's culture began to influence many Hong Kong residents.
This interaction process has been greatly assisted by efforts from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department of the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), which has sponsored many cultural exchange programs, as well as the Hong Kong government's invitation of mainland celebrities like super athlete Liu Xiang, basketball star Yao Ming and astronaut Yang Liwei to meet with local people.
Moreover, the implementation of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) between the mainland and Hong Kong has ushered in an era of win-win cooperation between film and TV industries of Hong Kong and the mainland.
Film industry taking off
Under CEPA terms, Hong Kong-made films do not have to compete with foreign films for the small quota of imported movies on the mainland. The cultural similarities and language advantages also mean Hong Kong movies grab a large slice of mainland moviegoers.
Legend, Perhaps Love and other films jointly made by Hong Kong and the mainland have been box-office successes. In 2005, action superstar Jackie Chan became the first Hong Kong entertainer to be awarded the highest honor of China's films-the Golden Rooster, for best actor.
Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai predicted several years ago that the biggest market for Hong Kong films was the mainland. This is borne out by the success of films like Seven Swords by director Tsui Hark and 2046 by Wong, which, although each only taking in around 7 million yuan (around $915,000) in Hong Kong, made over 70 million yuan (around $9.15 million) and 35 million yuan (around $4.58 million), respectively, on the mainland.
Despite having to adapt to the tastes of mainlanders and becoming familiar with relevant rules and regulations of filmmaking on the mainland, cooperation between filmmakers of the two sides has been flourishing.
In the meantime, restrictions on Hong Kong businesses investing in the mainland's theaters have been loosened. They are now allowed to build or renovate theaters on the mainland via joint ventures or cooperation and hold controlling stakes in such companies.
Of the 10 Hong Kong-funded theaters on the mainland, the most famous are Beijing New Century Cinema by Broadway Circuit and UME international Cineplex in Chongqing and Hangzhou funded by the Seasonal Film Corp. and founded by director and producer Ng See Yuan. All these cinemas have been profitable.
But films are only part of the deepening cultural merger between the mainland and Hong Kong.
Hong Kong's universities popular for mainlanders
In the summer of 2005, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and City University of Hong Kong began to enroll students for the first time on the mainland. Many top students were attracted. The trend remained in the following years.
“The study environment of universities in Hong Kong is very good, the faculty is strong and you can feel the energy of living in an international metropolis,” said a student from the mainland studying in the Chinese University of Hong Kong wishing to remain anonymous. “It is the right choice for me.”
Personnel in Hong Kong's universities said that mainland students are very diligent and have a serious attitude toward study and respect for teachers, which can set models for Hong Kong students.
Apart from the recruitment, the Central Government also encourages universities of Hong Kong and the mainland to carry out cooperation in acknowledging the courses that students have taken and sharing results of the scores achieved from each side.
The mainland and Hong Kong have also enhanced cooperation in the creative industry. In 2003, the HKSAR Government came up with a concept to cover careers outside the sciences, including advertising, architecture, arts, craftwork, design, film, video production, music, and drama, with the aim to give full play to the important role of the creative industry in the economic transition of the bustling city.
Coincidentally, some mainland cities are paying increasing attention to the development of the creative industry, which has opened a new field for cooperation between Hong Kong and the mainland.
Hong Kong has a unique advantage in the development of the creative industry --it combines Western and Eastern cultures, has a good number of people with creative ideas and a mature intellectual property rights protection system, and is a world center of trade and information. On the mainland's part, it has rich cultural resources, huge market potential and strong cultural industry base. Provided they can cooperate more closely, their culture industries surely will have a new look for the world.